My Favorite Photographs of 2022

Landscape photo of the mountains above Convict Lake in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

This photography thing started as an infatuation, grew into a hobby, ballooned into a true love affair–and then became my career. Having worked for years now as a wedding and portrait photographer, I fear some days that I’ve nearly killed my hobby. The truth is that it can be hard to want to pull out the camera for fun when you’ve already spent days on end using the camera for work. Occasionally, I remember that in the same way that my photos let my clients recall wonderful times, my own photos can bring to mind the people, places and feelings that have meant so much to me. And then I fall in love all over again.

Here are ten of my favorite images captured in 2022, in no particular order, with the stories behind them. And as I look over them now, I’m noticing a theme of dramatic weather and far-flung places. Why not take a look?

10. From Up Here (Waihee, HI)

A young hiker looks out over a rainforest canyon on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

All the family we had travelled with to Maui politely declined or outright rejected my invitation for an early morning hike — except my 9-year-old son. It surprised me that he had signed on to the expedition, since I had used words like “elevation”, “moderate difficulty”, and “hours”. I wondered if he’d even be able to roll out of bed the next morning when the time came to go . . . and yet that’s exactly what he did. From the bleary-eyed drive to the Waihe’e Ridge Trail, to each labored upcountry step, to mature topics of conversation, he did everything he could to raise his own personal bar. I can usually count on shenanigans from him, but he made it clear that day that he wanted to grow up a bit in his father’s eyes.

9. The Happy Sort of Boulders (Bishop, CA)

A young man boulders his way up one of the Happy Boulders outside of Bishop, California.

Hours earlier, we’d been wearing far more layers. The snow was piling up at the cabin where we stayed, and the chilly temperatures were keeping us indoors. So we hatched a plan to visit the considerably warmer town of Bishop, nestled at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. While I went for the bakery, my brother was angling to get to the Happy Boulders just outside of town. Though he was the only boulderer in the whole extended family, the rest of us plodded up the trail behind him to see what the fuss was about. There the boulders were: menacing, red and not all that friendly — at least to my eye. But seeing my brother spring into action was so inspiring and empowering that several of us started to scramble up rocks ourselves. When a scrappy young guy stands up to rock faces far larger than himself, that spirit gets passed along to the rest of us.

8. Nailed It! (Sacramento, CA)

A black-haired bride pumps her fist and gives a huge smile while delivering vows during her garden wedding ceremony at Scribner Bend Vineyards in Sacramento, California.

Some of my favorite images come from play, and some come from work. Though work doesn’t always feel like work when you and your camera follow a couple through one of the most joy-filled days of their lives. They often express their joy with tears, a laughter powered by sweet release, or little knowing smiles. But at her ceremony, Teresa gave up a fist pump for the ages with a smile bigger than Mick Jagger’s. I figure that big, bold explosion of joy was just a fraction of what was going on inside her heart that day. And to think, we all got to share in it!

7. Thick Skin, Thin Ice (Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway)

Three Caucasian children dressed in crampons and wielding ice picks prepare to climb Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Norway.

The way my three kids fight with each other, you’ll rarely find me putting anything sharp in their hands. And yet we were thousands of miles from home with ice picks in hand and crampons lashed to our feet, peering up at Jostedalsbreen Glacier (see image below).

A front-facing photo of the blue foot of Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Norway.

We had talked about this glacier tour for months, and on this day we had already driven, boated and hiked to reach the foot of the glacier. We all gasped when we saw the mountain of ice, trying to coax our stomachs back down from our throats. But when our guide tossed us our rugged mountaineering gear to take on the ice, our kids forgot their nerves and fears for a minute. Their tools helped them muster up some courage they weren’t sure they had. We hiked upward triumphantly . . . until it got even colder and rainier. That’s about when I begged the tour guide to let us turn back early. That moment is one I’m less proud of, so that I think I’ll stick with remembering this image of my intrepid kids

6. Blown Away (Eastern Sierras, CA)

The winds push waves to shore at the east end of convict Lake in Mammoth Lakes, California.

Landscape photography is what fills my sails. But the wind that made this image was enough to blow me two states over. I’d visited this lake earlier in the day under the dreariest of conditions, so I made a note to return when the light was right. So when the evening winds gave the sun a chance to poke through the clouds, my wife and I drove back to the shores of Convict Lake. Though the same evening winds that cleared things up made for a biting cold here at an elevation of 7850 feet. And they meant that the waters blew against the shores like waves crashing against a beach. The wind and the freezing temperatures meant that this would be no leisurely walk, but a fleeting chance to see the beauty of this place and maybe capture some photos — which we did. It might have even been romantic if it weren’t too cold to hold hands.

5. Fresh Air (Santa Cruz, CA)

A couple embraces beneath a large tree at Hollins House restaurant in Santa Cruz, California.

Barbie and Michael’s wedding reception was alive and well. Loved ones lost themselves on the dance floor while others enjoyed the French fry bar. I stepped out into the coastal air, hoping for the November chill to jolt me to life for my final hour of work for the night. After resting near this tree, a bit of late-night creativity hit me head-on. I asked the happy couple to take a break from dancing to help me make an image they’d love. My second shooter and I pointed a blue-tinted flash up at the foliage of the tree, while placing an orange-tinted flash behind the couple. We whisked in one love-smitten couple and got ourselves an image I hope they’ll treasure. And for my part, I was grateful for the chance to push my creative limits a bit further.

4. Waters Under a Troubled Bridge (Kapalua, HI)

A bridge of igneous rock is buffeted by ocean waves at Oneloa Bay in Kapalua, on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I’m vacationing with my family and in-laws, and the urge to set out for some landscape photos hits hard. Late in the day, I beg to borrow one of the vans so I can get back to a trail I’d visited earlier that day. As I reach the trail at Oneloa Bay, the winds are surging, clouds are rolling in and the sun is setting faster than I’d like, so I start jogging along the trail. In other words, it’s exactly what always happens on my landscape hunting treks. As I’m passing this stretch of black, igneous rock, my eye lands on the arch spanning two outcroppings. Wave after wave pounds it, pushing water violently beneath it. Wondering how it got there, I realize that the relentless waves will ultimately take it down. That makes it all the more important to photograph it while it’s here: *click*.

3. Decisions, Decisions (Solvorn, Norway)

A young boy prepares to jump off a diving platform into the Lustrafjorden in Solvorn, Norway.

Filled with a breakfast of epelkake (apple cake), my family had an hour to kill while waiting for the ferry that would deliver us across the water. A drizzle turned into a light rain, but that didn’t keep my kids from pleading to swim in a real Norwegian fjord. It was summertime, after all!

A quick change into swimsuits and a frenzied run along a dock to a diving platform (see image below) turned into — well, a whole lot of anxious squirming. As in, when the reality of jumping in some relatively cold waters set in, it wasn’t so easy to take the plunge. But boy, did my youngest son look heroic in this shot at the end of the platform. Though nobody jumped off this platform, I’m happy to report that two of my three kids finally made it into the water.

2. The End of the Road (Eastern Sierras, CA)

A young boy in snowshoes, holding snow poles throws a fit on the side of the trail outside of Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Remember that boy from the diving platform in Norway? Well, here he is again, five minutes into our adventure, only this time with more tantrum than courage. He pulled it together in the end. But I still laugh every time I see this image of him throwing a fit with snowshoes and poles, begging us to just go on without him. I’m sure I was never like that growing up. Or was I?

1. Elsewhere (Bergen, Norway)

A sign on top of Bergen's Mt. Fløyen, displaying its position relative to other cities of the world. Special attention is given to Kiev, Ukraine.

This sign at the top of Bergen’s Mt. Fløyen caught my eye. It reminded me to think not only of the place I was standing, but that I was in just one of so many wonderful places in the world. The clever use of color in the sign also brought timely attention to another county in crisis. In that sense, this silly little sign embodies so much of what I love about travel. It reminds me that I’m not the center of the world. That I’ve got plenty left to learn. That my way isn’t the only way of doing things. That I’m meant to love my neighbor as myself. And that I want to start making some more travel plans.

Runners Up

A bronze statue by Gustav Vigeland of a man kicking babies, in Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.
Bronze sculpture of man fighting off babies at Vigeland Park (Oslo, Norway)
Three women working in the kitchen during Thanksgiving holiday.
Three women with the last name Oswald at Thanksgiving (Sacramento, CA)
Panorama of the fishing town of Henningsvaer, Norway in the Lofoten Islands.
Heaven meets Earth . . . and fish drying racks in the Lofoten Islands (Henningsvaer, Norway)

Thank you kindly for looking in on some of my favorite photographs and memories of 2022. I hope the new year holds plenty of adventure for us all!

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  • Pamela Easley 12-31-2022

    As always fabulous pictures! With your eyes and cameras you are able to take us where we didn’t know we wanted to go, until we saw your pictures! Keep up the wonderful work!!

    • P.J. Oswald 12-31-2022

      I so appreciate you following along, Pamela–and thanks for the encouragement!

  • Rondi Crowley 01-01-2023

    Wow wow wow. Loved every photo and description. Beautiful way to start the New Year! Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    • P.J. Oswald 01-01-2023

      Thanks a million Rondi–we haven’t seen each other in awhile, but it’s great to know you’re checking in. Hope your whole family is well!

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