2019 was an interesting year for me as a landscape photographer. When I look back on my journey this year, I am struck by the fact that I only really got out to take photos seriously six times over the course of the entire year. I suppose that is the result of the fact that I have been working tirelessly producing my landscape photography podcast, "F-Stop Collaborate and Listen," working a full-time job, working out 4-days a week to stay in good physical shape, and trying my best to be a good father and husband. My wife's mother passed away this year after a long battle with a rare form of dementia called Pick's Disease, which certainly put a strain on the family too. With all that being said, I am pretty happy with the quality of images I was able to create this year given my limited time behind the camera. Without further ado, here are my best twelve photos this year, as rated by... well, myself. Our journey back through 2019 begins on the mystical island of Kauai.
Matt Payne Photography Blog: My Best Twelve Photos From 2019 - A Landscape Photography Journey - December 21, 2019
Kauai was absolutely stunning, especially from the air. We decided to charter a helicopter (which is a lot cheaper when you bring friends!) and really enjoyed the late afternoon light cascading down onto the Na Pali Coast. It was magical to say the least!
Next up, I chose three photos from my absolutely incredible trip to the desert southwest with my friends Michael Bollino, Jeremy Cram, Brian Kibbons, Dustin Gent, and Paul Bowman in March. We visited some wildly stunning locations, but my favorite of all was White Pocket / Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. What an absolutely magical place for landscape photography!
We were greeted at White Pocket with one of the most intense and enduring sunsets any of us had ever remembered witnessing. It just went on for a good hour and created some jaw-dropping atmospheric light that just made photography a dream.
After White Pocket, we took a long drive down to Toroweap Overlook in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. While this vantage is probably nothing new for most landscape photographers, I decided to do something a little more creative than usual and do some star trails from this location. With two Avery Reverend's in my system (10% ABV), I felt nice and cozy on the wind-swept cliff overlooking the Colorado River in the dark. It was a night I'll always remember, and this photograph takes me back, ever single time!
We ended our amazing desert southwest where we started - near Hanksville, Utah for one final campfire and a great night of telling stories. We awoke the next morning to some really special light which I decided to capture in panoramic fashion. This place is absolutely magical and stunning and will always have a special place in my heart!
It is hard to believe, but the next time I took a photo was a full three months later in late July. I went on an overnight backpacking trip with my friend Mason Cummings, who is the staff photographer for the Wilderness Society. On this trip, we decided to climb a high 13,000 ft. peak near Telluride. We witnessed a fantastic sunset behind the San Miguel Mountains including Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak, and Gladstone Peak. I'll always remember this photograph because on our way down in the dark, we risked life and limb down-climbing some absolutely awful boulders and loose rock. Good times!
Ten days later, my wife and I took a trip to Montana. We always wanted to travel to Montana so we planned a pretty fantastic road trip there. While this was not a dedicated photography trip, I did come away with some interesting photographs. On one particular night, we decided to camp really high on a 4WD road above Cooke City. An insane Thunderstorm rolled in at night and when we woke up the next morning, everything was covered in moisture. I took a short hike and used a telephoto lens to capture the first moments of light hitting a large fog bank over a nearby lake, creating some wonderful atmosphere.
A short ten days after our Montana trip, my friends Kane Engelbert and Shane McDermott invited me out for a weekend camping trip near Silverton, Colorado. I could not pass up the opportunity. Unfortunately, it rained almost all night on our first night out; however, in the morning we woke up to some nice conditions and I was able to get one of my favorite images of the year - Red Mountain reflected in a high mountain tarn.
We were planning on doing a backpacking trip near Silverton, but the weather forecast was absolutely awful so we called an audible and drove to Utah instead. With lots of firewood and beer aboard, we head out to Cedar Mesa and witnessed one of the most mind-blowing sunsets we could remember. It was so fun to photograph. Kane and I found a really neat vantage point where you could just barely make out the San Juan River below us.
After a restful but uneventful August and September, I made my annual pilgramage to the forests for some autumn photography here in Colorado. I spent nine days in total with my friends and fellow landscape photographers Kane Engelbert, Jimmy Gekas, and Brent Doezerman as we meandered through Colorado searching for scenes that spoke to us. While I captured many amazing photographs on this trip, which you can view in this blog post, three photos really spoke to me.
First up, I found eight aspen trees all growing close together which absolutely blew my mind.
Next up, I was really happy to find this large field of ferns which I shot using a wide angle lens.
Lastly, possibly my absolute favorite photo of 2019:
I stumbled upon this aspen tree that had very fresh bear claw marks all over it. The claw marks were so fresh, perhaps a day or two old, and I could not help myself but to study the tree for about an hour. I was really taken by it! I don't think I have ever seen another photograph quite like this one and I am very happy I was able to take it.
Well, that concludes my selections for my best photos of 2019. Which ones are yours?