2017 Best Nine: Nature, Landscape, Travel Photography

2017 Best Nine photographs from California

2017 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

There a site that can analyze your Instagram feed and arrange the nine most popular ones into a new image for you to share. Scroll to the bottom here to create yours:

Drop by my #2017BestNine on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know when you’ve uploaded yours, and I’ll go check yours out!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BdU4kyqjrJv/?taken-by=jeffsullivanphotography

The site will also let you create your #2016BestNine if you haven’t already done so:
Best Nine of 2016?

Last year I also created my #2015BestNine, as shown here:
Best Nine of 2015?

Another option you have is to include statistics on your account for the year:

2017 Best Nine photographs from California

2017 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

It says roughly 40,000 “views”, but they seem to actually be likes. If the views-to-likes ratio is similar on Instagram to what I see on Flickr, the views would be roughly 10X more, or 400,000.

I had a few more “views” (or likes) in 2016, but had to upload more photos to get them:

2016 Best Nine photographs from California

2016 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

Overall my audience growth is pretty slow on Instagram, and I still have a lot more views on Flickr, the photos get views for longer, and the strong keyword tagging and search features means that the photos get found occasionally for commercial licensing. Obviously Instagram’s parent company Facebook has tremendous resources to invest in Instagram, and with nearly 600 photos there already, I remain optimistic that I’ll see more of an uptick in activity on my photos on Instagram in 2018!

My most popular photo on Flickr, with 1,538,443 likes, 21,292 favs, 1023 comments:
Water Cuts Rock

My most popular photo on Instagram?  886 likes, 33 comments:


The stats themselves don’t mean much, obviously I’m focusing on my photography not social media or I’d have more Instagram activity.  If I produce compelling work, the rest will eventually take care of itself.  But with little times to spend on social media and photo sharing sites, it’s useful to pay attention to where what little time I do have is best spent. So I’ll continue to pay attention to where my photography seems to get the best reception.

Other ways to look back at my new 2017 images and fresh edits of older ones?  I collected my favorites in a post on this blog:
Top 10 Travel Photos 2017

I selected those from over 100 that I nominated during the year as I was taking them, stored in a 2017 Favorites album on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157676554197004

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The Road To Bodie Is Open!

November Snow in Bodie State Historic Park, California

Winter approaching, November 29, 2017

Bodie Road, State Route 270, is currently open all the way to the historic Wild West “ghost town” of Bodie.  The park is open year ’round, but the road is subject to closure when conditions warrant.  The Open Snow long range weather forecast says that models predict that we could some precipitation moving in after January 5, so if a winter visit to Bodie sounds good to you, get up there in the next week or so, while the road is open!

All Rodents Lead to Bodie, Bodie State Historic Park, California

Several inches of snow in Bodie, May 8, 2015.

If we do get some snow, will that close the road?  If it looks like the first in a series of storms, it’s probably simpler and safer to leave the road closed for the season.  Bot now that the ground is frozen up in the dirt portion of the road, it’s less likely that wet conditions will make the road muddy and subject to damage from vehicle traffic (or cause vehicles to get stuck).  So a brief and not-too-deep snowfall won’t necessarily close the road.

Bodie on a Snow Day, Bodie State Historic Park, California

May 20, 2014

Some of my favorite visits have been in May when we get a late snowfall.  I’ve seen the road stay open with as much as 8″ of snow on it.  It doesn’t get plowed, so at those times you must have a vehicle with high clearance, and it’s best to have 4WD to minimize the odds of getting stuck.  I believe there’s a chain control sign at one point on Bodie Road, so you could well be required to have 4WD and “M+S” mud and snow rated tires, or snow chains installed on vehicles without 4WD.

Window on Bodie, Bodie State Historic Park, California

Snowy Day in Bodie May 20, 2014


Thanks to Mono County Tourism for reminding me that the road is open! And thanks for sharing my Bodie photo, with credit, on Instagram and Facebook. The image is from one of the night photography workshops that I lead every summer… about 5-6 times most years, and over 30 times already! I should hear back on my 2018 date request by February.


There may not be much snow on the ground at the moment, but it doesn’t take much to create a whole different atmosphere in town, and there is probably noticeable patches of snow on the surrounding peaks. So if you can make it up soon, check out Bodie before the road closes for the winter!

Big Wheel Keep on Turning

Cold Seat

View from Ranger's Roost by Parking Lot, Bodie State Historic Park, California

Snow in Bodie on May 22, 2017

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Spring in Yosemite Photography Workshop Highlights, 2017

Sun Rays on Yosemite Valley Morning Fog (color)

Sun Rays on Yosemite Valley Morning Fog (color)

Yosemite Valley SpringWe had great conditions for my Yosemite in Spring photography workshop in May, 2017: mixed weather with morning fog, brief rain to created mist alongside Yosemite’s granite monoliths, clouds to decorate sunrise, “moonbow” lunar rainbows at night, a rainbow in Bridalveil Fall that I anticipated from the sun elevation and compass direction, blooming dogwood trees and wildflowers, waterfalls, creeks in high spring flow, and so much more. Of course all of this needed to be experienced from the right vantage point at the right time of day.

Outdoor Photographer Magazine published today that they selected one of my photos from this workshop as the winning image for their recent Iconic Locations challenge.  See their write-up on their site for more information on how the image was created:
https://www.outdoorphotographer.com/iconic-locations-assignment-winner-jeff-sullivan/

OP was kind enough to share the image on their Facebook page and Twitter timeline as well:

Congratulations to @jeffsullivanphotography for winning the recent Iconic Locations Assignment with the image, Sun Rays on Yosemite Valley Morning Fog. “On this sunrise at Yosemite’s iconic Tunnel View overlook, it had rained the day before, but the skies were forecast to clear up overnight, so I figured that it would cool down enough to have the water vapor condense as a ground fog. When we arrived the next morning, it was just thick enough to reach the treetops, creating some nice photographic opportunities. “There had been several dozen people at this viewpoint minutes before the sun rays appeared, but once the sun cleared the mountains, nearly everyone decided to go get breakfast. Someone in my workshop asked about that, but I said, “Let’s give it another five minutes.” Sure enough, when the sun closed the gap in the clouds and started shining down between them, light rays started moving around the Valley. “The dynamic range of the scene was too great for one exposure, so the sun ray image was created from five bracketed exposures, adjusted in Adobe Lightroom and combined in PhotomatixPro HDR software.” * * * #OPAssignments #iconiclocations #travel #adventure #tunnelview #Yosemite #landscape_lovers #sky_captures #landscapephotography #fantastic_earth #landscape_captures #ic_landscapes #ig_exquisite #ourplanetdaily #landscapelovers #instanaturelover #welivetoexplore #allnatureshots #specialshots #landscapestyles @yosemitenps

A post shared by Outdoor Photographer Magazine (@outdoorphotomag) on

Here are more images from that great photography workshop in Yosemite National Park in May:

Yosemite Light Rays on Valley Fog

Yosemite Light Rays on Valley Fog

Light Rays On Morning Fog

Light Rays On Morning Fog

Yosemite Valley Morning Light

Yosemite Valley Morning Light

Rainbow in the Mist

Rainbow in the Mist, Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite National Park, California

Moonbow Reflections 2017

Moonbow Reflections 2017, Upper Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome Behind Parting Clouds

Half Dome Behind Parting Clouds

Climber Lights on El Capitan

Climber Lights on El Capitan

Morning Fog in Yosemite Valley

Morning Fog in Yosemite Valley

See other posts on this site for more images from my photography workshops in 2017: www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com

I’ll release 2018 dates shortly. Let me know if you’d like me to notify you when they’re released.

Half Dome Morning Reflection

Half Dome Morning Reflection

Lower Yosemite Falls Moonbow

Lower Yosemite Falls Moonbow

Confluence

Confluence

Cloud Forest

A post shared by Jeff Sullivan (@jeffsullivanphotography) on

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Top 10 Travel Photos: 2016

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: Super Moon Rise

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: Super Moon Rise

Virgin River Narrows

Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

From Here to Infinity

From Here to Infinity – Mono Lake, California

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Ancient

High Sierra , Sierra Nevada, California

High Sierra Sunset Reflection

Sunset Moon Rise, Topaz lake, California and Nevada

Sunset Moon Rise and Rainbow, Topaz Lake

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, California

Jellyfish Cloud Over Mono Lake

Moon and Belt of Venus over The Minarets, High Sierra, California

Sunrise Full Moon Set on Summer Solstice

Merced River Fall Swirls

Leaves and Foam in Eddies of the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

Kanarra Creek Hike

Kanarra Creek Hike, Southern Utah

New 2016 Results from Past Years

Dry Lake Bed Sunrise

Dry Lake Bed Sunrise, Death Valley National Park, California

I have many more images that I considered for my favorite photos and moments of 2016, and I’ve collected over 50 of them in 2016 Favorites album on Flickr.

My Favorite Landscape / Travel Photos from Each Year, 2006 – 2016

Here are some of my collections from prior years.  It has been a great dozen years of adventure, I can’t wait to see what I can find to show you in the next 12!

New: 2017 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2016 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2016 Top 10 Landscape/Travel Blog Post

2015 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2015 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2014 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2014 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2013 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2013 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2012 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2012 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2011 Favorites album on Flickr
2011 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2010 Favorites album on Flickr
2010 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2009 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2009 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2008 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2008 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2007 Favorites photo album on Flickr 
2007 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2006 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2006 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

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Why Do Your Fall Images Look Better This Year?

Yellow aspen in the Eastern Sierra

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors

I often receive supportive feedback on my photography, as well as questions on how I get my results.  Since I’m “in this for the photography” I tend to prioritize photography over writing.  So my answers to questions provide a great opportunity to address common questions in a blog post.  This time, I’ll just have it all be the blog post, illustrated with photos that I’ve post-processed in the past month, fall 2017…

Yosemite Daylight Long Exposure Composite

On 9 Nov 17, 5.52PM PST ———- said:
Jeff:
I see a dramatic change in your fall images….much improved, even though the old ones were great to start with. What software are you using to develop your images? It looks like you are using focus stacking for the landscapes as well. Is this so?
Nice job, ————

Hi ———-,

I’ll answer in two parts, first regarding post-processing.

I honestly don’t know if I can narrow it down to one or two factors and answer the question completely, but here goes…Everyone’s looking for ways to improve their photography, and the questions often assume that a new camera or post-processing software must be the key.  To be sure, cameras and applications do evolve, so there are benefits to new versions, but there’s a lot to be said for the influence of experience and personal stylistic choices.

Spring in the FallIt would be really easy to simply provide “the answer” and point to one new product that will provide the magic bullet.  You find that all over the Internet with people paid to promote products, and they often do not follow FTC guidelines to properly identify their social media and blog “reviews” of their sponsors’ products as paid ads.  I’m unencumbered by product/manufacturer relationships, so I can take a more comprehensive and less biased approach.

I do find Adobe Lightroom 5 and lately 6 to be meter than older versions of the software, and I do often re-process results as recent as two years ago and get better results.  But here’s the catch: I also notice that I’m using a different approach and settings than I did even as recently as two years ago.  So I can’t really attribute the improvements to solely or even mainly to newer Lightroom software.

Fall Colors in the Virgin River NarrowsI’ve been using Photomatix from HDRsoft for many years, and I remember as early as 2009 I was occasionally layering my best edit of the original photo on top of the HDR result to make the result more realistic.  Unfortunately that required exporting the files to Photoshop for the layering.  I prefer the photography side of the process over the computer/graphics arts options, so I often just settled for an average of the three exposures in Photomatix, and touched that up on Lightroom instead.  The new version Photomatix 6 that I started using in beta last spring includes the layering of any of the original files on the HDR output, and enables blending using a slider from 0 to 100%.  So in addition to being to select from more preset HDR results, it’s little extra effort to blend in the best straight photographic result that you were able to produce in Lightroom.

That would certainly account for many of the files that I post-processed in Photomatix, but I try to tag all of them with HDR and Photomatix, so you can see for yourself that it’s not a huge percentage of my overall fall results.

Yosemite Fall DogwoodsSo what’s left is some combination of experience and what I choose to do with it.  I think that I’ve become more demanding with my results, which forces me to take a more critical look at them.  I often say that I prefer to spend five minutes or less post-processing a photo on my computer, but to get better results, at a minimum it is necessary to take the lead of Ansel Adams and at least invest some time in dodging and burning.

Stylistically, while I always preferred to produce more or less realistic images, sometimes digital cameras simply didn’t have the dynamic range to capture an entire natural scene well, so I’ve decided to accept the compromise of visibly manipulated results.  As cameras get better in subtle ways and I continue to master my skill with the various techniques and tools available, including the software tools, I can shift my focus to stylistic choices instead of fighting the tools to get an acceptable result.

Fall CalmI recall that I decided to get a little more assertive with contrast and blacks about a year ago.  At some point earlier this year I decided to produce some more colorful results, although I still don’t want the first impression people get to be “manipulated”.  I may not always succeed, but I’m exploring a wider range of results, and reining myself in when I can detect that the photo is crossing some invisible line.  I guess that you could boil it down to developing my own effects, range and style, mainly within the bounds of what Lightroom can do, but occasionally using Photomatix if/when the dynamic range of the scene warrants it.

The next logical question is what am I doing in Lightroom.  The short answer is that what I like about landscapes is the photography “pursuit of light” side in the field, experiencing the moment itself, so as mentioned, I tend to keep my adjustments under five minutes or so per photo on the computer, whenever possible.  I push as much quality as I can back to the capture side of the process, and automate some of the post-processing, so I can get back outside.  The fine details of how I achieve that, from image capture through post-processing, are probably best left for interactive post-processing demos during my workshops, since sharing my process and some of my favorite locations is exactly how I continue to pursue photography.

Yosemite's El Capitan in the Fall by Jeff Sullivan on 500px.com

 

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Photograph the Moon Rise at Sunset Tonight, October 4, 2017

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: Super Moon Rise

The moon will rise shortly before sunset tonight, providing a perfect opportunity to photograph the moon near the horizon at sunset.  Here are 38 degrees north it’ll rise about 15 minutes before sunset, and be about 1.6 degrees high, or three moon widths, above a zero-degree horizon at sunset.

Mono Lake Moonrise (Re-edit)

About ten minutes later as you may start to see the earth’s shadow rise above the horizon, its blue color contrasting against the adjacent pink-orange last light of the sun in the “belt of Venus” effect, the moon will be about 3.5 degrees high, seven moon widths.

Super Moon Reflection

In apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills you can fine tune the times and moon direction and elevation for any shooting spot you might want to plan for.  Plan well enough, and you can anticipate compositions that place the moon reflecting in lakes, or beside or just over natural or man-made landmarks.

Moon Rise Behind Half Dome

Similar opportunities present themselves on the opposite horizon with the moon set at sunrise, so look at your favorite astrophotography app and start planning! You can combine opportunities, such as catching a moon coming out of eclipse, as it sets behind a nearby ridge.

Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014

Or place the moon on a man-made structure like the tip of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.  I started shooting this sequence of images about 15 minutes ahead of time to show how the placement of the moon can be accurately planned in advance, and rendering the images as a time-lapse video lets you see the entire sequence:

Plan to Shoot the April 14/15 2014 Lunar Eclipse: Example Landing on the Transamerica Pyramid
As calculated, the moon ends up centered on the tip of the pyramid!

For a discussion of advanced considerations, read the article, “I’ve planned my supermoon eclipse shot: what could possibly go wrong?

For a bonus on the tomorrow morning, I see in my SkyWeek+ app that the planets moonVenus and Mars will be within 1/4 degree of each other before dawn on October 5.  The StarWalk+ app shows me that they will be rising by about 5:10 am roughly due east.  Photograph them on and close to the horizon, then conditions should continue to improve improve by around 6 am as they’re rising out of the thicker air and haze close to the horizon.  At that point they are still low enough to be captured in landscape shots as the oncoming twilight increasingly illuminates the landscape.  The sun rises close to 7 am, so they may fade as the sky brightens, and Mars in particular may be long gone by 6:30 am.

Venus Jupiter Moon Conjunction

You never know what you might come up with.  A while back I shot the moon with Jupiter and Venus rising nearby, and my photo was used in an article by astronomer Don Olson of the University of Texas, in an article in the August issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine!

I haven’t looked up the phase that Venus is in, but if you have a strong enough lens, youc an see that it’s illuminated in a crescent phase.

Multi-Colored UFO?

The first step is to anticipate and plan for some great opportunities with the moon and/or planets. Then get out there and shoot! Tonight at sunset and tomorrow before dawn offer you a couple of good ones to start with. You never know what you might discover!

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Marketing Benefits From Using Competent Photography

Many people know by now that using a photo is useful, even critical to include in social media posts, but what impression are you forming with that photo, are you making the most of the opportunity?  Here’s what research says about photos in your marketing efforts online:

– Posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts.
– People form a first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds.
Source: https://www.inc.com/larry-kim/visual-content-marketing-16-eye-popping-statistics-you-need-to-know.html

If the people you are trying to reach are forming their impression within 50 milliseconds, when you need photography for your marketing efforts or online activity (social media posts, ads or Web site), work with a photographer who can help you capture and present your subject in the most favorable light! This is particularly true now that so many people carry a decent camera in their smart phones. Bland or over-processed photos, or glaring errors such as unlevel horizons, only waste your time and marketing budget. Many organizations try to use low cost photos these days or even get them for free, but how much does “free” actually cost?

Multiple Photo Posts Increased Clicks 1290% – Facebook Case Study
http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-tools/multiple-photo-posts-increased-clicks-1290-facebook-case-study/

When the Mono County Economic Development, Tourism, and Film Commission wanted to put its best foot forward with a publisher designing a magazine for global film location scouts, they turned to Eastern Sierra photographer Jeff Sullivan.  A landscape photographer and travel guidebook author living at Topaz Lake, Jeff has led dozens of photography workshops for night photography at the local ghost town of Bodie, as well as landscape photography workshops in the broader Eastern Sierra region of California, especially in the Mono Lake to Tioga Pass to Mammoth Lakes area of Mono County.

The publisher, Boutique Editions, liked forwarded samples of Jeff’s work so much, they selected the Bodie image above for the cover of Location International 2015!  The magazine is launched each year at the Festival de Cannes in May.  The publicity enjoyed by Mono County continued from there:

“The magazine is distributed to 15,000 movie professionals worldwide, and is also available at Locations Trade Show in LA; Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity; Berlinale; MIPTV and MIPCOM; Sundance Film Festival, Utah and at AFM in Los Angeles.” 

It's Here!Producing stunning photos of locations is nothing new to Jeff.  He wrote a 320-page guidebook to the best photography locations in California from Mono County and Yosemite to San Diego: “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South“.  Locations, and great photos of them, are exactly what he focuses on.  Using the proceeds from the sale of this book to fund the creation of in-depth regional guides, he’s on a mission to help you discover “the best of the West”!

The popularity of photo sharing and social media sites in recent years had given him excellent opportunities to showcase his work.  Participating on Flickr since 2006, he is one of the most-followed photographers on this site popular with serious photographers, with over 45,000 contacts and an average of about 10,000 views per day.

Posting his images on the new Google+ social media site in 2011 as he worked on his guidebook earned him a Top 100 ranking on the site in the site’s first two years, amassing nearly 2 million contacts.  At least one of the common beliefs about social media post success id true: competent photos really do give social media posts a huge boost!  This helped Jeff succeed with his photography workshop business, since a post’s reception on Google+ has been determined by Internet marketing consultants to be the #1 factor in helping a site achieving favorable placement in Google searches.*

* It’s puzzling that many organizations invest in maintaining social media activity, but don’t pay more attention to the quality of the photography in their posts!  That’s like entering an auto race at Laguna Seca Racetrack in a Honda Accord.  Unless you drive a track-ready Porsche, your family car has no business running with race cars.  Similarly, investing in online marketing activity but using consumer-quality photography will cause your investment in marketing on the Internet to under-perform against the competition as well.  If you’re going to compete with the best in the world at anything, including getting your social media posts noticed with the lowest possible investment of time, put your best foot forward and don’t skimp on high quality, eye-catching images! 

Mono County and Boutique Editions weren’t the only organizations noticing Jeff’s work in 2015.  A travel company in the U.K. noticed his work and named him a “Top 100 Travel Photographer in the World 2015“.   Upon his book release in late 2015 he took a celebration lap of the Western U.S. and Canada, and one of his photos from Yellowstone National Park won an Outdoor Photographer MagazineiPhone and Instagram” contest.

To see Jeff’s work from 2015, both new images and reworked images from past years, see his blog: “Top 10 Favorite Travel and Landscape Images From 2015“.

Snowy Fall Aspen
Late Fall Colors on Conway Summit
Shaft of Water and Light
Sunset Rainbow at Topaz Lake
Rainbow over Standard Mill
Rainbow Over Bodie’s Standard Mill

Don’t settle for simply “filling the space” where a photograph is needed. Understand the value of better photography, and work with a professional photographer to get it done right!

www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com
#marketing #advertising #tourism #travel #photography

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Grand Grape Celebration Wine Tastings in Yosemite

I signed up for a wine tasting in Yosemite right after my Fall Colors workshop November 12-16, featuring +Silver Oak Cellars, +Twomey Cellars , Martinelli Vineyards, and Tablas Creek Vineyard

The wines were outstanding, and both Silver oak and Tablas Creek poured verticals going back to 2001 so you could see how they can develop over time. This was overall schedule:

Session #4 ~ November 16 – 18
2016 Moderator ~ Dan Berger, Wine Journalist & Judge

Wednesday, November 16
1:00 PM “Tasting Nuances Between Site Specific Single Vineyard Wines”
Martinelli Vineyards & Winery Regina Martinelli

3:30 PM “Esprit de Beaucastel: The Evolution of a Flagship Rhone Blend”
Tablas Creek Jason Haas
6:00 PM Meet the Vintners Reception

Thursday, November 17
1:00 PM “A Deconstructed Tasting of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc”
Twomey Cellars David Duncan

3:30 PM “A Brief History of (Silver Oak) Time through Selected Wines”
Silver Oak Cellars Daniel Baron

6:30 PM Gala Vintners’ Dinner

I received a promo email touting $149/person attendance to the 2016 series of wine events:
<a href="http://z.aramarkparks.com/arzh40/wmws/ARZH/1476994621194_220/w551346.php?custcode=ARZH&bid=98006925737007&pbid_=98006925737007" rel="nofollow">z.aramarkparks.com/arzh40/wmws/ARZH/1476994621194_220/w55...</a>

Given that you'll pay about $75 for a dinner in the Ahwahnee anyway, it's not a bad price for four tastings, reception, and a four course dinner at the Ahwahnee paired with wines!

Here's the full schedule:
<a href="http://www.travelyosemite.com/media/487082/grand_grape_schedule_of_events_82516_2.pdf" rel="nofollow">www.travelyosemite.com/media/487082/grand_grape_schedule_...</a>

There will be far fewer of these events in 2017, since the kitchen in the Ahwahnee is due for a remodel.

I looked up this photo from November 14, 2005 to see how the conditions might be in Yosemite Valley during my workshop, and around the time of the event..

#wine #traveltuesday #travel #winetasting #yosemite #fallcolors

 

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Wines to Taste at Hospice du Rhone, April 14 – 16

Rhone Ranger wines

Some of the wineries producing Rhone varietal wines in the United States

When exploring wines produced with various different grapes, it can take years of experimentation to sample enough wines with dinners to get a good feel for which wineries produce the style that you like, and what foods they go with best. Fortunately there’s an efficient, cost-effective way to find new favorite wines: wine tastings. I like to visit temperate regions and visit wineries while I travel, but there are many tastings in California where producers from all over the state, or all over the world, will come to you. The Hospice du Rhone (HdR) wine tasting event coming up this month in Paso Robles features top wineries from the United States, France and Australia.

Many wine lovers are familiar with syrah, one of over 20 wine varietals traditionally grown in the Rhone region of France. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier and the other Rhone varietals have done well in the New World as well, particularly in California, Washington and Australia. In Australia they call syrah “shiraz”, after a region in the Persian Empire that produced notable wines at the time, although those were apparently white wines, and not syrah. But I digress.

The first year that I attended the  HdR was 2001. Earlier that year I had toured the Australian island of Tasmania enjoying their pinot noir, then I flew to the shiraz-laden Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions near Adelaide. The Australians were enjoying the release of wines from their fantastic 1998 vintage, which was in a string of strong vintages. I was enjoying them too. Upon my return, I checked two cases of wine as luggage and packed more in my carry-on baggage, for a total of 39 bottles in all! Ah the days before airline restrictions on liquids. Then a couple of months after returning from Australia, I attended the Rhone Rangers tasting event in California, offering American-produced Rhone varietals, and I enjoyed many fine Rhone lineage wines there.

So I started 2001 with a great survey of Australian and American Rhone style wines, and Hospice du Rhone would be a great opportunity to add French wines to the mix, and try them all in one place. Let’s start with the American wines and wineries that I particularly enjoyed at the Rhone Rangers event. Although wines change from year to year, the best grapes are consistently grown in the best sites, and wineries and winemakers that have tuned their winemaking practices for those sites will consistently produce great wines year after year. So finding your favorite vineyards, winemakers and producers is a great first step. So among this year’s 239 wineries pouring at HdR, many of these producers will again be pouring great wines:

1998 Lewis Cellars Napa Valley Syrah 03/31/01 – Ripe nose, syrupy dark fruit, intense with ample tannins, a touch musty, long dusty finish with more dark fruit. 92

1999 Cedarville El Dorado County Estate Syrah $24.00 03/31/01 – Deceptively supple, fills the mouth with ripe soft berries and some vanilla. 91

1999 McCrea Cellars Yakima Valley Syrah 03/31/01 – Ripe and musty with minty plum and black fruit, intense acid and tannins, ripe on the finish. 91

1999 Truchard Vineyards Napa Valley Carneros Syrah 03/31/01 – Musty, concentrated, a little syrupy, intense on the finish. 91

1999 T-Vine Cellars Contra Costa County Syrah 03/31/01 – Ripe and very sweet,syrupy (American oak?), concentrated. A “no dump” wine. 91

1998 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Vin du Mistral Syrah 03/31/01 – Dry, deceptively well balanced, with a congue-tingling finish. Closed, masking ample intensity. Should be better in a few years. 91

1998 Justin MacGillivran Syrah 03/31/01 – (Barrel sample) Ripe, minty, fleshy, dark fruit, which carries into the finish. A “no dump” wine. 91

1998 McCrea Cellars Yakima Valley Cuvee Orleans Syrah 03/31/01 – Nice nose, plus ripe dark fruit, peppery, toasty, with ample tannins. 91

1997 Jade Mountain Napa Valley Paras Vineyard Syrah 03/31/01 – Supple with vanilla oak and coffee flavors. 91

1997 Swanson Vineyards Napa Valley Syrah 03/31/01 – Dry with dark fruit, oak, spices, herbs, nice acid balance. 91

1996 QupE’ Wine Cellars Santa Barbara County Hillside Select Syrah 03/31/01 – Supple with vanilla oak, skins, dark fruit, nice persistence. 91

1999 Beckman Vineyards Santa Barbara County Syrah 03/31/01 – Tannic, dusty, peppery. 90

1999 Cedarville El Dorado County Estate Grenache $20.00 03/31/01 – Medium to full body, plush texture, sweet black fruit, balanced with an acid-supported finish. 90

1999 Cedarville El Dorado County Zinfandel $22.00 03/31/01 – Fruity, slightly syrupy, vanilla. 90

1999 Lava Cap Syrah 03/31/01 – (Barrel sample) Syrupy berry, spices… blueberry pie. 90

1998 McCrea Cellars Yakima Valley Ciel du Cheval Syrah 03/31/01 – Supple, vanilla oak, toasty on the finish. 90

1997 Clos Mimi Paso Robles Shell Creek Vineyard Syrah 03/31/01 – Minty, fruity, with spices and vanilla oak on the finish. 90

1997 Seven Peaks Paso Robles Shiraz 03/31/01 – Ample body, dark fruit (blackberry), mint, plum, shuts down on the finish. 90

1995 Swanson Vineyards Napa Valley Syrah 03/31/01 – Dry, medium bodied, peppery with red and black fruits, some leather, nice intensity and acid. 90

My Background in Wine

But what qualifications did I have for attempting such a feat? I started enjoying Ridge Vineyards wine since the early 1980s: my mountain biking route took me past their tasting room. A friend of mine worked there. Ultimately they would be named one of the top 5 wineries in the world, so I was spoiled by quality from the start. As I worked in Silicon Valley’s high tech industry for a couple of decades, I had access to great wines and my budget enabled me to collect them. I started taking tasting notes in 1994. Given that my day job was selling servers to Netscape, Yahoo! and other startups, I set up a Web site and posted my notes there. That got me into the big wine tastings, often early as a wine trade journalist, before the crush of public made it a little more difficult to access the more popular tables and wines. Even just trying a wine each night with dinner would tune my palate with over 3500 wines in 10 years. But my friends and I got together for a “boys night out” every Wednesday night, and we quickly settled on blind tastings as the agenda, with the host selecting the theme each week. Add in a few trade tastings each year, and you start to develop an experienced palate, along with a pretty sizable database. Eventually I decided to be a wine broker for a few years, representing small wineries to wine shops and restaurants.

My taste in wine may not be identical to yours (the whole subject of reviews, ratings and rankings has been covered ad nauseum for decades elsewhere). But you can try wines and a producer or two that I’ve liked, and if we like similar styles, my experience may come in handy for you.

I both take notes on the flavors and characteristics of a wine, as well as assign a score on a 100-point scale, like the ones American consumers have become familiar with from Wine Spectator Magazine and Robert Parker’s newsletter, Wine Advocate. There’s a love-hate relationship with such systems in the industry as a score over 90 points can help sell a wine, and higher on the scale may mean bigger, bolder and more in-your-face, but that’s not what you want with every meal. There are many excellent balanced wines that score in the high 80 to 90 point range that might pair better with food. I think that many or most wine consumers have become educated enough to make educated choices, so there’s no particular need to shy away from putting a stake in the ground regarding where on such a scale a wine might fall.

Fortunately the Hospice du Rhone event provides one of those opportunities for you find what you like, and cut months or years off your search time, while you save many hundreds of dollars on the cost.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Top 10 Travel Photos: 2014

Milky Way rising behind the Standard Mill in Bodie, California

Continuing the retrospective look at my last decade of travel and landscape photography, 2006 – 2015, here are some of my favorites from 2014.

Sierra Crest Sunset Layers
The Minarets and Sierra Nevada at sunset
Snowy Day at Mono Lake
Mono Lake tufa rock formations selectively lit by the sun
Bodie Sunset Re-edit with HDR
Sunset in Bodie State Historic Park, California
SUCCESS!
NASA’s Orion EFT-1 launch at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Sunrise Yesterday Morning
There’s no place like home.  A rock sheep enclosure at sunrise, Topaz Lake (on the California/Nevada border).
Revisting an Old Friend
One of the Death Valley slot canyons disclosed in my “Photographing California – South” guidebook
Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014
Moon setting over the Sierra Nevada, while emerging from the earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse!
Wild Mustangs
Wild mustangs in the Eastern Sierra

Bristlecone Pine
Playing with depth of field in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (iPhone 5S)

This was a selection of a few of my favorites from an album of over 45 photos from 2013, so there are many more that you might prefer over these. To see more of them, click on the link or album photo below.

More of my favorite photos from 2014:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157650285822751

2014 Favorites

My Favorite Landscape / Travel Photos from Each Year, 2006 – 2016

Here are some of my collections from prior years.  It has been a great dozen years of adventure, I can’t wait to see what I can find to show you in the next 12!

New: 2017 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2016 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2016 Top 10 Landscape/Travel Blog Post

2015 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2015 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2014 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2014 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2013 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2013 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2012 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2012 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2011 Favorites album on Flickr
2011 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2010 Favorites album on Flickr
2010 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2009 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2009 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2008 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2008 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2007 Favorites photo album on Flickr 
2007 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post

2006 Favorites photo album on Flickr
2006 Top 10 Landscape / Travel Photos blog post


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