It is that time of year again to reflect back on the photographs I made this year. This marks the 6th iteration of this process, and I see no reason to stop. It is a bit of a tradition for me, and I know many other photographers also do the same as evident by the best photos list that Jim Goldstein puts together every year. My previous year end picks are found under this tag : Yearly Favorites. As usual, this post is one of my longer ones, so I welcome your feedback on the comments I have made here, or if you just choose to go through and look at the images.
I think that 2012 was quite a challenge for me photographically. I had numerous creative and motivational blocks that really slowed things down a bit in being able to produce work I really liked. I only had a couple “big trips” to photograph away from home. So in contrast to my 2011 picks where many of my favorites were away from home, this year, most of them are close by.
It also led to a pretty significant detour from my normal subject matter, where I photographed inside a few different abandoned buildings in Detroit. Normally I avoid man-made objects like the plague in much of my work. Here, I tried to do an inversion of that – going into a man made object seeking nature. That led to the formation of a project with this theme. I don’t think my 2012 picks would be complete without highlighting an image from it.
So here are my favorites from 2012…
This is a path that is only about a 10 minute walk from my back door. I have walked it hundreds of times, all times of the year. We had a particularly good “sticky” snowfall last January (one of the few of the entire winter here in Michigan). Snowfalls like this have a tendency to simplify and change my normally very cluttered woods, and I saw this particular composition.
Last winter was probably one of the mildest winters in my recent memory, and I wonder if scenes like this will become rarer as our climate continues to change.
I remember going out this particular morning in hopes to play with some long exposures and morning light on Lake Huron. This beach is about an hour drive from my house. Well, the morning light really sucked and I wasn’t able to work on some of the shots I had hoped for. I sat down, watched the water, and thought about what I might want to do.
Just screwing around, I took my iPhone out and just shot an image with the phone camera right on top of the rocks. I actually liked it quite a bit and duplicated the composition with my “real” camera and my 24mm f1.4 lens.
Depth of field was a bit of a challenge here given I was so close to the foreground rocks, and yet wanted the middle ground rocks also sharp. Even at f16, that wasn’t going to happen. So I took 2 exposures, bracketing the focus point and blended them afterwards to create more DOF than I was able to obtain in camera.
There were some people fishing from this beach, and I bet they had some questions in their head when they saw this guy laying belly down on this beach in March.
As part of my ongoing Inspired by Stone project, I photographed this piece of Cherry Creek Jasper which had some very interesting patterns going on. I was spinning this rock around trying to figure out the orientation I wanted the lines to be in. I kept thinking about the blood red color in it, and all the lines had me thinking about neurons. I also saw a bit of a horizon and cracked earth look as well. It really depended on how I oriented what I wanted to appear like a horizon line.
There were a lot of news stories I had heard that particular week and the situation regarding hydraulic fracturing (aka. “fracking”), earthquakes, etc, etc. The sci-fi geek in me knows the double meaning behind the word “frack” so I concluded it fits best with an artistic representation of our quest for new sources of energy.
It then came as a surprise to me that Andrew Revkin of the New York Times Dot Earth blog took notice of the image and asked if he could feature it in one of his posts. I thought that was pretty cool. Some of the comments it received in the NYT were nice, some a bit crazy. It was never intended to be controversial.
This photograph is from our trip to Little Cayman island, where I was once again reminded how photographing underwater can be difficult if you haven’t done it in awhile. Anyway, I love swimming directly into big schools of fish and watching how they react.
It wasn’t until my editing in post that I saw the one fish looking directly at me with its mouth open like it was yelling at me saying “Hey buddy, watch where you are going – no humans here!” I chose a monochrome portrayal here because it really helped accentuate the faces of the fish. Good thing they were not piranhas.
Given Little Cayman is quite isolated and not overly developed, the reefs surrounding the island are also quite healthy and full of life. I thought this particular image really captured that impression they left upon me. One of the aspects of photographing around a reef is that there is just SOOO much going on, it can be hard to isolate particular subjects.
This is a case where all of that activity IS the subject.
I didn’t spend much time photographing above water when we were at Little Cayman, but did have one memorable morning where I rented a scooter to head out in the pre-dawn darkness to get to one of the better beaches. I remember being pelted with insects and dodging crabs crossing the road. I was treated to a beautiful sunrise for my efforts to get to this isolated spot on the island.
This image is from the project I mentioned at the start of this post. Not only is the environment quite a change from what I am used to photographing in, with its own set of hazards, but the subject matter quite unique as well. Detroit certainly isn’t one of the top spots for nature photography, but has earned quite a reputation with urban explorers.
Certainly no single photograph or even a group of photographs can completely tell such a complex story about Detroit. All I can hope is that I might offer a unique perspective from the view of a nature photographer looking at what I can find in these places that are part of this area’s history. I saw the leaves outside of this large window of this church and couldn’t help but see an image full of irony and symbolism. Such a massive structure designed to keep nature and the elements out, but once man walks away, nature begins to reclaim it again, from the inside and out. More to come on this…
It is probably no surprise that a dune image made it into my picks for this year. I shared quite a few of them on my Facebook page. I had such a great time photographing here. It was nice to explore such a unique place fairly close to home. However, knowing what this place transforms into dune buggy hell between spring and fall, I will keep my future visits to off season.
I think what I liked most about it is that it provided a simple, vast landscape to work with, and you were able to pick and choose from a variety of simple elements to accent various scenes. I really loved the old stumps here as symbols of some ancient forest, and how it has obviously dramatically been transformed. I loved the patterns in the sand created by the winds from Lake Michigan. I was also fortunate to have some really great light this particular morning, which can be really hit and miss in October in Michigan.
I didn’t photograph fall colors that much this year. The strange thing is that we witnessed quite vibrant displays of them in Northern Michigan. But scene after scene where I stopped, snapped a few shots, and in post review, just said ‘eh…’ I suppose that yearning for something different was coming through even when in front of something so beautiful.
I really didn’t expect to be creating a pick for the year on this day, but this image ended up becoming one of my favorites. I think the fog created a mood in the image that was unique from other shots I had.
I photographed these leaves Thanksgiving morning, where I came upon this area near my house that just seemed to have a kind of visual harmony in the leaves laying on the ground.
It just made me pause in this spot for a moment, and create this particular image. It is a reminder to me that sometimes the landscape just speaks to you at certain times to “stop here.”
One day I may accumulate enough of these decaying leaf pile images to assemble into some sort of a project. Until then, I just appreciate the ones that turn out in a way that I like.
That wraps up my selections for this year. I hope you have enjoyed this look back and want to offer you my sincerest thanks for supporting this blog and my photography with your continued visits, comments, and shares. Since the world didn’t end, looks like there will be more to photograph in the coming year. I hope you encounter some great moments in nature in 2013.