It’s 2019 and it is off to interesting start. More on this in a future blog.

At the beginning of a new year, it is a common practice to reflect on accomplishments of the year past. Today, I decided to reflect on my photographic accomplishments by selecting my best photos of 2018.

I took a lot of photos in 2018, some of them are even good. Just because they are good doesn’t mean they are a personal favorite. So, how did I cull 11,527 photos I took in 2018 to a mere few? Being a computer scientist, I did what computer scientists do, I came up with an algorithm. My algorithm is simple look at each photo and make sure I could say “yes” for each of the following rules:

  1. The photo must be captured in 2018.
  2. The photo must be MY personal favorite. I cannot look at social media to see which ones were your favorites. I cannot ask Kathryn if she liked them. And, my mother’s inputs were summarily rejected.
  3. When I look at the photo, I react to it with a strong emotion.

That’s it.  Only three rules. Was the task of selecting my favorites of 2018 easy? Far from it. It’s amazing how many photos of mine I love. Anyway, after much deliberation, here it goes. Here are my favorites from 2018. Drum roll please!

Perhaps my favorite of the year. We were in Grand Teton National Park, a little past sunrise. The mountains had nice light, a bit before the midday sun would cast harsh shadows. There was a cloud inversion which is a rare sight, at least for the pronghorn pictured above. I look at this photo and I love the male pronghorn (nice light on his coat) gazing at the mountain and inversion. What is he thinking?
There are many reasons why I love this photo. I love the early morning light on the traditional London red bus. I love how there are virtually no pedestrians (maybe I should have photoshopped out the one I can see?). I love the curved arch that frames the far tower of London Tower Bridge. But, I especially loved the process of getting this photo (you can read about it here: London Not Like it used to be).
This photo was taken in Iceland just outside the small town of Vik (pronounced “week”). I look at this photo, and I remember how amazing the purple sky became just after sunset. It was so vibrant that the white foam from the waves became mauve. I stood there amazed at how beautiful the scene was. (You can read more about this evening here: Timing is Everything)
This photo was taken in Iceland on the famous Diamond Beach a little past sunrise. This was not the “best” photo I took that morning, but it was my favorite. I was very fortunate to capture the sunburst, the sun lighting the icebergs on the black sand beach, and the wave crashing over an iceberg. The scene was amazing. You can read more about this morning’s shoot here: Even the Best Laid Plans)
This photo was taken at White Sands National Monument of a tree I became fascinated with. As with the photo above, it was not the “best” shot I took during our photo shoots, but it was my favorite. Why? It’s all about the light. The time was after sunset, right in the middle of the blue hour. Everything glowed. The sand glowed. The sticks glowed. And, my tree glowed. You can read more about this photo shoot here: The Many Faces of Tree)

Well, that’s it. My favorite five photos of 2018. It wasn’t easy as I had to leave out a few very nice photos, photos that are better constructed than some of the ones above.

As a bonus, here are three of the photos left on the cutting room floor. If the goal was to pick the five “best” photos I took in 2018, these three might have made the cut.

This photo was taken in Iceland at Glacier Lagoon, which is a tourist highlight. It was sunset and the sky was a beautiful orange, reflecting on the lake. I like how this photo is constructed with a nice foreground element (small iceberg), mid ground element (bigger icebergs), and background element (shadowy mountains with beautiful sky). Although everyone I showed this photo gave me the requisite “ooooh”, it doesn’t evoke a strong enough emotion for me.
While hiking on the Isle of Man, fog descended upon us. As we walked further and further, the more lost we became. Luckily, in the middle of nowhere, we came across a phone booth. Unfortunately, we had no change. Quite surreal! That was the caption I used when submitting this photo to a contest. It was selected (the photo, not the caption) for exhibit in their gallery. This was tough one to leave off the final five.
This photo was shot the same morning as the photo with the waves crashing over the iceberg. In many respects it is a better photo. The light is better. The sky is better. The iceberg is beautifully backlit. When I took this photo, I knew it was going to be good. But, this photo was more mechanical. I made sure all the elements would work. The other photo was more of an emotional reaction to the scene. Emotional beats out mechanical – this time.

Finally, this photo makes me laugh every time I look at it.  I remember standing among many buffalo. They had surrounded us, giving us only one thing to do – photograph them. I kept turning around, slowing panning my surroundings, firing away. Then, I came across this buffalo, and it made me laugh. A week or so later we arrived in Michigan to visit with Kathryn’s family. Knowing we just came from a photo adventure, we were asked to show what we took. This photo quickly became a favorite of Kathryn’s Aunt Trudy. Every hour or so she would come up to me and say, “show me that photo of that buffalo!” Even with that great feedback, it wasn’t enough to make the final cut. Or, even the just-missed set.

Aunt Trudy, do you still like this one?

What do you think about my favorites for 2018? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Remember, it’s all about the light!