One of my favorite features of the Year in Review series of posts is when I share the best work from my fellow photographers. Many are pros, some are semi-professionals or hobbyists, but they all have produced some fantastic images over the years. I hope you’ll take time to see their highlighted images below and visit their websites/social media accounts to see their full “Best of 2019” galleries.
Also, be sure to check out my peers’ Best Of selections I’ve shared from past years: 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.
All photos below are posted with permission and remain the intellectual property of their original owners. Please respect their copyrights!
Ken and I have crossed paths several times shooting wildlife and birds in the Pacific Northwest. Having worked for decades in journalism, Ken now leads photo tours in North and Latin America.
About the photo: “This photo is actually more than 25 years in the making. In the late 1990’s I was asked to write an article about Ring-tail Cats for “Rocky Mountain Magazine” which was based in Colorado. During my research I found a biology professor who was studying ring-tails that live in the Colorado mountains. He had a couple study animals that he had captured and I could have photographed them for the story. But, I really wanted to photograph them in their natural environment. Ring-tails are nocturnal and proved very difficult to photograph, I didn’t have a single good photo after several weekends dedicated to film the elusive creature. Fast forward to September 2019, a friend had called and informed me that a family of Ring-tails visiting his cabin in Arizona almost nightly. At last, for 4 nights I was able to watch and photograph Ring-tails out in the woods near the cabin. I especially enjoyed the youngsters, their curious antics and constant energy made for very challenging, but rewarding photographs.”
See Ken’s collection of 2019 favorites.
John is a nature and wildlife photograph who documents subjects in the western US, particularly in Utah and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He was also a fellow Highly Honored recipient in the 2017 Windland Smith Rice photography awards.
About the photo: “A day in Yellowstone is a day well spent, and if it’s a day in winter it can be even better. We had stopped to track a coyote making its way along Hayden Valley when we saw a group of bison meandering our way. There is something special about this amazing animal, and seeing them in winter highlights their resiliency and how they have survived for so many years. Happy new year to all, and here’s to a fantastic year ahead in 2020!”
See John’s Best of 2019 images.
Jasmine is half of the powerhouse Whales Underwater team that specializes in underwater photographic adventures with some of the largest denizens of our oceans. Jenn and I had a blast working with her during our August adventure in Tonga.
About the photo: “With military precision and spontaneous bursts of personality Orcas are just fascinating. They travel underwater in squadron like formation with the large bulls positioned purposefully shielding the pod. It’s beautiful to observe. There’s formation within a formation within formation…”
See more of Jasmine’s incredible underwater work from 2019.
Jim is a Yellowstone regular. We met over a decade ago while shooting mule deer together in the Grand Tetons, and have run into each other a few times a year when our visits to the park coincide with each other. In addition to spending several weeks in Yellowstone every year and shooting studio work back home, Jim gives photography talks and presentations around the country.
About the photo: “Bear cubs will always scamper up trees, often to the very tip of the tallest pine. Sometimes it is just to play or nap. Other times the mother will run their cubs up a tree to escape predators. I had to wait several hours while this cub was sleeping. It was well worth the wait for the pose and the look straight into the camera.”
About the photo: “At the beginning of the year I had an extremely fortunate encounter with a Canada Lynx in Montana. The lynx had a deer carcass cached under the snow, and was regularly feeding upon it. For the next two days the cat returned to feast on the deer as I waited patiently in the frigid temps, huddled up against a snowy hillside. This wild male lynx was incredibly docile and allowed me a glimpse into his life that few will ever get a chance to experience. After spending two days with this cat the animal felt comfortable with my presence, and even passed by several times within a just a few yards of where I was sitting in the snow. It was a wild encounter, one that I will never forget.”
See more of Zack’s work:
Jill Cooper & Simon Jackson
Jill and Simon are conservation-minded photographers based in Canada, who have been spending a lot of time photographing western North American wildlife, including in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They are the founders of the Ghost Bear Institute, which emphasizes youth-oriented education and conservation, and Nature Labs, a virtual textbook being used to advance nature literacy.
About the Photo: “We were incredibly lucky to have caught this moment in October, a few hours before bad luck struck, when we got into a bad car accident on a different stretch of the same highway.
We were on our way to a location to film b-roll (extra footage to help tell one of the stories on NatureLabs.ca) when we stumbled across a grizzly sow and three cubs of the year, searching for their last meal prior to heading for their winter den. It’s the latest date we’ve been able to watch grizzly cubs and we’re still having trouble wiping the smiles off of our faces (even with the accident).”
See Jill and Simon’s top images of 2019.
Web: NatureLabs.ca | GhostBear.org
Like many of the folks featured here, I met Alan and his wife Karen in Yellowstone. But they don’t confine their adventures to Montana and Wyoming, making several trips to Costa Rica, South America and beyond. This year they made their first trips to Africa, which provided some fantastic wildlife encounters.
About the photo: “Towards the end of our Kenya trip we stayed at Porini Lion camp which has a well known leopard called Fig. We were hoping to see Fig and her cub at some point during our stay. Our wishes came true during our first afternoon game drive. Fig and her cub appeared walking out of some bushes and our expert driver put us into a great position. As they approached a fallen tree, I hoped one of them would climb on it for pictures. As it so happens, Fig jumped up first and her cub followed and I was able to get one of our favorite shots from the trip.”
See Alan’s favorites from 2019
Doug is a Canadian photographer that I met via—you guessed it—my Yellowstone travels. Doug has published three photo books on Yellowstone, and I consider him to be among the very best photographers who has documented the park in the last decade.
About the photo: “A rather plain looking aurora display that somehow managed to be surprisingly photogenic. The auroras were quite faint but a longer exposure (20 seconds in this case) helped to create a little bit of magic. Photographed on September 28th in Whiteshell Provincial Park (southeastern Manitoba).”
See more of Doug’s recent work on Facebook.
Jess is one of Canada’s leading nature photographers, and has made a name for himself in recent major international competitions. He’s a past winner of the Windland Smith Rice Youth Photographer of the Year Award, and has multiple honors in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s senior competition. Much of his work highlights the amazing wildlife of British Columbia, as well tropical birds and other species in Central and South America.
About the photo: “After coming across this derelict barn and discovering it was the active roost site of this Barn Owl, I immediately envisioned this shot. Actually realizing it ended up being a longer process than I initially anticipated. In efforts to not disturb the owl, I was only able to make necessary adjustments to gear once it exited the barn for the night. On many occasions, he would sleep in and emerge to greet his nearby mate well past dark. Finally, after many nights, I was eventually successful.
A long exposure of 30 seconds illuminated the sky and barn in the waning evening light. Just inside the hayloft window, I positioned a flash set to a very low power, with a warming gel to slightly change the colour temperature. The invisible beam of a LIDAR sensor was oriented vertically slightly further inside the barn. When the owl passed through, breaking the beam, my flash was triggered, capturing it frozen in flight.”
Bill is a long-time friend with whom we’ve shared adventures in Yellowstone, Africa and Australia. It’s only taken him five years to contribute an image to this list, so even though he doesn’t have a website and only shares photos on his personal social media account, I’m happy to include this here.
About the photo: “A bull elk bugles during the autumn rut in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.”
I was fortunate to meet Florian during my short trip to Sanmenxia, China, in November. We were among a small group of photographers invited to exhibit our work at the Swan City’s nature photography exhibition. Florian specializes in photographing wildlife and natural areas in the earth’s polar regions. He has won multiple awards, including commendations in Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
About the photo: “An aerial view of crabeater seals resting on the broken ice of Antarctica after they fed the whole night on krill. I believe this kind of image allow us to observe and document the wildlife’s behaviors from a new angle and approach, revealing the animals in their entirety as well as in a wider habitat and landscape, in a way not before possible. It is a new way of learning about the white northern part of our planet.”
See more of Florian’s work:
Megan is yet another Yellowstone acquaintance. She’s a grand prize winner in the annual Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice photo competition, and photographs wildlife anywhere from Canada to Costa Rica.
About the photo: “Wild Canada Lynx running towards me in Northern Ontario, Canada.”
See Megan’s Top Ten (plus 2 bonus shots) here.
Jérémy is a colleague who specializes in still and video photography. Though he is from France, we met in Yellowstone, where he leads tours each year. Currently based in British Columbia, he’s taking advantage of his time abroad to explore many of North America’s wild areas.
About the photo: “While I was hiking in Glacier National Park, I met hikers who just witnessed a wolverine catching a young marmot. I was so disappointed to miss a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. I went to the place where the predation occurred hoping the killer might be back at the crime scene. Soon a ranger joined me trying to learn what happened. While we were chatting I suddenly saw the wolverine reappear on the mountainside about 700 feet from us (where it may been hiding to consume its prey). Then it started walking almost in our direction! I didn’t move, hoping it would come as close as possible… It came 70 feet in front of us, then smelled us, jumped over a small creek and crossed the trail.
We were so surprised and happy at the same time. That was my first wolverine… hopefully it won’t be the last!
See more of Jérémy’s work:
Mario continues to produce fantastic colorful images from the African continent and beyond. This year he landed a species that’s still on my own bucket list!
About the photo: “A portrait of a Caracal also known in South Africa as a Rooikat ( red cat ). I have been shooting wildlife since the film days with this cat being high on my list ever since but never got an opportunity with one. Seen them several times but that is about it. Last November I finally “ticked” this amazing feline off my list and it had to be in Etosha National Park in Namibia. We bumped into two individuals and were fortunate to spend a few minutes with them as they curiously looked at as before they disappeared as the elusive cats they are known to be.”
See Mario’s Top 10 Images Captured on Safari in 2019
Heidi is a Yellowstone friend who is known for her northern light photography (which she photographs frequently near her home in northern Minnesota) and she also teaches and gives talks at the International Wolf Center, but as you’ll see from her collection, she photographs quite a variety of subjects!
About the photo: “Driving down the road in search of wildlife, I glance over and see a deer standing in the river. Fifteen years of photographing wildlife have me turn around in a heartbeat. I know for a fact that a deer is not just going to stand in icy cold water for no reason at all. Even though I didn’t make out the wolf on the first pass, it was certainly there when I pressed the shutter! As I walked back to the car to get my long lens, the wolf slipped away. The deer stood there for another hour before making her way to the shore.“
Kate and Adam Rice
About the photo: “We always love our time with the bears and this year was no different. One of the benefits to spending a long chunk of time in one place is getting to know the animals we are photographing, including this beautiful family. It was amazing how closely cubs will watch their mom and try to mimic her behavior. Here is a perfect example. After grazing on sedges on a nearby flat, mom gave the signal she was on the move. The three little ones quickly ran after her and they all made their way to the edge of the river. At first the cubs began to play and fight on the sand but once they saw that mom was going for a drink they all followed. Here you can see all three of them doing their best impression of their mom. ‘We’re big bears too!'”
See Kate and Adam’s Best of 2019
Michaela was another of the talented photographers I met at the exhibition in China. Based in Australia, she specializes in documentary photography and filmmaking, often with an environmental bent. Michaela is also an Olympus visionary and has shot projects for National Geographic.
About the photo: “The Broome region in Western Australia is regarded as the most significant viewing site for shorebirds in Australia, and among the top four in the world. It has the greatest diversity of shorebirds species of any site on the planet and more than 800,000 birds visiting the area annually.”
See more of Michaela’s work:
A biologist and photographer, Anton does a lot of work in the Americas, highlighted (in my opinion) by his fantastic macro photography featuring reptiles and amphibians.
About the photo: “A male glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum) stands over his clutch of eggs, protecting them and singing into the night in the hopes of attracting another female who will hopefully leave him with more eggs to guard! I could hear the male frogs calling from 30 ft above me and had to slog through a small jungle stream at night to find this individual low enough to photograph. It took some effort, patience and maneuvering around in pitch darkness to photograph him acting naturally but it was well worth the time spent. As a herpetologist and photographer focusing on reptiles and amphibians this was a behavior I’ve long wanted to photograph and the one glass frogs are most famous for.”
See more of Anton’s work:
I was fortunate to meet Marcus during the Wildlife Photographer of the Year festivities in London, where he placed an image in this year’s People Choice competition (he is also a previous finalist). Like many of my WPY peers, Marcus is serious about documentary work focused on wildlife and culture. He is also a contributor to the Remembering Wildlife book series.
About the photo: “Benin’s Penjari National Park, one of 16 protected areas under the care of African Parks, is—like several of the others—located in what might generously be called a somewhat tricky area, with Boko Haram and other militant groups running amok just across the border in Burkina Faso. As such, its dependence on the quality and dedication of its ranger force is enormous. But it’s easy to forget that being a ranger is only one of many roles these men and women have – they are someone’s spouse, someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbour, someone’s lover. They have good days and bad days. They experience joy and love, fear and anger, sadness and excitement, just like you and I. But they put it all on the line to protect some of the continent’s most threatened wilderness areas. A little bit tired of always photographing them fully armed in the field, I have made a point of visiting rangers in their homes recently, watching (and photographing) them with their families.”
See Marcus’s Best of 2019 selections
Instagram: @MarcusWestbergPhotography | @MindfulAdventures
More top work from my peers:
National Geographic’s Best Pictures of the Decade
The Best of 2018 from my Peers
The Best of 2017 from my Peers
The Best of 2016 from my Peers
The Best of 2015 from my Peers
More Year in Review Content
Best of 2019: My Favorite Images and Moments of the Year
My 2019 Favorites from Entertainment and Literature
Thanks for the inclusion Max! A pleasure to meet you in London – hopefully we’ll cross paths in the field sometime, too!
Great collection of greats, thanks for posting their instagram links. It is also quite magnanimous of you to elevate other photographers; proud to see several are friends.
Hi Max — I found your blog recently on your website. I enjoyed reading the “backstory” behind your award-winning bison photo, as well as one about your growing up going on treks and mushroom hunts with your dad, and how your relationship with those things evolved over time. The stories/experiences/motivations behind people’s careers and hobbies always fascinate me. Anyway – I was going to ask about the owl in the barn photo — do you understand how that was done? Is it 2 exposures put together — or was that one exposure but the flash froze the owl motion? Also I wondered if you had a recommendation for a basic tripod? I love your work, and wish and your family the best for the New Year. Cheers, Daniel
Fantastic photos by everyone! What a wonderful treat!