2023 Year in Review

2023 has been quite the roller coaster of a year with a ton of ups and downs (as it seems for many people we know).  I went to 10 different states, saw 8 different national parks, did 21 art shows, and created 17 new pieces.  We had to pay over $10,000 in car repairs throughout the year, with our beloved van Betsy hitting the shop 6 times (not fun).  Had multiple camping trips that rained all night long.  Captured aurora with Mt Adams, the blue moon over Rocky Mountain National Park, and—one of my favorites—the Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse over Monument Valley.

The year began by going down to Southern California for photography and an art show.  We got to camp in Joshua Tree, which I hadn’t been back to since finishing up my college thesis back in 2013.  We even got to see comet ZTF while we were there (tiny little green dot in the sky).  Unfortunately, the Santa Ana Winds made for a bone-chilling camp trip, but we got to make new friends down at the Southwest Art Show and our AirBnB Host was very kind and let us check in a day early when the camp trip went awry.  Bonus of the trip: we got to see Mt Shasta on the way back! The full California trip can be found here.

On Valentine’s Day we made a last-minute decision to try to capture Mt Adams in Trout, WA (a tiny town in Southern Washington).  We had a bit of a scare with a mountain lion at night, but we were close enough to the car nothing too scary happened, we just interrupted its dinner.  A little before midnight, when Dan and I were cozy in bed, an alert for aurora hit my phone.  I jumped up and got Dan to agree to go back out into the freezing cold to catch Mt Adams adorned with the northern lights.  This was one of the best showings we’ve seen so far, as we were quite south in Washington and still got to see high red pillars reach skyward.

We got to go back to Arizona for three lovely shows.  We first stopped in Zion on the way down, and, of course, it rained all night long.  But we still had fun being in one of my favorite red rock locations.  The weather did decide to give us some beautiful sunsets for our efforts in the coming days though.  Next, we got to experience a very wet camping trip in the Superstitions, but we still caught one astro shot before the storm rolled in.  Even though the wind was strong when we went down to Saguaro National Park, we captured an incredible star trail around a saguaro, as they don’t budge an inch in the wind.  Our time down there also gave us the opportunity to meet one of our favorite Airbnb hosts who we hope to see every time we make it back to Arizona.

I was absolutely thrilled to do a commission piece for a lovely couple out of Arlington, WA featuring Whitehorse Mountain; one of our lesser known peaks in the state.  The viewpoint was absolutely spectacular, and the night was one of the best I had all year.  We saw shooting stars, satellites, a lovely moonset, and the milky way rising tall above the mountain peak.  They were super sweet and hooked us up with a bunch of coffee and tea to keep us awake all night.  The beginning of the night had us all worried with a little storm system rolled in, but it rolled out within an hour and gave us crystal clear skies.  This was a true sunset to sunrise kinda night, and it was a blast.  After they chose their size, I even helped install the piece in their home.

Towards the middle of the year, I got to flex my video skills by working with a group called North West Arts Alliance.  They contracted me to go down to Oregon and interview/video 3 unique artists creating their artwork and talking about how their art career started.  It was so captivating seeing these artists bring their works to life in their different mediums.  You can check out the final videos here:

Rachel Morris - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgF2n-3q4ts

Francisco & Laura Bautista - Pt.1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdLhcFFCUjc

Pt.2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhjuu9tHODA

Joachim McMillan - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6viU2U9neHA



Just like last year, I had to add some fun non-work related things to the post.  I got to see & photograph one of my most listened to bands this year: Rabbit Junk.  I also gifted them a print of “Bring me to the Night” and their reactions were great.  Fun fact: I name quite a bit of my work off of the music I listen to (IE: Bring me to the Night, House of the Fallen Sun, Identical to None, etc).  Dan of course made several new friends and met several other musical artists that were in the audience that night.  Shout out to the Waveshaper fan we met in Camano earlier this year who was also at the show. You can find their music here (it is electro industrial).

I went to a fabulous little show in Seattle put on by PCNW (Photographic Center Northwest) called the Photo Zine and Book Fair.  I was absolutely amazed by the variety of zines I saw there, and it inspired me to start making one myself.  Look forward to seeing a zine or two come out in 2024 (fingers crossed).  One of the most inspiring ones I picked up was on the punk scene in Seattle in the late 80s early 90s.  The woman who created it was there and signed my copy as we chatted about some of her favorite photos and who the people were to her.  It was such an unforgettable event full of some very talented people.

One tradition that Dan and I have done since its early years has been NW Tea Fest in Seattle, and it hadn’t happened since COVID.  But it came back stronger than ever this year!  We are a little tea crazy in my house, and if you ever stop by the studio, it is more than likely we will offer you a cup of tea—the hard part is picking from the large variety we have.  This festival has a ton of vendors sampling tea from all over the world.  Usually we will stock up almost a year’s worth of tea in one go here.

Next was something I am truly shocked I never knew about: The Chocolate Festival in Bellevue.  Similar to NW Tea Fest, you get to sample all sorts of chocolate from over the world, and let me tell you, we got our fill of chocolate with the added consequence of stomach aches.  Dan and I were there for hours and still didn’t sample from every booth.  At a certain point you just can’t eat anymore chocolate, and we love our chocolate.  Our top chocolates had to be from Fjåk (Norway), Omnom (Iceland), and Green Bean to Bar (Japan).  Omnom had so many completely unique flavors, Dan loved the licorice chocolates they had.  We couldn’t buy enough chocolate from Fjåk; we just loved every flavor.  They had some outrageous flavors that melted in your mouth, from carrot cake to oatmeal porridge and I still don’t think I can convey how amazing the oatmeal porridge chocolate was (easily one of our favorites of the show).  Green Bean to Bar had delightful flavors like their hōjicha chocolate bar.  So if you like chocolate, definitely don’t miss this festival to sample many award-winning chocolates from around the world.  Just maybe pace yourself better than we did to avoid getting totally chocolate wasted.

In September, we headed back to Colorado and had a blast at the Affordable Arts Festival.  During our several issues that cropped up with the van, we discovered some fun new eating spots, like Snarfs which makes some pretty epic sandwiches (we need some Snarfs in the PNW).  We even got to see our first moose while out in Rocky Mountain National Park! It was an incredible time as we watched and photographed the moose for over an hour as it bathed in the lake.  And we got to meet a ton of different people, share photos, and share stories.  Afterwards, we had a very successful workshop in the Rockies, even though my poor z6 took a tumble.  Luckily, I never leave with just one camera, so the D750 was the main star of our Rockies trip.

On the drive back, I snuck in a day to see Grand Teton National Park and catch a few pictures of the Tetons under the stars.  The time flew by in a blink, and I wish I could’ve had longer to explore the area.  I also got to show Daniel a very brief glimpse of Yellowstone as we drove home through the valleys dotted with bison, and we stopped to have a nice calming lunch at Old Faithful.  The full Colorado trip recap is here.

The pièce de résistance of the year was the Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse over Monument Valley back in October.  This was my second capture of a solar eclipse, but this time around it went exactly to plan.  I used PhotoPills to plan this out over a year in advance, the weather agreed, the campsite was perfect, and I couldn’t have asked for better company.  Waking up with anticipation, I was up at 6am and finally got to use my heavy loading kit for my Polarie Star Tracker.  Dan and I figured it out and got it all adjusted with 30 minutes to spare.  I love capturing these once-in-a-lifetime events and could see how someone might end up as an eclipse chaser traveling the world just to catch this amazing phenomenon all over. Full recap here.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with the fun little things we finished up the year with.  We made so many batches of cookies with my family; so many different kinds.  Wren, my little nephew, tried cookies for the first time (he just turned 1), and it was so hard afterward to get him to eat real food ~haha.  We also spent the holidays with my extended family up in Bellingham and Daniel’s family.  All-in-all, it was a great way to end the year.  Here’s looking forward to 2024 where we have many exciting things ahead: the 2024 total solar eclipse, going into the solar maximum (more aurora activity), workshops, and, of course, more adventures.