My Favorite Photo From 2016 (any guesses?)

Asking a photographer to choose a favorite image is about like asking a loving parent to choose a favorite child. Both questions are inherently unfair and perhaps unanswerable.

So for the New Year I decided to ask myself a similar question but from a different perspective: If a cruel and heartless thief stole my hard drives containing all of my 2016 photos but allowed me to keep a single image, which one would I choose? After all, one of my best is better than none at all. Much better. So in those circumstances I’d make the choice. I’d have to.

In 2016 I took many images I like very much – including photos of Red-naped Sapsuckers, American Kestrels, Barn Owls, Short-eared Owls, Burrowing Owls, Long-billed Curlews, Northern Flickers, Swainson’s Hawks, Western Grebes, Red-tailed Hawks and many others. I also captured several interesting behavioral series and I even wiped the Belted Kingfisher off of my “nemesis” list by finally getting numerous quality images of that elusive species after almost ten years of trying.

So choosing just one is difficult. Very difficult. But here it is – my final choice after much consideration.

Drum roll…….






golden-eagle-5979b-ron-dudley1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in


The Golden Eagle has been my single most difficult subject for my entire photography “career”. I’ve had a fair number of opportunities with them but something always seemed to go wrong so I ended up with images that were only fair to mediocre or no images at all. My goal was to get a very sharp image of one in flight in good light with a pleasing background. I took a dozen shots of this bird as it flew between me and the mountain and this is the only one of the bunch that was tack sharp. And for me that yellow rabbitbrush in the background is the icing on the cake.

So there you have it – my “favorite” photo from 2016 and the reasons why it would be my choice. Some regular readers may wonder why I didn’t choose another image but this is the one I linger over most often when I stumble across it and this is the one I’ll probably print next to hang on one of my walls.


On an unrelated note –  Hallelujah, I survived the dreaded and illegal neighborhood fireworks last night! Temps were in the low 20’s at midnight and I think it was just too cold for most of those clowns to stay out for long because their revelry was relatively short-lived and subdued. A good night’s sleep on New Years Eve was a late and unexpected Christmas present for me.

And speaking of the New Year I hope yours is joyous, prosperous and healthy. With everything going on in the world 2017 is likely to be a difficult year but we must always have hope. And at least try to make a positive difference if we can.




66 comments to My Favorite Photo From 2016 (any guesses?)

  • Levi V.

    You certainly chose a good favorite Ron! It’s a fantastic shot, and goldens are great birds.
    Like Dick said, the look in that eagle’s eye does represent the fierceness and independence of the West. The West is my favorite part of North America. I’ve seen the Atlantic, but I prefer the Pacific, and I’ve seen the color changing trees of the East but love the pines of the West. And something the East doesn’t have much of are mountains, and I love mountains. Everything in the West also seems bigger (from the mountains to the oceans to the trees to the bears), but in the case of animals that’s probably because most of the big carnivores were hunted to extinction there. Still, we are one continent, and North America is the best continent there is.

    • Laura Culley

      Levi V. that’s exactly why I’m in the middle of a move from NY to AZ. There’s just something about the west (and golden eagles) that stirs my soul. I was away far too long!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    love it! Enjoyed the fireworks in -13 celsius too! (snicker)

  • Larry Muench

    I’ve loved this image since you posted it! And it’s still a nemesis for me. Hope you have a happy, healthy and fulfilling New year. I’m looking forward to another year of fabulous photos and compelling, thought-provoking, and educational narratives! Thanks for all that you do.

  • Linda Covey

    Ron, all your images are great however, I agree with you on your chosen one! Beautiful, very tack sharp and the background just perfect! Great job for 2016 and I look forward to 2017!

  • Debbie Trainer

    Beautiful photo. Happy New Year Ron!

  • Susan Stone

    I understand why you chose this photo. It is definitely gorgeous. I would probably have gone for one of the Kingfisher shots, just because I enjoy them so much, and because I don’t relate to Golden Eagles the same way that you and many of your followers do. I was thinking of you this morning while we were out leading our first-day hike. On the way in to the park we saw a Gray Ghost, and when we got up to the top of our “mountain” and were walking around the meadow, we got to spend some time watching a female Northern Harrier hunt. Didn’t get any photos, but sure enjoyed seeing both of them. Happy New Year!

    • Susan, Out of 8 or 9 harriers I saw this morning at Farmington all but two or three of them were adult males (Gray Ghosts). Fairly unusual I thought.

  • I am so glad that you aren’t faced with that difficult decision.
    Not surprised that your nemesis bird got the award.
    A very Happy New Year to you and yours. A happy bird and health filled year. W

  • Pat

    Thank you, Ron for this very special photo and for all the photos you post on your site. No fireworks here last night but lots of firecrackers that terrified my dog. At one point I put a blanket over him and laid on top of him to keep him “safe!”

  • Ron Blanton

    Great shot Ron, just got my gimbal head and will be setting it up soon, have to do some adapting for my tripod and learn how to back button focus without fumbling it all but I hope to be able to pull some shots off this spring. My night was like an artillary barrage, it tapered off around 1:30 but was intense. Here is to a year of good birds and sharp shots.

  • Robyn Kemp

    As a relatively new reader, I’m pleased to say I nailed it! That golden eagle is a real standout. And a very happy New Year to you and yours, Ron.

  • April Olson

    Happy New Year Ron! Wishing you blue skies and great shots of nemesis birds.

    I guessed it right too, I also was wavering between the kingfisher and the golden eagle, but I know you where very happy with the golden from the Promontory area.

    I have a question for you about photography and I will e-mail you instead of post on your blog.

  • Debbie Chapman

    Beautiful! Happy New Year, Ron!

  • Laura Culley

    I got it right!! YIPPEE!! I knew it would be the golden eagle image, although I admit my brain lingered on the kingfisher for a while 🙂 Although my knowledge of photography is somewhat lacking…LOL…I know how Goldens present lots of issues for capturing a good image! That’s even true for capturing that image real time with your eyes, let alone dealing with all the various camera/photographic challenges! But there’s just something special about golden eagles. While all raptors/birds/critters can take my breath away, goldens make my heart skip beats when I see them in the wild.
    I survived the fireworks/gunshot celebrations, too, but it wasn’t easy! I went out to get some dinner at 5:30 p.m. to prepare for the festivities thinking that the noise wouldn’t happen until later. Boy was I wrong! Darn if they didn’t start municipal fireworks here at 6:00 (celebrating with the folks in Australia?)!! I came home to a pack of six dogs, only one of which was deaf enough not to be bothered, and the fun was ongoing until after midnight when the rains started. Let’s use the word chaos! Yeah, that works. I’ve come to hate fireworks!

    • April Olson

      I bring our birds in from the mew, I don’t want to deal with injuries from them startling and flying about… How do your birds handle the revelry?

      • Laura Culley

        April, I’m with you! I bring my birds in, despite that the redtail couldn’t seem to care less. I really hate taking chances with chaos and mayhem and avoid it at all costs!! All three were in their giant hoods, safely tucked away in the garage. The dogs, however, were a whole different thing. My friend’s 100-pound German shepherd continuously attacked the cinder-block fence to get at the fireworks while barking his booming GSD bark until I could get him in the house and the doggy door closed. He’s quite the force, especially for a slow-moving geezer like me, but I ultimately prevailed. I just can’t believe it started so early!! YIKES! I HATE fireworks!

    • Good guess, Laura.

      Couldn’t agree more with you about fireworks, especially the illegal kind in the neighborhoods.

  • Trudy Brooks

    Thank you Ron for the beautiful picture of the Golden Eagle. Love Eagles of any type. Watch the Bald Eagle’s on webcams when nesting and then the Osprey when they come back to Wyoming and Montana in the spring. I hope you have a good year in catching all the great photos that you want.

  • Great image Ron. You nailed the colors, the different hues of “chocolate” of the Golden Eagle, that I think are extremely difficult to expose properly on these “photon sponges”. I love the grass gently blowing in the background, an in the direction of motion the image conveys.

    • Good eye, Ed. Those different colors of brown are one of the things I like best about this image.

      • Laura Culley

        I am continually fascinated by the different hues of brown!! One of the big perks of falconry is you get to study the plumage on these birds and if you do, it’ll knock your socks off! The thing that really blew me away is that in the sunshine, there are violet hues in that brown along with its diversity of color/shade. GADS but these birds are FASCINATING and GORGEOUS (she said redundantly again!)!

  • Chris Sanborn

    Happy 2017 to you, Ron! And while I’m still partial to your hawk images, I agree that this Golden is a beauty — the wings look to be cast in wax, they’re so perfectly curved and smooth along the leading edge. May the photography gods be good to you in the months ahead so you can snag more “keeper” shots of your nemesis and all the other spectacular birds you find out there — and so kindly share with us each day!

  • Tim Estrada

    I agree. Normally I would say any photo of a Red tailed hawk…..But that’s just my bias talking…lol. You have a great for a perfect photo Ron…Happy New Year!

  • Jane

    Stunning photo of the magnificent golden eagle!! Good choice. Four degrees here, and I’m not sure how long the fireworks went on. Had to put the Thundershirt on my poodle before he would settle down. As for me, there is an advantage to being deaf – sometimes.

    Happy New Year. May you bring us many more photos!!

  • anil s

    its a painting Ron.. you are cheating.. 🙂 Happy new year…

  • nikonsteve

    Great choice!

  • Linda Chowns

    So majestic in the beautiful, natural environment in which you captured this handsome eagle. May 2017 bring you many rewards and much happiness.

  • Patty Chadwick

    An amazing coincidence!!! That just so happens to be mine, too…..HAPPY NEW YEAR to youband all your loyal followers…may the year be far better than expected for all….

  • frank sheets

    There are those photos you say “ok, that’s a nice photo.” Then there are those you see that take your breath away, you are envious, and with uncontrollable cerebral intervention you go “ooohhhhh my”. This is one of those. I can understand why this is one of your favorites.

    Happy New Year.

  • Judy Gusick

    That would be the “keeper” Beautiful photo of a challenging, beautiful bird! Has me grinning ear to ear 🙂 Happy New Year to all! Fireworks are at minimum here at New Years and no one did any last night that we heard – +8 with breeze may have helped. 🙂

  • Skip Prange

    You captured my favorite raptor perfectly. I used to photograph these Golden Eagles in Southern Nevada back in the 1970’s but I could never quite get a photo that captured the spirit of the bird like yours does. Good luck in your bird photography in 2017!

  • Dick Harlow

    That is a great image! All other images pale by comparison!
    The psychological impression to me that I get from this birds attitude is the embodiment of the fierce independence of the western part of this country!
    The captured catch-light in the eye and the whole attitude of its flight is magnificent.
    Right choice – well done!!

  • Marina schultz

    Well Ron 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉Happy new year !!!!!!I went out yesterday to shoot goldens saw a fair number but none of my pictures equals yours . Lots of Goldens here but no rabbits .

  • Charlotte Norton

    I can see why its your favorite, it’s truly magnificent!


  • Roger Burnard

    Yes Ron, I agree with your choice… For those of us that also love to take
    photos of birds in flight, this is indeed a glorious prize. Well done!!! i’ll
    bet that you smile, a very big smile every time you look at this magnificent
    image, and those of us that gaze on this image will be sharing that smile
    with you.. To quote someone we all know (from afar) “Life is good.” Yes,
    I survive the transition from 2016 to 2017 by going to bed around 10pm.
    Welcome everyone to 2017. ;-)))

  • Lovely image, Ron! There’s really nothing quite as satisfying as a great shot of a “nemesis ” bird!