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Another year has passed and as we look forward to a great 2016, I took a look back at 2015 and chose some of my favorite images. Either I am getting to be a better photographer or a worse editor. I had hoped to narrow it down to the top 25 but I couldn't get past 30! I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

Happy New Year Everybody, may it be a safe and healthy year!


Here are the images in chronological order
Great Blue Heron at sunrise, American River, Sacramento.

The first kayak trip of the new year, the image was taken on January 2nd. I remember it was really cold, in the upper 20's.

1/160 sec; f/10; ISO 100; 105mm; hand held from a kayak  01/02/14
Sunrise on the trail to the American River, Sacramento, CA.

Another clear, cold morning and still fairly dark out!

3 exposures, 2 stops apart for HDR; f/6.3; ISO 10,000; 24mm hand held  02/12/15
Sunrise, American River, Sacramento, CA. 

It was unseasonable warm this morning with a low of 45, fortunately these conditions still made fog. This morning was unusual for the cool tones of purples and lavenders at sunrise.

1/100 sec; f/6.3; ISO 2500; 84mm  02/12/15
Crepuscular Rays at Sunrise, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I had noticed this phenomenon the previous year and had been on the lookout for it to happen this year, this morning all the conditions were perfect.

3 exposures, two stops apart for HDR; f/8; ISO 100; 70mm  hand held from a kayak  02/12/15
Sunrise, American River, Sacramento, CA.

This was one of the most amazing sunrises I had ever seen.  I was paddling with two friends that morning, and as Erik and I were walking to the river, I could see these great clouds just starting to light up.  I remember telling him to hurry and almost running down the hill with the kayak to get to the water in time!

This is made from 9 vertical images stitched together in Photoshop.  For each of the 9 verticals I took 3 exposures, two stops apart for HDR; f/8; ISO 320; 24mm for a total of 27 exposures.  02/14/15
Sunrise, American River, Sacramento, CA.

Another very warm day about 10 degrees above normal, in the mid 50's at sunrise!

3 exposures, two stops apart for HDR; f/8; ISO 1600; 24mm  03/15/15
River Otter eating bullfrog, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I was paddling with my friend Paul and we couldn't believe our luck.  We came across 5 otters in a still, backwater area off the main channel of the river, and they were very cooperative.  We were amazed how close this otter let us get while it was eating.

1/800 sec; f/6.3; ISO 1000; 350mm hand held from a kayak  03/22/15
Canada Geese in territorial squabble, American River, Sacramento, CA

I was in that same backwater area from the previous image. As I was heading back into the main channel, these geese came right at me oblivious of my presence as they were occupied with their territorial dispute.

1/1000 sec; f/8; ISO 640; 329mm  hand held from a kayak  03/25/15
Canada Geese in fog, American River, Sacramento, CA.

Backlit fog is one of my favorite photographic conditions. I was so excited when one goose stood up and started honking.  You can see the steam coming from its mouth!

1/320 sec'; f/8; ISO 500; 329mm; hand held from a kayak  03/30/15
Dancing Beavers, American River, Sacramento, CA.

For several week the beaver were real active and always out at sunrise. There was a particular bank that I could usually count on for finding one out of the water.  Over the weeks, I had spent a lot of time with them getting very close.  This morning I was lucky to find two and they were busy grooming, which looked a lot like dancing to me!  I was laughing and trying to hold still at the same time!

1/400 sec; f/8; ISO 2000; 350mm hand held from a kayak  04/18/15
Green Heron fishing, American River, Sacramento, CA

For 2-3 weeks there was this one Green Heron that would stand on a submerged branch and fish. The branch was in a great location in the sun with a deep shadow behind.  The tiny fish were abundant and jumping out of the water, so that it looked like the water was boiling. The branch was flexible and would submerge under the bird's weight, making it look like the bird was standing on or in the water, depending on how low the branch sunk. After several days time, I was able to get very close to the bird without spooking it, and it would let me sit for 20-30 minutes at a time. Eventually the fish stopped jumping and I didn't see my friend there anymore.

1/800 sec; f/11; ISO 1000; 600mm; hand held from a kayak  04/19/15
Great Egret fishing, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I love dramatic light and this egret placed itself in a great location for me to take advantage of the deep shadow behind and the warm light on the golden grasses.

1/500 sec; f/7.1; ISO 800; 158mm; hand held from a kayak  06/30/15
Brown Bear, Lake Clark National Park, AK.

The trip I lead to Lake Clark National Park in Alaska is one of the most fun things I do all year. You never get used to the fact that you can be just yards away from these magnificent beast and yet feel safe. It is truly a gift to able to stand there and watch these bears go about their daily business with hardly any acknowledgement of your presence. After 5 years it is still a rush!

1/500 sec; f/10; ISO 1250; 400mm  07/16/15
"Go Mom!", Brown Bear cubs, Lake Clark National Park, AK

You could almost hear these two cheering on their mom and she tried to catch salmon for them. Unfortunately for them, she didn't have much luck this evening.

1/500 sec; f/10; ISO 800; 200mm  07/18/15
Great Egret preening, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I am always on the lookout for this shot.  There are a couple of well placed logs along my stretch of the river where the light will do this if the birds cooperate. I always check these locations and if a bird is there I will anchor and wait, hoping it lifts its wing.  I had too wait about 25 minutes this morning, but it was worth the wait. It may have cooperated because the whole time I am waiting, I am talking to the birds and asking it nicely to please lift its wing!

1/640 sec; f/9; ISO 200; 400mm; hand held from a kayak  07/30/15
Kayak and Sunrise, American River, Sacramento, CA.

If the sunrise is particularly good and long lasting, I try to get a few pictures of my kayak in the mix. This was one of those sunrises!

3 exposures, two stops apart for HDR; f/10; ISO 500; 24mm  08/04/15
River otter eating crayfish, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I usually enjoy photographing the otters when they are out of the water, on a log or shore, the best. But when they bring up colorful prey, I make exceptions!  What I really like about this pictures is you can see all the flies buzzing around its head.

1/1000 sec; f/7.1; ISO 500; 226mm; hand held from a kayak  08/06/15
Milky Way and Trees, Loon Lake, CA.

I went kayak camping with friends for the Perseid Meteor shower.  We saw lots of meteors and took lots of pictures of the Milky Way those two nights.  My favorite was this one, where I lined the Milky Way with the tree so it looks like a flame rising from the tree.

30 sec; f/2.8; ISO 3200; 14mm  08/12/15
Sunflowers, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Davis, CA.

This is an in camera double exposure, zooming the lens between exposures. Sometimes you just need to have fun!

1/125 sec; f/25; ISO 5000; 256mm   08/29/15
Sunset, Half Dome from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, CA.

I was in Yosemite working on my new park guide for SNAPP Guides, and came across this beautiful sunset. Look for the guide in the first half of 2016!

0.6 sec; F/11; ISO 100; 105mm  09/26/15
Sunset, Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Range, Lee Vining, CA.

I went to Mono Lake in hopes of photographing the lunar eclipse in September but got clouded out.  Fortunately though, all the clouds made for a nice sunset. Turns out I could have stayed home and seen the eclipse from my house!

3 exposures, two stops apart for HDR; f/11; ISO 100; 28mm  09/27/15
Lantern launch, Lanternfest, Fallon, NV.

Thousand of people launched lanterns at the Lanternfest in Fallon, Nevada.  Lanternfest is a private company that has these events at various locations around the US.

1/30 sec; f/4.0; ISO 16,000; 24mm  10/17/15
Kokanee Salmon, Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe, CA.

From the Lanternfest, I drove to South Lake Tahoe to photograph bears.  Unfortunately for me there were no bears because the Kokanee Salmon hadn't started running up the creek in mass.  The day I was leaving, I walked down the creek and found thousands of salmon lined up ready to make the journey up the creek. They have to negotiate several small waterfalls and beavers dams on their way.  I got down low and close to the water to get a salmon's eye view of the journey.

1/2000 sec; f/7.1; ISO 3200; 70mm 10/20/15
River otter eating carp, American River, Sacramento, CA.

After all the time I have spent on the river, I know certain areas that are frequented by the otters and I check the sites as I head downstream.  This is the area closest to my put in that has "otter potential", and I got lucky this morning.  The downside is I put in just as the sun comes up, and this location is in the shade for at least an hour after sunrise, so it is always fairly dark there. But fortunately today's cameras do well at high ISO!

1/640 sec; f/8; ISO 3200; 500mm; hand held from a kayak  10/24/15
Great Egret in flight, American River, Sacramento, CA.

I have on of the custom settings on my camera set to capture birds in flight, so when I saw this egret about to take off, I switched to C2 and started shooting. The tricky part was the bird flew to my right, the current took me left and I had to shoot without being able to keep my eye to the viewfinder.  I got lucky!

1/1600; f/8; ISO 320; 600mm; hand held from a kayak  11/07/15
Cattle Egrets, dawn, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, FL

I went to Florida to teach at Palm Beach Photographic Center in December, and I went a few days early to visit family and friends and feathered friends. I always stop by Wakodahatchee when I am in the area.  I found these Cattle Egrets in a tree at dawn against a lavender sky. Again it was fairly dark, since this is before sunrise, so once again I needed high ISO.

1/640 sec; f/10; ISO 6400; 309mm   11/13/15
Cattle Egret, dawn, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, FL.

I went back to "Wako" a few days later and saw this lone egret on a branch at dawn. This mornings sunrise was warmer and I liked the "peachy" color.

1/500 sec; f/10; ISO 1250; 600mm   11/17/15
Great Blue Heron in fog, American River, Sacramento, CA.

Winter is fog season and I am in heaven! I know this area will get backlit about 45 minutes after sunrise, I just never know if there will be a cooperative subject.  This morning I got lucky.  This heron allowed me to paddle past to get behind it for the back light. I was able to anchor fairly close to it and it patiently posed for about 20 minutes before I left.

1/630 sec; f/18; ISO 100; 483mm; hand held from a kayak  11/22/15
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA.

I was leading a night photography class in San Francisco for Canon Live Learning a few weeks ago.  In the days leading up to the class the weather reports were not good, it looked like the rain would reek havoc on our class.  But we got lucky!  The weather held when we needed it. There is a fountain in the reflecting pool here, so the water in never calm.  I made this reflection by copying the upper portion of the image and flipping it upside down to make the mirror image.

8 sec; f/8; ISO 400; 24mm  12/12/15
Great Blue Heron, American River, Sacramento, CA.

As you can see I like back lighting and always try to put myself in position to take advantage of it.  It is not always easy in a kayak! This shot happened quickly and I didn't even get to see how nice the light was until I looked on the LCD.

1/640 sec; f/10; ISO 1250; 500mm; hand held from a kayak 12/26/15
I wish you all the best in 2016!
If you see any images here that you would like to hang in your home or office let me know, they are all available as Fine Prints.
This just fills space
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Copyright © 2015 Lewis Kemper Photography, All rights reserved.


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