As 2009 comes to a close, I'd like to convey my gratitude and appreciation to all my friends and customers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm very thankful for your friendship, trust, and support. I'm also very grateful and humbled that circumstances of life have provided me with the opportunity to pursue a lifestyle of my own choosing, at least to a generous extent, especially in these difficult times when so many of my peers are struggling.

I'm also constantly reminded that life is getting harder for a large portion of humanity, not only in developing countries but also here in the U.S. as I witness the insidious and relentless rise of economic and environmental pressures. I worry greatly about political polarization, religious extremism, ethnic strife, the increasing gap between the rich and poor, and the toll taken on populations directly affected by global warming (regardless of your take on what causes it). As a person who has traveled extensively throughout the world, and continues to do so with a keen interest for diverse cultures and current affairs, I see firsthand the results of desertification, lack of water, river, ocean, lakes and air pollution, as well as overpopulation (a subject nobody had the guts to bring up in Copenhagen). Despite being of an optimistic nature, I worry for my grandchildren, and those of billions of people born under less clement skies, who will have to struggle and compete under brutal conditions on a planet Earth packed with 9 billion human beings.

For now, as we are closing last year's chapter of our increasingly fast-paced lives, let’s all take a short-lived breath of fresh air, and let the spirit of New Year instill hope in a better future. With this message, I’m offering my most sincere wishes for a good or better year 2010 to you and yours.

What follows is an illustrated recap of my travels and main events this past year, as well as some inkling of what's to come in 2010. Here it goes.

In early January, I spent a week on the Central coast of California to photograph sea lions colonies with their newborns near San Simeon:

and the rugged coastline between Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The following images illustrate this trip:

Garrapata rollers

Garrapata sea arch

Pfeiffer Beach Arch 1

  Pfeiffer Beach arch 2

In late January, I participated in the Southwest Art Festival in Indio, CA as a returning artist and was fortunate to win the photography award.

In February, I attended the Kayenta Art Festival in Ivins, UT and the Great Fair in Fountain Hills, AZ.

Early March marked the release of Greg Vaughn's Photographing Oregon guidebook, edited and published by yours truly. Greg has produced a fantastic book, which has been extremely well received by the trade and the public.

Photographing Oregon by Greg Vaughn

In mid-March I had a very successful show at the La Quinta Art Festival, where I was once again able to meet with former and new private collectors and institutional buyers on the beautiful grounds of the La Quinta civic center. Here is an image of my quadruple space booth.

Booth shot
In late-March, I also had a successful show at the  Tempe Festival of the Arts in Tempe AZ

In mid-April, I traveled for 3 weeks in Peru, Chile and Bolivia with my friend Charles Wood, owner of the Earth & Light Gallery in Utah.

During this trip, I created my "Chapel at Dusk" image, which has been chosen as the poster of the 2010 Southwest Art Festival.

Chapel at Dusk - Arequipa, Peru

The following images are classic examples of landscapes from these three beautiful countries.
Machupicchu, Peru
Llama - Machupicchu, Peru

Vicuãs - Lauca, Chile

In early-May, I took a short trip to the Alabama Hills, with my friend Kenny Tong, a talented photographer and former cameraman from the Hong-Kong film industry. We photographed arches under full moon, painting them with our flashlights. Here is my favorite pix of the bunch:
Moebius Arch- Alabama Hills
In mid-May, I traveled to Northern California to attend the Los Altos Rotary Art Festival, where I received the Mayor's award.

In late-May I spent an exciting and very productive week on Kauai, photographing the coastline, hiking the Na-Pali trail, and shooting aerials of this amazing island from a door-less Hughes 500 helicopter. Exhilarating experience. There was no time for relaxation, though; I was up at 4:30 AM each morning to be on location well before sunrise. Here are some of my favorites:
Kauai - Hanalei Bay
Kauai - Hanalei Pier
Kauai - Poipu
Kauai - Na-Pali coast
Kauai- Polihale State Park
In June, I flew to Portland to meet author/photographer Greg Vaughn and work on his forthcoming Photographing Washington guidebook which I'll publish in the 4th Quarter of 2010. We spent several days driving along the Washington coast to shoot locations such as 1st and 2nd Beach, Ruby & Rialto Beach and Cape Flattery. We also backpacked to Shi-Shi Beach, which neither of us had visited before, to shoot new material at Point of the Arches.
Olympic Coast- Second Beach
Olympic Coast - Point of the Arches
Olympic Coast - Point of the Arches
We then made a mad dash across the state to try and catch the Palouse at its best. It turned out to be a good year and we were greeted by fantastically rich green fields, such as these:
The Palouse

The Palouse

In late June, I attended the La Jolla Art Festival in Southern California. Summer came and, given the risky economy, I decided to pass on the Park City and Palo Alto shows which I normally do.

In mid-July, I traveled to Northern California to photograph the spectacular Burney falls:
Burney Falls

and the lovely Mossbrae Falls:
Mossbrae Falls

In early August, I flew to Salt Lake City to photograph wildflowers in the Wasatch. I was a bit too early and ended up doing a little impromptu trip to of Southern Utah. Here are a few eclectic pix I brought back from that short trip:

Rochester Panel
Moose at Albion Plateau
In mid-August, I joined forces with my friend Ron Flickinger on a 3-week trip to South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. At 15 hours and 20 minutes, the Atlanta-Johannesburg flight was the longest I’d ever experienced. We rented a large 4WD vehicle equipped with two individual roof tents and logged about 2.5k miles on a mix of paved highways such as the Trans-Kalahari highway, the gravel trails of Namibia and deep sandy tracks such as the Caracol 4WD trail along the coast of Namaqualand in South Africa...
Caracol 4WD trail - Namaqualand - South Africa
Skilpad - Namaqualand - South Africa

We drove two days along the Namaqualand Coast, enjoying the wildflowers Rig in NamaquaRig in Namaqua

and  the unusual potty with a view  at the lone campsite Open Air PottyOpen Air Potty

On our way back from South Africa to Namibia, we stopped at Fish River Canyon: Fish River CanyonFish River Canyon

Than drove all the way to the world-famous dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park:
Kokerboom - Namaqualand - South Africa

Dune 45 - Sossusvlei - Namibia

Dune 45 - Sossusvlei - Namibia

 We chartered a private door-less helicopter in Sossusvlei to photograph the dunes at sunset:

Sossusvlei aerial
We then drove deep inside X-Pan National Park in Botswana, home of Bushmen and huge baobabs:
Baobas - X-Pan Natl Park, Namibia

And here is a pix of our rig, smack in the middle of the Kalahari
Rig by MoonriseRig by Moonrise
Later a bush plane dropped us at the Oddballs lodge on the Okavango Delta, which we used as a starting point for what was to be one of the most enjoyable outdoors experience of my life. Ron and I left the lodge by mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) with a private guide for a 3-day bush trip inside the vast Moremi Game Reserve. We established a camp on a small island in the Okavango and from there, we went out each morning and late afternoon by mokoro and on foot, looking for wildlife. Our guide was not armed and we carried only our water and our cameras. Walking single-file as quietly as possible, we tracked small and big game using footprints, droppings, and scent. This was an exhilarating experience and it kept reminding me of the escape through Jurassic Park after things went sour. We found impalas, water antelopes, zebras, baboons, warthogs, wildebeest, oryx, hippos, crocs, giraffes, elephants and lions. That's right, lions; after three days of unsuccessful tracking, we finally had a close encounter, on foot and in the middle of nowhere, with a small pride of lions. I estimate that we were about 100 feet from the group (they proceeded to move away slowly while looking back at us with suspicion, but one stood its ground in the tall grass and stalked us). I’ll grant you that it doesn’t look very scary and doesn’t compare with close-range shots from a Land-Rover, but bear in mind we were just 3 guys on foot. BTW, guides in Botswana must pass a rigorous exam after intensive training. They haven’t lost anybody yet, except for a close call with a croc.

African Twilight - Okavango, Botswana

Lion - Okavango Delta

In early October, I resumed the art shows with a good one in Boulder City, NV

Following that, I took a quick trip to Arizona to photograph a couple of secret locations and found good light:
Unnamed Hoodoos  

Unnamed slot canyon

I then had a string of shows in Southern California: Beverly Hills Affaire in the Gardens, Claremont and a couple of small shows in La Quinta. I participated in the unveiling of the Southwest Art Festival poster in Indio, CA. I also juried the prestigious La Quinta Arts Festival for the second year, pointing out to my peers who were not accepted that there were seven of us jurying, so they wouldn’t blame me :-)

In mid-November, I flew to the far east corner of the Sahara desert for an 8-day trek through the Tadrart district of Tassili National Park. The Tadrat is located in close proximity to the borders of Algeria, Lybia and Niger. For the occasion, I had to join a small group to be granted a visa, fortunately it consisted of well-traveled and fun people. We hiked about 10 miles a day at a leisurely pace with a Touareg team doing the guiding and assuming the logistics. Despite the fact that I was the only photographer, the experience turned out well beyond my expectations. The red dunes of the Tadrart are the most spectacular I have ever seen, even surpassing Namibia's Sossusvlei.

What makes the Tadrart so special is that the dunes are interspersed with canyons, mesas, spectacular sandstone formations and dry river beds.

It also contains remarkable rock art, showing animals that have long ago vanished from the region.

I also greatly enjoyed the Touaregs' company. Beautiful, tall men; very gracious and with a wicked sense of humor. It is unfortunate that their nomadic way of life is being squeezed north and south by borders that never existed before and governments forcing them to become sedentary.

After a two-day layover in Paris, I was back Stateside in time for Thanksgiving. The following week-end, I capped the year with a mediocre, and cold, showing at the Fall Tempe Festival of the Arts. The only redeeming factor was the presence of my wife Patricia, who rarely accompanies me on shows.

I spent the holidays with Patricia and family in Maui, from which I just returned. It was a long-planned trip, earmarked for family R &R, but I managed to do some minor photography. 

This first one I shot at a little-known eucalyptus grove near Ke'anae. The grove was in full sun when I arrived, so we went on to Hana and returned later as it started getting dark.

This next one is from the summit of Haleakala Crater a half hour before sunrise... far above the clouds

The last one is a view of Lanai at sunset from Kapalua... not very imaginative, but hey, it's a nice place to spend the holidays away from the cold

That's it, folks. We’ve just wrapped 2009, Vive 2010!
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