Best of 2021

OMG it’s here again. They say as you get older the days go by slowly, but the years in a blink.

These are in chronological order because you don’t want me to have to rank my babies, do you?

Because of my involvement with the Nature Photographer’s Network this year, I feel I have grown and stretched with my photography more than if I hadn’t found the site. Some was field work, but a lot of it was processing and frankly, Photoshop. 2021 was my first year using it as a major part of my workflow. Not only that, but I also started using Topaz Sharpen and Denoise and despite my irritation with having to go outside of Adobe for that caliber of functionality, they have both improved my photos. Especially wildlife shots which is another area I ramped up this past year.

So on with the photos already, right?

February

Never met a stranger

Because damn – lickable light. And the composition doesn’t suck. And shadows. Patterns and repetition. The hint of a trail. Perfect powder.

Growth/development = processing

So it started out pretty good, but my skills with processing have also improved and I feel that I can now do justice to this image with Lightroom and Photoshop, using all the standard tools in the drawer, but also new ones. Every great photo has to start as a winner, but editing can make or break one and so this one makes it.


Mental twin

Because fog. And that I actually got out of the car in the snow and the wind to get this.

Growth/development – compositional risks and payoffs, processing

The composition was good to start, but flipping this horizontally made it better – there is better visual flow to the partially obscured tree in back. A fellow NPN photographer opined that leading lines should lead to something and I tend to agree and that’s what made me get out of the car for this one.


April

With wider perception

Isn’t this a beauty? I love the shapes and colors, the unexpected details and the overall presentation of the little cluster with that smooth background. 

Growth/development = Focus bracketing & stacking

The beginning of my lichen infatuation. Ditto with focus stacking. Both of which gained me new skills by learning focus bracketing techniques and processing the stack with Zerene.


June

Frequent visitor

Because ruby-throat! The light was just right for it to show up so well. The details are pretty good and the pose is pleasing. Definitely buying these flowers again – they were the clear favorite!

Growth/development = wildlife/birding skills

It represents a lot of persistence with these wee birds and also a lot of learning and deleted photos. I can’t wait for next year!


A curious glance

Because woah – what a little beauty, check out those ears!!

Growth/development = wildlife photography & lens handling

This is one of the twins born to one of our resident does in 2021. Her brother or sister was just a few yards away, but when she gave me this look I was ready. I had heard them and watched them cross the backyard so I sneaked onto the patio with my long lens. I find that they can be very skittish or curious depending on how they perceive you and here is that curious look. It didn’t last, but I got the shot!


August

Mystery at the base of a tree

Because it glows. And it’s so perfect in all its mushroomy cuteness.

Growth/development = LED panel (constant artificial light source) & focus stacking

This year I added an LED panel to my microscape and close up work and it paid off with this shot – I placed the light in such a way that the mushroom itself looks to be emitting light. Not bad for someone who has basically never used artificial light in her work before. Plus this is another focus stack, incorporating two new techniques.

 


Chrysidines sp.

Because, OMG it’s so cute! And looks positively bejeweled.

Growth/development = on-the-fly macro (handheld)

When I saw this gorgeous little creature land on my deck railing, I thought it was a sweat bee, but investigation proved it to be a cuckoo wasp. She let me get fairly close before flying away in all her metallic glory.


Success!

Because we got it! The bird – a meal and me a shot of it getting its meal. 

Growth/development = wildlife/birding skills

Wildlife photography is a new thing for me and I’m still learning so this is a winner in my book. Taken from the kayak, it was also good to improve my shooting from the boat.


September

Earthly angels

Because lickable light again!

Growth/development = Focus bracketing & stacking, Photoshop & Zerene skills

And because I have gotten better at imagining the finished focus stack before even taking one shot. I knew softness would be key here and so deliberately didn’t take images of the very back of this group of angel’s wings mushrooms. Instead I keep the sharp areas in front and to the middle, but leave it out of focus and dreamy in back. All before I lost that lickable light.


Canoodlers

Because Snakes! In! A! Tree! Completely new behavior for me and woah, on technical merits the photo is pretty killer – all three heads are in focus and the light is pretty terrific.

Growth/development = Wildlife photography, keeping my eyesight acute

I found this little group and a singleton a few branches down while on an outing with some naturalists. I had a bit of a wander around where we stopped for lunch and there they were. Amazing. I’ve never seen garter snakes do this before and neither had anyone else. Not for the first time I’ve had people ask how I even saw this to begin with. I don’t know, I just did. Human eyesight is very good at picking out patterns and also pattern disruption. After years and years spent with the camera outdoors, I have improved this innate ability and so when I’m on my game, very little gets by me. All good photography starts with seeing, really seeing and so I have to keep sharp and it paid off here.


October

The heart never waits

Because just look at that composition. It’s true that getting close and low works in landscape photography. That and a pair of tall boots. 

Growth/development = going the extra mile for a killer composition

Getting in the river made this composition and I love how it just draws you into all that fall goodness. The leaves on the mossy rocks, the foliage in the distant trees, the slow shutter speed and the submerged leaves – it’s so quintessentially a fall image. And it’s a great part of my Prairie River project.


November

Blue into blue

Because omg it’s a bird taking off!

Growth/development = Birding/wildlife & lens handling

In a boat that just wouldn’t stay still. It wasn’t under my control which was disconcerting because in general I’m a terrible passenger, but the pilot got us to some amazing birds and I managed to get a few shots. Mostly this outing gave me some perspective – wildlife photography is hard and the keeper rate is pretty low even if you’re experienced. I really needed that.

No peace for you

Because wow. A bird just taking off in a classic pose and in freaking focus with a super busy background.

Growth/development = Birding/wildlife & lens handling & Photoshop skills

I am coming to be quick with that long lens. I took this sitting next to far more experienced bird photographers and some of it must have rubbed off. Everything came together for this one – the light, the flight and even my new skills in Photoshop to make a good photo even better by applying a blur to the background. It took me four tries, but this final looks darn smashing to me.


December

Memory remains

Because OMG lickable light again! And the composition and subject are just enchanting to me.

Growth/development = working quickly to capture a fleeting & momentary scene, processing

Winter brings out my inner minimalist and so these scenes often stop me in my tracks. Especially when the light is so gorgeous. It is a challenge to process though, but I’ve gotten better. Learning how to best manage things like the curves adjustment and how to use dehaze to bring up subtle textures. Both of those things make this a winner.

Fourteen shots made it this year, but there are a few others that are pretty great so I may do a runner up post with those. But who knows.

I’ve started thinking about things I want to do next year – definitely more wildlife photography. And more with the LED panel for sure. Microscapes are so fun and I think I can do something interesting there. And of course stacking will continue. Lichen continues to fascinate me so there will be more of that. I may add some extension tubes for even greater magnification. Good times!

4 thoughts on “Best of 2021

Add yours

  1. As always, your photography is so beautiful! I think you made very good choices here – some being hard to catch, and when caught, beautifully done. I have seen a lot of “best of 2021” postings in a lot of things, but this one pleases me the most.

  2. Hi Kris, I thoroughly enjoyed your year end review and commentary. It’s a worthwhile exercise to go through. Your nature close-ups are gorgeous, the mushroom, the lichens, the wasp!, and your landscapes are so nicely composed and shot. The shadows under the trees and the foggy tree are gorgeous. Wishing you a fruitful and creative year ahead.

    1. Thank you Jane. While I don’t always have goals or keep things I want to improve in mind, I find it valuable to review my work and the annual picks is the obvious way to do it. May you also have a terrific photography year.

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