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A Year in Review – Best of 2011

Happy New Year!

The holidays are over, the new year is upon us and tax season is right around the corner. But before we leave the stress of the holidays and return to the stress of the daily grind, I'd like to look back on the past 12 months and all that happened in 2011.

I'm happy to say that 2011 was a year of major growth for me personally and in my business. With a completely redesigned website, the launch of 2 new online courses, 4 online course discount packages, my first ever wall calendar and the continued success of my private lessons and group classes, my numbers were nearly twice that of the previous year! My private lessons saw a 31% increase and my online courses grew an astounding 161% over 2010! Plus, my work appeared on 2 magazine covers this year (Coast and OrangeCounty.com), I was published in Travel + Leisure magazine for the first time ever and my fine art was on display at the high-end Bistango restaurant in Irvine.

All in all, it was a fantastic year and it's going to be tough to top it in 2012. Thank you all for your continued support, whether it's by enrolling in a class, taking private lessons or just visiting my site and enjoying my work, I truly appreciate your contribution. I am very grateful to have so many followers, fans, viewers (or however you want to word it)! Thank you!

I thought I'd start 2012 with a blog post featuring my 5 favorite pictures from 2011, my top 5 trips and my top 5 blog articles. Enjoy!

My 5 Favorite Pictures from 2011

Click any photo to view it larger

Spruce Trees in Fog - Cleveland National Forest, CA

^ Taken in April along the Trabuco Canyon Trail in the Cleveland National Forest. I chose this photo as one of my favorites from 2011 for a few reasons. First of all, this photo, for me, signifies the start of new possibilities for local photography. Having just traded in my sedan for a 4x4 Toyota 4Runner, I decided to hit a trail that was previously off-limits to me due simply to an inability of my car to get me there. So this photo reminds me that hardly any location is off-limits to me now. Also, this was the first time I ventured deep enough into the Cleveland National Forest to see all the huge spruce trees out there. This photo is my introduction to a world of hidden beauty that was previously unknown to me. And finally, I just love fog.

Nurse Log in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Taken in the Hoh Rain Forest on my trip to Olympic National Park in May, this photo pretty much sums up the Pacific Northwest. Although the sweeping vistas and picturesque mountains are the more common postcards of the area, I feel the real foundation of what makes the Pacific Northwest so breathtaking is the sheer abundance of life. Organisms are packed so tightly in this wet region that plants grow out of plants and death is nothing more than a new source of life. This nurse log and its colonnade of trees growing from it illustrates that idea perfectly. Click the photo for a larger view so you can enjoy the details in all their glory.

Bunch Falls in the Olympic National Park, WA

^ Also taken on my trip to Washington, this vertical pano of Bunch Falls is one of my favorites from the year. It reminds me of the 2 joyous hours I spent photographing these falls and the solitude I experienced in that time. The falls themselves are so beautiful and grand that I really could have spent an entire day in its presence. Looking at this photo, I can still hear the roar of the water and feel the cold touch of the air. I can't wait to go back. This photo also looks gorgeous framed up real big (check that out here).

North Lake at sunrise in Autumn - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ From my recent trip to photograph the fall color in the Sierra Nevadas, this photo of North Lake at sunrise was one of my all-time favorites from the second I clicked the shutter. I love the composition, but I loved the experience even more. The lake was beautifully devoid of any signs of human activity and the calmness of the scene on this freezing morning instilled a deep sense of serenity in me. I did some clever use of filters in this shot to get the perfect exposure across the entire scene, and I'm quite pleased with the results. 

Bishop Creek in Fall - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ Also taken on my trip to the Sierras in autumn, this picture of Bishop Creek has gotten a great response from my viewers. I love it, myself, because it is the result of a pre-visualized shot that I really wanted to get, but failed miserably at executing the first several attempts. From the very start of the trip, I envisioned a photo of the rich fall leaves enshrouding a rocky creek as it passed between the aspens. I tried 3 or more times to get what I envisioned, but faced poor lighting, impossible climbing and imperfect conditions. Finally, though, I took a chance on this location not knowing what I'd find once I got to the creek's edge. My persistence and determination ultimately paid off in the form of the photo above. 

Bonus:

2000 Toyota 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack and Off-Road Lights

^ Alright, this isn't really a favorite photo of 2011, per se, because it's not one of my usual scenics, but I love this photo because I love my truck and I put a TON of work into it this year. I undertook a huge project to install a heavy-duty roof rack and 8 auxiliary off-road lights - a project that was exhausting, frustrating, difficult, frustrating, fun and...frustrating.  The hard work and frustration, though, was ultimately well worth it. These lights have come in handy a lot already and I'm proud to say I installed them myself. You can read a little more about this project here

Top 5 Trips from 2011

5. Lunar Eclipse - view
Aside from the fact that it was an ultra-rare celestial event, the solitude at Torrey Pines was unforgettable.  

4. Corona Del Mar in February - view
I didn't have to travel far to get there, but shooting the beach during a rainstorm was so much fun that I just had to put it in my top 5.  

3. Death Valley Trip - view parts 1 & 2
First time to Death Valley. The surreal experience of being on the Badwater salt flats in gale-force winds was utterly amazing. 

2. Autumn in the Sierras - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
My timing couldn't have been better - I hit the Sierras at the perfect time to capture the color at its peak. Just beautiful. 

1. Washington Trip - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
I still think back on this trip and it just blows me away. I love me some Pacific Northwest!

Top 5 Blog Articles from 2011

5. Why Other People's Pictures Are Better - view
Technically from the fourth quarter of 2010, but such an important post that I wanted to share it with you again.  

4. Photo Books: Blurb vs. Adorama - view
See my in-depth side-by-side comparison of photo books from these 2 manufacturers. You won't be disappointed with my recommendation.  

3. Dealing With Criticism - view
We all have to deal with criticism at some point in our photography. Hopefully this post will help you keep criticism from affecting you. 
Full Frame Sensor Size

2. Tips & How-To: Do I Need a Full-Frame Camera? - view
Boy do I love talking people out of unnecessary equipment! This post sets the record straight on full-frame vs. digital format.

1. 5 Quick Bits of Advice for Beginning Photographers - view
Whether you're a beginning or advanced shooter, take a look at this post covering some advice I've cultivated from 12 years of shooting.