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2023 in California photos: Record rain, epic super blooms and historic strikes

This story appeared on Calmatters

Flooded fields in Corcoran on March 23, 2023. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Looking back at 2023 in California is a lot to unpack.

Devastating winter floods submerged entire towns. Another mass shooting took 11 lives in Monterey Park. Unions in a wide variety of industries flexed their muscles during “hot labor summer.” Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his second term, drew as much attention for his trips around the country and around the globe as for his actions at home. And the Israel-Hamas war and resulting humanitarian crisis in Gaza put politicians on the spot and divided California’s campuses.

Reflecting on a year is also about real people affected by the decisions of the powerful — those in search of affordable housing, or waiting for justice in police killings, or hoping for more protection from discrimination or seeking opportunity in a new land.   

And while issues and politicians may change, a constant is California’s natural beauty — wildflowers in bloom, mountains set in front of sunsets, an unusual rock formation in the middle of a lake.

So here’s our holiday gift to you — a selection of the year’s most compelling images by CalMatters photo journalists and contributors.

Gov. Gavin Newsom leaves the stage after addressing attendees at his inauguration for a second term at the Plaza de California in Sacramento on Jan. 6, 2023. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom leaves the stage after delivering a speech at his inauguration for a second term at the Plaza de California in Sacramento in January. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters
Pam Holland holds a photo of her late son Shane Earl Holland in her living room in Tehachapi on April 20, 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

Pam Holland holds a photo of her late son Shane Earl Holland in her living room in Tehachapi on April. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
First partner Jennifer Siebel addresses the media during an event to observe the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade at the state Capitol on Jan. 23, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

First partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom addresses the media during an event to observe the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade at the state Capitol. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, ending nearly 50 years of guaranteed abortion access for American women. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

A wildflower “superbloom” at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville in April. Photo by Julie A Hotz for CalMatters
Mono Lake on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada on May 20, 2023. Photo by Sierra Farquhar for CalMatters

Mono Lake on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada in May. Environmentalists say it’s past time for California to halt Los Angeles’ diversion of Mono Lake’s tributaries. Photo by Sierra Farquhar for CalMatters
Supporters at the Unite Here Local 11 protest tie hands in solidarity in June 22, 2023. Photo by Zaydee Sanchez for CalMatters

Supporters at a Unite Here Local 11 protest hold hands in solidarity in June. Photo by Zaydee Sanchez for CalMatters

Screen Actors Guild members and Writers Guild of America members picket at the Amazon Culver Studios in Culver City in June. Photo by Julie A Hotz for CalMatters
El Cerrito Mayor Lisa Motoyama outside City Hall in El Cerrito on Aug. 29, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters

El Cerrito Mayor Lisa Motoyama outside City Hall in El Cerrito in August. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters
Farmworkers work on a field outside of Bakersfield in Kern County on July 25 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

Farmworkers work in a field outside Bakersfield in Kern County on July 25 2023. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Marie at her home in Culver City on Sept. 29, 2023. Marie lived at Community’s Child after leaving a domestic violence relationship and fighting a past addition. She now owns her home and has built a new life for herself and her children. Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters

Marie at her home in Culver City in September. Marie lived at Community’s Child after leaving a domestic violence relationship and fighting a past addition. She now owns her home and has built a new life for herself and her children. Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters
Kaiser Permanente employees on strike on Oct. 4, 2023. The workers held a demonstration in front of the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento location demanding higher wages and more staffing. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Kaiser Permanente employees picket in front of the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento location in October. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Dena Arenas, 31, holds her five-month-old baby, Hanna Paiz, at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 2023. She and her family immigrated to the United States from Guatemala in June 2023. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters

Dena Arenas, 31, holds her five-month-old baby, Hanna Paiz, at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles in September. She and her family immigrated to the United States from Guatemala in June. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters

Angelica Vásquez outside her home in San Leandro in November, a day after she says PG&E cut off her electricity due to an unpaid bill. Photo by Manuel Orbegozo for CalMatters

Fraidoon Noori, 24, a migrant from Afghanistan, in Jacumba Hot Springs in San Diego on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo by Adriana Heldiz, CalMatters
Hillel, a campus religious group, hosts a rally calling for the release of kidnapped Israelis at UCLA's Wilson Plaza on Nov. 7, 2023 in Los Angeles. A Shabbat table with place settings represents the seats of those who have been kidnapped by Hamas. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters

Hillel, a campus religious group, hosts a rally calling for the release of kidnapped Israelis at UCLA’s Wilson Plaza on Nov. 7, 2023 in Los Angeles. A Shabbat table with place settings represents the seats of those who have been kidnapped by Hamas. Photo by Lauren Justice for CalMatters
Protesters calling for a ceasefire of Israeli bombing in Gaza interrupted the general session at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento on Nov. 18, 2023. The group broke past security and gained access to the general session events at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza interrupted the general session at the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
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