2019 Year in Review

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct. 2019

2019 has been the craziest year of my photographic journey so far, from winter waterfalls and spring wildflowers to all night summer Milky Way sessions and autumn foliage. From deep in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks; to hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls and standing on the gorgeous Cannon Beach in Oregon. This article is to showcase my favorite moments of 2019. Not only my favorite times as a landscape photographer, but moments that made me feel alive, sad, or taught me a lesson; all conveniently in this post, as well as a little backstory to what went on behind the scenes and how the photo came to fruition. I never pictured 2019 going this great, as a lot of these trips were totally sporadic last-minute decisions that, with a ton of luck, was I able to capture the beauty presented to me. What you will not see here are the countless trips that resulted in a failed attempt. So many nights spent under a cloudy sky waiting for the clouds to open up to the Milky Way, only to start the dreaded drive home with zero worthy photos as the sky lights up from sunrise. The numerous hour long drives to see rain-dependent waterfalls that I thought would be flowing after a heavy thunderstorm; only to see a little trickle or it completely dried up. Nothing is as defeating as getting excited for a photo you have envisioned in your head, only to arrive on location and to be completely wrong. The drive home from these moments hurt the most, but there's always the little glimpse of hope that next time will be better. Landscape photography is not for the faint hearted or impatient. It has taught me how to stand in one spot for hours longer than I should for a composition; but also when it is time to pack up shop and move on. Please enjoy!

Milky Way over Rustic Church, Eminence, MO June 2019

JANUARY

My 2019 started off by celebrating the start of the new year parked 100ft away from Arkansas's Falling Water Falls, in the back of my old 2001 Honda CRV (Which conveniently died on me a month later) I awoke to a beautiful scene, the only rough part was the fact that it hit 25 degrees overnight and even with a plethora of blankets, I still barely got any sleep. The next two days consisted of photographing some of Arkansas's best waterfalls.

Falling Water Falls, Arkansas Jan 2019

Fuzzybutt Falls, Arkansas Jan 2019

Cedar Creek Falls, Arkansas Jan 2019

FEBRUARY

After months of failed attempts to capture some of Southern Illinois's most breathtaking rain-dependent waterfalls, the perfect opportunity arose mid-February after 4 days of nonstop rain mixed with a snow melt. I left St. Louis at 5am and arrived 2 hours later at Bork Falls outside of Goreville, IL. This is one of only two waterfalls in the entire state that you can drive across, the other being one of Illinois's tallest, Burden Falls, less than an hour away from Bork. Proceed with caution; the road to it is very rough and if the flow is too high, you run the risk of your car being pushed over the waterfall!

Bork Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Feb. 2019

Bork Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Feb. 2019

This waterfall is less than a mile from a state highway, but with no signs or indicators that it exists, it stays relatively low-key. My next location was Ferne Clyffe State Park, although Bork Falls is technically listed as being within the park boundaries. Upon arrival at Ferne Clyffe, I got to see a waterfall I had been wanting to see ever since I first learned Southern Illinois had waterfalls, Big Rocky Hollow Falls / Ferne Clyffe Falls depending on who you talk to. The trail to this is very flat and easy, and my favorite part is you get to see the waterfall way before you hear it. Making for a very tranquil experience that most people don't know about.

Big Rocky Hollow Falls / Ferne Clyffe Falls, Goreville, Illinois Feb. 2019

Big Rocky Hollow Falls / Ferne Clyffe Falls, Goreville, Illinois Feb. 2019

Big Rocky Hollow Falls / Ferne Clyffe Falls, Goreville, Illinois Feb. 2019

Here are some other waterfalls I saw during my Shawnee National Forest adventure; I look forward to returning here in 2020 for even more waterfalls. If you want to visit, please be respectful of the land, as well as keep an eye on the weather. If it hasn't rained, there won't be any waterfalls!

Jackson Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Feb. 2019

Dutchman Lake Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Feb. 2019

Burden Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Feb. 2019

MARCH

March started off very dull, after weeks of no rain and dead leaves everywhere; I was quickly starting to question my sanity. I hadn't touched my camera in weeks, and it seemed every time I went out to attempt an exposure, I would always be disappointed with the results. At this point, I was just ready for the spring bloom, for life to become colorful again. I finally caught my break at the end of March. One Wednesday afternoon my buddy and I headed over to the local farmland in Illinois to photograph my favorite barn. I have been visiting the barn on a semi-regular basis for years, every time I go there is always a new photographic opportunity. This particular time, my friend and I were in a conversation and I missed the road I normally turn on to see the barn. I decided to turn down the next farm road and see if it linked up with the prior road. As we proceeded down the road, we look up and we both get a huge feeling of excitement as we see this dilapidated barn surrounded by purple/pink flowers with the sun quickly setting behind it. Without thinking, I park the car and we grab our camera bags and start running through this muddy field towards the barn. The sunset was about to happen and we didn't want to miss it! We quickly scrambled all around the barn looking for the best compositions, and as luck would have it; we were treated to a breath taking sunset that was photogenic enough by itself, let alone behind this gorgeous scene we were presented with. Less than 10 minutes later, the pastel colors in the sky disappear and we pack up with the biggest smiles on our face. This is definitely one of my highlights of this entire year, as well as my photographic career. This entire photo shoot was pure luck. If I had turned down the road I meant to turn down, or if we went the next day and weren't treated to as nice of a sunset. I guess the longing to get a good shot paid off!

Sunset at the barn, Illinois March 2019

Sunset at the barn, Illinois March 2019

Sunset at the barn, Illinois March 2019

APRIL

At the end of March, a few days after the above photos were taken, my buddy and I set out on a week long excursion throughout Tennessee and North Carolina with no set schedule. We had a few things on our mind, let's chase waterfalls and see what amazing views Tennessee and North Carolina had to offer. A few weeks before this trip departed; I was approached by Enterprise Rental Car to do a story for their Pursuits with Enterprise series. I wrote an entire article capturing the excitement and beauty we saw on this trip, and you can read all about it here:

https://www.enterprise.com/en/inspiration/people/great-smoky-mountains-waterfalls.html

After returning home from the amazing trip to Tennessee, I had a huge craving to photograph the Milky Way and still had a few days till I had to go back to work. So one night, around 11:30 I'm at the gym, and after a quick glance at the weather; I rushed home, grabbed my camera bag and hit the road. Destination? Garden of the Gods deep in the Shawnee National Forest near the Illinois/Kentucky border. I was taking a HUGE risk here, as the forecast called for partly cloudy with heavy clouds rolling in towards sunrise. After considering the risk for maybe 5 minutes, I packed the car and left at midnight. I had my sunroof cover pulled back the entire drive and no more than 10 minutes passed in between every time I looked up in hopes of seeing stars above me. My motivation started to drop as I approached Garden of the Gods and saw only clouds. I arrived around 3:45am, I was dead tired and was running strictly off of the motivation to capture something incredible that I had dreamed of. I put my equipment down and laid on my back watching the sky. As the clock approached 4am, the thick clouds started to thin out, and I knew that would be my chance if I was going to get one. I got my Nikon D750 and Tamron 15-30 out and started firing away. I had been dreaming of capturing a panorama of the Milky Way over the huge rocks and canyons naturally featured at GoG, but that wasn't enough. I wanted to be in the shot. I set my camera up on interval shooting, to take a photo every 2 seconds, grabbed my flashlight (my phone) and ran to the other side of the canyon to participate in my selfie. After a minute of standing there, I rushed back to my camera to find the battery had died. Luckily, I got the shot. No more than 15 minutes later, the clouds rolled in again and I felt pleased enough to go back to my car and attempt to sleep (I got 2 hours and then drove 3 hours back to STL)

10 image panorama of the Milky Way, Garden of the Gods, Illinois April 2019

Milky Way over Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois April 2019

Some other photos I captured in April

Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri April 2019

Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri April 2019

Sunset at the barn, Illinois April 2019

Sunset at the barn, Illinois April 2019

MAY

May started off wet, I started the month off with a trip to one of my favorite local parks: Don Robinson State Park near Cedar Hill, Missouri. The spring showers had been ongoing for a few days at this point, which allowed the foliage to start turning a beautiful green, as well as Missouri's rain dependent waterfalls to start raging temporarily. I had never seen the waterfalls at Don Robinson flow much, and I had a gut feeling they would be after all the rain. There is nothing more relaxing than hiking through the woods, with only the sounds of the rain and your own footsteps.

Don Robinson State Park, Cedar Hill, Missouri May 2019

Don Robinson State Park, Cedar Hill, Missouri May 2019

Don Robinson State Park, Cedar Hill, Missouri May 2019 (Did you notice the frog in the bottom right corner?)

JUNE

I kicked off June with another impulse sunset adventure to one of the barns. I left work and met up with my buddy to go capture sunset at the barn. Upon arrival, we noticed a huge storm rolling in from the east. Sunset was a total bust, but we both wanted to attempt to photograph the storm. As it approached, which didn't take long as it was moving quick. We noticed it was a huge thunderstorm super cell with lightning happening every second or two. We had the opportunity to get out there and avoid getting drenched/ and or getting struck by lightning. Being the naive young 20 year old's that we are; we decided to risk it and stick around to capture the storm rolling in over the barn. I set my camera up on intervalometer mode to take a photo every second, and very quickly we were completely surrounded by darkness. The camera was picking up all of the colors; the clouds were a deep blue, the lightning in the background was acting as temporary daylight, and giving off a pink/purple glow. Soon it was too close for comfort and we ran to the safety of the car without a single drop of rain. Even if the photos turned out to be nothing exciting; the thrill of the moment truly made me feel alive, and I am so happy we decided to stick around and photograph the lightning. Upon arrival at home and editing, I concluded I didn't capture any lightning bolts in a photo; but managed to capture the quick clouds rolling in with the glow from lightning in the background.

Working at a camera store, I am eligible to submit to Tamron Lenses USA Photo contest strictly for camera stores; and after months of waiting for the results. I learned, in late September, that I had won 1st Place in the Landscape Category.

Towards the end of June, I had a kind of chaotic couple of weeks. I had my 21st birthday, and then the following weekend I had my upper wisdom teeth removed. Although I may sound crazy, the weekend following my surgery may have been my favorite experience of the entire summer. The Saturday after my surgery, I was luckily feeling extremely relieved from surgery, when I was supposed to be in pain. One of my friend's texted me to look at the weather in Eminence, Missouri as it was going to be crystal clear, with a late moonrise, and low humidity: Perfect conditions for Milky Way photography. I thought about if it was smart to go on a road trip less than 24 hours after oral surgery, but decided I could regret it later and hopefully the photos would make up for it. News flash, they did.

We left St. Louis at 9pm, and began the 3 hour drive to Eminence. I have talked heavily about Eminence and it's incredible geographical location in Missouri, as well as being home to the darkest skies in Missouri (in my opinion) in my previous article all about Milky Way photography which can be found

https://www.josephhowardphotography.com/post/the-milky-way-in-missouri

Around Midnight, we crossed over the Current River. As we crossed the bridge, I glimpsed over and saw that the Milky Way perfectly aligned over the river. Not only that, but there was a perfect reflection of it in the river as well! I felt my heart skip a few beats as I immediately cleared my mind of everything except the scene I had just witnessed. We spent well over half an hour standing at the edge of this bridge photographing the Milky Way over the Current River, and these photos just may be some of my favorite night sky photos I have ever taken.

The Milky Way over the Current River, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

The Milky Way over the Current River, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

The Milky Way over the Current River, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

The rest of the night was just as impressive, and we stayed out photographing until sunrise then drove 3 hours home. Here are some more of some captures that night, all taken near Eminence, Missouri.

10 image panorama of the Milky Way over rustic church, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

Milky Way over rustic church, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

Panorama of the Milky Way above the Highway 106 Bridge over the Current River, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

The Milky Way over Rocky Falls, Eminence, Missouri June 2019

JULY

For the Fourth of July, I spent it at my aunt's cabin along the Greers Ferry Lake in Northern Arkansas. I gave myself an entire day to drive back to St. Louis, allowing for plenty of photographic opportunities on the drive home. My first stop was Mirror Lake/Blanchard Springs in Fifty-Six, Arkansas. I didn't expect there to be much flowing water aside from the usual spring fed creek, as it was the middle of summer. Upon arrival, I figured I wouldn't get any good shots as it was a completely sunny afternoon with no real cloud coverage. Not even 10 minutes later, it starts getting dark and I quickly find myself getting drenched in a downpour. I ran back to my car, threw all the unnecessary stuff into the backseat, grabbed my camera, tripod, lens, filters, and plenty of cleaning cloths. I stepped foot into the freezing cold spring-fed stream, which now that I look back; may have not been too good of an idea during a lightning/thunderstorm. For the next hour, I was gifted with the sounds of rain, thunder, and the roaring stream I was standing waist deep in attempting to not fall into. Just as quickly as the storm rolled in, it cleared up. The sun started peeping through the trees, lighting up the mist from the freezing cold water. I packed up my equipment, and as I walked to the parking lot; everyone who had been seeking shelter in their cars during the storm emerged and started heading down the trail in the opposite direction of me.

Blanchard Springs, Fifty Six, Arkansas July 2019

Blanchard Springs, Fifty Six, Arkansas July 2019

Blanchard Springs, Fifty Six, Arkansas July 2019

As I drove into St. Louis County, I noticed the clouds lighting up in a beautiful shade of pink and orange. I quickly found a nice overpass to capture it from.

Sunset over I-270, Sunset Hills, Missouri July 2019

Here are the images I captured during my trip to Arkansas:

Sunset at Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas July 2019

Milky Way over Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas July 2019

Milky Way over Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas July 2019

Milky Way selfie over Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas July 2019

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER

These two months I didn't really capture anything spectacular or noteworthy. When I mentioned in the introduction about going on road trips only to come back home disappointed; that is how August and September felt. Every time I went out to photograph, I would always be disappointed by my results. I took these two months as an opportunity to go through older work and re edit it. I love re editing older work as it gives you a glimpse into how your views and styles have changed over time. September was also a useful time for me to start getting prepared for a trip I had been dreaming of and planning for months; 10 days of waterfall chasing in Oregon and Washington.

OCTOBER

Sunset at the barn, Illinois Oct 2019

October started off rough, I felt as if life was against me at some points. I may have been at my lowest point of the entire year. I lost a family member and injured my back while boxing all within a week, two weeks before my trip to Oregon. I was afraid I would have to cancel. Luckily, I healed up enough to still proceed with the trip. My plans for my trip were simple; pick up my rental van that I would be spending the next 10 days in, and hit the road. Where to? I would decide when I get there. After a couple flights and Uber's, I arrived at the rental van building, signed some paperwork and was handed the keys to a 2006 Toyota Sienna custom fitted with a bed and everything needed for a temporary home. As I entered it and sat down, it hit me that.. Wow, I am in Oregon. I am here, free to be on my own and wander aimlessly for the next week and a half. I sat there for over 10 minutes trying to contemplate where to start. I had a list of places to see, with no schedule of when to see them or what order.

My first stop was the grocery store. While there, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw that Silver Falls State Park was getting rain, and the autumn colors were at peak. I cut my grocery shopping short and hit the road to get to Silver Falls State Park. Since this was obviously my first visit, I had no idea where to go. I parked at the North Falls parking lot, paid the $5 parking fee, threw on waterproof clothes, and started hiking. Within minutes, I was greeted by the first of MANY waterfalls, and it was so stunning; Upper North Falls.

Upper North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct. 2019

I was here until sunset, wandering around with my camera, with my jaw dropping every 5 minutes as another beautiful sight was around every corner.

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct. 2019

Middle North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

Day two started off waking up after a semi decent first night of sleep in the van. I had parked at a truck stop along Interstate 5 near Salem. I headed to Silver Falls again, this time to the South Falls entrance and was the second car to enter. After a short hike, you are greeted to one of the most amazing views I have ever seen: South Falls. I was here for over 2 hours capturing the waterfall from every angle possible. I was star struck with what a sight was in front of me. Here are all of the photos I took of South Falls

Trail down leading to South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

Looking up the trail away from South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls Selfie, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

Further down the trail, there was Lower South Falls..

Lower South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct 2019

Lower South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Oct. 2019

Overnight I parked and slept in a church parking lot. The following day, I woke up super early in hopes of catching sunrise at Trillium Lake. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a almost perfectly still Trillium Lake with Mt. Hood reflecting upon the glass like water. I am proud of my photos, but they do not do justice to how insanely large Mt. Hood is. Seeing the reflection for the first time, no photo or video could ever capture that feeling.

Sunrise at Trillium Lake, Oregon Oct 2019

Sunrise at Trillium Lake, Oregon Oct 2019

Sunrise at Trillium Lake, Oregon Oct 2019

After visiting Trillium Lake, I made my way towards the Columbia River Gorge.

Traffic on I-84 towards Portland, Oregon Oct 2019

Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway, Oregon Oct 2019

Ponytail Falls / Upper Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Oct 2019

The next day, I arrived at Multnomah Falls before sunrise. I was the third car in the parking lot, and one of the first photographers up to the observation point before the crowds came rushing in.

Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Oct. 2019

After contemplating if I wanted to do the 600+ foot climb to the top, I decided oh why not and although it was challenging; the views from the top plus the endorphin rush from making it to the top was overwhelming. Atop Multnomah was one of my favorite waterfalls, and a truly whimsical set of conditions. Wiesendanger Falls may only be 50 feet tall, but the sunlight lighting up the mist made me feel like I wasn't even experiencing reality anymore, that I had been teleported to a dream.

Weisendanger Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Oct. 2019

The next day I traveled to Washington to visit 2 very special waterfalls; Falls Creek Falls and Panther Creek Falls. These are special places as over two years ago I saw photos of these two waterfalls, and that sparked my interest in not only the Pacific Northwest; but also waterfall photography in general. It was so amazing to see these two in person, as that is where my love for all of this began.

Falls Creek Falls Selfie, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington Oct 2019

Falls Creek Falls, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington Oct 2019

Panther Creek Falls, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington Oct 2019

After I saw the two waterfalls above, my "must see" list was completed, and I still had 3 days before I had to be in Portland to catch my flight back to St. Louis. I decided to wrap up the adventures, I would go and visit the Oregon coast just to say I saw the Pacific Ocean. I didn't spend much time there, but I did watch sunset at Indian Beach / Cannon Beach. At one point I put my camera away and just listened to the waves crashing, this was my first time ever seeing the Pacific Ocean.

Sunset at Indian Beach, Oregon Oct 2019

Blue Hour at Indian Beach, Oregon Oct 2019

More photos from the trip:

Random Oregon Driveways, Oct 2019

Rowena Crest, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Oct 2019

Rowena Crest, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Oct 2019

Spirit Falls, Gifford Pinchot Forest, Washington Oct 2019

Oregon and Washington were by far the highlights of this year as a landscape photographer, I would love to live in Oregon at some point in the near future. So many amazing photography opportunities around every corner, so many beautiful sights. I look forward to visiting again.

NOVEMBER / DECEMBER

As we approach the new year, I am already wondering what insane adventures next year will bring. I have considered spending my golden birthday (22 on June 22nd) somewhere near the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, but nothing is set in stone yet. We never know what life has in store! I also am planning to explore more of Southern Illinois and Arkansas.

Be sure to follow along on Instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/joeph0to/

Thanks for all the support this year, and I look forward to sharing 2020 with you!

Sunset at Camp Lewallen, Missouri July 2019

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