Reflections on images of 2009

By Saturday, January 2, 2010grafphoto

Just as I did for 2007 and 2008, I suppose it is only fitting for me to take on looking back at the year of images I made in 2009.    Most of them can be considered as favorites, but mostly they represent some significant direction I took with my photography or hold some special significance.   Sometimes it is quite hard narrowing the list down to a manageable number or picking between two images of a particular trip or outing.   Looking back on these images helps me solidify where I may want to go with future projects, and also it may give you (and me! 🙂 ) some insight on where I am headed with my photography.

Lightroom Projects

Lightroom categories

With my images now scattered across multiple hard drives, it is quite convenient to have them all available in a central catalog in Lightroom.  I am pretty certain that database management of images will become more commonplace (if not already) as people outgrow their storage volumes and have images scattered across all of these digital shoeboxes.    It is much easier to group similar images and to look for patterns for special projects or arrangements.   The process of selecting them was next, so I created a special collection for 2009 just as I did for 2007 and 2008.

My unprocessed images are RAW files stored by date, so they are quite easy to find everything for 2009.   However, once I process and file them, they become organized by subject independent of dates.    So I needed to use a metadata filter for 2009 to pick up all of the unprocessed and processed images that were made in that year.   I then sorted that by images that were already flagged as “picks” to narrow the hunt down further and dragged candidates into the collection set for 2009.    Then I weeded through those until I had 10 remaining.

Over time as I accumulate these lists, I suppose it will be interesting in how they compare.   I am hard pressed to see any major shifts in what I like over the past 3 years.    If I would have assembled a list say 15 years ago and compared, I am sure there would be a lot of differences.   Over a greater period of time, picking “favorite top 10s” is kind of like asking someone their top 10 favorite songs when they are 16 years old, and then when they are 40.   Chances are those lists are nothing alike.   So enough of this process gibberish – let me move on to sharing my favorites of 2009.   They are presented in the order in which they were exposed during the year.

Winter ice pattern

Winter ice pattern

Winter ice pattern  (Jan 2009) | As I just recently shared again, I had made a special gallery of ice pattern images I created that not only kept with the same theme of subject matter, but also all with the same post -processing.     This processing stylized these images into something that I connected with immediately.   The images of ice were transformed into abstracts that were not simply for documenting these patterns that form in areas of flowing water, but as examples of increasing my own ability to see potentials beyond capture.

Frankly it was hard to pick a favorite as they all have their individual character and appeal.   This one had a certain rhythm to the holes and flowing lines that connected with me as being particularly dynamic.

black wolf portrait face frost

Black wolf

Black phased Gray Wolf (February 2009) |  This wolf was photographed under controlled conditions at a wolf education center not normally open for the purposes of photography.   Human contact is generally attempted to be minimized here.  It was -10 degrees F (-23 deg C) with a windchill that made it feel much worse at the time this image was made.   The wolves live outside in a 20 acre enclosure, so they became very frost covered overnight.    It still amazes me how animals learn to adapt to these types of conditions.   The frost on the face of this wolf is a strong reminder to me of that, and I thought it made for excellent contrast against the fur on this particular male.   It was another trip where it was hard to narrow a favorite down to one.

I have a particularly strong affinity towards and appreciation of wolves, and one day I hope to be able to photograph them in the wild.   I certainly would not expect to capture an image this close in such a case.   I’d settle for a wild wolf butt shot to start (the more likely scenario).  Until then, you will find my other wolf photos in my gallery.

Winter twilight

Winter twilight

Winter Twilight (March 2009) |  I live in the most populated area of Michigan – the southeast portion.  It can be difficult to find clean, uncluttered landscapes at times.   Finding those in combination with great light can be another hurdle.   Winter certainly brings the interesting geometries and shapes of ice to Lake St. Clair – the largest body of water between the Great Lakes of Lake Huron and Lake Erie.    I visit this area every winter now, and sometimes multiple times during the year because as the ice forms and then breaks up near Spring – it is always changing.   It is typically quite cold as you can see there are no trees or land formations to block bitter wind during this time of year.

I had particularly nice light this morning, and it was further enhanced by my selection of a custom white balance setting on my camera to emphasize the purple hues.    I had to climb over a particularly chaotic looking pile of ice sheets to get to this more simple group.   Thinking back, I am not sure I would want to do that again.  You can find other winter images in my winter photo gallery.

old leaves swamp

Wrinkled old man

Winter leftovers (March 2009) | I wrote a previous post about this particular series of images called “Wrinkled Old Man of Nature” that I made on the first day of Spring.    I was thinking about one of my favorite quotes:

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -Elliott Erwitt

There isn’t much of a subject more benign than some dried up, muddy old leaves in the basin of a floodplain.    But looking deeper revealed each one of these leaves has their own character.  Each one with a bit different method of decay than the others.  Each one with its own path in returning to the soil.   To me, that made something interesting out of something otherwise benign.   More leaf pictures.

spring textures

Spring Textures

Spring textures (April 2009) |  I remember this one particular morning.  It was foggy, and one of those days where I didn’t even plan to get up and go photograph.   I reminded myself that these conditions don’t happen very often and match up with times when I can get out.    Spring buds where just coming out and created a muted color palette that was full of texture.   The fog helped simplify the light and distant background.    This spot is right at the end of my suburban neighborhood block – and a cluster of trees that I normally don’t pay attention to.

They stood out this particular morning.   I was attracted to the shapes of the branches and the light colorful texture throughout.

dawn redwood cones

Dawn Redwood cones

Dawn redwood cones and white pine needles (May 2009) | I have some of these dawn redwood trees in my yard and always thought the cones dropped from them were interesting.  They look like little mouths of monster teeth.  However, I was never happy with attempts to take closeups of individual cones.    They always ended up looking a bit bizzare…. and like…. mouths of monsters.   🙂

This image is the result of the idea that they might look better as a group rather than as individuals, and a lot less unnerving.

Bluebells & Magnolia

Magnolia bush and bluebells (May 2009) |  May was probably the worst month personally for my wife and I this year as we lost our Alaskan Malamute, Chinny, unexpectedly due to complications from her diabetes.   Just a couple of weeks prior we had taken her for a walk to see the bluebell blooms in this area near Oakland University and I had my little Canon G10 with me.   It was a great time, and our last trip out with her before she passed away.   I didn’t take another photograph from the day this one was taken until sometime in July.   Since then we have rescued another Malamute named Willow.   This image is just sentimental because it holds memories of that particular day.

Woodlily & sunburst

Woodlily and sunburst (July 2009) | Another image I previously posted about that was made after a rough start trying to get back into the swing of things.   It was a bit of an experiment for me to see if a HDR blend could work in a situation like this and not look overly “funky.”   It convinced me that HDR images don’t always need to have that “HDR look” to them.

It was made at Calla Burr nature sanctuary, a property of the Michigan Nature Association, about an hour away from where I live.    It is a pretty rich, but sensitive, environment, with a lot of rare wildflowers throughout the year, and thankfully protected by these good folks.

Alaska fall color

Denali Fall Colors (Sept 2009) |   You may recognize that I went to Alaska this year. 😉   Of course I had to pick some images from that trip, but it was quite hard to pick just one or two.   The posts over the past few months will certainly highlight some of the other favorites.   Fortunately fall colors were at their peak time and provided quite a display for my first visit there.   The newcomer and resident alike are probably absorbed by Alaska’s grandure, and I thought this image symbolized that.   More Alaska landscapes can be found in my gallery.

coastal brown bear in water Katmai National Park Alaska

Submerged brown bear

Submerged brown bear, Katmai National Park, AK (Sept 2009) |   Last, but not least, is one of my favorite bear images from Katmai National Park.    I have a lot of favorites that I am fond of, so it was another difficult decision.   I suppose I picked this one as it was as close as I could get to my preconception of an image I wanted to achieve.   It symbolized to me the close proximity that was tolerated by these bears (even though this was photographed with 550 mm of focal length).   It symbolized that patience, waiting calmly and quietly, and observing behaviors can have its rewards (as always).

Finally I wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Decade.  I am appreciative of the clients, commenters, and visitors I had in 2009.   Feedback and participation from you folks is what helps me keep this blog going.   I hope you have enjoyed this look back.

See you in the woods,


Join the discussion 41 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Nice pictures! I really love your pictures from March and April. The patterns and lines are just fantastic! Winter Textures and Spring Patterns are marvelous!

    Glad that I found your site through Jims site collection!

    Thanks for the pictures.

  • Richard Wong says:

    A very productive year Mark. Best wishes for another great year in 2010!

  • Pat Ulrich says:

    Beautiful selection of images, Mark! I enjoy this self-reflection time of year a lot, as its such a joy to see what so many different photographers consider to be their favorites. If I had to pick one that drew my attention right away as I was scrolling through, it has to be the stunning Denali Fall Colors. I look forward to seeing what you’ll have to share from 2010!

  • Carl D says:

    Hey Mark,

    Awesome work. Exceptionally awesome. The Woodlily photo is amazing, but so is “Spring textures”. Well, they’re all amazing, but those 2 really knocked me off my chair.

    Congrats on a great year, and thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge and info, as well as your great photos. I learn a bunch from you.




  • Mom says:

    The way you see nature inspires and calms me inside and out. I know picking just a small group of photos from your vast directory was difficult – but these photos show the enchanted, seemless variety of your photography, always sensitive and strong. Thank you.

  • Howard Grill says:

    All beautiful images Mark! And a great idea to review the year. Also a great idea to use the images to help congeal where one wants to head photographically for the next year. Paul Giguere, in his podcast Thoughts On Photography (which is really worth listening to), did a critical review and evaluation of his photo podcasting over the last year, what worked and what didn’t, and where he would like his podcasting to go in the current year. I was thinking that this would be a great idea for all photographers in regard to their art, as opposed to their podcasting. Looks like you have already taken the plunge!

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Howard. I think it is helpful to anyone just to go through the exercise of looking back on them and creating a small collection. I have been meaning to go back even further than 2007 to see if I can assemble some favorites from back then after the fact.

      I’ll have to check out that podcast, thanks for the referral.

  • edvatza says:

    And what a wonderful year you had, Mark. Each image is brilliant. And I love and admire the variety exhibited in your selection of “The Best of…”. There is a little of everything from ice abstracts to wolves and bears. great body of work.

  • Mark says:

    Darwin, Royce, Suzy – glad you like the Woodlily among others. Thanks!

  • Suzy Walker says:

    Lovely Mark 🙂 I dont remember seeing Woodlily and sunburst before either 🙂

    I too found it hard to pick out 10 favs for 2009 🙂 I like to look back over yeah and last year to see if I’m getting any better 😉


  • Super set, Mark. It’s good to see such a cross-section. Some I’ve seen before and others not, but all have strong appeal. I think the one I personally enjoy most here is “Winter leftovers”… you do these intimate, understated compositions so well. But as an HDR aficionado, I have the say the woodlily kicks butt too. 🙂

  • All the shots are so amazing but that Wood Lily photo just floors me – wow!


  • Mark says:

    Thanks so much folks. I am glad you like the picks! I certainly appreciate your continued visits and feedback.

  • Earl says:

    Mark, what a great collection of favorites and each of them is wonderful in their own right. I’m sure it was very difficult deciding which ones to select. I hope 2010 has so many excellent photos that next years collection selection process is even harder. 😉

  • Hi Mark.

    Ten wonderful photographs!
    I especially like Winter Ice Patterns and Spring Textures.

    Yesterday, I made a list myself, and did a fairly instinctive choice.
    I`m a type of guy that presented with a dilemma (typically about two nearly identical photos), I get a headache by all the thinking.
    So, this time I followed my instincts and not my intellect…if I have one 😉

    Great work, Mark.
    Wish you the best in 2010!

    Best Wishes
    Seung Kye

  • Roberta says:

    What a great collection of favorites. Your work is inspiring!

  • 2009 looked to be a great year for you Mark. Thanks for the links to past years favorites. Always interesting to see how one’s eye changes over time. Happy New Year!

  • Bob Cornelis says:

    It’s always good to take some time to look at where we’ve been – too often we’re focused on the next shot only. And over time, you have a great chronology of what has been special to you. It’s like re-reading journals, it can give a lot of insight into the present and future as well.

    Wonderful work, I especially love the ice patterns and leaves…

  • Reza Tavana says:

    Happy New Year Mark!
    Many great shots! I like ice patterns & AK fall color more.

  • Tom Whelan says:

    Many beautiful things here – the wolf and bear portraits really speak to me among those I like best. I made a similar list recently, nice way of summing up a year of work. I didn’t use Lightroom (should have!), I just did a list from memory, and whittled it down.

  • I like your idea of making a collection of favorites for each year, so that can be a goal for me. You have an excellent selections of images and a good story of each one. They could even be made into a small gift book for family. Hope you have a good 2010 and a great decade.

  • Thanks, Mark, for sharing your wonderful photos throughout whole year and also in this post. Thank you also for a motivation as I’m playing with a though of creating similar summarization blog post for year 2009. I already picked photos and I must confirm that it’s really good for realizing the progress and direction in photography. From these 10 photos numbers 3 and 9 pops out for me even though all are really excellent.

  • That is a wonderful collection of images Mark!

  • Anita Bower says:

    Thank you for sharing your favorites from 2009! What a treat for us.

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