Last year I started a "Best of" (insert year here) having the goal of selecting my 10 best photographs for any particular year. This forced me to ruthlessly edit my work. Other photographers who have started their own "Best of" alluded to the difficulty of the editing process and I share their angst. Last year, when I selected my favorites for 2012 I came up with 27 photographs (and I could have doubled that) and through an editing process that included a fair amount of cheating and absolving responsibility I ended up with 17 photographs. These 17 photographs formed my "Best of 2012" with a mixture of color, black and white, digital and film based photographs.
I had thought that 2013 was a 'down year' for my photography but how short the memory is! How could I possibly have forgotten my trips to the Lake District in England, to Peru and the fabulous Galapagos Islands, not to mention my hikes in Colorado and annual sojourn to Mexico. I also visited Portugal but found it disappointing for the type of photography I prefer. Perhaps that trip is what prompted me to think of 2013 as a 'down' year? However, when I factored in all of my trips (and still edited ruthlessly) I ended up with no less than 36 photographs for 2013. Let me assure you that I had the hardest time refining my selection but I wanted to present a variety of locations, themes and techniques. While many of the images may seem plain and uninspiring I feel compelled to remind you that this is MY selection and it is based on things that are important to me. That may not translate to the spectacular. I always find myself selecting images that represent the beginnings of new and interesting creative directions, or work that adds to my favorite themes.
All of my selected photographs for 2013 are in color and were taken with a digital camera. It's getting harder and harder to travel with my bulky medium format film cameras, especially in light of more stringent weight restrictions for checked and carry on airline baggage. I promise that 2014 will see a partial return to black and white film based work - that is assuming that I don't tip my cameras into the ocean (again).
I have included 20 photographs in my final, final cut (so I guess I failed again).
So here they are, for better or for worse and in no particular order, the best color shots of 2013.
Denver Broncos vs NY Giants, 15th September
We had some troubles with our TV reception after switching from cable to dish. The result was variable screen pixelation. With the distortion increasing to a crescendo over a 5-10 second period. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise (the game was taped) so I could stop the action at any time. By careful use of the TV remote control I waited for the pixelation to be 'just right' then photographed the screen. What you see above is the result and, to my jaundiced eye, it's really quite fascinating. By the way, the Broncos won this game, paving the way to one of their best regular seasons in many years.
Screen shot photography is something I would like to pursue (as the Viagra ad says) - when the moment is right.
As the game progressed there were the usual masses of interruptions for advertisements. More opportunities for on-screen photography! Luckily, World of Warcraft was advertising on a regular basis that day and after taking a number of screen shots I finally settled on the photograph below as my second selection for 2013:
World of Warcraft - Call of Duty, 15th September
And now for something completely different. Down in the Baja California of Mexico in late January I stumbled upon two things while out for my morning exercise. Stumbling across new things after 12+ years of seeing the same place is one of lifes' great pleasures. The first thing was a newly planted cactus garden that is to form part of a resort expansion scheme. Strangely, the garden appeared to have been left untended for months, probably as a result of tightening financial conditions. Nonetheless the cacti were quite beautiful and so I returned later in the day with my camera and spent a pleasant hour in the garden. With a little bit of care in the framing and just a touch of edge softening the beauty of this Agave plant is enhanced even more as shown in the photograph below:
Agave Plant, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 30th January
The second thing I discovered on my walks was a spectacularly beautiful bay. The Bay has a sandy beach and amazing highly weathered granite outcroppings. Pacific waves crash onto the rocks with great ferocity in this area so that no swimming is allowed. I was fortunate to find a lone fisherman braving the ocean swells in his quest to land the big one. I made a series of exposures from above the bay but never descended into it because I had not told my wife where I was going and I knew that I would be 'in trouble' if I dallied much longer. So, 'The Bay' will cause me to return once more to the sun soaked shores of the Baja - probably in 2014.
The Bay #4, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 1st February
The winter of 2013 was not a particularly bad one in terms of inclement weather, but as usual Denver got several good falls of snow as the season progressed. February is traditionally one of the coldest and "wintriest" months of the year and this February past was no different. When confined to the house I find that the best place to photograph is right outside the back door. This clump of summer weeds had persisted for as long as possible before succumbing to the cold but it still retained a magical beauty in its simple form. I caught it on a day when the thick cover of snow simplified everything and in the image below there is just the black bit and the white stuff. How simple is that!
Winter Foliage in Snow, 26th February
We made a trip to Vail during March when the weather was frigidly cold and snowy. I am perversely glad that my ailing back no longer allows me to ski without pain, so while Carol was off skiing and whooping it up, I walked around, camera in hand looking for snowy scenes. I ran across this one in East Vail and I have included it because it was one of the first images that I post-processed using the updated On One Perfect Effects software. This type of extreme post- processing is not to everyone�s taste but, in this case I think it worked well.
Winter, Vail, 10th March
I have started to take annual photography trips to the UK, usually in the spring when the tourist numbers are less and the hotels are cheaper! The destination doesn�t have to be the UK but I try to visit places that I have never been to and always wanted to visit, or I visit places that I have been to before but want to revisit. The UK naturally has a number of such places (since I grew up there) so, for the time being this is my destination of choice. After visiting the far northwest of Scotland in 2012 I returned to the Lake District in 2013 and was blessed with good weather following on from some really nasty winter storms. I was shocked to find that hardy Brits seem to be undeterred by whatever nature throws at them. Perhaps I have become softer with age or the ambient climate of Denver. I spent a serene week wandering around the lower fells and searching for some hitherto unknown locations and was rewarded with some (in my humble opinion) good shots. I present a few of them below. The first is Cathedral Quarry in Langdale where slate was mined during the last century. Cathedral Quarry has a vast underground chamber supported by a rugged pillar of multicolored slate. By judicious use of HDR photography the colors are superbly brought out.
Cathedral Quarry, Langdale, Cumbria, 2nd April
The walk to the top of Great Calva really tested me in the wintry conditions. I waded through snow that was knee deep in places but it was all worth it as I got some great shots on the way up. The photograph below is as near to black and white as one can get without it actually being black and white:
Skiddaw from near Great Calva, 30th March
"and another shot taken at the summit of Great Calva"
Great Calva Looking Northeast, 30th March
I love pictures of the ocean. I sometimes think that it's my primitive common ancestor calling to me from the deep. I have a series called "Seascapes" (and another called "Skyscapes" but both series feature dominantly skies). The photograph below has been added to my "Seascapes" series. It's a pleasantly simple yet textural composition taken on a frigidly cold day at St Bees in Cumbria. I was wrapped up to the nines to keep the cold out. Just out of the frame kids were playing and rolling on the ground with their parents happily looking on. These Brits are tough!
Ocean and Beach, St Bees, Cumbria, 31st March
This would hardly be a "Best of" series without at least two images taken from my fabled back patio. I have made a lot of photographs from this patio over the years and they never fail to please me with the everchanging Colorado light. This photograph was taken at dusk with a slow shutter speed of 107 seconds at f8.
Front Range, Colorado, 3rd May
This brings me to the Galapagos Islands and Peru. While I have a stack of pleasing images from these places I have had to whittle it down to just three. Boo Hoo. The good news is that I made a Blurb book full of my images from the Galapagos Islands - about 80 in all. You can buy it if you have the money. Thought not.
I have to admit to you that the Galapagos journey was the greatest of my life (and I've been around the block). There is something about being THAT CLOSE to the animals without having them run away in fear - and what stunning animals they are. I fell in love with the Boobies (well, who doesn't love Boobies!) and managed to get this neat shot of a Nazca Booby against the clear blue sky from a distance of 8 feet or so. The Nazca Boobies have grey feet and red beaks. The Blue Footed Boobies naturally have blue feet and grey beaks. The Red footed Boobies have - you guessed it, red feet and blue beaks.
My second Galapagos photograph is of a Great Blue Heron standing in a tidal pool at the ocean edge. The colors have been added by me for effect. There, I admit it. Both these images have been given away to charity.
Nazca Booby, Espanola, 14th May
Great Blue Heron, Genovesa, 18th May
We travelled to Peru for one obvious reason. Machu Picchu was high on our "bucket list". It did not disappoint us but our trip to Peru was a bit too organized for our liking. If we return, it will be with a more flexible itinerary. Naturally I got the standard (and very spectacular) views of Machu Picchu but this image with the seedling bed in the foreground was more interesting and unusual. I especially like the way the seedling grid has been shaped around the little rock. I still do not know what type of seedlings were being propagated.
Seedlings, Machu Picchu, 22nd May
As I mentioned earlier, Portugal did not produce the type of images that get my juices flowing but I am at pains to point out that Portugal itself was not the problem. It�s a beautiful country, but once again we thought that the itinerary was too inflexible for our liking (well it was a river boat cruise up the Douro so we could hardly have expected more). There are some abstract images that I may later incorporate into some triptychs that I am working on so I do have that to look forward to. The only image I include here is, strangely enough, not from Portugal but is from Salamanca in Spain. We visited Salamanca as the end location of our voyage up the Douro River. Salamanca is a lovely small city - a UNESCO world heritage site and its cathedral is spectacular. One needs to look upwards to really get an idea of its grandiose character.
Salamanca Cathedral, Spain, 5th September
Back in sunny Colorado we had the opportunity for a brief visit (barely an hour) to Maroon Bells near Aspen. This spectacular mountain area is the most photographed in the United States and for good reason. The classic postcard view has the Maroon Bells reflected in Maroon Lake. My view shows a strong foreground rock in a small pond that lies about 1 mile up the trail. Of course, those magnificent fall colors only add to the scene. I was so pleased to find this spot that I include this postcard worthy image among my "best of" for 2013. I was also glad to "bag" this spot on such a beautiful day and at such short notice. Oh, how I would have liked a few extra hours there.
Still in Colorado, I have a series of color and black and white photographs of nearby Clear Creek. The photographs have been taken over the last several years. I recently found an area that I had been previously unaware of and was lucky enough to catch some white water on a day after heavy rainfall. By using a neutral density filter I could use a slower shutter speed and record movement in the water. I include 2 photographs from this area. I especially like that little, round, wedged in stone in the second image.
Maroon Bells, Colorado, 30th September
Clear Creek Rapids #5, Colorado, 30th September
Clear Creek Red Algae, Colorado, 30th September
For my last two photographs I am staying in Colorado and I think that is appropriate. The first photograph is a panorama of the foothills as seen from my patio. While I have many photographs of this view, this was a very interesting flat grey sky that was nonetheless full of texture. It is unusual in Colorado (300 days of sunshine per year) to see a sky like this.
Grey Clouds over Foothills, Colorado, 4th November
For my final offering I have decide on another of those heavily processed photographs using On One Perfect Effects Software. Starting in the fall, I hiked several local trails including the famous Dinosaur Ridge. This tree was sitting atop the ridge in lonely splendor. While the straight photographic presentation of the tree is nice I felt it deserved something more - so here it is:
Dinosaur Ridge #3, version1, Colorado, 7th November
That's it for 2013. Looking forward to the New Year. Hope you are too.