STN27 by T.M. Schultze

My Favorite Photos of 2019 (12 Images)

2019 is coming to a close, and with that, it is time to look over my catalog of images and determine my favorite photographs of 2019.

If this is your first read of this type, what I am sharing is part of a larger project that Jim Goldstein leads every year.  For those who don’t want to read 2,000 words, click this link to go straight to the image gallery.  But I would rather you read!

2015 Favorites | 2016 Favorites | 2017 Favorites | 2018 Favorites

Thoughts On 2019

2019 began with the best Southern California rain season in 14 years, followed by a long period of dry weather.  Our monsoon season was almost non-existent.  We closed with a few surprise storms and a sense this was a really strange year.

I also photographed much less.  I created the fewest images since 2013, and I view that as a positive development.  It was easy to skip the Poppy-apocalypse that created a month of 10-mile backups.  I find interest in the quiet, the peaceful, and the contemplative.  A single canyon busier than Disneyland was representative of where photography and tourism are headed to, and I want to run the other way!

Photographic Melancholy

Photography used to thrill me, and the great photographs made by my friends and colleagues motivated me.  Now, over 15 years into making “serious” images, they mostly bore me.  For the same reason that I think Stairway To Heaven is a great song but I have little interest in listening to it, most photographs have lost their power with me.

Sometimes I think the biggest problem in photography is that there is too much photography.  Is this medium worthy of being “art” when there are seemingly more artists out there than patrons?

So while I show you these 12 images, I really wonder where I want to go in 2020.  Only 7 of the 12 images were part of my Photo of the Month blog series.  3 of the 12 were shot vertically.  I wonder if I should consider that next year.  I am also struggling with not being able to travel out of town as much, and I am definitely pondering some smaller weekend excursions (maybe 6 – 10 per year?) to get out of my San Diego rut.

On that note, I created 12 images that are my favorites.  These are not necessarily my “best,” or my most “technically proficient,” or have any special status among people online.  My favorite images make me think, make me study, make me come back, and make me meditate some more.  That’s what I want for my images and for my brain.  So please enjoy all 12 images on that note.

My Favorite Photographs of 2019


ABD101 by T.M. Schultze

ABD101 by T.M. Schultze

The best rain season since 2005 got off to a great start in the lower elevations. In the “lower” end of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the blooms started in January and February.

With clearing storms and growth through June Wash, this was one of many photographs I made. I think this image is the best representative of what I hoped to find during the early season.

The best part is that this area wasn’t overwhelmed with flower tourists.  Most of the people encountered throughout the early months were the normal desert travelers and adventurers that enjoy the Park year-round.  This was encouraging.  While some areas were to be loved to death, quiet places like this still exist.


HW4 by T.M. Schultze

HW4 by T.M. Schultze

I haven’t been able to travel much the last few years, with demands from my career and being a parent. This year, I was able to travel to Hawaii for the first time as part of a work recognition program.

While Hawaii (Oahu) wasn’t quite what I expected, one of the highlights was visiting Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. The Garden sits along the the mid-island ridge on the windward side. With plentiful precipitation, this was the tropical forest I was imagining.

The garden is well managed and free admission (my kind of fee).  This was taken after a large storm.  My first thought was to get a photo of the beautiful lake (reservoir) that is a landmark in the garden and protects the communities of Kaneohe and Kailua from flooding.  The water was brown though, so I ended up back at this overlook.  Some may not consider it a landscape with the road, but I think it fits well.


STN27 by T.M. Schultze

STN27 by T.M. Schultze

Sometimes, you find something unique in your life by traveling hundreds (or thousands) of miles away. Other times, you find something unique walking distance from your house. If there was anything that represented just how incredible the Spring season was in 2019, it was a single thick patch of Ground Pink (Linanthus dianthiflorus) growing in a field on the street I live on.

This image may be too dark and moody for some people. I enjoy scenes with contrasting emotions. So why is it a favorite photograph of 2019?  The field of flowers are certainly beautiful, but gloomy weather, like the example in my photograph, helped create the conditions for this flower bloom.

I was happy to show a number of my friends this field, and my child even enjoyed visiting it and taking her own pictures. She said this was her favorite spot during the Spring, and I could not have been happier to hear that.

If you want an idea about how rare this bloom was, see one of my Two Years and Two Images post on what a difference the right conditions make.


SRPER2 by T.M. Schultze

SRPER2 by T.M. Schultze

I had no interest in participating in the Walker Canyon Poppy-Apocalypse. Even during the week, there were 10 mile backups. Visiting the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve was much more fun. I also got to help my daughter enjoy the flower season, but still have some semblance of quiet away from the crowds.

So what ended up being my favorite image? It was a photo below the canopy of an Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii). Like me, the Engelmann’s like to live in quiet to solitary areas.  I can support a tree that’s an introvert!

Like most of our oak species, they grow in unique canopy arrangements.  With partly cloudy weather, it was easy to pick a composition of limbs and know I could pull the highlights down and bring the shadows up.  These trees never get old.


LM109 by T.M. Schultze

Another positive consequence of a good rain season is water, and lots of it. On a Sierra Club Photo Section activity, the skies were mild in color but much more dramatic shooting for black and white. It gives me pause, because I created a lot less monochrome work than in the past. I love black and white, so why did I make less of it?

Some people think black and white is simply hitting a button in Lightroom, but that isn’t so. Good black and white images come from particular scenes. Perhaps I had some bad luck while out, or maybe I wasn’t out enough. I expect I will do more in the Laguna Mountains in 2020.


WND3 by T.M. Schultze - a favorite photograph of 2019.

WND3 by T.M. Schultze

Windansea Beach is a wonderful place. It’s also a pretty busy place! However, once you get over the parking and you arrive at the coast, you find the best coastal spot in San Diego. Even on a busy weekend, there are compositions everywhere. Nothing is every the same. The tide will be different, the surf will differ, the light will vary.

Sunsets though, are plentiful and all over the internet. I have been trying to photograph more during our marine layer season, in appreciation of the unique onshore flow that keeps San Diego’s mild environment what it is. I like the clouds to be moody, and I like the coasts to be warm. This contrast brings to mind so many moments where I get to think without the noise and commotion.


LM111 by T.M. Schultze

LM111 by T.M. Schultze

I have mixed feelings about this image from Garnet Peak. I nearly fell from dizziness on the way up. This is not something I was used to. I later had trouble with my heart rate that required hospitalization. After a battery of tests, it wasn’t clear what happened, but I am in my 40s and my body doesn’t work like it used to.

Garnet Peak is my favorite mountain in San Diego County, both from the experience of climbing it and photographing it. Its just picturesque, and even on a clear morning you can still create a beautiful image.

This image, of course, will always remind of the big health scare I had from 2019, but I made it out of the year in one piece. Perhaps that speaks well from 2020.


CNF50 by T.M. Schultze - One of my favorite photographs of 2019.

CNF50 by T.M. Schultze

This is Alex’s tree, and will always be Alex’s tree. I will still photograph it though. During a clearing storm, I wanted a vertical image.  So why is it one of my favorite photographs of 2019?

Cloud structures are much larger and vertical than ground-based people realize. Photographing this vertically brings some clue to these impressive natural features. I have done this before, particularly at another lone oak in the Laguna Mountains.

Perhaps my quest for verticality makes this a style now.  I need more weather and more oak tree introverts to build a bigger portfolio of these wonderful spots.


LM114 by T.M. Schultze

Granite Mountain, as it sits to the North, is always the beneficiary of beautiful sidelight. Add a storm and the results are beautiful. This is one of the best spots along Sunrise Highway. It’s appreciated by some, missed by many, and taken for granted by even more. A few of my friends have made excellent images of this mountain. This photograph is but one of many I have enjoyed.  I considered omitting it from my Favorite Photographs of 2019 because I have so many images from this location, but I could resist.

Now, while I enjoyed making the image, I did not enjoy the aftermath. You see, it had just rained, so you couldn’t really tell the difference between undisturbed soil and an ant hill. I finally realized I was standing on an ant hill, but that was because I was bit simultaneously by 7 fire ants. The ants are no longer with us, I must apologize. I was quite surprised by how painful they were, and the itching was with me for several days. Not fun. Please don’t let me photograph where there are Bullet Ants.


SDR6 by T.M. Schultze

I am still chasing a more ideal image of this spot, one of the few quiet views of the San Diego River. This is close to my home, and I can go there on a moment’s notice. The sunsets can be great, and I enjoyed the dark but haunting light as the lake was retiring for the evening.

People like to chase the oranges and reds in their sunsets, which are the easiest to oversaturate.  I love the purples.  Its just a few minutes after what most people think is ideal light.  Its a transitory moment between color and twilight.  Its that transition that stays with me.


SSB4 by T.M. Schultze - One of my favorite photographs of 2019

SSB4 by T.M. Schultze

This image is my favorite photograph from 2019. Tabletop Reef is a favorite spot of Alex, who has probably shot it more than anybody else. After being frustrated, sick, and locked out of doing a Thanksgiving road trip due to weather, I needed to get out.

We were a few minutes late to arrive for the traditional sunset, but I really wanted a blue hour image anyway. Helping the composition were fast, clearing, storm clouds and a crescent moon darting in and out of view.

With a hint of the fading sun and quickly advancing twilight, I set up a section of the reef leading you into the drama of the early evening.  With calm seas and a nice reflection on the sand, this became one that I definitely want to see in print as soon as possible.


SC52 by T.M. Schultze

SC52 by T.M. Schultze

I have been chasing some version of this image at Sunset Cliffs for many years. I still don’t have the result I want. However, I feel this last image of 2019 represents something I have gravitated to. I love these slow, contemplative, landscape images. The coast, viewed quickly, seems like a turbulent and sometimes violent place. Viewed slower, in this case, about 30 seconds mapped to a single photographic moment, the ocean reveals itself to be peaceful, still, tranquil, and much more quiet.

This made me consider the fact that life on Earth began in the ocean. It wasn’t until later that life migrated to land. Homo Sapiens, endowed with a single concept of time that continually gets faster, busier, more stressed, and more frantic, is simply not conditioned to understand the ocean the way that our water-breathing and coastal living brethren do. I have been thinking about this a lot, the idea that life would be better if it was more quiet, less noisy, less busy, and more contemplative. That is something I want to make part of my 2020.

And with that note, I thank those of you who read the entire post and I hope you enjoy another year of images.  Making these favorite photographs of 2019 has been a pleasure.

Favorite Photographs of 2019 Gallery

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20 thoughts on “My Favorite Photos of 2019 (12 Images)

  1. Mark

    Lol – poppy-apocalypse – I guess I didn’t follow it close enough to read that reference before. 🙂 I also hear you on too-many-photographs. I have found myself in that same headspace. In fact, I am not quite sure what to expect when attempting to go through my own favorites for this year. Anyway – I enjoyed reading about each of these. Proof that some photographs are still worth the time.

    1. T.M. Schultze Post author

      Thanks Mark. We’ve had consistent storms so perhaps another Poppy catastrophe is coming. Luckily, there are so many more peaceful places that one can have a great Spring season without the crowds. Here’s to a great 2020.

  2. Mark Wade

    Looks like a good harvest! Really do like SDR6 and the rain impact of Two Years Two images. I think every photographer begins to wane in the enthusiasm department after years of practice. It seems to force that introspection you write about. There is more to uncover, even if it’s just the documentation of time

    1. T.M. Schultze Post author

      Hi Mark, thanks. If you ever want to shoot this spot during a nice sunset, let me know. Its close to you too, and usually a lot of bird action for you to create your style of surrealism.

  3. Alexander S. Kunz

    Maybe 2019 was a struggle for you photographically and otherwise, but I think it also lead to the most meaningful selection of images you’ve compiled for these annual reviews, so far. I appreciate the time and thought you spent on compiling the photos and writing the words along with it. I really enjoyed reading this, and I hope we’ll head out to photograph together again soon. All the best for 2020, Tracy.

  4. Debbie Debbie Covington

    As your mom I love anything you do but I love the Moody clouds. They make you slow down and reflect.

  5. Joseph Smith

    Well stated, Tracy! We’re all subject to ruts and I think it’s how we get out of those ruts that forms our artistic nature. And, yes we can still produce art even if we outnumber patrons 10-to-1 as art is not contingent on patrons (though survival as an artist may be). I hope you find something photographically to excite you in 2020.

    1. T.M. Schultze Post author

      Thank you Joe. Some of the work you did with street and architecture made me think about how I can apply my work to other subjects. Many of our patrons turn out to be each other, and I actually think that is a good thing.

  6. davidharrell89

    Great selection, man. I always enjoy these annual retrospectives. Even though your enthusiasm for the medium may not be what it once was, you talent and voice still come through every image. I think I agree with you about your favorite one from this year. The purple sunsets are underrated.

  7. Pingback: JMG-Galleries – Landscape, Nature & Travel Photography » Best Photos of 2019 by JMG-Galleries Blog Readers

  8. Luka Esenko

    Hi TM, I really enjoyed your post and descriptions with the photos. Nice to have some background info with your work. I like the fact you chose “non-iconic” locations so we can appreciate new places. Thanks.


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