I’ve wanted to do a “photos of the year” list for the last several years but I never got around to it but this year I’m making time for it. It was a really good year. I took around 32,000 images. I took trips to Utah, Chicago, North Carolina and Mexico. I shot a lot of landscapes and did a lot of portraits of really cool people. So here goes…
Turret Arch seen through the North Window at sunrise. This is one of those postcard photos that a lot of people get when visiting Arches National Park. You walk through North Window and scramble up the rocks on to a small shelf on a cliff on the other side. It’s a shot that has to be taken in the early morning so I set up about 20 minutes before sunrise. I was there in the off season or I would have had to get there much earlier to jockey for position with all the other photographers. This shot was taken before the sun made it above the horizon. I also have other versions when the sun had come up but I like the tone of the sky and the lack of hard shadows in this one. Made with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on a Nikon D610…5 sec. exposure at f/20.
Delicate Arch at sunset. This was a bucket list shot of mine. Its an iconic location in the American southwest and I remember seeing pictures of this arch as far back as I can remember. It’s a somewhat difficult 2 mile hike to get there but this photo is pretty easy to make once you get there. You just need to arrive a little before sunset and shoot as the sun is going down behind the horizon to get that nice reddish glow. I could have worked the scene a little more and maybe got some more unique shots but I just wanted to be there in the moment and take it all in. If you are going to take this image yourself be warned that there will probably be hundreds of people there and dozens of photographers set up in the prime spots hours before sunset. I went to this spot twice during my trip and the first time, on a Sunday, there was so many people there that I never got a clean shot. I went back on a Tuesday and there was almost nobody there (it was also in the off season in November). The weekdays are always better for staying out of the biggest crowds in any National Park.
Fins in Devil’s Garden. This is about 1/3 the way through the Devil’s Garden trail, a 7 mile trail that weaves through towering fins. I hiked the entire trail and it was definately worth doing. From this vantage point you get the best sense of how amazing the landscape is. This image was made from 6 images stitched together.
One evening I decided to spend the sunset at the Windows section of Arches NP and a crazy guy free climbed on top of Turet Arch and just walked around for a bit.
The milky way over Balanced Rock. This is my first attempt at light painting under a night sky. I was lucky enough to be at Arches during a new moon so it was extremely dark. I had a relatively small flash light (it was actually a head lamp) and painted Balanced Rock during a 30 second exposure. This is a 30 second exposure with a Sigma 20mm lens at f/2.5.
The milky way over Double Arch. One of the locations I wanted to try light painting was Double Arch. However there were already some folks there doing a time-lapse. So I talked to them for a bit at asked it I could use their much larger light to get some exposures. This is a 30 second exposure with a Sigma 20mm lens at f/2.5.
The Organ, Arches National Park in south east Utah. I woke up about 5:30am and made it to the Park Avenue area of Arches at about 6am. I knew I wanted to get the rising sun on the Organ, a 700 foot fin rising straight out of the desert, but I just had to find something to put in the foreground. It was actually more difficult than I thought because the National Park Service discourages visitors from walking on the desert floor because it destroys the biological soil crust that takes years to form. And, of course, it was dark. I found a small wash that ran along side the road that was safe to walk in and I followed it until I found this great old, weathered chunk of wood. I just sat here in this spot for about 20 minutes until the sun came up.
There were some pretty heavy rains at Arches the week before I was there and small pools formed in some of the rocks. This shot was taken at the La Sal Mountains viewpoint near Park Avenue.
If I had more time in Arches I would have loved to do one of the ranger guided tours into the Fiery Furnace. I was able, however, to get a few good shots from the outside of the rocky maze with the La Sal Mountains in the background.
When I was driving back to Salt Lake City to catch my flight home there was a spectacular sunrise. With mesas everywhere in southern Utah it isn’t hard to get some good shots. You just have to be willing to pull off the side of the road for a while and wait for the sky and light to do its thing. Luckily I added an extra hour into my travel time just for such a thing. Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows I like to pull off the road and get shots if the moment is right and sometimes an hour can go by and I don’t even realize it. This was taken near Green River, UT.
Santhosh Verthanti is an MBA student at the WVU College of Business and Economics and is the only B&E student on the WVU Cricket Club. Verthanti is photographed at the WVU Athletic Shell Building where many of their matches take place in the winter months. I posted about this Santhosh’s shoot a few months back. I used 3 strobes in this portrait, an Alien Bee B800 camera left as the main light and two Vivitar 285 flashes behind and at 45 degree angles as rim lights.
Stephanie Aldea is a second-year WVU MSIR student who is currently training and hoping to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Canadian Olympic Track & Field Team. This was a super fun shoot. I decided to show Stephanie as a runner and a business women. We met at WVU’s track and I had her wear a business suit. Then we just played with her running shoes and different poses. I got a lot of shots that I really liked but I think this is my favorite. I used a neutral density filter to get a shallower depth of field and an Alien Bee B1600 in a medium soft box as my main light. (It was pretty windy that day and it blew over my light. The back of it got smashed pretty good but luckily it worked for the rest of the shoot. Paul C. Buff, the company that makes the Alien Bees, has great costumer service and I was able to get it fixed quickly and they only charged $40). 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikon lens on a Nikon D610…f/3.5 at 1/160th sec
Sunrise at the Outer Banks Fishing Pier in Nags Head, NC. Sunrise shots of a pier at the ocean can be pretty cliche. I visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer and decided to go shoot one of those cliches of my own at around 6am. What makes this shot cool is, to my surprise, the sun came up directly in front of the pier giving me some great light shining underneath. Shot with a Sigma 20mm lens on a Nikon D610…f/22 at 2.5 sec.
Sunrise at the Bodie Island Lighthouse in Nags Head, NC. I have shot the Bodie Island Lighthouse before at sunset but wanted to give sunrise a shot. Its very peaceful there in the morning, I actually went there twice on this trip. There are no people around and you can hear the birds all around you. This panoramic was made from 4 images stitched together in Photoshop.
Sunset in downtown Columbus, OH. In early June my wife and I took my daughter to the Columbus Zoo and one evening, after we put the baby to bed, I decided to go downtown at sunset. There is a small parking area near the Main Street Bridge crossing the Scioto River. It’s a nice part of town but if you go there to do some photos be prepared to talk to a hunded pedestrians walking across the bridge wondering what you are doing. This panoramic was made from 5 images stitched together.
Stone jetty in Mexico between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. My wife and I took an anniversary trip to a resort in Mexico and this old, crumbling jetty was on site. I used a Lee .9 ND filter and a .6 hard grad to get a 30 second exposure to flatten out the water.
I visited Coast Maya last year and missed out on seeing the Tulum Ruins. When I went back this year I made it a priority to visit. Tulum is the only Mayan site that is directly on the ocean. I made sure we were able to go in the morning hours when the sun was low in the east. This panoramic was made from 4 images stitched together.
Seaweed growing on coral in Mexico between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Even though we were at a resort in Mexico I ventured down the beach and off the property. The beaches were much nicer the further away I got from the resort. I found this spot early in the day and knew immediately I wanted to go back in the evening when the light was less harsh and I could do a long exposure. The contrast between the vibrant green seaweed and the turquoise colored water was really cool. I went back about a half hour before sunset and used my Lee ND filters to get a 30 second exposure.
Caribbean beach in Mexico between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This shot was taken a couple minutes after the one above as I was walking back to the resort. The beach here was bare of rocks and seaweed and I could see all the colors of the Caribean…the blues, the turquoise and the tans. I used my Lee ND filters to get a 30 second exposure which flattened out the water and gave the image an abstract look.
Sunrise in Chicago. I had the good fortune of going to Chicago for a couple days to photograph a WVU alumnus for our college’s magazine (see the image below). I was staying at a hotel on Water St. just north of downtown and my room had a little bit of a view of the lake. I knew I could catch a little bit of a sunrise in the morning. I went ahead and set up my camera on a tripod the night before and hung a blanket over the curtain rods to block out any reflections on the window. I was able to get right out of bed at 6am and just do a quick light meter reading and snap away.
David Santee is the Executive VP and COO of Equity Residential, a real estate investment trust based in Chicago, IL. I went to Chicago to photograph Mr. Santee because of his success and because he earned his finance degree from the WVU College of Business and Economics. We featured him in our college’s Fall 2015 magazine. I did a lot of shots of Mr Santee but I liked this one with the buildings and Chicago River in the background. I used an Alien Bee B1600 in a 46″ Soft lighter as the main light and used a Lee .9 ND filter to get a little shallower depth of field. Nikon 24-70mm on a Nikon D610 – f/3.5 at 1/100th sec.
Wrigley Building, corner of Michigan Ave. and East Upper Wacker Dr. I’ve been to Chicago many times and have a lot of photos of buildings and while this isn’t any kind of award winning shot I just like it. I found this stairway to nowhere on the sidewalk along Michigan Ave. and went a couple feet down and found this nice framing.
In my job with the WVU College of Business and Economics I photograph A LOT of students and student events. Most of these photos are decent but they are mostly of somewhat uninterested students doing somewhat uninteresting things. This is one of the events that was kind of neat. Graduate students from B&E and the University of Münster in Germany engage in a cross cultural project via Skype. The students broke up into teams and collaborated on a project for several months. This photo shows one of the teams of American students meeting their counterparts in Germany. They were all a little awkward at first but there is always that one person in a group that tries to break the ice. I just thought this was a nice little moment.
I flew in to Salt Lake City when I went to Arches National Park in the fall. I only had an hour or two in the morning to look around before I left for Arches and I waned to see the capital. I found this location while looking around at Google Maps before I left on the trip. You get a good look at the capital and downtown Salt Lake City with the mountains in the background. I was able to get there before the sun came up so there was a great orange glow in the sky. One of the best parts about visiting Salt Lake was getting to have dinner with my good friend and amazing photographer Amy Young who was one of my fellow grad students at Syracuse University.
I got this shot soon after I landed in Salt Lake City. I picked up my rental car and was driving to my motel and I saw the sun coming through the clouds. I pulled off the side of the road (in heavy traffic on I-80) and had to struggle to get my camera out of the back and just hung out the window on the opposite side of the car. I’m used to mountains living in West Virginia but I like these better, they are covered in sugar.
Mark Bowe is host and producer of DIY Network’s Barnwood Builders. Bowe, a WVU College of Business and Economics graduate, is the owner of Antique Cabins and Barns in Lewisburg, WV. He and his crew “specialize in the recovery and restoration of 19th century hand hewn log and timber frame structures.” All the materials are rescued from the structures and incorporated into modern homes. I photographed Mark on the site of a Barnwood Builders production near Roanoke, WV and it ended up being the cover story for the B&E Fall 2015 magazine. The cabin that Mark is photographed with is the Fox family cabin built in the mid 1800’s. The Barnwood Builders disassembled the cabin and moved it to the grounds of Stonewall Resort in WV to be restored. I used an Alien Bee B1600 in a 46″ soft lighter as the main light and shot with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 on a Nikon D610.
Panorama of Lindy Point in Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County, WV. I was there at peak fall foliage time this year. I am usually a couple days early or a couple days late. This panoramic was created by stitching together 4 images.
Looking into Blackwater Canyon in Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County, WV.
Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State park in Davis, WV. I’ve known about this waterfall for years but never got around to shooting it until this fall. Sigma 20mm on a Nikon D610 – f/22 at 30 sec.
Fall color on the Cheat River below Kingwood WV. It had rained the day before so there were a lot of pools that formed on the boulders. I was just playing with the reflections.
Sunrise at Dolly Sods in Grant County, WV. Dolly Sods is one of my favorite places to photograph in the state of WV. I had never shot a sunrise there though. I left Morgantown at 4:30am and made it up to the Bear Rocks overlook at about 6:45am giving me plenty of time to set up before sunrise. It was a nice sunrise (I could have used a little texture in the sky) but it was freezing. It was the coldest day of the fall and there was a frost warning in the mountains. The puddle of water you see in the photo is actually frozen solid. The wind, as usual at the 5000ft elevation of Dolly Sods, was strong and relentless. It was well worth it though.
We did a story on a B&E alumnus, David Jones who is Deputy Program Manager at Sevatec, Inc. in Fairmont, WV. Sevatec recently hired its first Cyber Security Analyst Interns from WVU B&E. Nicole Cesa, MIS senior from Mount Morris, PA and Victoria Parisi, MIS senior from Princeton, NJ. I went to do some photos for the story and had a great time with them and their building was great. I posted about the entire shoot a while back.
In this shot George Bennett, entrepreneur and 2014 inductee into the WV Business Hall of Fame, shares his advice with students about being successful in business. I like how he has the undivided attention of all the students. Not one of them is checking their Twitter feed.
Check out more of my work at my website: www.alexwilsonmedia.com