Reflecting on 2020

By Jon Anderson, January 1, 2021

By any measurable metric,  2020 was certainly a very different year for everyone.  Despite bringing challenges and major changes,  it was still a productive year for my photography, just different.  At the beginning of 2020, I was still living in Guadalajara, Mexico but by the end of January, my plans to move back to California were in motion.  Moving back was centered around transitioning from a consultant to full-time engineer at the Toyota Research Institute were I work on the future of driverless technology and vehicle safety, it has been amazing so far! 

Just as this new job opportunity was lining up, a last minute spot on a Galapagos dive liveaboard trip opened up, perfectly timed as an unforgettable photography getaway before starting the new job. This trip ended up being my only (non-local) dive trip in 2020 and I feel so fortunate I was able to do so on the eve of what became this terrible pandemic.

Enough of my rambling lets talk about how my photography.  I did 51 dives spending 56 hours underwater which is only about 1/3 of the previous years.  The time that wasn't spend underwater was spent exploring above mean sea level.  Capturing terrestrial wildlife and nature's beauty certainly became a more significant part of my photography this year.  I hope you enjoy some of my favorite photos and the stories that go with them from each month of 2020.  Between packing to move to California and the pandemic unraveling I managed to not take any photos during March, instead I have snuck in an extra Galapagos photo from February.   Reflecting on 2020, I feel very fortunate to have had these amazing opporunities and encounters while continuing to explore and expand my passion for photography.  I am sharing several of these photos for the first time here, Enjoy! 


Monarch butterflies drip from the branches of a pine tree in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve outside of Mexico City.  The scale and beauty of this migration is impossible to capture in a photograph but it was absolutely one of the most breathtaking and mind blowing natural events I have ever witnessed.  Enlarge the photo and see how many monarchs you can count!

February (1 of 2)

A pair of marine iguanas, endemic to the Galapagos, swim beneath the sun at the surface (to breathe) between dives down to the algae covered rocks where they feed. The sun plays crucial role in the life of the marine iguanas, not only does it provide the energy to grow the algae they consume but it also provides the heat the need warm them up before and after entering these temperate waters to feed. When you photograph hammerhead sharks, pods of dolphins, giant sunfish, endemic blennies, and countless other marine species it's hard to select a favorite but few animals are as uniquely Galapagos as the marine iguana.

February (2 of 2)

A sand-covered Galapagos Sea Lion sleeps on Mosquera Islet tucked between black lava rocks.  As I branch into more above water wildlife photography I find shots of animals in their environment to be very compelling and a fun challenge. The Galapagos ended up being my only major international photo trip in 2020 and I feel so fortunate I was able to pull the last minute trip together given the pandemic that unfolded shortly after returning. 


The Super Pink Moon, the largest full moon of 2020 captured in Fort Collins, Colorado close to where I grew up.  Rebecca and I ended up spending most of April in Colorado due to the complications of moving during the pandemic.


Hermissenda opalescens, one of the most common, yet one of the most beautiful nudibranchs found in Monterey, California.  After being dry for several months it was nice to get back beneath the surface near our new home in California to photograph some local critters.


Sun beams penetrate the canopy of kelp at North Monastery in Monterey, California as blue rockfish congregate beneath. On a good day the kelp forests of Monterey are as good as it gets.  This day was a great welcome back to California and a reminder of what initially sparked my passion for underwater photography.   This image was selected as the Winner of 2020 NOAA Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest, Sanctuary Views Category.


Shortly after mating and planting their torpedo-shaped egg cases in the sand, both the male and female Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) will die. I am so thankful for the amazing crew of local Monterey divers and photographers for sharing the Squid Run with me!   


Triopha maculata nudibranch perched atop a blade of kelp in Monterey, CA.  Nudibranchs were one of the first types of animal that really piqued my interest in underwater photography, they are like Pokémon of the sea, you "Gotta catch em' all".  Though I may not be as nudibranch-crazed as I was a few years ago when my friends gave me the nickname "Nudi Lover Jon" I rarely pass up a nudibranch photo opportunity, especially when they are posed this well!


A commercial urchin diver quickly works to remove a blanket of purple sea urchins in Noyo Bay on California's northern Mendocino Coast as part of a state sponsored program aimed to restore kelp forests.  This was shot as part of a story about California's purple sea urchin problem for a major international publisher.  I can't wait to share the story when it is published!


An American black bear searches the fall foliage for acorns that have fallen from nearby oak trees in Yosemite National Park.  Fall is a great time for finding black bears in the Sierra Nevada mountains and we had planned several camping trips to search for them.  Between pandemic campground closures and the terrible wildfires, we ended up having to cancel or change a majority of those plans.  After several failed attempts to vist Yosemite we were lucky to get a nice long weekend of camping in the valley in mid-October.  The black bears were very active and we saw at least 12 over the course of the weekend.


A beautiful Ferruginous hawk sits atop a barbed wire fence in Northern California's Point Reyes National Seashore.  Point Reyes is one of my absolute favorite places for wildlife photography and we are lucky to have it not far from home!


A Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep ram peers down onto the herd from a large boulder on a rocky hillside in Colorado.  With travel restricted due to the pandemic we decided to drive to Colorado to spend the holiday with my parents.  While there we were able to get into the mountains a few times to photograph some of the amazing wildlife that calls Colorado home.

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