2021 Year in Review | Best Landscape Photos

At the end of every year, I like to spend some time reflecting on my photography. I focus on celebrating the wins and pondering new strategies for the upcoming year. 2021 was another year filled with surprises (I'm looking at you pandemic!), but I'm quite pleased with what I was able to achieve. I feel like I continued to grow as an artist and I'm excited to keep this momentum going in 2022. This article is a summary of my favorite experiences and my top landscape and nature photos from the year 2021. To see the entire collection of images from 2021, please check out my New Releases Gallery.

A panoramic view of soft sunrise light shining on Fort Rock on a cool summer morning in Central Oregon's High Desert.

"High Desert Sunrise" A panoramic view of soft sunrise light shining on Fort Rock on a cool summer morning in Central Oregon's High Desert.

January/February 2021 - Creating and Selling Fine Art Prints

The fine art print is the ultimate expression of my work and I genuinely enjoy the process of making prints. It's not easy to create these large prints, but it's very rewarding to see the final product hanging on the wall. The photos below show two examples of my best selling prints from 2021. My most popular print type in 2021 was the Lumachrome TruLife Acrylic Print. If you are interested in learning more about fine art prints, please see my Limited Edition Fine Art Prints page.

TruLife Lumachrome Print Examples - 25x50
Lumachrome TruLife Acrylic Print Examples - 25x50" Print of "House of Stars" and 40x60" Print of "Waiting and Wondering"

I also wrote a substantial blog article about "How to Properly Light Fine Art Prints." If you don't have time to read the entire article, here is the Cliffs Notes summary: "Every piece of artwork deserves to be properly illuminated! After investing in a new fine art print, it is important to think about how best to light it. By carefully evaluating your existing space and selecting the best lightbulbs (LEDs) and light fixtures (track lighting, recessed lighting or accent lights) the artwork will look its best and will be appreciated by viewers for many years to come."

The first colors of sunrise appear in the sky during twilight at a secluded, coconut palm lined beach in Maui, Hawaii.

"Twilight in Paradise" The first colors of sunrise appear in the sky during twilight at a secluded, coconut palm lined beach in Maui, Hawaii.

February 2021 - Vancouver Camera Club Zoom Presentation

In February, I gave a 90 minute Zoom presentation titled, "The Art and Science of Landscape Photography" to the members of the Film Pack Camera Club (Vancouver, WA) and several other Portland area camera clubs. I had a great time speaking with this large group of photographers. I've done a several presentations about my photography recently and I really enjoy discussing my work and creative process.

Spring greens and vibrant flowers surround the world famous Laceleaf Japanese Maple Tree (Acer palmatum) at the Portland Japanese Garden.

"Revolve" Spring greens and vibrant flowers surround the world famous Laceleaf Japanese Maple Tree (Acer palmatum) at the Portland Japanese Garden.

March 2021 - We Talk Photo Podcast

In March, I was a guest on the "We Talk Photo" podcast with John Pedersen and Jack Graham. We covered a wide range of topics during the conversation including: how I got started in landscape/wilderness photography, the art of landscape photography and fine art printmaking. I had a wonderful time chatting with John and Jack and I hope the podcast gives you some insight into my creative approach to photography. Click here to listen to my conversation with Jack and John on the We Talk Photo website, or you can search for the episode on your favorite podcasting platform.

Early spring greens surround the beautiful Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon.

"Resilience" Early spring greens surround the beautiful Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon. Important note: I was able to capture this image in early 2021 when the trail was OPEN. Shortly after my visit, a huge landslide covered the trail and as of winter 2022, the trail remains closed.

April 2021 - The Ultimate Mastering Fine Art Printmaking Workshop

In April, I attended The Ultimate Mastering Fine Art Printmaking Workshop in Las Vegas with Mark Metternich and Robert Park. Mark and Robert are absolute master printers and are at the top of their game when it comes to creating large, high quality prints. I really enjoyed this workshop and learned about all aspects of fine art printmaking. Everything from proper field technique to optimizing files for different types of prints was covered during the intense 3 day workshop. If you are interested in elevating your printmaking skills, I highly recommend this workshop!

The Milky Way and billions of stars shine above the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon in this springtime panoramic photo.

"All the Light Above" The Milky Way and billions of stars shine above the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon in this springtime panoramic photo.

May 2021 - Maui, Hawaii

In May 2021, I traveled to the island of Maui, Hawaii for a landscape and nature photography trip. Visiting Maui during the pandemic was quite different from my previous trips, so I wrote a new blog article about my experience titled, "How to Travel to Maui, Hawaii During COVID-19." Below are a couple of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Gentle sunset light illuminates coconut palm trees and rocks at a secluded beach in Maui, Hawaii.

"Into Forever" Gentle sunset light illuminates coconut palm trees, waves and sand at a secluded beach in Maui, Hawaii.

Sunset light illuminates coconut palm trees and crashing waves along the Wailea Beach Path in Maui, Hawaii.

"Wailea Dreams" Sunset light illuminates coconut palm trees and crashing waves along the Wailea Beach Path in Maui, Hawaii.

An aerial view of an ocean reef ecosystem near a small beach cove in Maui, Hawaii.

"Uplifting" An aerial view of an ocean reef ecosystem near a small beach cove in Maui, Hawaii.

Soothing sunset light illuminates waves at coconut palm trees at Ulua Beach in Maui, Hawaii.

"Ulua Beach Sunset" Soothing sunset light illuminates waves at coconut palm trees at Ulua Beach in Maui, Hawaii.

Aquamarine colored waves crash into volcanic Hawaiian rocks at sunset near Wailea-Makena, Maui, Hawaii.

"Timeless" Aquamarine colored waves crash into volcanic Hawaiian rocks at sunset near Wailea-Makena, Maui, Hawaii.

June 2021 - Oregon Coast

In June, I spent a few days photographing at the Oregon Coast. It was foggy the entire time I was there so I focused on smaller scenes and details in the sand. Summertime fog is very common on the Oregon Coast and is caused by convection over the land which pulls in marine layer.

Naturally occurring hydrocarbon oils create brilliant iridescent colors on the surface of a small pool of water at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon.

"Iridescence" Naturally occurring hydrocarbon oils create brilliant iridescent colors on the surface of a small pool of water at Cape Kiwanda, Oregon.

July 2021 - Learning about NFT Photography

If you have never heard of an NFT (Non Fungible Token), you are not alone! This is a very new technology which is still in its infancy. NFTs are essentially digital versions of photographs which are stored on a blockchain like Ethereum, or Solana. I'm always interested in learning about new ways to share my photography, so I spent a lot of time in 2021 trying to figure out NFTs. I even minted an NFT of my photo titled "Courage", so I could try out the process. It's been an interesting experience to say the least! I'm still undecided about the whole concept of NFTs. There are many positive aspects (artists don't have to deal with intermediaries to sell their work, artists get paid every time an NFT is sold), but also negatives (environmental impact, security, dealing with cryptocurrencies). Keep and eye on my blog for a new article about NFTs where I share my thoughts on the subject. I hope to have this published soon.

Inspired by the stunning Iceland aerial photographs by Haraldur Diego (aka Volcano Pilot) this black sand abstract focuses on form, texture and flow.

"Origins" Inspired by the stunning Iceland aerial photographs by Haraldur Diego (aka Volcano Pilot) this black sand abstract focuses on form, texture and flow.

August 2021 - Lavender Valley Farms

In August, I spent a night at Lavender Valley Farms photographing the lavender fields and night sky during the peak lavender bloom. It was a magical evening and the stars and lavender were absolutely beautiful. I believe the lavender fields of Oregon rival those in Provence, France and are definitely worth with a visit. The fields in Provence are larger, but they don’t have any glacier covered mountains in the background! Lavender Valley Farms is one of the best lavender farms in Oregon and is just a short drive from Portland. This spot is quite popular with Instagram models and portrait / landscape photographers. The best time to visit Lavender Valley Farms is late June to early August and if you are on the Mt Hood Fruit Loop during the summer season, be sure to stop by!

Mt Hood rises above a beautiful field of lavender just after sunrise at Lavender Valley Farms near Hood River, Oregon.

"Lavender Light" Mt Hood rises above a beautiful field of lavender just after sunrise at Lavender Valley Farms near Hood River, Oregon.

The Milky Way and billions of stars rise above Mt Hood and a beautiful lavender field at Lavender Valley Farms in Hood River, Oregon.

"Lavender Dreams" The Milky Way and billions of stars rise above Mt Hood and a beautiful lavender field at Lavender Valley Farms in Hood River, Oregon.

A single honey bee collects pollen from a lavender flower at Lavender Valley Farms in Hood River, Oregon.

"Be(e) Still" A single honey bee collects pollen from a lavender flower at Lavender Valley Farms in Hood River, Oregon.

September 2021 - Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert

Southeastern Oregon is one of my favorite photography locations and in September I was able to visit the area with my friend and talented photographer, Jordan Ek. We spent 5 days exploring the Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert areas. Spending time in this region is therapeutic for me. There is something about the wide open spaces and fragrance of sagebrush which recharges my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and below are a few of my favorite photos.

Warm morning light and mountain ridges combine to create a beautiful arrangement of layers in the high desert of Southeastern Oregon.

"Stratification" Warm morning light and mountain ridges combine to create a beautiful arrangement of layers in the high desert of Southeastern Oregon.

Vibrant fall colors at a small grove of aspen trees on Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon.

"Prismatic" Vibrant fall colors at a small grove of aspen trees on Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon.

Dried mud cracks create fascinating abstract patterns in the playa of the Alvord Desert of Oregon.

"Wide Blue Yonder" Dried mud cracks create fascinating abstract patterns in the playa of the Alvord Desert in Oregon.

The full moon rises above Oregon's Alvord Desert Playa at sunset on a warm summer evening.

"Moonrise, Alvord Desert Playa" A full moon rises above Oregon's Alvord Desert Playa just after sunset on a warm summer evening.

Cotton candy clouds float above Oregon's Alvord Desert Playa at sunset.

"Alvord Cotton Candy" Cotton candy clouds float above Oregon's Alvord Desert Playa at sunset.

October 2021 - Portland Japanese Garden

Every October, I visit the Portland Japanese Garden to photograph the trees at the peak of fall color. I'm lucky to live so close to this beautiful garden. Here are my favorite new photographs from the garden in 2021. I also wrote up a new article about photographing the gardens titled, "Portland Japanese Garden | A Photography Guide"

Stunning fall colors at the world famous Japanese Maple tree at the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

"Radiance" Stunning fall colors at the world famous Japanese Maple tree at the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

Stunning autumn colors surround the Moon Bridge on a peaceful morning at the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

"Connections" Stunning autumn colors surround the Moon Bridge on a peaceful morning at the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

Freshly fallen Laceleaf Japanese Maple leaves sit atop dark stones in the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

"Autumn Leaves" Freshly fallen Laceleaf Japanese Maple leaves sit atop dark stones in the Portland Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon.

November 2021 - San Juan Islands

In November, I spent a week photographing the coastal beauty of the San Juan Islands in Northwestern Washington State. Although the conditions were challenging for photography (lots of fierce wind and sideways rain) I was able to create a few nice photos in the islands. I can't wait to get back there during the summer months.

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago located in the northwestern corner of Washington State. Orcas Island is the largest island in the San Juans and has an area of 56.92 square miles. The San Juans consist of 172 named islands, but at low tide there are as many as 743 islands. The islands can only be reached by sea (boat, ferry) and air (plane, float plane, helicopter).

Vibrant sunrise light illuminates Mt Baker, clouds and the sea in this panoramic view from the town of Eastsound on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of WA.

"Orcas Island Sunrise" Vibrant sunrise light illuminates Mt Baker, clouds and the sea in this panoramic view from the town of Eastsound on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

Colorful underwater rocks take on the appearance of liquid stained glass in this creative abstract photo.

"Liquid Glass" Colorful underwater rocks take on the appearance of liquid stained glass in this creative abstract photo. The rocks on this beach were quite colorful and I really liked how the moving water made the scene appear to be a sheet of stained glass.

December 2021 - Going all in on the Nikon Z Mirrorless System

In December, I decided to sell my Nikon dSLR gear and go all in on the Nikon Z Mirrorless system. Since 2018, I have been using both traditional Nikon dSLR cameras (Nikon D800, D810, D850) along with the Nikon Z system cameras (Nikon Z7). I've really enjoyed using the Nikon Z system and there are many features that separate these cameras from traditional dDSLRs. My favorite features of the Nikon Z system are: 1) high quality S-Line lenses with exceptional sharpness, 2) In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), 3) lightweight camera bodies and lenses, 4) exceptional image quality. The lack of native Z lenses was the only thing that kept me from switching over sooner. With the release of the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 in 2020 and the Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 in 2021, I finally had all the lenses I needed to fully transition over to the mirrorless Z system. There are a few things I will miss from the traditional dSLR system, but nothing I can't work around with mirrorless. The D850 was my workhorse camera for several years and honestly it was tough to say goodbye!

Falling snow and rain is illuminated by warm sunlight on a stormy afternoon at Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon.

"Lightfall" Falling snow and rain is illuminated by warm sunlight on a stormy afternoon at Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon.

2021 was definitely a great year for me, despite all of the challenges. I continued to grow as an artist and my year-over-year print sales increased substantially again in 2021. I’m excited to see what 2022 brings my way!

Thanks for reading and supporting my art! I hope 2022 treats you well!

Updated: 2/22/2022

Warm morning light and mountain ridges combine to create a beautiful arrangement of layers in the high desert of Southeastern Oregon.
Stratification

Bring the wonder of Oregon's High Desert to your home or business with this fine art print from Scott Smorra Photography. Warm morning light and mountain ridges combine to create a beautiful arrangement of layers in the high desert of Southeastern Oregon. These were some of the best conditions I've ever experienced for photographing Oregon's High Desert. "Stratification" was selected as the Cover Photo for the 2024 Oregon Natural Desert Association Wild Desert Calendar.

Fine Art Limited Edition of 25 - ©2021 by Scott Smorra