2021 was a very memorable year for my photography.
The big news from this year is that I opened my very own gallery and studio space in Baileys Harbor! It has been a dream come true to have a place where I can showcase my work. I was a frequent vendor at many of the festivals, art fairs, and farmers markets around Door County, but it is really cool to have a more permanent setting for my prints. The first year of the gallery was a huge success and the response has exceeded my expectations. Running a gallery is no joke though! The store brought about many challenges that I never really thought about when it comes to displaying my photos. However, I also was presented with many opportunities for showcasing my work. I am very excited for the second year in 2022!
The other big news was that I published my very first photo book! I am very proud of how the book turned out. This project started out as nothing more than a simple book to put out in the gallery to act as sort of a catalog of photo options. The idea was that if there wasn’t an image in stock that someone might like a print of, they could page through a book to see more offerings. Well, that didn’t last long. Once I began laying out the book I decided that I wanted to do this right. So I found a printing company, the best in the world in my opinion, and got started.
Even though the book was released late in the season (October 2021), the book has moved very well and I have been blown away by the responses to this book. This was another big undertaking with its own unique challenges. There’s so much that goes in to putting out even a simple photo book that I never thought about before. The good thing is that I worked with a great printer who made the process super easy! I learned quite a bit! I have even started planning for my next book!
As the summer approached and the season got started, I have seen some tremendous growth in the business side of my photography. The gallery was a success in its first year, as I mentioned, but I also had a very busy wedding and engagement season. That was great, but there is a downside of running a photography business. Especially one as varied as mine. That drawback is that taking photographs is probably one of the things you spend less time doing than anything else. Pretty crazy, huh? With marketing, sales, printing, paperwork, and all those things that are less glamorous, there’s not much time left in the days to take new landscape photos.
During 2021, I did start trying a new way to photograph landscapes that I really like. I started taking more landscape photos using a wide open aperture (usually f/2.8). Most landscape photographs are taken at smaller apertures of f/11-f/22. We do that because we want the entire scene to bee sharp and in focus. That makes sense, but shooting a scene wide open creates an entirely new level of interest. It removes distracting and meaningless elements from the viewers attention and leaves only what matters sharp and in focus. I use this technique in my wedding photos quite often and I think it workd very well in landscape photos as well.
Craziness aside, I was able to get out and take some photos that I am very proud of during 2021. I even was able to get away for a two week vacation with my family in Colorado (in the middle of the season, nonetheless!)! It was an amazing trip! We visited Denver before heading up in to the mountains, spending 5 days in Estes Park and another 5 days in Grand Lake where we did a lot of hiking and exploring of Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to take quite a few photos while in Colorado. Some of them are below, but man more remain in the archives waiting to be sorted.
Well, that’s enough talk for this post. Here are my favorite photos of 2021. They are not limited to 10 photos and are not in any particular order.
This is a photo that I really loved the second I saw it pop up on the back of the camera. It was taken on one of the coldest days of the year. I believe it was -11 degrees Fahrenheit that morning when I parked the car. Days that cold make it difficult to get outside, but I absolutely love to photograph in extreme cold like this. It can be super rewarding because you will get photos that are only possible when the weather gets like this. Particularly when you are able to capture the steam coming from Lake Michigan. In this photo, I love how the sun is coming up and backlighting the lighthouse and the tree I used to frame it while making the steam and fog flow.
“Anderson Dock Snow”
Those who have long followed my photography know that Ephraim is one of my favorite places to photograph in Door County. I am particularly drawn to Anderson Dock. This spot is often photographed by many and that is part of the appeal. Whenever I visit, I try to challenge myself to try to find of new or different composition of the building that I haven’t seen before. This is one of my favorite photos from the dock. After a fresh snow, I composed the Hardy Gallery behind a snowdrift created by the rocky shoreline. Leaving only the top half of the building in the frame gave the sense that the gallery was almost buried by the snow. The background of gorgeous clouds lit by a sunset was the cherry on top of this photo.
“Under the Cliffs”
The shoreline of Whitefish Dunes State Park is always changing and that makes it so much fun to explore. The record high water levels from the past few years have hidden so much of the rocky shore which have been a little disappointing. In 2021, the water dropped considerably and some of the shoreline is exposed once again. I took a morning walk along the shoreline to explore and see what compositions were revealed by the low water.
Cherry Blossom season in Door County is a beautiful time of the year that rivals the fall colors of autumn. I love exploring the county’s orchards looking for photos during peak blossom season, which usually only lasts a week or so. In this photo I put my wide-angle macro lens mere inches from this bunch of blossoms with the setting sun lighting the entire scene from behind.
“Storm Passing Over”
This photo is reminiscent of my 2017 photo, “Shelf Clouds.” As I did in 2017, when a storm approached Door County I headed out with my camera. Photographing incoming storms is so much fun. The sights you see and the photos you can capture can be stunning. Sometimes you get super lucky and a well defined front forms a shelf cloud. These cloud formations are as eerie as they are beautiful. What gets the the most is how quiet these clouds are. I am just in awe whenever I see one of these pass over.
Anderson Dock again. 🙂 This photo shows a bit more of the new shoreline they installed to combat the high water levels of recent years. I shot this photo during my favorite time of day for photos. Between 15-30 minutes after sunset. I love the blue sky with the lingering colors from the sunset.
This isn’t my favorite photo ever. The composition is a bit boring. But the even that is taking place here was so unique and very neat to see. Last summer there was a partial eclipse that was visible from Door County so I knew it would be a cool thing to photograph. The eclipse happened right around the time of sunrise. I’ve watched many, many sunrises but to see the sun rising with the moon in front of it was really quite amazing.
“Moored at Sunset”
I have been wanting to get a photo from this harbor in Fish Creek for a while. In July, after a photo session, I was on my way home as the sun was setting. The sky turned such a beautiful orange color so I stopped to take a photo of the boats anchored off of Fish Creek. I took a few compositions of this scene, including a vertical one, but this was my favorite.
Last year my family and I were able to get away for our first vacation in over 2 years! We chose to spend two weeks in Colorado. Spending time in Denver to see family and friends before heading up in to the mountains. We spend the first leg of the trip in Estes Park to explore the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is one of my favorite parks that I have visited. It is absolutely great for hiking with a family with lots of trails where even a two year old can have fun. I have visited this park in the past, but it was during April so winter conditions persisted. So I was excited to visit in the summer this time.
This photo is from a super popular lake on Bear Road. I have another photo from this lake taken in April 2017 and I wanted to try to recreate a similar photos in summer. The photo didn’t turn out exactly the same, but I think I like this one just as much. There were no clouds on this sunset so I let the sky become somewhat overexposed, giving this photo a brighter look.
“Layers of Blue”
This is one of my favorite types of photographs of mountains. Early in the morning, during blue hour, when you look off in to the distance over a mountain range, you will see the mountains interact with each other and form what look like layers. The layers on this morning were different shades of blue. The foreground trees in this photo are the very last trees of the tree line.
“Stillness of the Morning”
After spending 5 days in Estes Park, we drove over the mountains to the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park. I absolutely loved it over there! Fewer people so the crowds weren’t as bad and the park was just as beautiful!
This photo was taken looking towards the Never Summer Mountains from the Kawuneeche Valley. A perfectly still morning reflected the mountains on to this small pond. A cool fact about this photo is that there is a moose in the photo. He’s well hidden though. 🙂
“Passing Through the Valley”
Speaking of moose, that is quite an elusive animal that we were really hoping to see during our trip. We got really lucky when we got to the west side of the park. Over the course of 5 days, I had at least 30 moose sightings. If not more. Some of those signings were while walking on trails with the moose approaching us to within 30-40 feet away. This photo shows a moose crossing the valley on a search for the next food source. The Never Summer Mountains are in the background.
On this trip, I have discovered my absolutely favorite type of landscape to photograph. The alpine tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park. The tundra is such a unique landscape compared to what I am used to living in Wisconsin. The grasses, foliage, and rocks of this tree-less landscape really caught my eye. It was so beautiful! One morning, I took a sunrise hike along a trail in the alpine above the tree line. Looking down in to the valley was a sight to behold. The clearing flog and the sounds of elk filled the air below. It was the morning that I took this photo where I realized my love for this landscape.
“Land Above The Sky”
This photo was another from the alpine. I headed up to the highest point along the road through the park (12,000 ft + above sea level) to spend my last morning in the park exploring this wonderful landscape. I found some rocks that formed a great foreground interest with the rising sun lighting up the haze created by wildfire smoke. Being the Wisconsin guy that I am, it sure is a different feeling to look down towards a sunrise.
This is a really great view of Eagle Harbor from above Ephraim. Not always the easiest to photograph, but beautiful nonetheless. I was in Ephraim one evening when the clouds were particularly stunning. I timed my long exposure with passing cars on the road beneath to create some light trails which added extra interest to the photo.
Another from my favorite lighthouse. September’s Harvest Moon rising from behind the North Pierhead Lighthouse in Sturgeon Bay. Not much else to say about this one. 🙂
Being a landscape photographer, I think a more apt name for us could be weather photographers. That’s because we are always on the lookout for beautiful or interesting weather for our photos. That’s not to say you can’t make cool photos in any condition, but more interesting weather makes for cooler photos. The evening that I took this photo is not one that I had even planned on taking photos. I was at home cleaning up after dinner when I looked out the window and say the sky on fire. I grabbed my drone and headed to the waterfront of my hometown, Sturgeon Bay. I flew the drone over and around the bridges and captured quite a few different photos. This was one of the most stunning skies that I have ever seen so I am glad I was able to get out and capture some if it.
“The Village at Night”
A lesser known view of Ephraim most recognizable to boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders. It was a perfectly calm and still evening when the village lights came on to create this beautiful scene. Plus, the reflection is on point. Long time followers of my work know that I love a good reflection!
In November 2021, we spent a few days visiting New York City as a kind of an end of the wedding season reward. While sightseeing, we hopped on a boat to visit the Statue of Liberty. On the way back to Manhattan, I stood on the front of the boat to look at the skyline being lit by the beautiful sunset behind me. The colors of the sky were reflecting beautifully off the skyline. The only way to capture this scene and do it justice was with a panorama. There was a problem with that through. I didn’t bring a tripod to New York and , oh yeah, I was on a moving boat! So to create this panorama, I upped my shutter speed and took successive photos quickly while handholding the camera. Surprisingly, it worked! I really like how this photo turned out.
“Colorful Last Light”
When I am feeling less inspired to be creative, but I still want to take photos, there are three places in Door County that I will go to. Whitefish Dunes, Anderson Dock, and the Sturgeon Bay waterfront. All of these places are heavily photographed so I always try to find a new way of photographing them. Even if I am not feeling particularly creative, going to an oft photographed location and forcing myself to look for something new also forces a bit of creativity to come out. This photo taken in November 2021 is a great example. It was a beautiful evening and it has been a while since I took any photos so I wanted to get out there. I went to the waterfront right after sunset to capture the blue hour. I found a different composition that includes the Michigan Street Bridge.
During a sunrise hike, I headed up a mountain trail to photograph Dream Lake at sunrise. The shoot went fine. I got a nice photo of Dream Lake though it wasn’t anything too exciting and not worthy of making this list. On my way back down the mountain I noticed a view that was different. Looking over the valley towards Long’s Peak would reveal a beautiful sight. The morning light hit the mountains in such a beautiful way that I stopped immediately and set up my gear. This panorama is definitely my favorite photo from the morning.
“Fireworks over the Marina”
Fireworks are a really fun subject to shoot. It can be quite the challenge too! For the type of fireworks photos that I like to take, I need to include more ambient light than you might see in other photos with a totally black sky. The trick is to get the exposure just right so that you get those beautiful blues and oranges left over from sunset while keeping detail in the fireworks blasts without blowing them out. While shooting a show, the changing light means I take a lot of photos that don’t turn out. But those that do turn out end up being pretty awesome.
This photo is from Sister Bay in July.
“Tree on the Shore”
The lowering water levels have revealed many opportunities for photos that wasn’t possible just a year ago. In recent years, with record high lake levels, these rocks would have been pretty much completely under water. Now it’s fun to get back out to the lakeshore and look for new foreground interests.
This photo is one where I tried something a little different while shooting the cherry blossoms of Door County. Rather than back away from the trees to capture a whole orchard, I got really close to the blossoms for a macro shot. The difference with this photo is that I tried it with a specialty wide-angle macro lens. This lens allowed me to get super close (about an inch) from the blossoms while the background appears far in the distance. It’s a fun lens and I really like the results in this photo. Plus the soft and warm color from the post sunset helped too.
“First Light in the Mountains”
This photo wasn’t even one that I tried to take on purpose. I was just testing out exposures about 45 minutes or so before sunrise to see where my settings needed to start. However, I got lucky when the light turned out super gorgeous! As you probably know, I love shooting before sunrise and after sunset when there’s barely any light out. Then I can set my camera to a long exposure without using filters to allow my sensor to gather as much light as possible. The light visible in this photo was barely visible to the naked eye, but the camera picked it up. This gave the photo an eerie look that I liked immediately.