10 Best in 2015

I literally started 2015 running barefooted in the snow. To be exact, I had my pair of socks on but they were soaked in icy water, and the cold penetrated from my feet throughout my body. My snowboots were nowhere to be found. They got stuck 30 feet behind in some crusty snow and I couldn't pull them out. Every second counted in this situation. Carrying 30 pounds of tripod, 600mm lens, 2x teleconverter, Canon 1DX, Wimberley head on my shoulder, I was breathing heavily. And that's when I felt some lightness on my other shoulder, where the black rapid strap was supposed to be attached to my Canon 1D Mark IV camera body and the 100-400mm II lens. I fainted a bit when I found out that only the lens was there, but the camera was gone. The camera must have gotten frozen and stuck earlier when I crouched down in the 3 feet snow for a shot. But it didn't make sense. How could that be detached without me clicking the release button and rotating the camera body? I turned around, hoping to find a black camera body. Nope, its a limitless white behind me, in the Winter wonderland of Yellowstone National Park. I felt dizzy. Should I keep running alongside her, or should I walk back and do a blanket search hopelessly for the camera? Or should I find my shoes first?

#1

After 2 winter trips to Yellowstone, I finally saw this beautiful species in front of my eyes. I owed a lot to my good friend and my Alaska bear guide, Barrett, for first finding this beautiful bobcat. And I am thankful for my friends Melissa, Mary and Donald for the great team work the next couple of days. Indeed, 2015 is filled with the love of many great friends.

#2

Before I wrote my 10 best of 2015, I read what I wrote last year. To my surprise, my 10 best in 2014 was shared over 28k times. So, maybe someone does read my writing...

Thanks for all the kind souls who shared my work. What's interesting is that I started my first paragraph last year on my quest for bobcat and that I almost got into a car accident. I would have never guessed that within 2 months I would get some of my most favorite bobcat shots, including a jumping shot. 

#3

The relatively warmer winter of Yellowstone created some special landscape for this bobcat. Here, she was patrolling across the river bank looking for ducks. And I thought cats never want to get into water...

We spent 3 days with the bobcat. One evening, the sky was clear and I knew something special would happen if we didn't lose the bobcat from our sight. As the last ray of light shined on the beautiful landscape, the bobcat kept walking away from the sun, which was not what I envisioned in my shot. I prayed and prayed, hoping she would look back into the light. And she didn't. At times, she would disappear in the tall grass and it took me a long time to locate her again. Finally, she emerged from darkness and stopped for a second. 

#4

"... but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

-- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

#5

So here you go. 5 of my top 10 are bobcat photos. During my trip to Yellowstone, I met a new friend and excellent photographer Sam Parks. He gave us a lot of tips. One evening, we saw three bighorn sheep in Lamar Valley.

I found the eyes of bighorn sheep mysterious. And their curled horn majestic. But I never seemed to find a good background color to compliment the horn. So when I saw the 3 bighorns this time, I exhausted every angle and failed to get a shot I liked. Then suddenly, the 3 bighorn sheep looked at each other, made some noise as if talking to each other, and suddenly ran towards our direction. I stayed calm and continued taking photos at the angle I tried to create interesting colors. And to my surprise, one of the shots turned out like this. 

#6

Canon 1DX, 600mm, 2x teleconverter, f/8, 1/1000s, ISO 1600, handheld. I feel that its the universe behind the curl. And the golden brown color of his eye complimented the blue, which was the color of a distant mountain in the shadow. I took a sequence of 30 shots and only this one had such color. Later, we were told that the bighorn sheep felt that a wolf was nearby so they panicked and ran. 

I was lucky to see red fox quite many times in the past few years. But I had never photographed a red fox family with pups. Some professional photographers have mentioned in their books that once you saw a red fox family, you would be completely hooked. I wanted to be hooked. But the more I wanted it, the more I got skunked everywhere I went. I kinda gave up when my friend Wendy told me there's a fox den in Los Angeles! Out of all the wilderness places I went, I would never expected to see a red fox den right here at the city I live in.

#7

This is a photo of a mother red fox and her pup that I took near a cliff along the ocean in Los Angeles. The mother fox would bring food to the den a few times a day. Every time she came up to this particular spot, before she went into the deep trees to look for food, she would turn back and take a quick look. At the last ray of sunset, she came up and took a look again, but this time, the glance was longer, as she was looking at the setting sun, and to my surprise, the fox pup popped his head out as well.

Photography to me is healing. I want to share with you this quote by Cheryl Strayed that I read few weeks ago:

"That place of true healing is a fierce place. It's a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light."

Well, bobcat and red fox family within the first 5 months of 2015, I really couldn't ask for more. The next species that I wished to see so much, (just barely after lynx, wolverine, leopard cubs and emperor penguin chicks), was a great gray owl. I have attempted to find them everywhere and failed over the years. Their menacing look completely hypnotized me. 

During a short and last minute trip to Yellowstone, I was planning to photography some newly born bear cubs and bison babies near Lamar Valley. Just a day or two before the trip, I heard from people that there may be a great gray owl near Grand Teton. I heard about those rumors all the time, must be just some hype. Good friend Hadi gave me great tips literally when I was at the gate boarding from LAX. Following the directions, I ran into Sam again. And I finally was able to meet this majestic species. 

#8

It was a moment I would never forget. Karen, me, and a few people were sitting on the side of the road watching this great gray owl on a perch, when all of a sudden, the great gray looked into our direction and started to pounce at us. I really thought he was going to grab me and take me back to his nest, so I missed all the subsequent shot, except seeing a blurred pair of eyes coming right at me. I had such an adrenaline rush and my heart almost jumped out.

#9

#10

The stunning look, the fluffy feet and the powerful wing span are what attracted me deeply to the Great Gray. I probably went to the least photo trips in 2015 compared with the last few years, but with the help of great friends, I got to see some species I never dreamed of seeing. 

The second half of 2015 I was very honored to travel twice to Hong Kong for an invited solo exhibit at HKUST (order the exhibit catalog). ​In Nov, I went to Washington DC to attend the Nature's Best Photography Smithsonian award ceremony and met a lot of old and new friends. 

As I am typing this now, I am also multi-tasking to finish my packing to leave for the Falkland Islands tomorrow morning, while still fighting for a cold and some really frustrating back pain. I can't even bent down to wear socks...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! Thank you so much for your support!​


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2 Comments

  1. Karen Allison on December 24, 2015 at 8:58 am

    I was amazed to find a quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in your book. Do you know who she was? Only the first person to make a study of death and dying. And yet her quote was amazingly about very alive creatures.

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