2023 Photo Highlights

2023 Photo Highlights
A kettle pond in the tundra near the Gakona Glacier in the Alaska Range

One of my favorite things I hate doing is selecting photos for my annual photo review. In 2023, only 76 images made the final cut from the 8,500 taken, a smaller collection than usual but (hopefully) every bit as impactful. Color was a defining feature this year, undoubtedly influenced by the numerous wildflower macros.

In this post, I’ll narrow the collection even further, showing off my personal favorites regardless of their popularity on social media. These images resonated with me the most, each holding a special place in the narrative of my year. To see the full collection in gallery form, click the link: 2023 Photo Highlights (Prints and Wall Art are available in the gallery).

Let’s start at the beginning…

Blue hour on New Year’s Day. A late afternoon walk on the New Year led to a small collection of some of my favorite boreal forest photos.
A stunning display of the Northern Lights on January 14, 2023, illuminates the night sky in Fairbanks, Alaska. Vibrant green auroras swirl above bare winter trees, capturing one of the most impressive auroral shows of the season. This photograph is a part of the '2023 Photo Highlights' series, emphasizing the unique beauty of 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
Beautiful aurora on January 14, 2023. Mid-January through February saw some of the best aurora that I’ve seen in Fairbanks in 13 winters!
Snow-covered spruce trees stand against a soft winter sunlight near Fairbanks, Alaska. Taken on February 3, 2023, the photo captures the first sun rays breaking through the treetops, marking the first sunlight of the year to touch the ground in this location.
I took this photo on February 3, 2023, at 1:30 pm near my home in Fairbanks, Alaska. That’s about 25 minutes after solar noon. This was the first day this year that the Sun is rising above these tree tops (actually, it’s been a few days, but it’s been cloudy). This was the first day I saw the sunlight hitting the ground at this spot this year.
Vertical beams of light, known as light pillars, shine above industrial buildings on a cold winter night in Fairbanks, Alaska, captured on February 8, 2023. These natural phenomena are part of the '2023 Photo Highlights' and are created by the reflection of artificial light from ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. This photo exemplifies the unique atmospheric optics found in 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
Fantastic light pillar display from Fairbanks, Alaska, on February 8, 2023. I’ve written an article on what causes these here: Light Pillars (Atmospheric Optics). Here are some more photos from this incredible display: February 8, 2023 Photos.
A spectacular display of the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska, with ribbons of green aurora dancing across the night sky on Valentine's Day. The silhouettes of snow-covered trees frame the phenomenon, adding depth to the composition.
Another incredible northern lights display on Valentine’s Day night.
The aurora borealis forms a striking corona in the night sky, resembling a phoenix, over the snow-covered trees of Fairbanks, Alaska. Captured a little over a week after Valentine's Day, the radiant green and subtle purple hues create a dramatic effect against the darkened forest.
Auroral corona a little over a week later. I don’t typically see things in the aurora, but I definitely thought this one was reminiscent of a phoenix!
Two young fox kits are seen up close in their natural habitat, nestled among the trees and foliage in Alaska. One kit gazes curiously into the distance while the other appears to be playfully leaning on its sibling. This tender moment from '2023 Photo Highlights' captures the playful and intimate aspects of wildlife in 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
Cuteness overload – fox kits playing and feeding. One of the girls on my youth competitive climbing team told me there was a den near their home, so I had to go check it out. I lucked out on a visit and got to watch them playing with each other and even feeding on a raven carcass that their mother dropped off for them. The full set of photos is here: April 26, 2023 Photos.
Close-up macro photography of a male willow catkin as it blooms, with delicate yellow pollen grains emerging from the filaments and anthers. Captured on May 13, 2023, in Fairbanks, this image reveals the intricate details of the plant's reproductive process.
Pollen emerging – Macro of a male willow catkin blooming in Fairbanks on May 13, 2023. It was awesome to see the filaments and anthers opening up and revealing the yellow pollen so close. I’ve never really spent time thinking about this tiny world until this year when I spent a lot of time photographing it! For more of this collection, check out my Flora Macro Gallery.
Two tree swallows are captured in a dynamic exchange atop a wooden nesting box at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. One swallow spreads its wings as if in mid-argument, while the other looks on with its beak open.
Tree swallows bickering over who gets the nesting box at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks. I had a fun set of bird, reflection, and catkin macros from this day: May 21, 2023 Photos.
A firefighting aircraft releases a long, dense cloud of water over a lush, green forested area near Chena Ridge in Fairbanks, Alaska, in an effort to control a small wildfire. The contrast between the natural landscape and the intervention is striking, with the water mist hanging over the trees. This image from '2023 Photo Highlights' documents the efforts to protect the region's natural beauty, a significant event in 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
In late spring, a small wildfire started near Chena Ridge, a residential area in Fairbanks. The Fire Bosses and helicopters maintained a nearly constant spray of water on the area for hours. (More Photos)
A detailed macro photo of a woolly lousewort flower, with vibrant pink petals emerging from a fluffy, white, wool-like base.
Macro photo of a woolly lousewort flower.
Fresh snow blankets the ground and coats the coniferous trees just days after the first blooms of spring in the White Mountain National Recreation Area. This landscape, captured during a hike to Wickersham Dome on June 2, 2023, contrasts the fleeting warmth of spring with a reminder of Alaska's enduring winter.
Just a few days after the flowers bloomed, snow fell at some of the higher elevations on June 2, 2023. This was from a hike that day to Wickersham Dome in the White Mountain National Recreation Area.
Vivid purple Arctic Primrose (Primula pumila) blooms stand out against a muted tundra backdrop on Mt. Margaret in Denali National Park.
Possibly my favorite flower, the Arctic Primrose (Primula pumila) on Mt. Margaret in Denali National Park.
Macro shot of a delicate Spring Beauty (Claytonia sarmentosa) with soft purple petals and striking yellow and green center details in the Nome Creek Valley, White Mountain National Recreation Area. The close-up view captures the intricate patterns and vibrant colors of this tiny Alaskan wildflower, featured in the '2023 Photo Highlights' for 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
The tiny flower of Spring Beauty (Claytonia sarmentosa) in the Nome Creek Valley in the White Mountain National Recreation Area.
Inside a glacier cave at Canwell Glacier terminus, the intricate layers of ice create a dynamic interplay of light and shadow. Blue hues and the texture of the ice contrast with the dark rock and gravel floor, reflecting the cave's serene yet rugged environment.
A few of the families from my youth competitive climbing team explored some glacier caves at the Canwell Glacier terminus in July. More photos from the day here: July 6, 2023 Photos.
The intricate details of the Gabriel Icefall's jagged seracs at Gulkana Glacier are highlighted on an overcast day. The pale blue ice formations, textured and cracked, fading into fog in the background.
Smaller jagged and crumbling seracs in the Gabriel Icefall on the Gulkana Glacier on an overcast day.
A natural snow arch forms a dramatic frame at the edge of the Gulkana Glacier in the Alaska Range. The smooth, sculptural quality of the arch contrasts with the rough, rocky terrain beneath it. The overcast sky filters light through the arch's opening, highlighting the purity and fragility of this ice structure.
A snow arch at the edge of the Gulkana Glacier in the Alaska Range.
The roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), one of the few carnivorous plants found in Alaska at Peat Ponds in the Goldstream Valley – Fairbanks, Alaska.
Close-up of the roundleaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), a carnivorous plant with striking red tentacles and glistening dew-like drops, set against the green backdrop of moss at Peat Ponds in the Goldstream Valley, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris), also known as bog star, was one of my favorite wildflower subjects this summer. It’s a very common flower and incredibly beautiful up close!
A moose submerges its head to graze on aquatic plants, creating ripples and splashes in the Chena River State Recreation Area, while an American Wigeon duck floats calmly nearby. This wildlife interaction, captured in a single frame, highlights the rich biodiversity and depicts a tranquil scene of animal life in 'Alaska Photography 2023', featured in the '2023 Photo Highlights'.
A moose grazing on underwater foliage and an American Wigeon in the Chena River State Recreation Area.
Rugged limestone and conglomerate hoodoo formations rise sharply against the backdrop of the Alaska Range near the Gulkana Glacier. These natural pillars, sculpted by weathering and erosion, stand prominently amidst the rolling green terrain, showcasing the geological diversity of the area.
The Hoodoos – a limestone and conglomerate formation in the Alaska Range near the Gulkana Glacier.
The expansive Gulkana Glacier flows through the Alaska Range, with the Gabriel Icefall visible to the left, as seen from the vantage point of the Hoodoos. The contrasting colors of the glacier's icy blue against the rich, rust-colored earth of the Hoodoos create a stunning natural palette.
View of the Gulkana Glacier and Gabriel Icefall (left) from the Hoodoos.
An action shot captures the moment a team parent releases a mallard into the wild at Creamer's Field. The duck takes flight from the outstretched hands of the individual, set against a backdrop of lush wetland vegetation. This release is part of a duck banding activity led by a wildlife biologist.
One of our team parents releasing a mallard at Creamer’s Field. One of our coaches is a wildlife biologist and took our team out to do some duck banding. It was a really fun day! More photos here: August 19, 2023 banding photos.
Early morning light casts a warm glow on the rolling foothills of the Alaska Range, creating a dynamic interplay of light and shadow. The image, captured from a campsite on the way to the Gakona Glacier, showcases the rich textures and subtle color variations of the landscape. This peaceful scene is part of the '2023 Photo Highlights' that illustrate the beauty of 'Alaska Photography 2023'.
Early morning light and shadows on the foothills of the Alaska Range at my first campsite on the way to the Gakona Glacier.

A 3-day solo backpacking trip to the Gakona Glacier was probably the highlight of the year for me. It was a tough hike despite not having a lot of elevation gain. I had the opportunity to view some incredible geology along the way and am already planning a more extended trip to the area this summer. I wrote about the trip extensively in my post: Gakona Glacier – Hike Info and August 2023 Trip Report.

A rugged canyon carved by water cleaves through the center of the Gakona Glacier, revealing the dynamic forces at play in this frozen landscape. The contrasting textures of ice and rock, highlighted by the glacier's striations and the surrounding terrain's muted tones, are a testament to the natural sculpting processes of Alaska.
A water-carved canyon through the middle of the Gakona Glacier. Check out the link above for more information on this feature.
The evening light softens the expansive view of the Gakona Glacier as it winds through the Alaska Range, observed from a campsite. The glacier's surface is streaked with lines of accumulated debris, and it is framed by rugged mountain peaks with lingering snow patches.
Evening view of the Gakona Glacier from my second campsite.
A young climber is captured in action during a local competition in Fairbanks, ascending a yellow and green artificial rock wall with determination. The athlete's focused expression and strong grip on a red hold demonstrate the intense effort and training that goes into the sport.
One of my team kids competing during finals at a local competition in Fairbanks. I’m so ridiculously proud of all these kids and how insanely hard they work through the year!
Macro photograph showcasing the intricate details of frost crystals, with a central snowflake displaying symmetrical hexagonal patterns surrounded by delicate icy structures. The image captures the unique and transient beauty of ice as part of the '2023 Photo Highlights' and contributes to the theme 'Alaska Photography 2023', illustrating the remarkable natural art found in wintry conditions.
Frost macro – one of the coolest ice crystals I’ve ever photographed and one of the last photos I took in 2023. For more of my snow and ice photos, check out my gallery: Snowflakes and Ice.

Thank you for taking the time to look through my 2023 photo highlights. I hope they bring you as much joy as they’ve brought me. I invite you to enjoy the full collection here: 2023 Photo Highlights. Here’s to another year of capturing life as it happens!

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