Archive for January, 2012

Wildflowers in January??!!

Another reason I’m fascinated with Indian Pipe wildflowers is because they over-winter and I can photograph them in January!

Soul's Survival

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The Best of 2011

OMG am I a lazy blogger or what?  Nothing like waiting until the end of January to post about my best work of the previous year.  I guess I picked a bad time to disconnect from the photography world for a bit huh?

When I began sorting images into a best of collection in Lightroom, I noticed that I had exactly 8600 raw files for the year.  Weird.  It is a smaller number than for 2011, but still represents a lot of shooting.

Not every photo was difficult to choose, some are stand-outs even if I do say so myself. In a conversation with fellow photographer Tricia McDonald Ward we agreed that we can be hard on ourselves and have difficulty recognizing our own excellence. To do so is not arrogance or pride in the sense of hubris, but pride in the sense of accomplishment and growth. She also said that while we need to learn to recognize areas that need improvement, we should not view them as failures but as opportunities. That makes perfect sense to me.

So here are what I think are the best images I took all year and an explanation as to why I chose them. My criteria were pretty basic and I think a lot of other photographers use the same ones –

1. Do I like it?

Well duh, what?

2. Does it have technical merit?

As much as we sometimes don’t like rules, they are there for a reason and I try not to break them without a purpose. So a good photo has to be well composed, not be under or over exposed, be taken in lickable light etc.

3. Does it move me toward a goal?

Sometimes I have specific projects that I want to work on or specific things I want to improve and if a photo gets me closer to one of these, I count it as a success.

4. Do I have fond memories of when, where and with whom I took it?

While most of my photography is done solo, sometimes I have people with me and if we’re having a good time it makes the image more special.

Not every criterion was given equal weight for every photo, but they all were factors in the decision.  Here they are in the order they were taken –

Frozen Menace

Included in top 12 because it’s arresting and weird and slightly menacing. And that I had to work to create it both in the field and in post processing. Also I was with two of my favorite photographer buddies and we had a great time together as usual.

Out of Chaos

Included in the top 12 because it is a shot that I not only had vision for when I took it, but I also envisioned the post processing I would use to make it fulfill that vision. And for the memories; I was in a terrific place with my terrific husband.

Luminance

Included because damn, it’s good. Look at that light would ya??? : ) Seriously, I showed up mega early for a sunrise shoot and only one of my buddies was there. We hit the jackpot for light though since the gorge has a bend in it and the sun probably only hits it like this for a few days a year. Makes getting up in the dark worth it.

Speed of Life

Included in the top 12 because it’s pretty fab even if I do say so myself. This is a VERY popular waterfall and has been shot thousands of times. The pressure to TRY to create something distinctive was in my mind the whole time I was here and I think I hit close to the mark. Also my mom was with me and this was her first time seeing the falls. She’s a big part of why I love nature; because she does and she taught me to as well.

Fringed Polygala

Included in the top 12 because I love the playful nature of the the composition. It’s a lot less static than many of my wildflower shots. Also I nearly didn’t take it at all. It was buggy as hell and I was hot, sweaty and tired. But I’d been hunting for fringed polygala that day and when I saw this little group of them, I knew I had what I was looking for. Expanding and improving my microscape work was a goal for the year and this definitely hits it square. And that light…can you beat it?

Crown Jewels

Included in the top 12 because I love it. It’s bold, crisp, colorful and striking. Plus it’s a fern and if you know me, you know I love ferns. Also my photographic vision for this image succeeds for what I did in the field and what I did in post processing. Getting these two things to gel isn’t easy sometimes and I often stumble over one or both. Not this time though.

Below Black Point

Included in the top 12 because I love the textures and the tonality. Black and white needs to include both of those and not just middling grays. Even though the light wasn’t perfect, I like the balance, structure and the play of focus in this shot. Plus I was on vacation with my favorite human being (husband) and we’d just had the most awesome hike and just enjoyed being alive and together.

The Indifference of Heaven

Included in the top 12 because damn, it’s fab. The texture and the light are amazing. I can practically feel the silkiness of those broadly delicate petals. Also this one took a lot of return trips and an amazing stroke of luck to produce. I’d missed the blooming the year before and was determined to get it in 2011. I went to this location, one of the very few giant rhododendron groves in the state, many times to check the progress. Finally it was close and when I had to drop my husband off at the airport for a 6am flight I decided to head over and see if they had blossomed. They did and it was an amazing time to be in this forest of giants.

Determination

Included because I like the story it tells. Normally I’d want to see the eyes of any creature I photograph, but the position, angle and light on this little one is pretty fab. They’re harder to photograph than you’d think and I spent a lot of time in the woods trying to find them and not step on them when I did. They’re one of the many tiny lives that make up the ecosystem I love most.

Past the Sound of Whispers

Included in the top 12 because it’s the culmination of a project that I decided to take on the year before. I’d tried to take photos of this mysterious little flower before and they all sucked. So I made a mini-project of their study. I learned why they’re white, what pollinates them and what they need to grow. After that it seemed they were my ghostly companions every time I went into the woods. This shot was at once carefully orchestrated and also a lucky break. Making the most of it affirms that I’m getting better at this photography thing. There are still shots of this flower I want to get, but I am so proud of this one.

Incandescent

Included in the top 12 because it incorporates two of my silent goals for the year; to improve and expand upon my microscapes and to incorporate more dappled sunlight into my forest images. The shifting light of the forest is one reason the place is so magical, but it’s hard to depict well and so I worked at it. All the right elements came together for this shot and I can hardly believe I took it. I did clean up and manage the scene, but also left nature’s decor in place. I like the combination, what can I say?

Of Earth and Smoke

Included in the top 12 because it’s kind of unusual for me; I’m not a hardcore landscape photographer and so I think the structure and light in this one shows that I am improving. Plus Adams pond is in my town and I love going there and I think this shows the potential awesomeness of even the most quotidian.