A few years back I put together my favorite photos of the year (see it: part one and part two). I decided to resurrect the tradition, and I hope to keep it going in the coming years!

Onto the pics!

February

I visited Yosemite twice, first by myself and later with my friend Kevin.

Night sky from Yosemite

For this shot I drove to the empty Bridalveil Falls parking lot and placed an LED lantern in the middle of the parking lot, then shot straight up. I was super happy with the way this turned out.

Pinecrest Lake in the snow (California, near Yosemite)

Interesting tree stumps around Pinecrest Lake area, in the snow.

March

At the end of March, I quit my job and ended up in Japan again for the next few months!

One of my favorite photos from the entire several months was taken from the first night at the hotel. I had a corner room in the Star Gate hotel, which towers over south Osaka and has a great view of the Kansai International Airport.

Kansai International Airport seen from the Star Gate Hotel in Osaka, Japan
Sparrow and cherry blossoms on the Path of Philosophy in Kyoto, Japan

April

Kiyomizudera lightup in Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizudera lightup in Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizudera lightup in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto backstreets at night
Nara Monju-e Ceremony

(see more photos and video from the Nara Monju-e Ceremony)

Nara deer and traditional lantern

I’ve always wanted to ride the shinkansen (bullet train) as far north as I could, and I finally did it. I boarded the bullet train in Kyoto and ended up at its terminus in Hakodate. The final stretch of bullet train to Hakodate had only opened days before, and they were still celebrating its completion.

They’re currently building the final stretch from Hakodate to Sapporo, but it’s not due to be complete until sometime in the 2030s or so.

Rainy day on the shinkansen
The coast of northern Japan, seen from the shinkansen

This isn’t a super great photo, but I thought it was interesting for a few reasons. There were these stone markers occassionally by the tracks. And there was also a whole lot of trash, mostly fisherman trash like baubles.

Kind of surprising how much trash was along the coast here, especially for Japan’s reputation for cleanliness. Was this remants of the 2011 tsunami? Well, it’s five years later and this stuff is still here…

Hakodate sunset

Hakodate is a fun little town. Of course I had to take the tram up to the top of Mount Hakodate, then watch the sunset with all the other tourists…

Hakodate night view
Hakodate night view - the reality of the crowds. Absolutely packed.

Mount Hakodate at sunset was swarming with tourists. I’m glad I did it once, but I wouldn’t do it again.

Around Hakodate there was this trendy hamburger place called Lucky Pierrot, which looked more like a carnival. They had some interesting vending machines propped up outside their shop. Looked like something out of a video game:

Lucky Pierrot vending machine
Lucky Pierrot vending machine

Sapporo was still a bit snowy in April!

…And I was totally unprepared. I took some photos, then had to duck inside somewhere to warm up. I found a mall with some ramen restaurants and a Uniqlo - both of which had things that could help me warm up.

Delicious Sapporo ramen

May

In May I visited Indonesia with Yuka, but I was too afraid to bring my DSLR, which was a stupid idea in retrospect. I took some video there, and took lots of photos with my phone, which I guess I’ll have to post eventually.

Here you can watch a Muslim parade, and here you can listen to me ramble on about my experience in Indonesia.

When I came back to Japan, it was time to explore some more!

I returned to Byodoin Temple in Nara, which had been restored to its original vermillion colors since my last visit a few years back:

Byodoin Temple in Nara
Byodoin Temple in Nara
Aqua Marine Diving School (Kyoto, Japan)

This probably isn’t a super interesting photo for you, but I actually walked past this, then thought better of it and walked back to snap a photo, because I thought it was just interesting. It jumped out again for me when going through my photos, so I had to include it among my favorites just for the subject matter. The hiragana reads “Diving School”.

Yuka had been wanting to take me up to Mount Rokko for a while. It was a fun experience riding the cable car to the top, then eating some good food at the top.

Accidental self-portrait, and a view from the Mount Rokko cable car (Osaka, Japan)

June

In June I tried something new: I gave myself a photo assignment. Just to go out on a mission, and come back with some tangible decent photos.

I know Kyoto is amazing at night, with lots of things to discover in the nooks and crannies of the city I’ve spent the last few years exploring.

Kyoto alleyways at night
Kyoto alleyways at night

I posted a few more photos from my Kyoto photo assignment here.

Shirakawago

I had mixed emotions about visiting Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a bunch of interesting old thatched houses. The place was incredibly touristy, and I had a run-in with some pushy Japanese grandmas who unabashedly cut in line in front of me at a gift shop.

It was an interesting place - I may be back eventually in the winter, which is the more common time to take photos of the truly interesting old-fashioned houses.

Shirakawago
Shirakawago
Sparrows playing beside the Kamogawa (Kyoto, Japan)

I brought my DSLR to a short weekend trip to Busan with Yuka, but didn’t take many good photos there. I did like this one shot of a cute dog in a traditional market though:

Cute dog (Busan, Korea)

October

Back in the US!

I took a few road trips, especially to capture the changing seasons in California.

Mountains seen from June Lake
Boat docked at June Lake
Alien moonrise on the shores of Mono Lake
Mono Lake at night
Snowy mountains at night, seen from Mono Lake
Mountains at Lake Sabrina
Lundy Lake sunrise
Snowcapped mountains seen from Lundy Lake
Fall colors along Lundy Lake
Fall colors on the road to Lobdell Lake (California)
Intense storm clouds seen on the drive back to the San Bernardino mountains
Fall leaves on a brick walkway, at home in Big Bear

November

My mom spontaneously booked a trip to New Orleans, and I agreed to tag along. It was a nice return to a truly interesting city.

The lobby of the W Hotel French Quarter (New Orleans)
Jackson Square seen from the steamboat Natchez, on the Missisippi River
Calle D Chartres
"At Rest" gravestone in a New Orleans cemetery
"At Rest" gravestone in a New Orleans cemetery
Statue near the French Market: Michelle by sculptor Paul Perret (New Orleans)
Jackson Square at night with the largest supermoon in decades (New Orleans)
S. Andral Kilmer, M.D. Swamp Root medicine at the LSU Rural Life Museum
Swamp trees in Louisiana
Turtle sunbathing on the swamp

See more photos from my New Orleans trip.

December

One last road trip of the year! Just before Christmas, I took a drive to Zion National Park. I am definitely returning to this beautiful place, and I’m already planning future hikes and photo shoots here.

Desert sunset, near Baker, Nevada
Sandstone and ice (Zion National Park)
Misty morning mountains in Zion National Park
Misty Towers of the Virgin mountains in Zion National Park
Misty morning mountains in Zion National Park