It’s a bit past Dec 31 but still early enough in the new year to call this a reflection the past year’s photos. Since many of the photos come from the sailing trip, I can say this exercise is a look at where we’ve been and where we are going, both metaphorically and physically.
This task started while reading a photo blog by Martin Bailey, a well known wildlife and landscape photographer. Each year he goes through an exercise of paring down photos taken during the year to a top ten, starting from tens of thousands. It sounded like an interesting experiment so I started in on the task too.
I started by looking back over my own 7554 photographs taken last year. I use Adobe’s Lightroom to catalog and edit photos. My pictures are primarily ordered by date so I started at January 2015 and went forward month by month. In Grid mode I get about 15 thumbnails on the screen at a time so the scan goes reasonably quickly. I created a new collection set for this exercise called Best of 2015. Within that set were multiple collections called 1st Picks, 2nd picks, 3rd pick and so on through 6th pick.
I wanted a record of the selection process, so each successive pass whittled the number of selected images down. Making each new collection a target collection means I only need press the ‘b’ key to add a picture from the present collection to the next. When I was finished with the first pass, I had selected 187 pictures. They were all my favorites so getting down to 10 was going to be a painful task. In the 6th Pick were 13 images, still not 10. Martin Bailey comments:
“I honestly find it really sad to remove any photo from these selections, but as difficult as this process can be, I really do think it’s an important process for a photographer to undertake at least once a year, to help us to become better editors of our work. By editing, I don’t meaning modifying the individual image, I mean the act of editing down a selection to a finite number.”
I never made it to ten, I got to 13 and called it quits. It’s was very hard to remove pictures from each collection. Much harder than I expected. I found trying to separate the memories of moments when the picture was taken from the photographic qualities of the images themselves was near impossible. The two are intertwined in my head. Someone else not at the scene when the image was taken would have a more impartial attitude but then, these are my picks, the responsibility belongs to me, and I’m stuck with ambivalence. So be it. To help untangle experiential memory from photographic quality and artistic merit I decided to write a short paragraph about each image to see if that brought any enlightenment to the process. We traveled all through Central America during 2015, so the year was filled with fond travel memories.
These images are to me more than just a travelogue of the trip, but also memories: of people and wonderful times, as well as attempts to take interesting pictures. Looking back on these images, I’m quickly making decisions to discard or add the picture to the ‘best list’ looking at a photo at the same time I’m remembering being there. I think I ended up with picks based on artistic merit, but when it gets down to the details and final selections it’s tough to be unbiased impartial and unemotional. I’m not selecting an image because someone else likes it, these are my picks and others might make different decisions. In the next few years I’ll repeat the process each year, note the changes and hopefully see a growth (or at least change) in this personal journey to become a better photographer.
You can click (double click) on any of the pictures to see them larger in a separate page .
So without further ado here are the top 13 with some comments (in no particular order):
- Homeless Camp. This image is not a beautiful image to look at. But it is a reminder there are less lucky people nearby. This homeless camp is along a main road in Portland. The tents and sleeping bags sit next to one of Portland’s main roads in the middle of a city and not far from where I’m comfortably sitting in my living room. I made this picture with the car blurred to create the sense of motion to help imply the noisy and frenetic place where these people live. I think B&W gives the picture more authenticity.
The picture was taken with a Canon 7d with a 24-105mm lens set at 40mm at 1/30th sec at f/5. ISO was 500.
The first thing that strikes me about this image is the size contrast between the structure and the man. This is obviously a large building and built to impress. The second thing I like is the man’s thoughtful, lonesome pose. What was he thinking about? It’s an image of contrasts , large building small person, big thoughts. I also liked the isolated feeling of the space in spite of it being inside the city.
Converted to B&W using Adobe Lightroom.
Portland, Oregon. The picture was taken with a Canon 7d with a 70-200mm lens set at 70mm. The shutter was 1/500 sec at f/71. and ISO 1600.
I like the ambiguity of the family on the isolated rural dirt road with no civilization within sight. The whole area is gypsum and the road is cut out of that rock. I like the white road leading the eye back into the distance and the fog/low clouds obscuring the mountains.
Canon 7d 24-105 lens @ 105mm , ISO 200 f/8 1/400sec
I felt the verdant green distracted from the basic shapes and textures.
Without knowing where this is located one understands this was once a significant man-made structure . It certainly looks military, intuited by the massiveness of the structure. You also know immediately that the structure is not used by man anymore being taken back by nature and the jungle. Fort Sherman was the US military’s base of operations to protect the Panama Canal. After the canal was handed back to Panama The site was used for jungle training then abandon. It is now used by bats and Howler monkeys as home. The stairs provide the main path for the eye to explore the picture. Fort Sherman, Panama
Canon 7d 10-22mm lens @22mm. ISO 2000 1/40 sec and f/8.
Kayak at sunset. I like images that show man alone in nature. In this case the man obviously appreciates the sunset and for a few quiet moments alone at the end of the work day. The image was taken in Golifito, Costa Rica and this individual paddled out each day after work to catch a few fish and relax before heading to bed. Even without being told the story the picture tells it all.
Canon 7d 24-104 lens @ 105mm. ISO was 500 , shutter: 1/320 sec and f/10
In the next blog entry I will finish the remaining seven.