This is the seventh edition of my annual “best images” postings and, in many ways, it was one of the most difficult. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve likely read that my wife desperately needs a kidney transplant. As I write this, she’s beginning her 16th month on dialysis. As her caregiver, my travel was extremely limited. I worked incredibly hard to make every one of those days count and even harder to create opportunities at home. Looking back, I believe that this year’s group of select images is as strong as ever.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
As another year draws to a close, it's time to look back on my favorite images of the past 12 months. It's an exercise I've been doing in some form or another for virtually my entire time as a nature photographer. When I'm down, looking back can be inspiring. It can also help me see if I'm in a rut and challenge me to go in a more creative direction next year.
This year, it's an especially interesting exercise, given that I spent much of the year looking back over my entire career. My new book, Living Wilderness, is a fine-art portfolio of all my work so far. To produce it, I had to comb through nearly 15 years of work to select fewer than 150 standout images that could still work together.
I also traveled less than I usually do. But that just made me work harder close to home. In fact, two of my favorite images came from the yard around my house.
So here they are, my 10 favorite images and why (you can click or tap on any image to enlarge it):
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
In terms of the images I produced, 2013 was an unusual year for me. Over the course of most years, I shoot a wide variety of nature images. But 2013, like the title of the book I just completed, was for me the Year of the Eagle. Easily two-thirds of my images were about bald eagles as I worked hard to fill gaps in the story I wanted to tell.
But the year wasn't just about bald eagles. I made my third trip to Iceland. While there, I photographed the inside of an old volcano's magma chamber, the only known one in the world people can climb inside. I also got to capture an incredible northern lights display perfectly reflecting in a lake that is normally quite choppy. I also worked hard to capture beauty close to home.
In the end, I think my annual best-of collection is still quite varied. Here are a few of my favorite images of 2013:
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
While it is a new year, I do want to take a moment to reflect back on 2012. Compiling a few of my favorite images from the past year has become an annual affair. This task isn’t easy. Artists generally aren’t all that good at editing their own work. Boiling an entire year down to 10 images can seem like an impossible task.
But it can also help you look at your work in new ways. The passage of time has helped me evaluate some of my images with new eyes, freeing me from some of the emotional attachment to the image at the time of capture. That, in turn, helps me figure out what I like — and don’t like — about the work I’ve been producing, helping me to grow and set a direction for the new year.
In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite images from 2012:
Sunday, January 1, 2012
For each of the past few years, I have compiled a small gallery of my favorite images from the year. It was something I did when I first started out in photography; Jim Goldstein, whose blog collects the best-of collections from more than a hundred other photographers, inspired me to restart the tradition.
I think the exercise of reviewing and editing your work is quite helpful in refining your art and identifying opportunities for improvement. For me, one of the things that was immediately evident in past years was that I often relied on travel to exotic locations to fuel my creativity. In 2011, I worked hard to bring the level of excitement and passion that I feel in a new place back to the familiar scenery at home.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Ansel Adams once said that producing "twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." I'm not going to go so far as to call these 12 images significant, but of the images I produced in 2010, they are my favorites. At least for now. My tastes change over time.
I posted my first "12 best" set last year, prompted by photographer Jim Goldstein. I'm doing it again because it's a worthwhile exercise. It can help you identify themes that you're passionate about so you can focus on them in the New Year. It can help you see where you're in a rut.
It can also help you feel better about your work. Creating a significant image is incredibly difficult. It's easy to get frustrated by uncooperative weather or wildlife. Reviewing your best work of the year can help you see the photographic drought was never as long as it seemed at the time.
So here are my favorites, in no particular order:
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
If I had to sum up what’s involved in being a nature photographer, I’d say it’s 1 percent being in the right place at the right time, 9 percent waiting for the right time, and 90 percent sitting in front of a computer editing photos and finding clients.
That last part is my least favorite, of course. I took up nature photography as a break from my desk job. I have yet to find any shortcuts to finding clients, but over the years I have found a few ways to save time when editing images. Anything that cuts the amount of office work is a good thing.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
While tearing apart my office this week in a frantic effort to find a Windows recovery CD – long story – I found a 20-page book. Each page showed off one of my best images from 2001.
I made books like that every year the first few years after I became a serious photographer. They were a way to celebrate my accomplishments. I also used them to get my first few gallery shows.
I don’t know why I stopped, but I’m going to start doing it again. I saw that photographer Jim Goldstein is compiling a directory of the year’s best images from a number of photographers. It seemed like a fun project, but it’s also worthwhile.
One of the things I discovered in compiling my 12 — just 12; I’m also a better photo editor now — is that I do my most creative work either while traveling or in the first few weeks after I’m back. One of my goals this year is to bring that creative approach to the things I see every day.
Check back in a year to see how I do. In the meantime, here's my best work from 2009: