Fav photos of ’18 and ’19
It’s been said that our individual consciousnesses are but a tapestry of our memories solidified by passing time. In both 2016 and 2017 I ended the years with blog posts walking through my favorite images of the year. The cliche is that a photo is worth 1000 words, but sometimes the backstory about how photos came into being is worth sharing as well. In this post, I offer some of my most fun and lasting images from 2018-2019.
(note: unlike Instagram, you can view these in full landscape mode if you rotate your device 90 degrees when viewing by phone or tablet)
10 February 2018: I was at a conference in San Francisco and stayed a couple extra days to catch up with my buddy Ben. A childhood friend, we hadn’t really stayed in close contact the decade prior, but wound up living somewhat parallel lives: he also took the path of pursuing a PhD, and at the time was a postdoctoral fellow in a lab at UCSF. Was really good to catch up with him, and we took a day trip north to check out Mendocino County with his dog Cali in the back. Along the way we took Highway 128 through a dazzling display of Redwood trees. I felt a mixture of bewilderment and suspended awe cruising through a grove of trees hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old. I also felt a sense of guilt that a road was built right through he middle of this, necessitating the destruction of so many of these trees. The year prior I checked a bucket list of visiting the Sequoia redwoods in the southern Sierras, and subsequently hiking through these coastal groves later this day completed an arc for me. Long live the mighty California redwoods.
10 February 2018: Another from the same day: Ben, Cali, and I dropped by Glass Beach in Mendocino County. My mother passed away when I was in high school, after a decade long battle with cancer. Her disease made her more and more handicapped over time, and one of her favorite activities in her later years was walking the beach in search of seaglass. She once explained the appeal: often discarded broken glass beer bottles, their sharp edges smoothed over by time in the surf, reclaimed by mother nature and made beautiful. Glass Beach had this on a massive scale. If she had been able to see, I’m sure she would have loved the place. Walking in her shoes that day was a powerful experience.
19 March 2018: Growing up my younger sister was a classic tomboy, SoCal edition: she played all the sports, and would go skateboarding, skimboarding, and surfing with me and my buddies. I hopped up for a weekend to visit her and her boyfriend (now Fiancé) in Sacramento. It just so happened that a quick moving storm came through and dumped 3-5 feet of powder in Lake Tahoe. Sunday morning she and I went on a sibling adventure. While we both love all the sports, we figured a snow shoe hike would be better than trying to ski for the first time! We found a jeep trail on the Nevada side, and hiked our way through a postcard.
5 May 2018: The image is created by a tripod-mounted exposure of ~30 seconds while shining a flashlight at the camera. I had been envisioning this for quite some time: a flashlight-painted palm tree against a backdrop of palm trees near my home in Encinitas. It took an embarrassing number of tries to get right, and although there are many more talented light painters out there on the interwebs, I still absolutely loved this one
29 July 2018: The summer of 2018 was absurdly warm in coastal SoCal. Being almost no surf, I remember heading down to Cardiff reef sans boards to enjoy the last light of the day. As the sun met the horizon, two young surfers sharing the biggest wave of the day casually cruised into my frame.
19 September 2018: Rusty Preisendorpher is one of the most recognizable surfboard shapers on the planet, and within the surf community, his trademark “R Dot” logo is synonymous with progressive surfboard design. As a child, I had the surreal experience of having Rusty as my baseball coach for several years, playing on the same team as his son Clint. A decade and a half later, I re-connected with Clint, at the same time I was getting back into surfing. I found that Clint was now a passionate surfboard shaper like his dad, and I could not pass up having my childhood friend shape me a board. Clint is an absolute artist of a shaper, and the board he made me is pure magic. This photo is the first coat of wax on that board, right before I paddled out with it for its first session.
18 February 2019: Virga is “a mass of streaks of rain appearing to hang under a cloud and evaporating before reaching the ground.” This photo is from the tail end of a powerful Pacific storm that rolled through one afternoon. The setting sun helped make the virga visible above the ocean horizon broken by palm trees. San Diego County averages about 10 inches of rain per year, and virga is a rare sight of rare sights.
8 March 2019: The spring of 2019 was more wet than normal for San Diego county, with some rain actually making its way into the Anza Borrego desert 70 miles to the east. The result was a transformed desert, with short-lived plants and wildflowers in valleys normally dominated by nothing but sand and rock. I have many photos of wildflowers from this day, but this photo was my favorite of the bunch: the expansive sky broken by lingering clouds from a recent storm.
8 March 2019: Another from the same day, driving back west, the view halfway between Scissors Crossing and the grade back up to the town of Julian, at the top of the mountain beyond. The last few years I’ve started really exploring more of the incredibly diverse San Diego county: deserts and mountains. To me, this photo is about the adventures and sights seen, and an invitation to more adventures and sights to come.
24 March 2019: More adventures to come indeed. This was from just a few weeks later, not far from where the last photo was taken. This is the valley immediately to the east of Julian, at about 2,000ft elevation in the semi-arid region between the alpine region a few miles to the west and the Anza Borrego desert to the east. The entire hillside was blanketed with golden poppies, the California state flower, with a finger of the Laguna mountain range in the distance.
25 May 2019: Unconventionally, I was on the other side of the lens on this one. My buddy Jesse Heller snapped this one. After a 4am wake up, by 5:30 we had loaded up a 22ft boat in San Diego harbor with 6 dudes, 6 surfboards, and 4 fishing poles. We motored out to the tip of Point Loma to surf a spot only accessible by boat. It’s very rare to surf good waves with just you and your close buddies, and we surfed for hours until we could no longer paddle, with the San Diego skyline as our backdrop and visual line-ups for positioning on the reefs. The scene, waves, company, and sense of adventure made this among the best days of my life so far, and I will remember this as long as I live.
25 May 2019: Back behind the lens, I snapped this one just before we pulled anchor. The lingering clouds, cold, still water dampened by intact, thriving kelp forests below are but a few of the lingering memories of this day.
28 August 2019: The Meditation Gardens in at the Self Realization Fellowship in Encinitas are an absolute gem. Well worth a visit. Pockets of gardens, various meditation enclaves, koi ponds, all perches on the ridge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific, set to a backdrop of roaring surf. I visited one afternoon with my camera, and as luck would have it, the sunlight was just right to illuminate a the koi fish.
4 September 2019: An elusive Motmot bird, seen through heavy jungle canopy in Costa Rica. Some friends and I went down for a surf trip, the swells were unfortunately not in our favor most of the time, but there’s plenty of incredible things to see in Guanacaste province. We took a guided estuary / jungle tour, and our guide was very excited to spot his favorite type of bird.
15 November 2019: Every sunset is different. What caught my eye about this one is the illusion that the sun is actually between clouds. I was also drawn to the extreme diversity of cloud types and textures on this one.
16 December 2019: Santa Ana winds are an oddity: the reversal of prevailing airmass over southern California bringing warm winds (sometimes 20+ degrees F warmer) for a few days at a time. Usually happening in the fall, Santa Anas bring both amazing weather and devastating wildfires. They also make the conditions amazing for surfing. This was a rare December Santa Ana, coinciding with a solid swell, making one of my favorite surf spots come alive.
If you've made it this far, I'd like to thank you for allowing me to share these photos with you. It is my hope that many scenes of beauty and awe will find you in the years to come.
Ryon (Instagram: @Photo_Graf_R)