2023: A Year in Nature – Reflections and Revelations

My journey as a nature photographer and scientist has been enlightening throughout the past year.

I continue to study the interplay between wildlife and the complexities of human behavior. I’ve observed firsthand how once remote landscapes are gradually opening up to human presence and how wildlife, in their resilience, adapt to human influences where possible.

Wildlife is often finding better refuge on private lands away from public pressures.

This unique intersection of nature photography and science has proven to be exhilarating, educational, and humbling.

In this year-end article, I am excited to share the experiences and lessons I’ve learned.

Long-eared owls and owlets use their camoflauge to hide in a tree.

Long-eared owls are masters of camouflage.

I was convinced there were three owlets in this family, only to realize later, by closer inspection of this photo, that there are many more.   How many do you see?

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My Favorite Photographs by Month of 2023

In looking over the photographs I created in 2023 I chose the most meaningful photograph to me from each month.  I share these below with a short comment on each one.


Snow on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico lights up blood red at sunset.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, covered in fresh snow, light up in their signature “Blood of Christ” color at sunset and after sunset due to alpenglow.  January 4, 2023, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Deer dance at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in New Mexico.

Deer Dance at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo in Northern New Mexico February 19, 2023.

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Sandhill Crane performs the "Toss Dance" where it throws a piece of grass into the air, Monte Vista National Wildlife Area, Colorado.

A Sandhill Crane performs a “toss” as part of the “stab-grab-wave” dance.

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Crepuscular rays shine like bright light beams at sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe.

Intense crepuscular rays shine brightly just before sunrise over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico.

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Lightning pierces storm clouds at sunset over the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, May 23, 2023.

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A rainbow forms below a large cumulonimbus cloud on the Taos Plateau, New Mexico

The sky is huge when you are out on the Taos Plateau along the New Mexico – Colorado border!

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Lightning bolt at sunset over the Caja del Rio Plateau, New Mexico

Luck was on my side while taking this photograph.

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A brown bear sits patiently as if meditating in the fast moving water of the Brooks River, Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska.

An Alaskan Brown Bear pauses as if meditating in the rushing water of the Brooks River.

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Sunset illuminates the Brazos Cliffs with painterly light.

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The forest floor below the aspens also has brilliant fall colors.

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A Kelvin-Helmholtz wave cloud in the morning twilight above the Sangre de Cristo.

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Sandhill Cranes gather in the evening twilight to roost in water overnight.

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Overall, 2023 was a good year.  I learned a great deal while photographing nature and researching wildlife.

In the New Year, I am wrapping up a lengthy report that analyzed the impact of elk hunting on rural economies.  Although I am not a hunter, I found this research interesting with all the complexities involved with public and private lands utilized in wildlife habitats.

My mind was changed a few years ago about private land and wildlife.  I now agree wholeheartedly with Aldo Leopold’s quote:

“Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.1

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8 replies
    • Ed MacKerrow
      Ed MacKerrow says:

      Hi Laura, thank you for reading the article and your comment. I saw Ventura is getting slammed by big waves. I hope that all is ok with you, I fondly remember giving a talk to your Audubon group in Ventura.

      Take care and Happy New Year,

  1. Lila McClellan
    Lila McClellan says:

    I love your connection to the wild creatures and how you capture special moments in time. I think this is the way to move forward and save our planet, by feeling and honoring the wild spaces inside of ourselves and in the landscape. Let us all rewild and have a wonder-filled new year.


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  1. Conservation Economics, The River of the Mother of God.