Favorite Images: Travel

Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, November 2003. I love this image for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it evokes memories of a great trip to a compelling and mysterious place. Still, it's not in the top five.
Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, November 2003. I love this image for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it evokes memories of a great trip to a compelling and mysterious place. Still, it's not in the top five.
R. E., Needles Overlook, Hatch Point, Utah, April 2011.
R. E., Needles Overlook, Hatch Point, Utah, April 2011.

My friend R. E. called me from San Diego the other day. He was selling a few of his fine art photographs at an arts festival. It was somewhat impromptu on his part, so he only had five images for sale. As we talked, he posed the question, “What are your five favorite images?”

The Very Large Array, Magdalena, New Mexico, September 2000; I have been to the VLA on two other occasions, but never found better light; this one didn't make the coveted top five list.
The Very Large Array, Magdalena, New Mexico, September 2000; I have been to the VLA on two other occasions, but never found better light; this one didn't make the coveted top five list.
Gypsum dunes and grass, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, April 2003; I had this area of the park to myself, and as the sun set, I made a number of images that told the story. Still, this didn't make the top five.
Gypsum dunes and grass, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, April 2003; I had this area of the park to myself, and as the sun set, I made a number of images that told the story. Still, this didn't make the top five.

Wow. Five. I’m not sure I could even get down to five categories. Nevertheless, in an effort to answer the challenge, I have been digging though my Image Archive hard drive as I write this. Since it is fairly unlikely I could get this down to five images from everything I’ve shot (I’m a professional photographer, after all), I’ll make this my first installment: travel photos. It still won’t be easy.

I should also add that a list like this is likely to change on an almost daily basis, and there are literally thousands more images I could sneak in here that I feel would be just as worthy. All of these images appear in our travel blog, The Traveller.

Capulin Volcano, New Mexico, July 2004; I made this image right after a thunderstorm moved through the area. Great lines, evocative colors, but not in the top five.
Capulin Volcano, New Mexico, July 2004; I made this image right after a thunderstorm moved through the area. Great lines, evocative colors, but not in the top five.
Clouds over the San Rafael Reef, Utah, prior to sunrise, October 2008; like a lot of my images, this one was an "I have to stop and shoot this" picture on my way from one place to another. Though it is unusual and strikingly beautiful, it didn't make the top five.
Clouds over the San Rafael Reef, Utah, prior to sunrise, October 2008; like a lot of my images, this one was an "I have to stop and shoot this" picture on my way from one place to another. Though it is unusual and strikingly beautiful, it didn't make the top five.

I created an entry similar to this two years ago, when I saw a blog entry by Los Angeles photographer and friend Tom Clark called “Eleven Images.” It inspired me, but I was only able to cull down to fifteen of my own images at the time.

Devil's Hall trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, November 2006; this image gets a lot of ooas and aaahs when I show it to my students, and it certainly is beautiful, but it's not quite a top five image.
Devil's Hall trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, November 2006; this image gets a lot of ooas and aaahs when I show it to my students, and it certainly is beautiful, but it's not quite a top five image.
This is the most recent image of the bunch; Las Vegas, Nevada at dusk, October 2011. I keep looking at this image with amazement, yet it didn't quite squeak into my top five.
This is the most recent image of the bunch; Las Vegas, Nevada at dusk, October 2011. I keep looking at this image with amazement, yet it didn't quite squeak into my top five.

I have to say that whenever I look through all these images, no matter the reason, I get very nostalgic about the places and times and moments. I want to go back and do it all again; it was that fun.

Grand View Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 2011; I shoot a lot of images here, and this place never fails to amaze me with its beauty. This image, though, didn't have what it takes to move into the top five.
Grand View Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 2011; I shoot a lot of images here, and this place never fails to amaze me with its beauty. This image, though, didn't have what it takes to move into the top five.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, November 2010; this was a good shoot, and yielded many great images like this one. Despite my best efforts, this didn't quite take top five honors.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, November 2010; this was a good shoot, and yielded many great images like this one. Despite my best efforts, this didn't quite take top five honors.
Sunrise on the Abajo Mountains, Monticello, Utah, October 2006; I shot this from our motel front door as Abby and I were loading the car for our trip home. Amazing, yet not quite in the top five.
Sunrise on the Abajo Mountains, Monticello, Utah, October 2006; I shot this from our motel front door as Abby and I were loading the car for our trip home. Amazing, yet not quite in the top five.

But back to the photos. As I cull, I dismiss most images, even ones I like. The only images I am dragging to my “Top 5?” folder are the ones I see and say, “I love that image!” After looking through all my travel photos from all our trips in the past 25 years, I got down to 28 images that I “love.” Hmm. It looks like I’ll have 23 honorable mentions.

Clearing thunderstorm with mammatocumulus clouds, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, July 2005; this has a big "wow" factor, yet still doesn't climb into the top five.
Clearing thunderstorm with mammatocumulus clouds, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, July 2005; this has a big "wow" factor, yet still doesn't climb into the top five.
Abajo Mountains and ranch from near the Utah-Colorado border, March 2004; Michael Zeiler and I stopped to shoot this on our way from Farmington, New Mexico to Moab, Utah, and promptly got his Honda Element stuck in mud from snowmelt. Despite the hardship and the beauty of the moment, not a top five contender.
Abajo Mountains and ranch from near the Utah-Colorado border, March 2004; Michael Zeiler and I stopped to shoot this on our way from Farmington, New Mexico to Moab, Utah, and promptly got his Honda Element stuck in mud from snowmelt. Despite the hardship and the beauty of the moment, not a top five contender.
U. S. 60 and Ladron Peak, New Mexico after sunset, April 2006; this was one of the loneliest places I ever photographed, and I hope that is conveyed by the image. Still, it didn't break into the top five.
U. S. 60 and Ladron Peak, New Mexico after sunset, April 2006; this was one of the loneliest places I ever photographed, and I hope that is conveyed by the image. Still, it didn't break into the top five.
Sunset, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, July 2005; I love the leading lines and textural exploration offered by this image, but it's still not a top five member.
Sunset, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, July 2005; I love the leading lines and textural exploration offered by this image, but it's still not a top five member.
Dead tree and sky, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2004; my wife thinks this tree looks like a bird of prey. Great lines and light, not quite top five.
Dead tree and sky, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2004; my wife thinks this tree looks like a bird of prey. Great lines and light, not quite top five.

If you’ve read this far, you probably realize that in spite of my quippy captions, all of these images warrant consideration. I am proud of the work I have created in my travels over the years, as proud as I am of the vast cadre of images I have provided as a news photographer. It is immensely satisfying, and it adjudicates all the hours of devotion, from the early days in the darkroom trying to get a decent black-and-white print, to all those long, lonely hikes in the wilderness that didn’t really offer any imaging potential, to the times I skimped and saved to afford photo gear.

Sunset, Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2010; the light changed about as fast as this sentence: "nice, nicer, beautiful, spec-freaking-tacular." Even so, it didn't make the top five.
Sunset, Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2010; the light changed about as fast as this sentence: "nice, nicer, beautiful, spec-freaking-tacular." Even so, it didn't make the top five.
David Martin and I were almost drowned by a flash flood less than an hour before I made this image of sunset at Big Bend National Park in Texas, March 2007. This one came close to the top five.
David Martin and I were almost drowned by a flash flood less than an hour before I made this image of sunset at Big Bend National Park in Texas, March 2007. This one came close to the top five.
This image on the Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park, Utah, October 2008, combines compelling lines and telephoto compression to express the vastness of the desert. It was also a close contender for the top five.
This image on the Grand View Point trail at Canyonlands National Park, Utah, October 2008, combines compelling lines and telephoto compression to express the vastness of the desert. It was also a close contender for the top five.
Sunset at Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2005; I got married at Delicate Arch, and my wife and I return to photograph it often. In spite of this, there are many, many great images of this icon of the southwest by many great photographers. One reason I am partial to this image is my closeness to the subject. Still, it didn't quite make the top five.
Sunset at Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah, October 2005; I got married at Delicate Arch, and my wife and I return to photograph it often. In spite of this, there are many, many great images of this icon of the southwest by many great photographers. One reason I am partial to this image is my closeness to the subject. Still, it didn't quite make the top five.

Often when I read top five or top ten or top 25 lists, like of movies or CDs or books, I find myself strongly disagreeing with editor’s choices. That is certainly your prerogative as you read this. If you think one of these images belongs somewhere else, or you have seen an image on The Traveller you think belongs here, let me know. I might have overlooked something wonderful.

Sunrise through door, Gallo Cliff Shelter, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, November 2009; if you haven't been to Chaco, plan a camping trip and spend a few days. It is one of the quietest, most contemplative places I have ever been. This image, though, still didn't make the top five.
Sunrise through door, Gallo Cliff Shelter, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, November 2009; if you haven't been to Chaco, plan a camping trip and spend a few days. It is one of the quietest, most contemplative places I have ever been. This image, though, still didn't make the top five.
Sunset on Candlestick Tower, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, October 2008; images like this go deep, both visually and metaphorically. This one, however, just fell short of being a top five image.
Sunset on Candlestick Tower, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, October 2008; images like this go deep, both visually and metaphorically. This one, however, just fell short of being a top five image.
U. S. 163 looking south toward Monument Valley, Utah, October 2006; everyone who has approached Monument Valley from the north has this image. It's an American classic, and this one is mine. That doesn't, however, make it a top five contender.
U. S. 163 looking south toward Monument Valley, Utah, October 2006; everyone who has approached Monument Valley from the north has this image. It's an American classic, and this one is mine. That doesn't, however, make it a top five contender.

Finally, here are the top five images, not in any particular order:

Power lines and U. S. 380, New Mexico, April 2006. I made this image one early morning driving from Socorro, New Mexico to see the Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was tested. Leading lines, hypnotic light, and the vast desert put this image in the top five.
Power lines and U. S. 380, New Mexico, April 2006. I made this image one early morning driving from Socorro, New Mexico to see the Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was tested. Leading lines, hypnotic light, and the vast desert put this image in the top five.
Sky before sunrise, U. S. 666, western New Mexico, November 2002. My friends and I were up early to drive from Gallup to Moab, Utah, when we saw this. I was itching to shoot something, and I know I had something good, but I had no idea at the time it would work out this well.
Sky before sunrise, U. S. 666, western New Mexico, November 2002. My friends and I were up early to drive from Gallup to Moab, Utah, when we saw this. I was itching to shoot something, and I know I had something good, but I had no idea at the time it would work out this well.
In my many visits to Grand View Point at Canyonlands in Utah, I have never seen it as clear as it was on this evening in March, 2004. The detail and expression of vast distance in this image is simply amazing.
In my many visits to Grand View Point at Canyonlands in Utah, I have never seen it as clear as it was on this evening in March, 2004. The detail and expression of vast distance in this image is simply amazing.
Though often photographed, the Green River Overlook at Canyonlands never ceases to amaze me. I made this image in October 2008.
Though often photographed, the Green River Overlook at Canyonlands never ceases to amaze me. I made this image in October 2008.
Of all my images of the American southwest, this one of a mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico in November 2003 might be the most evocative and provocative. It brings a human element into landscape elements, and always reminds me why I love to make pictures.
Of all my images of the American southwest, this one of a mission graveyard south of Farmington, New Mexico in November 2003 might be the most evocative and provocative. It brings a human element into landscape elements, and always reminds me why I love to make pictures.
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4 Comments

  1. It’s hard enough to decide my own favorites of my own images; I won’t quibble with your choices for your favorites. 😉

    The five you’ve chosen are certainly evocative, and very easy on the eyes.

    I’m glad I’m not in a position to be forced to make this decision… (I did attempt a “Top 18” project on Flickr, choosing 18 as the amount because of the layout of Flickr’s Set pages. But even choosing the top 18 images from one category is difficult.

    Any time an image is selected to move into that Top category, it means another image has to be kicked out.

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  2. It’s also worth noting that a photographer sees his own images very differently than the viewer sees them.

    I’m often startled at what other people select as their favorites among my own images. All they’re seeing are the pixels in front of them; I’m seeing the emotion from that day, the work (or lack of work) that went into making an image, the funny thing that the subject said just before I took the picture, and how I felt at the time…

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  3. I am pleased to see that three of your top five are from New Mexico. I live in a wonderful place. I wonder if the fact that it is different causes one to “see” better. I say this because when I travel to Oklahoma there are many exciting things to shoot that we do not have here in NM.

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  4. Wow,

    This rumination is in my top five of favorites.
    Well considered, written, and viewed.

    I will enjoy rereading again and again.

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