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Favorite Photographs of 2019

30 Dec 2019, Posted by P.J. Oswald in People, Places, Things

Photography has come to occupy more of my mind and heart over the past seven years. What makes this year different however was my headlong plunge into full-time work as a photographer. Capturing striking wedding and portrait photography for hopeless romantics is what I get to do for a living now. And yet, I still clutch my camera through my other waking hours. And so here are ten of my favorites photos from work, travel, and family life in 2019–along with the stories behind them.

10. Playa Penca (Playas Del Coco, Costa Rica)

Scrolling through Instagram feeds of travel photographers brings out the worst in me. To see other photogs traveling to towering peaks and secret waterfalls makes me wish I was walking in their (sponsored) boots. Believe me, I’ve got my travel bucket list all worked out. I just have to remind myself that I’m blessed to be in a different stage in life, where I get to spend time with my family each day and enjoy relationships with a close community of family and friends. Though this family vacation to Costa Rica brought together my love of landscape photography as well as time with my family. This vertical 5-shot panorama comes from the last day of our trip, when I broke away from my crew for a couple hours. I was like a kid in a candy shop, wide-eyed and squealing to myself as the sunset got better and better during a summertime storm. And after packing it all in, I drove 20 minutes back home to my family where I’m sure the hugs I gave were followed by a huge, goofy grin.

9. Out On A Lim (San Francisco, CA)

While this frame doesn’t feature some of the dramatic and tender close-ups of most others from that day’s engagement session, it is my favorite. Lands End Park was teeming with other people on that afternoon, and I could see why; the lush landscape brushing up against Pacific leaves a striking impression. So in a rare moment of clarity, I stepped back to breathe in all that scenery and sea fog, and invited this couple to keep walking down the trail. I captured this image that I believe conveys the beauty of the place, while making it appear that they had the place to themselves. Now who wants to head back there with me?

8. That-A-Way (South Lake Tahoe, CA)

I love bikes. I love nature. I love family. So of course this image ticks all the right boxes for me. A number of our family members were riding the BMX trail at Bijou Bike Park, my nephew here was eager to get in on the fun. Though his strider bike doesn’t have pedals, this kid makes up for it all in incredible balance and sheer joy. He wanted to ride some of the same slopes as his bigger cousins. So here, grandpa took a minute to show him how to aim true and stay upright. Between the incredible sunlight, the beautiful forest, and the same man who helped me learn to ride my own tiny bike, this was a moment worth preserving.

7. On Thin Ice (Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA)

Lake Helen covered in a thin layer of ice during the summer at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Now, our home city of Sacramento gets fairly toasty in the summertime, often pushing 110 degrees °F. So our spur of the moment getaway to Lassen Volcanic National Park provided some surprising summer sights. I caught this frame just above Lake Helen in late July of this year at about 8200 feet of elevation. Though I had visited the lake last year without any snow, this summer saw it coated in a layer of ice. It turns out that this glacial lake receives more snow than any other location in California with—get this—600-700 inches of annual snowfall! Not pictured here are the many pictures of my kids barreling into nearby snowdrifts.

6. Outnumbered (Folsom, CA)

Making family portraits means discovering how to get an entire family to let their guard down even when they’re being followed by a goofy guy with a camera. When the kids are enjoying the ride, parents can let loose too. Well, these two little ladies are my nieces, and not only are they stinkin’ cute, but they were playing along perfectly that night: flying through the air, balancing, running with style and even posing when needed. I just love this particular shot, where all four forgot about the camera and let their affection out into the open.

5. Come Rain, Come Shine (Foresthill, CA)

Outdoor wedding at Forest House Lodge in May during a rainstorm.

On the topic of family, Erica and I were called upon to photograph her sister’s wedding this year. And I was asked to officiate the ceremony. *Gulp*. I was more than a little nervous about how to keep composed while pulling double duty. Fortunately, the presence of family, friends, and familiar french bulldogs kept my mind off the anxiety. Now the day was sunny and gorgeous up until the ceremony when a roving rainstorm made it cloudy and gorgeous. This shot came just a few minutes after the ceremony, when a bit of the romance, rain, and spectacular view of the mountains combined for a beautiful memory of the day. And a personal sigh of relief.

4. Water’s Edge (Point Reyes National Seashore, CA)

An Asian-American couple poses for an engagement session at Drake's Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore.

I already knew that I loved California’s Point Reyes National Seashore. The views are diverse, sweeping and epic, and the water is often warm enough to swim in (a bit of a feat for NorCal beaches). What I didn’t expect was how much I loved utilizing Point Reyes as a backdrop for my client photography work. Tracy and Lawrence drove all over the area with me for their engagement session. We fit in shots at a shipwreck, a cypress tree tunnel, and a slice of country side with big skies and dirt roads trailing off into the distance. Though my favorite shot from the session was here at Drake’s Beach, where the waves lapped up against our heroes as they cuddled their way through the sunset. No lovebirds were harmed in the making of this image.

3. Riding Camp Tamarancho (Marin, CA)

Camp Tamarancho Loop Mountain Bike Trail with a young man carrying his mountain bike over his shoulder.

I mentioned I like bikes, right? Another year, another shot of my brother-in-law with a mountain bike. This one comes from day where I was kidnapped by he and a couple other friends for a birthday ride at a spot we’d never tried. Camp Tamarancho Loop is famous in the Bay Area for plenty of climbing, mountain views, and even some great ramps in a grove that looks like it comes straight from the Forest Moon of Endor (see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). Any mountain bike ride worth taking means some amount of hauling your bike up challenging terrain on foot, and my brother-in-law demonstrates that perfectly here. Good memories.

2. King’s Creek Falling (Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA)

A view from the foot of King's Creek Falls at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

On that same summertime trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park I mentioned earlier, we hiked the King’s Creek Falls trail. By the time we made it to the observation deck at the top of the falls, my kids were about ready to mutiny. But disaster was averted when grandpa offered to wait with the kids while I scrambled to the foot of the falls. The view from down there was far better and rewarded me with a faint mist from all that falling, frigid water. I might have stayed for hours if not for the knowledge that grandpa was trying to lead three tired kids uphill. I took the exposures for this vertical panorama and started my climb back up.

1. A Walk in the Clouds (North Highlands, CA)

A bride and groom kiss during their wedding at McClellan Air Force Base

One of the skills I’ve enjoyed building is finding flattering composition no matter the location. While the feathered clouds that day were a treat, we found ourselves on foot in a rather plain parking lot with just a few minutes to spare before returning to Lizzie and Jacob’s reception. I put on my widest lens, lined up my flash, laid at their feet and pointed my lens upward at the couple and the sky while Erica tossed the veil. Voila–a parking lot was transformed into a walk in the clouds.


Runners Up

My daughter, swinging her way through South Lake Tahoe
A wooden roller coaster beneath beautiful clouds at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Hands up at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Sunrise above Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay
Daybreak above Eagle Falls
My crew amongst the pastels of a Costa Rica market
Engagement photos captured along the shores of Folsom Lake.
Engagement session on the shores of Folsom Lake

These are just a few of the memories I had the privilege of making in 2019. Thanks for taking a bit to discover the stories behind them!

May 2020 be a year of joy, peace, and growth for you and yours!


If you’d like me to make some images for you, check out my wedding, engagement, and portrait services.

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