Our Favorite Photos of 2017

From Park E-ventures, January 2018

The Golden Gate National Parks, by nature, are fiercely visual. There is no shortage of spectacular landscapes, fun activities, and fascinating people to photograph.

Every year, our Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy photographers and National Park Service volunteer photographers capture thousands of images.

We asked six photographers to share their top images from 2017 taken from around the San Francisco Bay Area—as well as the story behind each of them.

Click the thumbnails for larger versions of the images, and the inside story behind each.

After you're done perusing the gallery below, follow us on Instagram to see more stunning imagery of your local national parks.

  • Thumbs Up, Graffiti Down
    No, it’s not a forensics team or an alien invasion. That’s just Ranger Mike Evans getting pumped up to lead Boy Scout Troop 273 in painting over 6,000 square feet of graffiti at Battery Chester. –Maria Durana
  • One at a Time
    This image—of Presidio Trust intern Sara Lobdel planting native rush at MacArthur Meadow during the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service—reminds me of the collective power of volunteers…and that restoration really happens one plant at a time. In 2015, the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy began the meadow’s restoration as one of the final steps in the effort to restore the entire Tennessee Hollow Watershed. Hundreds of community volunteers have planted thousands of native plants (grown by other volunteers!) at the Presidio nursery. –Maria Durana
  • Sending a Mess-age
    I can’t say this is my “favorite” photo, but it reminds me of the challenges of caring for a national park in a densely populated urban area. On Coastal Cleanup Day this September, in merely three hours, volunteers collected 10,628 cigarette butts, 4,095 food wrappers, 1,005 plastic bags, 36 syringes, a crib, and a curtain rod from our parklands and shoreline. Be a part of the solution—volunteer! –Maria Durana
  • What a Russssshhhhhhh!
    Ranger Kelsi Ju leads a class of students in the Marin Headlands. One of the many amazing education programs in the Golden Gate National Parks, Migratory Story brings school groups from San Francisco up to Hawk Hill during the annual raptor migration. While learning about birds of prey, students also discover parallels between the migration of birds and the migration of people. Many of the children in the program are first-generation immigrants. –Paul Myers
  • What Does the Fox Hear?
    This past spring, Curran White and I went out to photograph gray fox pups in Muir Woods National Monument. It is a wonderful gift to share a space with the wildlife in our national parks. We learn so much through these rare encounters. –Paul Myers
  • That National Park Feeling
    This is how I feel when I am down at Baker Beach, too! Another great program in the Golden Gate National Parks, Camping at the Presidio shares the joys of camping with kids—by training leaders to take their groups to the only campground in San Francisco. –Paul Myers
  • That’s (A)Mori
    I was down at Mori Point in August coordinating a video shoot. It was a perfect evening, complete with gentle breezes and beautiful lighting. As the videographer was capturing spouting whales down at the edge of the point, I managed to snap a few photos of park visitors. What I loved is that there were people of all backgrounds out enjoying themselves—walkers, bikers, runners, families, groups of friends, and visitors of all ages—a little microcosm of Parks For All. –Vivien Kim Thorp
  • 'Rock' Talk
    I took this shot on a Friday morning in November, just as the Alcatraz Cruises vessels carrying the day’s first visitors were docking at Alcatraz Island. It’s rare, even in low season, to see Alcatraz without crowds. What I like about this picture are the two Parks Conservancy staff members taking a few minutes to enjoy themselves before the hectic day began. I am always impressed at how warmly they welcome the 1.6 million visitors who come to the island each year. –Vivien Kim Thorp
  • 'It Never Gets Old'
    Every once in awhile my team has a meeting at Muir Woods. Can you imagine? A work meeting at Muir Woods! I could pinch myself. This was in September. I brought a wide-angle lens to play around with, and two of my co-workers were staring up into the canopy, marveling at the majesty of the redwoods. It never gets old, no matter how many times you go. –Vivien Kim Thorp
  • The Light of Inquiry
    I love this photo because it was technically very challenging to shoot in the dark like this. You have to somehow keep the people’s faces, the white gloves, and the bat in focus. They were catching and measuring bats for the ongoing monitoring program on Mt. Tam. –Alison Taggart-Barone
  • History Over His Shoulders
    My joy really comes from watching people in the parks open themselves up to the menu of experiences that the National Park Service and Parks Conservancy offer. Ranger Rik Penn allowed this boy to actually put on a Buffalo Soldier uniform, creating this magical moment in the process. –Alison Taggart-Barone
  • Weave of Steel & Water
    The Golden Gate Bridge is endlessly fascinating and beautiful with the different fog patterns and layers that flow through its cables. I like this photo because it shows how the two layers can be present at the same time. –Alison Taggart-Barone
  • Bat/Kid
    Bats. All my life I’ve been wary of bats. “They carry disease,” people would say. While, yes, that’s technically true, they are so much more than the diseases they may or may not be carrying around. If anything is infectious, to me, it’s their adorableness. In late October, I was lucky enough to see their cuteness first-hand, during a mist-netting outing as part of the ongoing bat research study on Mt. Tam. This kid was clearly as enamored with and curious about these creatures as I was. –Curran White
  • Gateway to the Past & Future
    One of the reasons I love being a part of the park family is its dedication to honor and engage with all communities. The Presidio Visitor Center opening, in particular, was a celebration of the various communities and cultures that have converged in the Presidio over the centuries. There were military officials. There were Chinese dragon dancers. There were busloads of youth from various neighborhoods around San Francisco. And then there was the blessing by members of Costanoan Rumsen Ohlone Tribe. Accompanied by dancers in traditional garb, tribe members led a ceremonial chanting that blessed this new welcoming gateway for visitors. It was a beautiful way to honor the many occupants of the land that’s now a 1,400-acre national park site. –Curran White
  • Golden Gate Gloaming
    This bridge, this view: I’ve shot both dozens of times. Each time, however, I find something new to enjoy. On this summer-y, relatively cloudless night, I managed to get the rising moon in between the two towers of the bridge, almost exactly in the middle of the span—making it easily one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. Why? That moonlight. That miraculous ghostly, silver moonlight. The way it shimmers on the surface of the waters beneath the bridge and elongates like a shimmering ribbon onto the surf. I just love the texture of the water in this image. –Curran White
  • Life’s the Pits
    New and improved fire rings (or, in this case, fire squares) were added by the National Park Service to Ocean Beach in early 2017. The “fire pits” are very popular gathering spots for families and friends to enjoy the sunset and socialize. They are so popular that on a nice Friday or Saturday evening, it is often hard to find an open fire pit. –Kirke Wrench
  • Jump-starting the Volunteer Year
    Corporate-partner volunteers celebrate after collecting trash and debris along Rodeo Beach during the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers give their time to participate in activities to maintain and improve the Golden Gate National Parks—on MLK Day and throughout the year. –Kirke Wrench
  • A Welcome Addition
    In February 2017, park visitors and members of the community gathered for the opening of the new William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center. The new center is located on the Main Post, in view of the Golden Gate Bridge. –Kirke Wrench

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