Favorite photographs from 2012

By Friday, December 28, 2012 grafphoto

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…

winter hiking trail photo

Winter pathways, Clinton River Park, Michigan Image # WI-9553

Winter Pathway (Jan 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.




lake huron great lakes beach rocks

Lake Huron beach rocks at Lighthouse Park, Port Huron, MI # RO-9568

Beach Rocks on Lake Huron (March 2012)

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.




Fracked (May 2012)

abstract rock pictures


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.


School of Horse-eyed jacks, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea

School of Horse-eyed jacks, Little Cayman, Caribbean Sea #FI-9587

School of Horse-eyed Jacks (May 2012)

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.

Little cayman reef underwater picture

Reef life off of Little Cayman island, Cayman Islands, Caribbean sea

Little Cayman reef scene (May 2012)

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.



Sand Point picture Little Cayman

Sand Point on Little Cayman Island

White sand beach at dawn (May 2012)

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.




Nature wants in, St. Agnes Church, Detroit

Nature inside and out, St. Agnes Church, Detroit (Sept 2012)

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…

Silver Lake dunes at twilight, Michigan

Silver Lake Dunes (Oct 2012)

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.

foggy forest fall color picture

Foggy forest in fall color, Michigan near Miller’s Overlook

Fall Woodland (Oct 2012)

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.

brown leaf picture

“Thanksgiving Leaves”, Clinton River woodland, image #LE-9675

Thanksgiving Leaves (Nov 2012)

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.


See ya 2012…

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.


Join the discussion 53 Comments

  • Shawn Rocco says:

    I don’t comment on anything, but ……
    I like what you do.
    [ long wide smile ]
    Keep it up.

  • Tom Whelan says:

    Congratulations on a vintage year of image making – there’s lots to like here. I just finished doing a selection my own, late as usual, and I’m late visiting here as well!

  • Beautiful images! Thanks for sharing.

  • Wonderful images Mark. I like the simplicity and artistic quality of your nature shots. Best of luck in 2013!

  • Fantastic year! I especially love the leaves and beach rocks.
    visiting from Best Photos of 2012 by JMG-Galleries Blog Readers

  • As you can see, I am getting here a little late, being behind on my blog visiting this year. What a diverse and unusual gathering of imagery, Mark. The first one appeals to me most due to the variation in the colors of the rocks, the uniformity of their sizes and how the composition accentuates these factors. I also like the Fracked photograph. I was so happy for you when I discovered it on the NY Times blog while browsing for reviews. My other favorite is the Foggy Forest, Fall Color. I bet it will look wonderful big. I look forward to more in 2013. Cheers!

    • Mark says:

      Thank you very much David. I welcome the comments anytime and am appreciative you left your thoughts here. I hope to be able to print the forest image big one day. I wish you the best for 2013 also.

  • latoga says:

    Wonderful collection from 2012 Mark! It’s always refreshing when we realize we can find great images close to home. I love the Silver Lake Dunes photo. You always surprise me with the diversity you capture in Michigan. I may have to head over your way in June this year when I head back to Wisconsin!

    • Mark says:

      Thanks a lot Greg. I am glad I am still able to find unique ones close to home, even though most of the time when I am out photographing, it seems like I have seen it all before, even though I keep telling myself to look harder. If you happen to be in the Detroit area, be sure to drop me a note.

  • Jack Johnson says:

    Lovely images, Mark! I _love_ “Fall Woodland” – it is tremendously evocative! My other personal favorites in this group are “Thanksgiving Leaves,” “Silver Lake Dunes,” and “Winter Pathway.”

    Beautiful work!

    – Jack

  • Very nice work, I would have a hard time deciding which ones are the best because they all look so good. From one photographer to another very nice!

  • Carl D says:

    Hey Mark

    Awesome, as ever. The fall color photo in the forest, and the Thanksgiving leaf that follows it are beyond exceptional, IMO. Great photos.



  • Phil Colla says:

    Great work Mark, I like your Little Cayman reef image the best (having never been there yet!) but the diversity of your photography is what impresses me the most. Good luck in 2013!

  • Robin Black says:

    Congratulations on a beautiful set of images, Mark! Looks like 2012 was a very good year for you. I especially love the beach at sunrise image, and the foggy forest with fall color shot. Just gorgeous!

  • Jane says:

    Mark, Your 2012 favorites are stunning! Love the variety in the images you’ve chosen. The colors in the rocks and the foggy forest, the details in the leaves and the contrasts in your black and whites. Wonderful. Happy New Year!

  • Greg Russell says:

    This is a gorgeous set of images, Mark. What I like about them is that they illustrate the value in staying close to home…some of these are images I absolutely love (like ‘Fracked’ and ‘Thanksgiving Leaves’). While big trips are fun, they shouldn’t define the photographer and keep him/her from looking around for images all the time. You’ve done a great job of illustrating that with this set (and it’s a good reminder to me).

    Congrats on a great 2012–I’m looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings you!

  • Beautiful selection Mark, though I can’t imagine going through this sort of exercise myself despite taking very few photos in a twelve month period. I knew someone once who had one photo enlarged and printed each year. Come January he would pick his favourite from the year before and get it printed and framed. I don’t know how he managed to pick one photo from the hundreds he took each year though he said he always knew which one was his favourite. I found that amazing.

    Have a great new year Mark.

    • Mark says:

      I struggle with it also Cedric. Especially when I have it down to about 13-15. What separates the 10 from those few extras is really a bit of just forcing myself to make a decision. Since I have a folder that I dump them in throughout the year for later review, it helps narrow it down a little. I think about some of the background of the shots and try – emphasis on try – to make some meaningful separation between them. Maybe it helps my editing skills in the future in trying to be objective about my own work, maybe it is just an exercise in futility. Ask me that when I am 80. 🙂 Thanks, and I wish you a great new year also.

  • Roberta says:

    Like Diane I didn’t get around to blogs all that often this year. I made a choice to spend less time online, so missed a few of these gems the first time around. I’m glad to have caught them here though. You’ve got some beautiful work represented here. All the best for 2013!

    • Mark says:

      I know the feeling Roberta. With all the social media these days, it really is quite difficult to keep up with everything and we have to make those choices. I think you are better off for it, but certainly appreciate that you were able to come back here for the summary. 🙂 Best wishes for you also in 2013, I have been enjoying following your paintings.

  • Howard Grill says:

    Great tradition Mark. And all fantastic images! What a pleasure to be able to see them all in one post. May the New Year bring you many more stunning photos!

  • Paul says:

    Well, my friend, you certainly have a wonderful lineup there! Excellent. I think, of these, my favorites are the foggy forest and the sand dunes, especially since the dunes were so unexpected.

  • Richard Wong says:

    Excellent work, Mark. Very diverse.

  • Earl says:

    Mark, I was just thinking the other day it was about time for this post on your blog. Each year I admire your ability to make these picks as well as the photos picked. This year is no different — a wonderful batch for 2012. Even with your perceived struggles you should be proud. Here’s hoping 2013 is a prolific photographic year for us all.

  • Suzy Walker says:

    Hi Mark,

    Another great selection this year 🙂 many of them I recognise. I’m glad the “fracked” made it to the top ten :). Also nice to see a couple of your underwater ones made it. thanks for sharing. Happy New Year!


  • Hi Mark. This was a year of little blogging for me so, going through some of your favorites that I missed, was a PLEASURE! Your work continues to uplift and inspire me. Thank you! Wishing you a beautiful new year and new adventures with your photography.

    • Mark says:

      Diane, thank you for stopping by and leaving the nice words. In a year where i found myself questioning a lot of what i was doing, it is nice to have that support. I hope to see more of your work in ’13 also, and wish you the same.

  • I enjoyed your favorites for 2012.I love the beach scene at Sand Point and the sand dune images. I’ve not selected 10 favorites but may do that this year. I’m also glad they weren’t piranas.Excellent work.

  • ken bello says:

    I never tried to pick favorites for the year, but you have done a terrific job here, especially since you have so many great images to choose from. My personal favorite of this group is Cherry Creek Jasper.It combines a naturalistic and abstract qualities I find appealing.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Ken. It is a fun exercise, but can also be a bit difficult narrowing them down. After all, what makes any one particular shot better than another is highly subjective.

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