Favorite Photographs of 2018


While it’s my job to capture meaningful moments with my camera, it’s also my personal passion.

Now that 2018 is winding down, I’ve collected ten of my favorite images (listed in no particular order) from the year to share with you. Here, you’ll find some of my client work, as well as landscape, portrait, and travel images lifted from my own story. And speaking of story, I’m a sucker for context, so I’ll give you the crucial or totally trivial details behind each image.

Intrigued? Let’s do this!

10. Squiggles

Photograph of a biplane leaving a squiggly trail of smoke at San Francisco's Fleet Week

This wasn’t one of my usual outings. Honest. My brother-in-law had invited me to a yacht cruise with some of his friends around the San Francisco Bay Area. The occasion? “Fleet Week”–an annual event where the U.S. Navy conducts exercises of some of its sea- and sky-worthy vessels in public spaces. It all began with this little biplane, spewing a trail of smoke wherever it flew. While I like the image for its high-flying minimalism, the sight of seeing plane fly slowly and almost drunkenly overhead was both terrifying and breathtaking.

9. Fun, Fun, Fun till…

A bride and groom kiss atop a vintage Ford Thunderbird.

I’d first met the bride when she was a bridesmaid at her own friend’s wedding just a few miles further down Highway 49. Over the course of photographing her own subsequent engagement and family session, I could tell that her wedding would be a blast. Like most weddings I photograph, her wedding day proved to be an absolute whirlwind full of loved ones. But just before the ceremony began, the bride and groom escaped the doting crowds atop this vintage T-bird. My love of cars, weddings, and California foothills all converged in this image.

8. Fire and Iceland

There’s little I love more than exploring a landscape without the sound of others around. And yet I get the sense that Iceland’s Jökulsárlón Beach or “Diamond Beach” is packed with tourists, regardless of the season. My wife and I visited in the wintertime and the parking lot was full of buses, 4x4s and out-of-their-league rental cars. I worried quietly that we’d not have room to breathe. We began walking down the beach, away from the crowds, and found that they weren’t following. In fact, most people stayed within a couple hundred yards of their cars, enjoying the sight of a handful of icebergs washing upon the shore. What we found a half-mile down the beach then was not only some glorious solace, but a field of black sand positively littered with ice … all during sunset. Pinch me.

7. Two-Wheel Drive

A silhouette of a man peering out over the Golden Gate Bridge.

My brother’s idea of a birthday party was to ride the curves, climbs, and coves of the San Francisco Bay Area for a couple of days. We pedaled through redwoods, along streets lined with seaside mansions, and even through the famous bustle of the The City™. On the second morning, we started our ride at the Marin Headlands–above and across the waters from San Francisco. I captured this moment while my brother took in the incredible view, with just a hint of an iconic San Francisco landmark.

6. The Ones I Love

A mother and her three kids sit on the steps of the Elizabethan Theater in Ashland, Oregon.

In just a couple weeks’ after this moment, my wife would go under the knife for an aortic valve replacement procedure. She’s no stranger to heart surgery, but the prospect of a long recovery at home inspired her to send us on a quick, crazy, haven’t-booked-a-place-to-stay getaway with the whole family. We pointed our minivan up I-5 to Ashland, Oregon. This first town over the Oregon border is where I was born, and where Erica and I honeymooned. We figured visiting the mountain town would give us all a chance to forget ourselves. This frame comes from the steps above Lithia Park, outside the Allen Elizabethan Theater where the celebrated Shakespeare Festival unfolds each year. And wouldn’t you know it, my troupe performed admirably for this loving photo with mom.

5. The Graduate

Photograph of a young, blond woman kneeling near a rose bush

Senior portraits are another welcome part of my photography work. While my wedding and family portrait work is some of my most exciting and invigorating, shooting senior portraits give me the chance to get to know just one person at their own speed. Hanging out on this breezy May evening with Emily was a treat, in part because she’s artistic herself, but also because the sunlight was on our side. More of this.

4. Snowbirds

Two children play in the snow at the lodge within Crater Lake National Park.

So my kids have rarely seen the snow. Call me negligent, call me a bad Californian…I’ve resigned myself to those titles. But on the aforementioned Oregon adventure, we decided to visit Crater Lake National Park for a day. We expected some snow, but you wouldn’t believe the squealing we heard from the kiddos as we saw just how much had fallen over the park. The first half-hour was great: lots of snow angels, an all-you-can-eat-icicle-buffet, and snowball fights. The second half-hour was filled with frozen limbs, tears, and chattering teeth. Hmm. Maybe we should invest in some snow clothes for next time around.

3. Mother And Child

Remember how I told you my wife Erica was due for a heart surgery? Here’s a key moment in recovery, both from her first heart surgery back in 1983 (top), as well as in 2018 (below). While I didn’t capture the first photo, I did my best to recreate it since I had the same lovable cast of characters on hand for hours and hours of recovery. While the fashions, ages, and hospital location may have changed, Erica’s mom is always at her side in times like these. Thank God, Erica’s family, and the great team at Stanford Hospital for their healing work in my lady.

2. Closed Off at Point Bonita

Nighttime long exposure photo of Point Bonita, outside of San Francisco, California.

My fellow bike riders had turned in early back at our hostel, but I planned to leverage the mild climate and the beautiful coastline for some nighttime photography. I hadn’t scouted out the area before, but I figured visiting any lighthouse might result in some great scenery. After making my hike down the Point Bonita trail, I was a bit frustrated to find that the gate to the lighthouse was closed. While walking back, I looked around to see what other composition might be worth my time. The glow to the left of Point Bonita showcased the life coming from San Francisco, while the dusk to the right showed only the silence and constant pounding of waves from the Pacific.

And speaking of glow, a pair of glowing eyes came running down this bridge toward me as I captured a few frames. I was a bit spooked when the eyes just kept coming at me. But when the young coyote came close enough for us to see each other, I think he was just as frightened as me…and kept running.

1. Open Road

An open stretch of highway on Iceland's Snæfellsnes Peninsula

It was our first day in Iceland, and we were already discovering what makes the country so unique. Yes, there was monster jet lag, crazy food coma from a local caramel roll, and piercing winds, but we pushed on with bleary eyes. We navigated out of the Western cities into the remote countryside of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. While the skies were gray for the first stretch of our drive, the 9:30am sunrise changed everything–casting pink and blue light all over the sky while revealing the mountain ranges that had been hidden under the dark of early morning. I wanted to sleep so badly, but the call of this beautiful open road kept me going. I couldn’t say the same for my wife, who was fast asleep in the passenger seat while I snapped this one.

Runners Up

Auburn State Recreation Area Trail
Exploring Auburn State Recreation Area
Night falls near Walnut Grove, CA
A young boy frowns as he throws a temper, tantrum
A temper-tantrum from my youngest at Crater Lake
A man hikes a snowy trail at the top of Mount Lassen.
Hiking the summit of Mount Lassen during the 2018 Carr Fire
A Hart 2 Hart Vineyards Wedding
Parting shot at a Hart 2 Hart Vineyards Wedding

These are just a few of the memories I had the privilege of making in 2018. Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to share in them!

May your 2019 be filled with the best love you can find, and the best love you can muster.

Photography is my hobby and worklife combined! If you’d like me to make some images for you, check out my wedding, engagement, and portrait services.


  • gary tomlin 01-01-2019

    Fabulous work PJ. Little Liam’s tantrum may become an heirloom.

    • P.J. Oswald 01-01-2019

      No joke. He’s not pleased that the photo exists, but he’ll grow to love it one day!

  • Scott Reavely 01-01-2019

    These are fabulous! Thank you for sharing them!

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