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  • Writer's pictureMichael Blachly

The Best of 2020

I think we can all agree that 2020 is not a year that we want to relive. But ironically it was one of my better years in photography. I think some of this has to do with slowing down both on our trips and in finding things to shoot around the Dallas region. In addition, unlike other years, we have kept our vacation travels to the United States due to COVID-19.

Our first trip was in February to Arizona (the Sedona and Phoenix area) just before the pandemic hit. In July we took a long-weekend vacation to central Texas. And in October we took our big vacation to Seaside, Florida in the panhandle and to Charleston, South Carolina.

In picking my top photos this year, it was quite a challenge. I actually have about 20 photos that I am very pleased with. But below are the ones that I have settled on as my top 12 photos of the year and at the end I included some of those that almost made the cut.

I hope you enjoy these images and their stories. I welcome your comments below particularly on what ones are your favorite. And here’s to hoping for a MUCH better 2021!

Tree With A View - Sedona, Arizona

I love this old gnarly tree right on the cliff's edge in Sedona, Arizona. This was shot late in the afternoon. The colors in Sedona are always amazing. In fact I would say it is one of the harder places to photograph just because you almost have too much of a good thing. To read more about photographing Sedona, check out my blog post. I am also pleased to say this photo is on show at the Texas Tech University High & Dry Photo Exhibition until late January 2021.

Sunset on the Desert Mountains - Lower Salt River, Arizona

I had some time to myself in Phoenix so I looked around at places to go in the area. The Lower Salt River is just east of the city and has some amazing landscape in the area. So I decided to go over there and see what I could get. This one was truly done by the photography playbook. I arrived well before sunset and walked the river a number of times before I settled on my final spot to take this photo as the last light hit the mountains by the Lower Salt River near Phoenix, Arizona. It was shot as a pano and stitched together.

Pillars & Boulders in the Desert - Scottsdale, Arizona

I climbed up to the top of a what is frankly a big pile of boulders north of Scottsdale, Arizona and found this southwestern view that highlighted the eroded pillars of the area. As sunset came the sky lit up and created the amazing curves that really brings the viewer into the photo. I focused stacked and exposure stacked this photo to create what you see.

Skyline Reflection - Dallas, Texas

This photo was shot in late May. We were fully into quarantining and thus finding creative ways to keep ourselves entertained. As usual for May, Dallas got quite a bit of rain and the Trinity River filled up. I waited a day after a good rain for the water to go down some and then came out to the river for sunset. I walked the banks a bit but found this great spot that showcases the Margaret McDermott Bridge and the city skyline. This photo also earned First Place (Skies, Adult) in the 2020 State Fair of Texas Creative Arts Competition and Honorable Mention (Nature, Amateur) in the 2020 Trinity Park Conservancy Photo Competition.

Morning Light on the Island Tree - Paradise Canyon, Texas

Paradise Canyon is someplace worth visiting but I would suggest you avoid weekends particularly during the summer months as it is loaded with people. We visited it as part of a weekend getaway to Castroville, Texas (which is known as "The Little Alsace of Texas." Paradise Canyon has beautiful, clear water. I could actually spend all day there shooting photos if it were not for all of the people (particularly in July). This one shot above really popped. Despite what you might think, the tree really did glow light that.

Saintly Ruins - D'Hanis, Texas

This is the ruins of an old Catholic Church in D'Hanis, Texas which is west of San Antonio. I owe my wife for dragging her with me to come out to this area in the middle of the night to shoot the church ruins and the stars. It wasn't creepy at all ... well maybe it was. For this shot, I did a long exposure and "light painted" the front of the church to light it up. I am also pleased to say this photo is on show at the Texas Tech University High & Dry Photo Exhibition until late January 2021.

Sunset Reflections on Western Lake - Watercolor, Florida

One of the main roads into Watercolor, Florida goes across Western Lake. The trees on this lake are so unique and were perfect elements for a landscape photo. While I was in Florida, I walked along the shore of the lake looking for the perfect spot and came back one evening when the weather looked just right. And mother nature granted me a great sunset. In fact the sky in this photo is looking to the east so the entire sky was lit up with beautiful colors. This shot was taken as a panoramic and then merged in Lightroom.

Water & Waves - Seaside, Florida

Two nights in a row, Florida gave us epic sunsets. This photo was shot with a slow shutter to purposely blur the waves coming in. I love the colors and the feel of this shot.

A Storm Approaches - Watercolor, Florida

Our last night in Florida did not treat us to a beautiful sunset but it still delivered on an amazing scene. Storm clouds were rolling in from a hurricane that had missed us. The rough water and the massive clouds were quite a change from the calm waters and the beautiful skies we had before.

Ancient Oak - John's Island, South Carolina

This old Southern live oak is named Angel Oak and is located on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The tree is estimated to be 400–500 years old. It is HUGE! It is also very tricky to photograph as there are a lot of people, barricades and signs that you have to work around. This photo probably had more photoshopping to remove stuff than any photo I took this year. But I think the results are worth it.

Waterfalls and Fall Foliage - Richardson, Texas

A lot of Dallas residents don't realize they have an epic waterfall in their midst. This is Prairie Creek Waterfall in Richardson, Texas. I have shot this waterfall a number of times since it is almost literally in my backyard. This year Dallas residents were also treated to an amazing fall. We don't usually get much fall color so it was something I had to take advantage of. The big downside is the waterfall and surrounding area were crawling with people trying to get portraits done. In the end, this photo is a combination of two images so I could remove people.

Last Light on the Waters - Lake Texoma, Texas

My dad and I went up to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Texoma up near Sherman to do some photographing. We were treated to about 3,000+ geese and a fantastic sunset. I love this image because of combination of the last light in the sky, the glowing fall leaves in the trees and the zig-zagging of the water on the lake.

The Other Contenders ...

Finally, I have to include some of my other favorites from this year in the gallery below. Like I said, sometimes I have to stretch to come up with my favorites. But this year, I had plenty of options.

So I ask you ... what are your favorites? Did I pick my best? Or are some of those below speak to you more than what I included above. Share your comments below.

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