It’s time again for my annual “year in review” post where I share my personal favorite images of the year.  It was difficult to narrow it down so I have 12 favorites and 3 “honorable mentions.”

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#15 – Claret Cup & Collared Lizard

Honorable Mention (#15) – Claret Cup & Collared Lizard

This photo isn’t by any means technically good, but the story behind it is so ironic, it still made my favorite list.  I had been hiking out on the Rustler’s Loop Trail near Fruita, shooting the numerous claret cup cactus that flourish on the trail.  As I was shooting one particularly large specimen, a woman mountain biker stopped and commented it was a beautiful cactus and she hoped I was getting some nice shots.  She went on her way; I shot a little more, then moved on.  Some ways down the trail, I had stopped again to shoot a colorful collared lizard.  The same woman mountain biker passed me once again (she obviously did more than one loop) and stopped again and commented that it sure would have been cool if I could have gotten the lizard and the cactus in one shot, as it would have been very colorful.  I finished hiking the trail, and on the way back to my car, I happened to look over and saw a collared lizard sitting next to a claret cup!  My other camera was already packed away, so I whipped out my new Canon S100 and approaching as cautiously as possible, I fired off several shots of the colorful combo before the lizard spooked and scampered away.

God's Window

#14 – God’s Window

Honorable Mention (#14) – God’s Window

My husband and I went hiking one morning on the Horsethief Bench Trail.  Although there were a few clouds around, the skies in no way appeared threatening.  However, by the time we were halfway through our hike, clouds were billowing and swirling, and thunder was crashing closer and closer.  While we were hightailing it back to the trailhead, I looked up and saw this “window” in the clouds and felt like God was peering down through it, keeping us safe from the lightening.  I shot this with my Canon S100, while I was running!

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#13 – Dominguez Canyon

Honorable Mention (#13)

This spring I hiked into Dominguez Canyon several times and was blown away by the large waterfall in the middle of the desert canyon.  One day while hiking with my friend Jennifer, I got adventurous and scrambled up to the slope overlooking the scene.  As adventurous as I felt that day, it was nothing in comparison to what she did – Jennifer actually scaled her way DOWN the wall to the base of the waterfall.  I prayed the entire time she didn’t fall because I knew I could not rescue her!  I also by chance met fellow GJ photographer Randy Langstraat.  It was the first time we had met in person, and he came up to me like he knew me!  (It was kind of weird – a perfect stranger asking me if I was Angela!)  Randy had been following me through my Facebook page, where I had posted my intention to hike the canyon that weekend.  He saw a woman with a camera and deduced it was me.  It was a fun day and this image brings back the great memories.

Turret Arch night

#12 – Turret Arch Photographers

#12 – Turret Arch Photographers

After debating where to go to shoot the highly-hyped “Super Moon” in early May, I decided to head to Arches National Park, certain I would find an appropriate backdrop to catch the super-sized Ol’ Man Moon as it rose.  As it turns out, none of my moon photos turned out.  (Go figure…)  I did, however, turn around while waiting with the hordes of other photographers in the Windows area and saw this awesome scene of waiting photogs silhouetted with Turret Arch.

Gossips dappled

#11 – Dappled Gossips

#11 – Dappled Gossips

The Three Gossips formation in Arches National Park is one of my favorite formations there to shoot.  It seems there is always something different to shoot – the color of the rock, the weather, the changing skies.  I shot this in September, killing time while my husband rode the Slickrock Trail.  The sun kept playing peek-a-boo, which seemed to really bring out the vibrant colors of the sandstone.

Rabbit Ears 3

#10 – Rabbit Ears Pass

#10 – Rabbit Ears Pass

I felt very lucky this year to have been able to travel to several of the fall hot spots in Colorado:  Steamboat Springs, Ridgway/Telluride and Kebler/Ohio Passes.  The crazy fall color show that Colorado provides has yet to disappoint me.  I shot this east of the Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat.  My husband and his friend were mountain biking (through a “rainbow” of color as his friend described it) and I explored the area a little.  What caught my eye on this hillside was the design of the white trunks mixed with the brilliant golds and near oranges of the aspen leaves.

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#9 – Mesa Aspens

#9 – Mesa Aspens

My fall journey started close to home – on the Grand Mesa.  I spent one whole afternoon shooting the brilliant golds on the Mesa.  I liked how the bright gold leaves were backlit against the brilliant blue sky.

La Sal flowers 2

#8 – La Sal Columbine

#8 – La Sal Columbine

On July 4th, we headed to the nearby La Sal Mountains near Moab for some holiday fun.  I dropped my husband and his friend off at Burro Pass, where they biked the “Whole Enchilada,” a series of connected mountain bike trails which includes the Hazard County, Kokopelli and Porcupine Rim trails, which goes from Burro Pass all the way to the Colorado River.  While they biked, I headed over to the Miner’s Basin area to hit a trail and was shortly deluged by a passing thunderstorm.  I found this lone columbine right next to the trail on my way back.  The water-drenched plant nearly begged me to stop and photograph it.

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#7 – Cottonwood Leaf

#7 – Cottonwood Leaf

After the crazy fall color in the mountains had finished, I started chasing it in the desert canyons.  I had the most awesome day at Dominguez Canyon!  The cottonwoods were brilliant, as well as the scrub brushes, creating an incredible tapestry of color.  I was shooting a small cascade in a creek when I saw this cottonwood leaf anchored against a rock in the creek.

Horsethief Ranch 2

#6 – Horsethief Ranch

#6 – Horsethief Ranch

In mid-November, I attended the John Fielder reception hosted by the Mesa Land Trust.  He had a private book signing session followed by a slideshow of some of his work.  Afterwards, my bosses surprised me by telling me they’d like to send me to Fielder’s photography class scheduled for the next morning, as my early Christmas present.  Of course, I never pass up the opportunity to hang out with some fellow photographers, especially when I get to explore a new place.  The Horsethief Ranch is near Loma and is part of the land the Mesa Land Trust has preserved, so it was a very unique opportunity to get to visit it.  I only wish I could have gone a few weeks earlier as the multitudes of cottonwood trees would have been stupendous!  As it was, I still had a great time and this image is one of my favorite of that morning’s shoot.

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#5 – Garden of Eden

#5 – Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden is north of the Windows area in Arches National Park and is full of funky sandstone spires and formations.  I shot this in early March at sunset.  I like the contrast of the warm sandstone with the cool pastel colors of the snow-capped La Sals in the background.

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#4 – Rifle Falls Rainbow

#4 – Rifle Falls Rainbow

The triple falls of Rifle Falls are an amazing sight, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of trying to capture its moving waters.  This year I made the trek in early August and got there early enough that I was able to capture little rainbows in the mist.

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#3 – Kebler Pass Ferns

#3 – Kebler Pass Ferns

In late June we went to Crested Butte via Kebler Pass.  I was astounded by the huge aspen groves!  While my husband was racing in a mountain bike race, I headed back up the pass and found an incredible area of ferns.  I’ll bet I spent at least an hour shooting the frothy fronds!  It felt almost magical and enchanted, and I almost expected to see a unicorn come prancing through the scene!

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#2 – Dallas Divide

#2 – Dallas Divide

This view of the Dallas Divide between Ridgway and Telluride is one of my very favorite mountain scenes in the whole state.  This is my 2012 version shot while we stayed in Telluride one weekend.

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#1 – Washer Woman Arch

#1 – Washer Woman Arch

In mid-May, the Rocky Mountain Nature Photographers held a little weekend shindig in Moab.  I never pass up a chance to shoot in Moab!  We shot sunrise at Canyonlands National Park, held a short photography class at Bret Edge’s gallery downtown, ate a great picnic lunch at the park, then met up later in the afternoon and headed out to the Porcupine Rim area where we shot down into Castle Valley at sunset.  It was an awesome photography day!  Although we got to Mesa Arch too late to catch the signature glow on the underside of the arch, several of us shot around the area anyway, and I came away with my favorite image of the year.  I really like the blue shadows, and how the receding layers and ridges of rock appear through the haze.

2012 was definitely a better year for me photographically than the previous year.  Midway through the year, I was able at last to change jobs, leaving the extreme high stress and almost mandatory overtime behind me.  This left me considerably much more time (and energy) to shoot.  In June, I upgraded my camera from the Rebel XTi to a 60D, plus I bought a 24-105 mm lens.  Both purchases have been awesome additions to my gear bag!!

I did manage to submit a few photos for consideration in calendars, etc., and I did land three small photos in the 2013 Colorado National Monument Calendar shown below (the lizard and two wildflower shots next to it).

CNMA 13 calendar spread small

This year I seriously intend to visit some local galleries to find places to exhibit my work, and I’ve been in contact with several magazines.  Also, my second book (Colorado Fall Frenzy 1st Edition) is almost ready for publication through Blurb Books, with an e-book version also being offered.

Feel free to leave a comment about any of my images – I’d love to hear if you think these “cut the mustard” for an end-of-the-year list.  I wish all of you a very happy and prosperous New Year, and who knows – maybe I’ll run into you out in the field sometime this next year!

Yes, it’s that time again – a review of my personal favorite images from the past year.  Let’s get right to it!

#10 - Lime Creek Waterfall

My cousin has a summer home near the Durango/Silverton area, and we made it down to visit her this summer in mid July, the perfect time for wildflowers and waterfalls!  She showed me this awesome fall on a rather short trail on Lime Creek somewhere near Molass Pass.  She’s a photo nut too, and we spent quite a bit of time shooting this fall from different angles and perspectives.

#9 - Claret Cup

I was pleasantly surprised when spring rolled around – the desert actually has a lot of blooms!  Here in the Grand Valley, we were blessed with some early spring moisture which seemed to create a bounty of wildflowers.  I shot this on the Rustler’s Loop, a part of the Kokopelli mountain bike trail system near Fruita.  This trail has numerous claret cup cactus, some of them getting quite large.  I used my fold-up diffuser with this one to soften the light.  Claret cup are my absolute favorite cactus, both because of the incredibly, intensely colored blooms, and because of their growing habit (they grow into rounded mounds) and are quite fun to shoot even when not blooming.

#8 - Monument Canyon sunset

One of my favorite perches in Colorado National Monument (or simply “the Monument” as we locals call it) is on the Canyon Rim Trail which starts at the Visitor’s Center and follows the rim of Monument Canyon all the way out to the Window Rock overlook.  Incredible, unobstructed views abound on this trail, and close to sunset is the best time to photograph the rocky monoliths rising from the canyon floor.  This year, I found this wonderful juniper to use as a foreground element.

#7 - Pink Sego Lilly

Until this spring, I had only seen photographs of sego lillies.  I was thrilled to finally find some blooming on part of Mary’s Loop, another trail in the Kokopelli trail system.  Trying to think artistically, I thought the dried stems behind the bloom were reminiscent of baby’s breath.  Sego lillies are beautiful, but a bit difficult to photograph as their stems don’t leave you much to work with because they are so small and lacking in number of leaves.  They are a very delicate flower.

#6 - Rough Canyon

I discovered Rough Canyon late this spring and hiked at the optimum time: when water was rushing down the creek.  I was astounded to see so many beautiful little cascades in the middle of the desert!  This is an awesome hike, especially at that time of year.  A ways down the canyon (when runoff is still going), there is another nice little waterfall that spills over a beautiful sandstone ledge.  It’s a little tough to get to, and I banged my knee up pretty good trying to get back up.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t there at the right time to get good light on that waterfall, but I sure do love the image I got of this little cascade!

#5 - Sneezeweed & Lupine

The Grand Mesa is not considered a wildflower mecca by photographers, but I was again pleasantly surprised this summer to see the variety of blooms it offered.  The only drawback:  bazillions of mosquitoes!  I’ve never seen so many hungry little bloodsuckers in one place.  It was all I could do to stop, set up, and get three or four shots before being forced to MOVE to keep the skeeters at bay, even after literally bathing in DEET.  Nope, Minnesota has NOTHING on Mesa skeeters!  My husband wanted to mountain bike on the Flowing Park Trail, so I just followed in his wake for a while and hiked out a couple miles and came back.  The prevailing wildflowers on this hike were by far sneezeweed and lupine.  I had a great time trying to pair the two brightly contrasting colors and love the result of this one.

#4 - Mixed Bag

My husband and I made a short trip to the Ouray/Telluride area the first weekend of October.  While he biked, I drove around and shot fall images.  My favorite roads were County Roads 5 & 7.  Gorgeous, gorgeous country down there and I must say, probably the best scenery in the entire state.  I also drove a short portion of the Last Dollar Road near Telluride, which is where I found this exotic mixture of aspens which spanned the color spectrum from green to yellow to red to almost purple.  The colors really, really grabbed me.

#3 - Rifle Falls

I ventured over to Glenwood Springs in June to hike the Hanging Lake Trail, only to discover there were NO parking spots available! What to do?!  I had just driven an hour an half.  Was I to come away with nothing to show for it, except an emptier gas tank? As an alternative, I headed back west to Rifle Falls, and didn’t regret the decision.  Rifle Falls is an incredible triple waterfall that you can walk right up to and don’t have to endure a long, painful hike to get to it.  In fact, it’s literally right off the road.  There are also some really cool caves and rock formations above the falls which are worth exploring, and a trail takes you to the edge where you can look down on the waterfall, a rather unusual experience.  I loved the composition of this one, but wasn’t prepared to be drenched from the mist coming off the fall.  I did go back a second time this summer, armed with some cloths to wipe down my camera. 

#2 - Double RL Divide

As I mentioned with photo #4 above, County Road 7 was beautiful.  Part of it goes over designer Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch.  Not only is he a fabulous designer, he has impeccible taste in scenery!  This was taken somewhere on County Road 7 though I’m not sure if this was actually on his ranch or not.  This is the uber famous “Dallas Divide” which you can see from the classic pulloff on the main highway.  Fall is my favorite season, and with the gorgeous colors in this, it’s no wonder it’s close to the top of my list of favorite images.

#1 - Collared Lizard

Finally, down to #1!  Hands down, this little collared lizard is my favorite image of the year.  I love these brightly colored, small critters, and was so excited when this one let me approach and get really close.  In fact, he seems to be hamming it up a bit for the camera, don’t you think?  This was a handheld shot as I didn’t have time to set up the tripod, and the little critter would have probably scurried away had I tried.

Usually I go over the goals I had set the year before.  I think this year I’ll just skip that part!  Due to my job, which requires a fair amount of overtime, I find my fun time playing with Photoshop, sifting through and processing images, and trying to market myself has all but disappeared.  I guess my goal for the next year is simply to make more time to get out and shoot, and play with the images afterwards.  I’m also considering approaching a couple of small, local galleries to see if there’s any interest in displaying some of my images.  I just need to work up the courage!

My photographic year was not totally without accomplishment.  I submitted seven images to the Colorado National Monument Association for consideration in their annual calendar, and one of my images was selected for use as a grid photo.  I’m definitely going to try again next year.

Colorado National Monument Association 2012 Calendar

 In addition, one of my images of the inside of the roof structure of the “round” barn at Mullinville, Kansas was published in the Summer 2011 issue of “Kansas!” Magazine.

Page spread from Summer 2011 "Kansas!" Magazine

 Feel free to share your photographic goals for the year – I’d love to hear them, since I’m such a slacker these days.  Maybe you can motivate me!  Also feel free to comment on the photos as well.  I’d love to hear from you!