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30 Favorite Photos from 2014

(© Ian Plant) 2014 has been ridiculously busy and productive for me. I’ve photographed in 12 countries, including the U.S., Venezuela, Morocco, Botswana, Argentina, Chile, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. I’ve flown many thousands of miles, and taken many more thousands of photographs. I was away from home half of the time, and constantly scrambling to catch up on office work whenever I wasn’t on the road. To be honest with you, I’m completely exhausted.

But that hasn’t stopped me from taking some time here at the end of the year to pick my 30 favorite photos from 2014. At lot of good images didn’t make the cut, so if you want to see more, follow a few of the links I include below. Also, you can learn more about many of these images in my free ebook Essential, which contains plenty of pro secrets that can help you unlock your creativity. Happy New Year!

“The Walking Dead”—Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

I took this shot of dead camel thorn trees in Namibia’s famous Deadvlei area. Most shots here are taken when there is light on the dune in the background; I shot this after the light had faded for a different look. Canon 5DIII, 143mm, ISO 100, f/22, 5 seconds. P.S. I choose this as the new cover image for my critically-acclaimed ebook Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition.


“Winter is Coming”—Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, USA

One of my favorite trips was to photograph polar bears in the North Slope area of Alaska. I took this portrait of a curious cub as it approached to investigate the boat I was in, moored just offshore. Canon 5DIII, 362mm, ISO 500, f/4, 1/500 second. My good friend and colleague Alex Mody is leading a Polar Bear Photo Tour in October 2015 through my company Epic Destinations to this incredible place.


“The Lost World”—Canaima National Park, Venezuela

During an ascent of Mt. Roraima in Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, I took this photo of nearby Kukenán-tepui, arguably the most photogenic mountain in the area. Despite shooting this several hours after the morning “magic hour,” this is easily one of my favorite images from the trip: it tells the story of this amazing place, and is infused with a sense of mystery. Canon 70D, 35mm, ISO 100, f/10, 1/100 second. Read more about my trip to Venezuela on my blog.


“Rio de las Vueltas”—Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Every year I travel to Patagonia, one of the most incredible places on Earth. The Rio de las Vueltas Canyon is one of my favorite sunrise spots, with epic views of Fitz Roy and other incredible peaks of the Andes. I prefer to go wide here, using the curving canyon as a leading compositional element. Canon 5DIII, 28mm, 2-stop graduated neutral density filter, ISO 100, f/9, 0.8 seconds. You can see more of my Patagonia photos on my website.


“Ice Age”—Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, USA

This past winter, the northern U.S. was gripped in what meteorologists called a “polar vortex,” a fancy way of saying it was extra cold. Lake Superior froze over, allowing me to hike several miles on ice to reach a cluster of sandstone sea caves on Sand Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. I took this selfie from inside one of these beautiful cathedrals of ice, using my camera’s 10-second timer. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 400, f/11, double exposure blend of 1/15 and 1/4 second. Read more about my trip to the ice caves on my blog.


“Sunset Sojourn”—Etosha National Park, Namibia

I caught this image of a trio of elephants heading to a waterhole at sunset. I positioned myself to take advantage of the gorgeous backlight; Namibia’s clear desert air is simply the best for backlit situations! Canon 5DIII, 307mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640 second. Namibia is an incredible photo destination; my good friend and business partner Richard Bernabe is leading two photo tours there this summer for our company Epic Destinations, there are a few spaces still available so don’t delay, join the adventure now!


“Slugfest”—Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, USA

A was lucky to get this shot of two polar bear cubs wrestling in water. These two beautiful bears seemed to be always scrapping, playfully honing their fighting skills. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/500 second. Click here to see more of my polar bear photos.


“Convergence”—Olympic National Park, USA

I love the chaotic rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. I looked for a strong, graphic element to help bring order to the chaos. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, polarizer filter, ISO 400, f/16, 0.8 seconds. You can read more about the making of this image on my blog.


“Galapagos”—Galapagos National Park, Ecuador

I made this photo of a pair of blue-footed boobies from a small boat. The Galapagos are a magical place; we’ll be listing a photo tour there soon through Epic Destinations, so check back often for details! Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 125, f/5.6, 1/500 second.


“Satisfaction”—Nxai Pan National Park, Botswana

While in Botswana I had an incredible encounter with a pack of wild dogs preying upon a baby gemsbok. After the gory meal was concluded, this dog laid down to rest and clean itself. Canon 70D, 506mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1000 second. You can read more about my experience with the wild dog pack on my blog.


“Spirit of the Forest”—Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

I photographed this mountain gorilla through a screen of leaves for a mysterious effect. I used a shallow depth-of-field to render the leaves as a colorful blur. Canon 70D, 109mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/500 second. You can read more about my experience with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda on my blog.


“City Reflections”—Minneapolis, USA

Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed branching out and dabbling in street photography in my new hometown of Minneapolis. This reflection image, taken in the mirrored walls of the Guthrie Theater, is one of my favorites. Canon 5DIII, 17mm, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/10 second. Read more about it on my blog.


“Touching the Sun”—Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Here’s another from the famous Deadvlei area. The sun was rising just above the tree, so I used the resulting flare creatively, taking care to shade the lens from too much stray light. Canon 5DIII, 47mm, ISO 100, f/16, 1/50 second. Check out my website to see more landscape images from Namibia.


“Guardian of the Underworld”—Pantanal, Brazil

I found this jaguar resting in a dark forest. Creative use of fill light was required to balance the cat’s exposure with the brighter leaves lit by the sun. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/250 second. I’ll be leading a photo tour to the Pantanal in October 2015; if you want photos of wild jaguars, this is the place to go! Click here for more information.


“Night Fires”—Marrakech, Morocco

This photo of a tent restaurant open for business in the main square of Marrakech is one of my favorites from my trip to Morocco. I enjoyed the street photography there more than I would have guessed (even though photographing people makes me a little uncomfortable)! Canon 70D, 50mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/15 second. You can read more about it on my blog.


“Ebb and Flow”—Olympic National Park, USA

Some places get photographed—a lot. Here’s my attempt at originality at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, which on any given evening is typically crawling with photographers. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, 2-stop graduated neutral density filter, ISO 100, f/9, 0.5 seconds. You can read more about it on my blog.


“Hungry Hungry Hippos”—Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

These two hippos battled for several minutes before resuming their midday napping. Canon 70D, 560mm. ISO 320, f/8, 1/400 second. My five week trip to Africa this past summer was a blast; you can see more of my Africa images on my blog.


“Dreaming of Marrakech”—Marrakech, Morocco

I used a long exposure to create an artistic rendering of this scene in the main square of Marrakech. Since she was still during the exposure, the old woman is sharp, while pedestrians around here become abstract blurs. Canon 70D, 16mm, ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/6 second. You can see more of my Morocco images on my website.


“Stars over Cotopaxi”—Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

I got up at 4am to photograph this moonlit scene of stars over the Cotopaxi volcano reflected in the still waters of a small pond. Canon 5DIII, 15mm, ISO 400, f/2.8, 30 seconds.


“Panserbjørn”—Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, USA

The name of this photo is inspired by the armored polar bears from the book The Golden Compass. While in the Arctic, I saw bears square off in countless battles such as this—but when I witnessed this brawl in a heavy snowstorm, I knew I had something special. Canon 70D, 560mm, ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/800 second. Download my free ebook Polar Bears of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if you want to see more polar bear photos.


“Lowry Avenue”—Minneapolis, USA

I photographed the Lowry Avenue Bridge reflected in the still waters of the Mississippi River at dusk, waiting for the moment when the darkening ambient light and city lights mixed. Canon 5DIII, 121mm, ISO 50, f/13, 30 seconds. You can see more of my Minneapolis photos on my website.


“The Horns”—Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

I made this photo in the early morning light, using the rocky foreground to frame the reflections of the distant mountains. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, 3-stop neutral density filter, ISO 50, f/14, 0.5 seconds. My company Epic Destinations runs photo tours in Patagonia every year, although we’re fully booked through 2016 at the moment!


“Pachyderm Peccadillo”—Etosha National Park, Namibia

I shot this image of elephants crossing in front of a waterhole at sunset. I chose a dark exposure, obscuring the elephants, focusing the composition on the sunset skies and the elephants’ reflections. Canon 70D, 117mm, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/320 second. Download my free ebook Namibia: Two Photographers, One Vision to see more Namibia photos.


“End of the Hall”—Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Namibia

Kolmanskop is an old abandoned mining town being slowly reclaimed by the desert. I choose a wide-angle view to emphasize the perspective lines leading to the center of the composition. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1 second.


“Dark Alley”—Fes, Morocco

In this photo, an old man shuffles from darkness into light deep within the ancient walled medina of the city of Fes. Canon 70D, 44mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/8 second. Download my free ebook Morocco: Two Photographers, One Vision to see more Morocco photos.


“The Huntress”—Etosha National Park, Namibia

I was lucky to find this female lion at sunrise; I caught her searching for prey in the first light of dawn. Canon 5DIII, 386mm, ISO 250, f/4.5, 1/320 second. You can see more of my Namibia wildlife images on my website.


“Fortress of Solitude”—Cathedral Gorge State Park, USA

I made this photo in a rarely-visited stretch of the Nevada desert. I waited until twilight softly illuminated the sandstone formations; a long exposure revealed the motion of the clouds, streaking across the image frame. Canon 5DIII, 15mm, ISO 50, f/14, 1 minute.


“Desert Solitaire”—Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

This shot was taken in Namibia’s famous Namib desert, with its towering red sand dunes. I zoomed in tight to isolate a discrete portion of the overall landscape. Canon 5DIII, 560mm, ISO 800, f/11, 1/250 second. A horizontal version of this image is on the cover of my new ebook Chasing the Light, packed with over 200 pages of lessons on the creative use of light, color, and exposure.


“Gorilla Tangle”—Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

I had a wonderful time trekking with mountain gorillas. Rwanda is a beautiful country, and I wish I had more than three days there! Canon 70D, 200mm, ISO 200, f/3.2, 1/400 second. You can see more of my mountain gorilla photos on my website.


“Sunkissed”—Etosha National Park, Namibia

Sunset in Africa is always a mad dash trying to find charismatic megafauna to photograph. On this particular evening, I had to settle for a lowly springbok—although I can’t argue with the results! The light was absolutely stunning, and I was lucky enough to get a perfect pose from my subject. Canon 70D, 461mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/250 second.


If you want to learn more about the art of photography, visit my eStore where you can find plenty of helpful ebooks and videos by me and some of the best photographers in the business.

          Visual Flow: Mastering the Art of Composition