Sunday, December 28, 2008

12 months in photos

I went through my blog archives tonight to pick out my favorite photos of the year, and it was hard to decide. I don't really think of myself as a "photographer." Photographers generally take photos for the purpose of taking photos, as works of art and expression. I'm more of a "photo documentarian." I take photos for the purpose of illustrating a particular time or place or event (most often a bike ride.) As such, it's nearly impossible for me to separate the actual aesthetic quality of photos from my emotions about the events and places surrounding them. But I tried. One for each month - 12 months in photos.

The top photo is my favorite of the year, taken on Sept. 25 along the Klondike Highway, south of Carcross, Yukon, during a late fall bike tour of the Golden Circle. Maybe it's because we spend so much of the year washed in the blues and grays of winter, but all of that color still leaves me in awe.

"Long ride," Jan. 10: I guess it's pretty clear that I like this photo since I used it on the top of my blog and on the cover of my book. It's a nice example of camera serendipity - all I did was set the 10-second self-timer on the camera, wedge it in the snow on top of the Mendenhall Lake ice, and ride away from it. But it managed to capture this perfect moment between the mist and the glare of the winter sun as Thunder Mountain loomed in the background.

"Long race," Feb. 25: February was a pretty weak month for photos. I was preoccupied with other things. This photo was taken along the Skwentna River on day two of the Iditarod Trail Invitational. I just like how crisp and clean the trail and the horizon looks - the day before everything in that race went dark and blurry. :-)

"First day of spring," March 20: This is a photo of Auke Lake taken during a century ride on the Spring Equinox. I love how the perfect reflection of the Mendenhall Towers shines in a small break in the ice.

"Spring snow," April 17: This photo was taken the day after an avalanche took down the city's connection to the Snettisham hydroelectric power plant. Eight inches of snow fell on the city, and more than a foot of new powder settled up high. I took advantage of the day to go snowboarding along the Douglas Island Ridge. The powder was as smooth as butter and as light as a cloud - so perfect.

"Commuting home," May 18: Yeah, it's another random-timed self portrait. It's true that my camera sometimes takes better pictures than I do. This was taken back when I diligently commuted everywhere on my bike, and I was heading home from work at about 10 p.m. when I stopped at the Salmon Creek delta to watch the sun set. I like the reflection of soft light in the water scattered among the seaweed.

"Broken chain," June 28: I broke my chain during my 10th or 11th lap in the 24 Hours of Light and had to hoof it about three miles back to the race start. I snapped a quick 11:30 p.m. sunset photo above a small tributary of the Yukon River. I like both the intense pink light (I honestly did nothing to color correct this photo, although the pink sky may be a camera glitch), as well as the oddities of a bike chain wrapped around a seatpost and a rear fender in the dry climes of Whitehorse.

"Wildflowers," July 17: I took this photo during a midsummer hike in the Granite Creek Basin. The lighting is a little flat, but I think that's why I like the bright yellow flowers amid the melting snowpack that much more.

"Eagle Beach," Aug. 29: I took this photo the day John McCain announced Gov. Sarah Palin was his running mate. I was called into work on a day off, and ended up riding much later into the afternoon than I had planned. Because of that, I caught the most amazing rainbow on Eagle Beach. But I decided this photo, taken with my back to the rainbow, turned out better for its stark lighting and ominous storm clouds.

"Autumn Rain," Sept. 13: September, strangely, was actually the hardest month for me to chose a favorite photo. I had the bike tour and also a handful of amazing hikes that produced good images. But I chose this one for its subtle ways it captures the season: the color and the rain. It was taken along the new gravel road at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

"Grand Canyon," Oct. 14: I took this photo of my dad hiking down the South Kaibab Trail just after sunrise. High winds the previous day kicked up a lot of dust, which created a soft glow along the canyon walls.

"First tracks," Nov. 25: Taken near where the April snowboarding photo was taken, above the Dan Moller Ski Bowl. I like the shadows and the perfect sparkly snow, just waiting to by stamped out by snowshoes.

"2 p.m.," Dec. 12: I was going to post that Christmas Eve picture of the blowing snow at sunset, but decided to post the blowing surf near Eagle Beach instead.

It's been a good year for photos. Here's hoping 2009 is even better!