Best of 2022

Here we go again! Can you believe it? And on January 1st no less. Definitely the earliest I’ve ever managed a Best of post. Happy New Year to everyone.

2022 didn’t have any big breakout moments, but many small ones. This year I have 18 photos for you. The most I’ve ever selected for one year and I nearly culled a few, but decided to leave them. Mushrooms, I can’t help it!

So without further ado, here they are in the order they were taken with some reasoning as to why they ended up on the Best of list.

February

We begin with one of the joys of winter – minimalism. Last year I wrote a post or two about how much joy this kind of photography gives me and how it can bring out your artistic side in a really particular way. With this shot I remember being knee-deep in snow with snowshoes and trying to maneuver the tripod just so. I needed to separate the branches against the background and find the cleanest way to present those beautiful curves.

Snow Dance

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Well it taught me what tamarack saplings look like in winter. When I first found it I had no idea what it was, then as I did the processing it dawned on me. Bonus.

It advanced my photography by expanding my minimalist portfolio and getting me to persist in the field until I get the right composition.


April

This is the first of several wildlife photos that make the list. Greater Sandhill cranes are ubiquitous in spring and fall and can often be found in roadside fields just doing their thing. In this case it’s the mating ritual that involves energetic dancing and lots of calling and vocalizing to each other. In this shot you can see they are doing both. I’m pretty sure only the males dance, but both sing and talk to each other as they prepare to raise another round of young ones (called colts).

Crane Dance

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Partly this was luck. I had just left a bird sanctuary where I thought I might have gotten a decent crane photo or two and came upon these two literally on the side of the road. They were pretty engrossed in each other so all I had to do was quietly set up on one side of the car with my elbows on the hood. I had my camera with the 100-400mm already on it in the front seat since I had a feeling I might need it. I’d learned that lesson the hard way and so I was so happy to have that lesson pay off with this fabulous catch. Also excellent is that both birds’ heads are in focus!


May

One of the most special moments with wildlife this year was with a pair of Blackpoll warblers that came though the yard on their migration to northern Canada. They are about Chickadee size and I was very lucky it happened before the leaves on the trees got too big and blocked a lot of the view. Hungry and busy feeding on what I think are bugs coating the hornbeam saplings on the side of the lawn, they didn’t care one bit about me on the deck a mere 15 feet from them. I have eight excellent photos of both this male and his mate, but the fabulous pose, background and open beak of this shot makes it the winner.

Blackpoll Warbler (Mister)

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Although I have a lot of pictures of this pair, I don’t have as many as I might have if I hadn’t watched a good deal of a master bird photographer’s You Tube channel. In one of his many useful and inspiring videos, Scott Keyes talked about the difference between shooting like a birder and shooting like a photographer. A birder is just happy to see a bird and document its presence. A photographer waits for good lighting, a fabulous pose and is always conscious of the background and eye contact. If a bird turns its back or gets in front of a messy background, stop shooting!

So while I was very excited to see these little transitory wonders, I was also conscious of what would make a good photo of them and I that I knew and stuck to this rule as much as possible got me the 8 photos I consider to be excellent. Picking just one was hard.


June

June started off with a trip to the Badlands in South Dakota for a workshop and I came away with many photos that I really like. Not hard to do with a location like this where every vista is pretty jaw dropping. But it’s all been done before if you know what I mean, that’s why I really like this first shot. The sun was on its way up, but still so low to the ground that the sidelight was pretty incredible and soft. So when I spotted this trail leading to those incredible rock formations, I knew I had something special.

How can we sleep in?

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Some of the lesson here is fieldwork. I haven’t done many workshops, but I sometimes go my own way when I attend one. Not to the point of being a jerk or ignoring the guides, but in the sense that I keep my eyes open and find ways that expand the story of the place beyond the popular or iconic views. You know how much I love a trail shot, so this is totally me, but in a new and really fabulous location.

Also, processing was an interesting challenge with this and the next Badlands photo. Since adding Photoshop to my workflow I’ve used the TK8 Plug In created by Tony Kuyper. As I get more familiar with the tools and effects that can be produced by using the masking techniques and other actions, I can get the type of look I want with any shot. Particularly with these two I wanted to sculpt the light in order to bring more modeling to the landscape. To bring a bit of 3D to a 2D art form.


I like this one for the sweep of both cloud and landscape and how they seem to mimic each other. We got to each location with a lot of time for us to consult the guides and explore possibilities for composition on our own and that’s what I did here. Having other people jockeying for some of the same positions and not being a jerk meant it was somewhat limiting, but since the scenery is so magnificent no matter where you look, it’s not hard to find what works. That little bit of a leading line and the vertical orientation gave me what I think is a pretty distinctive slice of this amazing landscape.

There blossoms dawn

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Extending my fieldwork vision through my processing! Translating what I saw with my eyes to what I see on the screen. Light sculpting and bracketing on site gave me gorgeous tonalities to work with.


The Roman philosopher Seneca famously wrote that ‘luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’ and while that can be said of many photos in this post, I’m going to park it here because in a very big way, this heron gave me my opportunity. I was paddling hard and fast back for the boat launch because it was getting late and I had an hour drive ahead of me after I’d loaded the kayak. Despite my hurry and flurry, this bird landed very close to the kayak just ahead of me. I remember actually thinking that it was just a GBH and I already have good photos of them so I wouldn’t stop. Then I noticed the light and told myself to stop being lazy and get the shot. Again I didn’t take a zillion photos in a spray and pray burst of enthusiasm. I waited until it wasn’t in front of a big tree and when the breeze blew up those head feathers – I got it.

Evening breeze

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

That not being lazy pays off. Not only that, but my processing skills are improving so that I made what was already a pretty fine photo into an even better one. I carefully and painstakingly masked the bird so I could blur the background a bit more. Today’s selection tools in Photoshop are far better and easier, especially where that flip of feather is, but I made the old ones do and it really gives it final bit of polish.


July

If you want a really in-depth analysis of this photo, go back to the post I wrote when I shot it. Mostly it’s a tale of right place, right time and that I gave it one more try.

A quick rinse

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

That sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get a prince. Failure and bad photos are what teach you the lessons you need to learn to get the shot. Don’t let it wear you down. It’s part of the deal. Persistence and giving it one more try got me this one. That and tweaking my technology to tilt the odds in my favor.


August

More than once people, mostly non-photographers, have asked me how the heck I see the stuff I do in the woods. While I am proud of my ability to see patterns and especially disrupted patterns, I can’t say that it was an easy skill to develop. When I first became obsessed by very small things I know a lot probably passed me by. After many years though, I’ve trained my brain to see what I’m looking for. Try it with mushrooms sometime. Once you see one, then a few, dozens seem to materialize right before your eyes. Call it confirmation bias or whatever you like, it’s a talent humans are good at. Each spring it takes an hour or so in the woods before my brain snaps back to attention so that I can see the small wonders around me.

Like this snail and its crazy yoga pose. It’s only about an inch long including the shell, but I saw it. And I thought it was dead, but it wasn’t and despite staying like this for long enough for me to make a 15-image stack with an external light source, it did eventually move and hopefully wasn’t eaten once I left it alone.

Snail yoga

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

The LED panel I used really makes this shot because the sidelight brings up so much texture and detail that would be lost without it. Taking a slower and using a more deliberate method of crafting a nature photo is something I’m working on every time I go out. I’m terribly proud of this shot.


Here’s this beautiful creature. Another completely serendipitous encounter with a special animal. The rare and gorgeous Wood turtle. Despite the harsh light and that a pontoon boat came by twice, I really like this photo because I could get very close (the pontooners taught me that) and get away from a distracting background.

We meet again?

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Well it taught me that this is actually a male. If you look closely you can see the plastron is depressed. Only male Wood turtles have this since they are the ones that have to climb on the backs of their mates whose shells are as tall and bumpy as theirs. So the plastron changed its shape to accommodate. Good thing, too, since we need all the baby Woodies we can get.


It’s rare that two photos from the same day make the list, but soon after my Wood turtle encounter, I found some otters and one of them wasn’t too shy to give me some delightful poses on what is probably a favorite perch. It was very hard to pick just one, so if you missed them the first time, or just want more otter cuteness, click here for the original post.

Playful otter

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Because I got to spend something like 10 or 15 minutes with it, I learned about otter behavior which you can also read about in the original post. I again learned that I need to stay prepared for anything. When I first came upon these guys I had my camera ready, but they spooked and I didn’t get off a shot. Back in the bag the camera went and I almost didn’t take it out at all when I met up with them again. But when this one hung around I made the effort and as it turned out to be one of the best wildlife moments I’ve ever had.


Oh this is a special little beauty – the Cuckoo wasp. They are quite common in my yard and when I noticed this female flittering around the deck I tried several times to get near her, but she wasn’t having any. I kept an eye on her anyway and look what she let me do –

Cuckoo wasp

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Well that persistence, once again, pays off. But it also taught me more about stacking. Handheld isn’t the best starting point for most stacks, but sometimes it’s the only way. By bracing my wrist/hand on the deck railing I could hold steady as the wee wasp quivered and quaked. Zerene was able to stack the shots and align them for the most part, but it’s my dedication to retouching that makes it work even if it isn’t perfect.


September

This one is just flat out great. I worked at it. Cleaning the scene. Moving the camera. Trying different angles. Taking many shots in more than one bracketing session. All just to make sure I had enough to work with. Plus my best friend since I was 10 years old was with me and off discovering more shroomy goodness and I could hear her oohing and ahhing off to my right the whole time.

Amanita flavoconia

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

To be patient even if your friend is jumping up and down trying to get you to come look at yet more amazing mushrooms. Ha! She knew I was onto something and wasn’t as bad as all that, but a bunch of horses and their riders came by while I was setting up and I nearly had to start all over. But even when I had what I thought was the perfect shot, the astute photographers at NPN helped me make it the best it can be.


Hope you’re not sick of little yellow mushrooms. This one is just adorable. Pristine and perfectly posed. With sporophytes! I remember seeing it while doing some bracketing for something else. I nearly broke off and raced over, but held myself in check.

Standing in the light of love

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

That the first try might not be the right one. And to make sure I get enough shots for stacking in the field. This had such a perfectly soft background that I positioned and repositioned the tripod to make sure I got something I could work with.


September

Remember this little cutie? Oh me, too. Me too. I’d never photographed a porcupine this well before and might never do again, but it was very special while it lasted. The time I spent with this young porcupette made me realize how vulnerable they are and its tolerating me for so long was quite humbling. I didn’t exactly have its life in my hands, but if I’d been a different kind of person I could have certainly made its life harder. Although what kind of a jerk like that would be doing in the woods is anyone’s guess. To get the full experience, click here for the original post.

Oh that face!

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

Wildlife photographers universally say that knowing your subject is the key to getting good images. I knew a thing or two about porcupines and put that knowledge to use in order to maximize my time with this one and to get me the excellent photos I came away with. That and my patience and wonder at being in its poky little presence.


If you read my many mushroom posts this year, it won’t surprise you that a few made it to the Best list. This one of a group of Entoloma abortivum is one of the finest fungi photos I’ve ever done. First because it’s different and second because I deliberately made it differently than most of my other mushroom work. It’s about intent and execution and carrying that through the editing process which is a critical component to extend your vision all the way from start to finish.

Pseudocide

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

That I really need to do this more often! My literal, documentary style works for most things, but it doesn’t always capture the essence of a subject. This does quite well and it’s so intriguing and unusual.


I’m so glad I went back to the Pine river this year and plan to make more trips in future. Especially to this tree above Meyers Falls. I really wished the color had been more advanced, but you take what you can get. The composition here is really strong and I’m glad I persisted with trying to get it right despite the difficulty.

Can’t get close to you

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

I’m not sure that it taught me anything particularly except maybe for some Lightroom techniques for making the most of fall color.


October

More Pine River goodness, except up at Breakwater Falls. Oh how I wish this river wasn’t 2 1/2 hours away from the house. But it is and what made this trip even better was a meetup with another photographer that I’d only known online for a while. It’s always a risk to see how your photographic styles will work together, but this was a success and we’ve been out once more after this session. What I like about this shot is the low and in your face aspect of it. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been obsessed by rivers, streams and waterfalls. Plus we hit fall foliage peak!

Breakwater cascade

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

That I need to go where the shot is. To make the effort. Tall boots help. I may get waders to do more now that I have a wicked tall tripod. But I need to trust my instincts, be brave (but not foolish) and get out there. Get low and close and get the shot.


December

Here’s a little teaser on an upcoming post, but I can’t help myself and since I came down with Covid just before the end of the year, I didn’t get out to shoot in December except once. Am feeling mostly better as I write this, but still have an annoying cough!

 

What did it teach me? How did it advance my photography?

To be prepared. If I hadn’t brought my long telephoto lens, I’d have been ill-equipped to take advantage of this beauty 20 feet up in a roadside tree. I didn’t even have to leave the car! Stay tuned for a full write up of my encounter and more photos.


Well that was easy! Actually, it kind of was. I usually agonize over the picks, but this year some were so obvious that it all just fell into place. It’s a lot of photos, but my rules, I make ’em up!

These photos are collected in this Gallery and you can view previous year’s Galleries as well. Happy 2023 everyone!

 

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2 thoughts on “Best of 2022

Add yours

  1. What a great write up Andy fantastic selection of images. I particularly like your minimalist image from winter and also the close ups of the mushrooms. Now I am looking forward to seeing more of your work in 2023. Happy shooting 👍

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