Friday, January 4, 2019

Image of 2018

When I first started doing Image of the Month, I wasn't sure how long I would keep doing it. How long I would able to find or create fresh images.

Here I am another year later, still at it. I think the practice is a good one. It makes me get out and look for images. Not just any image, but better ones. Not just randomly finding an image by accident, but doing the research to put myself in the path of possibly interesting, or doing extra work to figure out how to make something ordinary become interesting. When I get a nice one early in the month, I'm inspired to look for more. When I don't have one as the month gets on, I start getting itchy, and will plan something, hoping the weather cooperates.

Oddly enough, good photos come in bunches, I'm not sure why. It's like you get on a roll and they keep happening. I think part of is that if I'm out when the light is good, all sorts of things become interesting and photogenic.

It also makes me think about what makes a good image. I ruminated at length about 'best' in the blog for 2017 Image of the Year, and you might want to review that. I've thought about it more this year. I've taken just under 20K photos this year, down a bit from the almost 27K last year, but then, there wasn't a week long photo extravaganza in Yukon this year. That really racked up the count. Next year I'm going back.

Sometimes I see images and click quickly to capture the light. But more often now I'll walk through the scene thinking about what images are there to be had, and which of them I want to capture, and which lens I have with me.

One example is the three rocks in a frozen Fish Creek in this blog (Second last image. Spoiler, or you could scroll down.) I walked past it at first, then noticed some of the reflected light on the ice, and walked back and forth looking to see if there was a better image. I had the behemoth lens with me so I had lots of choices for composition. Did I pick the best one? I doubt it, since I'm still learning composition. It would have been really interesting to have another photographer there to discuss it. Even so, I took that one, and the more I looked at it the more I liked it, and even more after editing to bring up the colour a bit.

To that extent I've succeeded this year, photographically speaking. I've been looking for interesting, and figuring out how to capture it. I'm doing less of what I think of as technical photography, capturing images to get better at using my camera and lenses. Sometimes I'll walk past a photo I could take, but I have some like it already, so it's no longer as interesting. Maybe if the light was different I'd stop.

There was no obvious choice for image of the year, not even an obvious top three. I've got 23 images I've given 5 stars to over the year. Mostly that happens right away because the images stand out, and mostly I don't change my mind later. As I was reviewing to see if I'd overlooked any, I bumped a couple up to 5, and a few back to 4, and several from 3 to 4. To save you doing the math, that 23 is .117 percent. There are 158 images with 4 stars, that is .805 percent.

Linda says I'm getting pickier, and my photos are getting better. I hope that's true. Some of the 3 star photos from this year would be 4 or 5 if I'd taken them the year before. As may be. In any case, this talk of numbers has you thinking I'm blithering, or dithering. You want to know which ones make the podium. Here's the 23.

In trying to narrow them down I thought about how hard I had to work to get the shot, in terms of working on composition, settings, and degree of difficulty. In that sense, #5 the tulip was the easiest. I was walking past, looked down to see the shot, focussed the camera, tweaked settings, and took one shot. The remarkable thing is there was zero editing in Lightroom. I didn't want to touch it.

The hardest is #12 the Fish Creek reflection, mainly because I had lots of time to think about where to put the tree reflections and how to have it just touching the rock, and get everything just so. Next hardest is probably #17 the beaver dam flats reflection. I spent a bunch of time thinking about composition, and working on subtly different shots.

Any shot with a bee has probably involved lots of photos that aren't quite in focus. One day I shot well over a hundred photos and only got a couple I was willing to edit. So while there's a bit of luck in a good bee photo, there's also perseverance. The other difficult one is #3 the red tulip. I've talked about red being hard, and I've shot a great many photos where the red blossom goes purple, or magenta, or just plain garish.

Now I'm thinking of the photos in terms of personal style. There are several local photographers where I can recognize them from the shot. In that sense the downtown skyline shot loses some points because other people have very similar shots, and the library shot loses lots of points. It's an indoor space so lighting isn't an issue, and anyone else could look at my photo and duplicate it. The others are unique shots, in that the light will never again be quite like that again.

So which ones? After a lot of struggle I got it down to these 6 finalists and was stuck.

I haven't done this before, but this image gets honourable mention. The more I look at it, the more I like it, but I've only been looking at it a few days. It would be a pretty amazing image to top the others that I've been enjoying for months.

2nd runner up.
I've been coming back to this one ever since I took it. I love the subtle shades of colour, the shapes of the petals, and how the lines lead my eye around and around. Plus zero editing in Lightroom, did I mention that?

1st runner up
I scrambled a bit to get this shot before the light went. The orange and gold and yellows are a lovely backdrop for the silhouetted tree and bit of bush. It looks like it should be in the middle of nowhere, but it's in the middle of a busy park. I'm glad nobody was walking into the shot.

Image of 2018
I keep coming back to this one and finding more to look at. As I mentioned earlier, it's the one I put the most work into in terms of finding the composition and getting the camera in just the right spot.

So why not the purple flower, the Beaver Dam flats, or the downtown skyline? We are talking subtle here. The purple flower has a bit too much going on on the left and not enough on the right, some sky drama and a bit of cropping might have made that a stronger image. A bit of sky colour would have taken the beaver dam flats one over the top, I think. I love the skyline shot, and would be happy to see it printed and framed on my wall. But it doesn't really say anything unique in the sense of personal style.

And yes, if I took a break from it, and came back with fresh eyes I might choose differently.

So, as the joke goes, enough of me talking about my images, why don't you talk about them, tell me which you liked, or how I'm an idiot for not choosing the one you think is best.


  1. Great choices but I think I still like the beaver dam flats best. Something about the way the trees lean into the image. Look forward to seeing what you come up with in 2019!

  2. In no particular order, here are some thoughts that come to mind.
    ~ 13 (iotm) is compositionally satisfying. To my eye it is not as technically strong as others in the 2 dozen less 1.
    ~ Different people have different palates with which they are particularly fond. For you it appears to be the autumnal spectrum. I have a tendency towards the blue spectrum. That is neither good nor bad – it is an observation only.
    ~ 17 has grown with me over time, and it is now better than it was.
    ~ I think 23 is superb. It is structurally asymmetric and visually balanced (Mondrian with curves)
    ~ Over the year I made some unsatisfying experiments with flowers. They are for more difficult to photograph than one might think. I agree with your comment on the petal.

    Thank you for sharing your journey, and I look forward to the evolution of your personal style. Cheers, Sean


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