A Good Crop
«Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.»
– Ansel Adams

2016 was a year of transition for me. For twenty-five years I was fortunate to work in the tech industry with exceptional people on wonderful products, including macOS, Photoshop and Creative Cloud. 

But the time had come to take a leap of faith, focus on my creative side, become a full-time explorer of our planet and share it through my lens. With the images I create, I hope to inspire others to go on their own adventure, realize how precious our beautiful blue marble is and care about each other a bit more.

With the wonderful support of a great community of photographers I am learning my new craft and aim to make each new image better than the previous one. I'm honing my technique, both in the field and in post-processing. My goal is not yet to make unique images: on the contrary, I'm trying to capture iconic images of famous locations, and make the best version of them I can.

This year, I had the pleasure to explore 19 U.S. National Parks, California, the Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Iceland, France and Italy. Here are twelve of my favorite images of the year and it is my pleasure to share them with you.
Zabriskie Point at Dusk
Death Valley, California

Death Valley is practically in my backyard, and I love visiting it again and again. The vast landscapes, the starkness, the otherworldliness, but also the quality of the light keep calling back to me.

This capture of the very popular Zabriskie Point happened after I thought I was done shooting the main event, as the sun was disappearing under the horizon. The mountains took on a beautiful golden glow and the clouds caught some light that sculpted wave-like patterns echoing the shape of the mudstone. 

This is a single exposure, nothing very technical, but I like it.
Galaxy Rising over George’s Tree
Owens River, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California

The Sierra Nevada is a fertile ground for landscape and night photography and this was a good opportunity to combine both. This spot is a photographers’ favorite. This year I captured the Milky Way as it was rising over the horizon.

I shot the same spot last year, and although I consider this version a vast improvement I’m still not entirely satisfied with it. There are three exposures blended and a lot of work to get both the foreground and the Milky Way to show up nicely, but I have a feeling I’ll revisit this spot again.
Galaxy Rise over Mystical Magical Maze
Death Valley, California

I stumbled upon this stone maze in a far corner of Death Valley and immediately thought it would make for a nice foreground with the night sky. The maze is used as a meditation aid: as you slowly walk through it, you are invited to reflect upon and let go of the past when you reach the center, then look forward and embrace the future as you walk out.

This picture took me two days to capture. The first night, the sky was cloudy, and although the clouds were moving in and out, never enough to have a clear view of the sky. I returned the next day and stayed up all night, capturing the sunset, the Milky Way moving through the sky, and the sunrise. I also did some light painting experiments, and walked the maze many times. The final image is made up of three blended exposures, but did not include the light painting. Some other time maybe.
Upsala Glacier
Patagonia, Argentina

The Upsala glacier, unlike the nearby Perito Moreno glacier, is rapidly retreating. It’s a floating glacier and huge chunks of ice periodically break off as icebergs that float into channels of the Lago Argentino.

Nearby is the Estancia Cristina, a ranch founded in 1914 by a couple of English immigrants, Joseph Percival and Jessie Masters. Through hardships and perseverance their ranch grew to 12,000 sheep, 30 heads of cattle and 50 horses. The estancia is now part of the Parque Nacional Glaciares, the sheep have been hunted down by the local pumas, but the wild cows are doing fine on their own...

To get to this spot I had to take a ferry boat ride, then a very bumpy 4⨉4 ride, and a short hike. This is shot on my phone in pano mode but still gives a good feeling for the place. At the very far right you see what is left of the glacier. Less than a century ago, the lake that is in front was also part of the glacier. Our planet is changing.
Mount Fitz Roy at Dawn
El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia features stunning landscapes, including the jagged peaks of the 3,405 m (11,171 ft) Mount Fitz Roy. This spot is known as the Waddington Fort, from the person who built a small stone shelter here to sit down and contemplate the mountains even when the famous Patagonian winds are raging.

The peaks are frequently bathed in beautiful golden light at sunrise. On this day however, the sky was a little bit less interesting, but unfortunately the entire time I was in Patagonia the sky was very bland. I’ll have to come back...
Mormon Barn
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The nearby Yellowstone National Park was on my bucket list for this year and it did not disappoint. But I found the neighboring Grand Teton National Park, while considerably smaller, to be delightful to stay in and to photograph.

That night I was determined to capture the Milky Way. I did some scouting during the day and picked a spot that I thought had potential. It turned out to be a complete dud, and so I started frantically driving in the park to find a more promising location when I remembered these abandoned mormon barns which I had photographed during the day. They ended up making great foregrounds with some very light light painting.
Stokksnes, Iceland

I discovered Iceland last year, and I loved it. Fantastic volcanic landscapes, an abundance of waterfalls and great light.

The Stokknes headland is at the tip of the southeastern Icelandic coast which I had not visited before, but I had seen some intriguing pictures. I had a composition in mind with some the dunes and the grass that covers them, but the grass was kinda grey and faded. So, that didn’t work out, but I got lucky and that day was exceptionally calm and so there was a beautiful reflection of Vesturhorn on the mirror-like beach.

There are many beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Many of them are very popular and feature constant stream of tourist buses.

Brúarfoss is the opposite.

I was staying nearby and looking at satellite maps when I noticed this waterfall. I asked locals but they didn’t know about it, they claimed. Perhaps they were trying to keep a tourist out.

Following Google Maps direction was an exercise in futility: the dirt roads that get to the waterfall had nothing to do with what Google thinks it should look like. I dutifully ignored directions, passed a few “No Trespassing” signs, and finally parked as close to the trail as I could.

After jumping some barbed wire, I followed the “trail”, a very muddy path, over 25 cm deep in places, which eventually turns into a brook amongst thick vegetation. 

I persevered and eventually arrived at a wonderful sight. A small footbridge crosses the river over a broad waterfall with glacial cyan water (finely ground rock flour in suspension give the water this spectacular color).

A few fellow photographers joined me: wherever there are beautiful places, like minded photographers in search of nature’s awesomeness will be there as well, no matter how hard it is to get to. Those are my people.
San Pietro in Vaticano
Vatican City

I stayed in Rome for a month, giving me enough time to scout and revisit places until the conditions were right.

This was the case for this shot: I scouted this spot once, but too late to take a shot, came back another day, but the sky wasn’t very interesting, and finally for this image, when the Christmas tree and creche were lit up.

Several shots blended together, but still a bit busy with the ghostly crowds. Last year the Vatican switched to a brand new LED lighting system which, in addition to reducing energy consumption by 70%, gives a beautiful, natural, “moon-like” light.
Double Rainbow over the Imperial Forum
Rome, Italy

Another shot that I was only able to take because I had the luxury of revisiting the same spot multiple times.

I like this composition which gives a good overview of the Imperial Forum.

The Temple of Saturn, in the center, was the Roman treasury holding the reserve of gold and silver of the Roman republic, as well as the state archives and bronze tablets on which the Roman laws were inscribed and the official scales for the weighting of metals.

In front of the Arch of Septimius, the umbilicus urbis romae (“navel of the city of Rome”), the place where Romulus founded Rome in 753 B.C.

On the right, you can see the Temple of Julius Cesar, which marks where his body was cremated after his assassination.

I’m a bit of a Roman civilization geek, so it was a treat to get to visit those places that are so loaded with history.

That evening, after my Italian classes, I went to shoot the Roman forum and I was rewarded with some magical light and a double-rainbow.

I'm so lucky....

Louvre Pyramid
Paris, France

The Louvre museum hosts many treasures, but the 19th century Louvre Palace is quite photogenic. The glass pyramids in the central courtyard designed by architect I.M. Pei at the end of the 20th century, were quite controversial when first introduced. They certainly make a striking contrast with the other buildings.

The first night I came to shoot, the water fountains were running, and there was no reflection possible. When I came back, the fountains were turned off, and I was able to capture this beautiful symmetry. The beam of light on the right is from the Eiffel Tower.
Golden Sunset on Mont Saint Michel
Normandy, France

At low tide you can walk to the Mont Saint Michel island, about 2 km off the coast of France. A new causeway now connect the island permanently to the land. Its iconic abbey and world renowned omelette served at the La Mére Poulard restaurant are well worth the visit.

I had timed my arrival with the blue hour, but it took me a while to find a composition, so I ended up scrambling. I was hoping to get some water in the shot, but the tide was low and I couldn't find a way to include the water from the causeway. I settled on this composition, using the road as a sight line. As the sun was setting, it dunked below the cloud cover and lit up the side of the Mont with warm golden light. Multiple blended exposures. I redid the post-processing three times to arrive at the final image, it was a good learning experience.

You may also like

Japan 2013 – Digital Oil Painting
Burning Man 2013
Eastbound 2013
Iceland, land of the long shadows
The Great American Eclipse 2017
Galaxy rising over George's tree
France 2013
Patagonian Watercolors
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