Best of 2016

I don’t think I managed to do this last year for whatever reason, but this year I have collected what I think is the best I’ve done this year. Normally I select 12, but added two more because I just couldn’t cull any further. These are my rules, I make ’em up.

Here they are in order of when I shot them and a brief word about why I’m proud of them.

February – I love this stark, minimalist approach to landscape photography. The line of trees and then the exclamation point in the large one is just so striking. A little Lightroom magic and the tone of the image was in keeping with its dramatic presentation.

Keynote

March – Exploring abandoned buildings is something I’d like to do more of, so when I found a log cabin not far from my house, I decided to take a look. I just love this image. It’s colorful, yet the tin isn’t new. In order to emphasize it a little more, I desaturated the colors in the background. I can’t remember if the tilt is in camera or Lightroom, but without it the shot would be too static.

De-caffeinated

April – We have tons of trout lily both in the yard. It comes up in a beautiful yellow blanket, well ahead of the greenery of other plants. When its done blooming, even the leaves disappear until the next spring. With this photo, I wanted a single flower with leaves, an uncluttered background and a relatively emphatic composition. The light could be better, but I still think it’s a strong image.

Taking the Queen

May – Part of what I challenge myself with is to photograph quotidian things in a distinctive way. Yup, this is a ubiquitous flower, but when I saw the light from the window I rushed out with the camera, knowing it would be backlit in just a few minutes. I set up and cleared the shot of debris and distractions and bang – the sun lit them. The fact that they aren’t fully open makes this a little more unusual, but I would have shot them either way.

Have a little mercy

August – I’ve been working on my macro technique a little this year – that is to incorporate natural light in a more visible way. This one was taken in the very early morning and I think the subtlety of the light adds to the shot in a way that flat or artificial light wouldn’t be able to do.

Wee freeloader

August – Every year it seems I photograph more and more mushrooms. I’m improving, but serendipity still plays a big role in what makes an image really stand out. Light, light, light! With this one, I noticed the mushroom itself, because it’s so lovely and fresh, but the light knocked me out so I had to work really fast to get this shot and I’m proud of the results.

Tawny grisette

August – Working quickly to capture light is one thing, a reasonably known quantity with a timed start and stop, but wildlife is another thing altogether. No matter how small, critters are unpredictable. Luckily some will panic and freeze. Instead of getting closer, I decided to use negative space to emphasize the solitary state of this spring peeper. I hadn’t planned on making this monochrome, but when I was working with it, the background competed too much with the tiny frog and so I made the change. I think it adds something emotional and poignant to the image.

Surveyed worlds

September – Photographers never seem to shut up about light and so I’ll join the chorus. Light gives depth, texture and subtlety to a scene that can really draw you in as a viewer. Because it is a 2-dimensional medium and we see so acutely in 3 dimensions, making a successful photograph can be tough and sometimes scenes just don’t translate into 2 dimensions. That’s where knowing a thing or two about light and composition comes in handy. It’s only been about 30 years, but I think I’m catching on.

Let your spirit breathe

September – Not all my wildlife work is with wee creatures. My short 2 summers on the water has given me some new instincts with regard to water fowl. They will tolerate you if they get used to you. So with no blind, I did my best to encourage a pair of trumpeter swans feel that I wasn’t a threat. Soon they were curious about me and why I had so many legs (tripod), lol. With patience, practice and a little reverence I got this shot which is about the best bird photograph I’ve taken –

Power thrusters operational

September – The same day I shot the swan, I saw this storm building in the distance. Lucky for me Wisconsin is pretty flat and I managed to race around and find a decent vantage point before the whole thing blew by. It’s another case of recognizing a potential image and having the luck and experience to take advantage of it. The experience part came in knowing what would (and wouldn’t) make a good composition and the luck was that the field was unharvested. When processing the image, I knew I wanted to emphasize the drama, but not introduce anything that wasn’t already in the file. By changing the white balance a little, I brought out purple instead of blue and then I just slid the black point down a bit. I really like the results.

Under threatening skies

September – Another mushroom in wonderful light, this one spied on the edge of the driveway by my husband. No surprise that I raced in the house for the camera. I knew I wanted to keep the background soft and that the direct sunlight in the leaves would make for some lovely bokeh. If I’d caught it earlier the shade in the immediate foreground would be natural, but I’m not above making my own when I have to. This one makes me smile every time I look at it.

Tippler’s bane

October – Wisconsin seems to be the spider capital of the world. With a head’s up from my eagle-eyed husband, I nearly trod on this lovely girl before I saw her for myself. It was a little cool out, but also near the end of the season, so she stayed fairly still for me. Her colors are lovely and the contrast with the concrete near my garage is pretty excellent even though normally I prefer a more natural setting. In processing I cranked up the clarity and gave it a bit of a vignette. Using the 90mm macro lens and the 25mm extension tube meant I didn’t have to crop. Isn’t she lovely?

Eyes on you

October – This next one is maybe my favorite from the year. The last glacier left pockets of tightly packed hills in certain areas and luckily one is nearby. Last year I decided that I would head there during the peak of foliage season. The trails are lovely and this light was really amazing. I moved around quite a bit before finding just the right foreground element in that log. It points up the trail where it curves up and out of sight. I think it’s inviting and serene and I think I might have it printed and framed one day.

Return to Glory

October – Barns are everywhere in Wisconsin, but hardly any are this picturesque. When I saw it on one road, I doubled back down another hoping for a foreground element. Yay for a drainage ditch! Who knew it could be the perfect thing?

Changes are mere moments

That wraps up my best of 2016 post. I don’t know what next year holds for me, but I’m not planning to change a thing. Outdoors with my camera, mostly in solitude, bringing back what I find. I hope you’ll come with me.

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6 responses

  1. cristina61

    You captured some really wonderful images. That swan is impressive — great work! 🙂

    January 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

  2. Pat Nelson

    That was a fun journey thru your year. Enjoyed your descriptions too. I’m glad you’re enjoying your new environment. I kept wondering how big the insect is and what that orange plume is on its back. Ditto for the size of the spider. It looks immense (and I thought it was on gravel, not concrete), but I suspect you don’t have tarantulas there! How lucky you are to have the varied landscapes — from the inviting trails thru the woods to the open fields. I miss trout lilies. Haven’t seen them for years. I think my favorite of all is the first. Love the minimalism and the exclamation point!

    January 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

    • hi Pat, thanks. I do really like it here though it is different from NH.
      the bug is maybe 1/4 of an inch long and the mite that is stuck to it the size of a pinhead. It is visible with the naked eye, but I had no idea what it was until I got the image into Lightroom. The spider is about the size of a quarter with the legs relaxed. Her cephalothorax is maybe like the tip/pad of my pinky finger. We don’t have tarantulas, but we do have fishing spiders on the dock. With legs relaxed they’re 3 inches across with bodies the size of my thumb. I love them.

      January 21, 2017 at 11:18 am

      • Pat Nelson

        Thanks for the details. That’s interesting that it is a mite on top of something that is already so small! And quite a contrast to those large spiders that you’ve become enamored of.

        January 21, 2017 at 11:31 am

  3. -N-

    I think you chose wonderful images to show your year’s work. Wisconsin is an amazing state as so much of it remains undeveloped, as are parts of every state in the country. Keep up the great work – both large and small – it’s a pleasure to follow you on your photographic adventures.

    January 22, 2017 at 10:53 am

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