Some Of My Favorite Photographs Of 2014 – An Essay

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I’m going to do something a little different to keep you on your toes, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite shots that I’ve taken this year and tell you a little about what motivated me and what I would/will do differently the next time around.  These may not be the best shots I’ve taken this year but they are a small selection of my favorite ones.

I’m not going to talk about camera settings or gear either, if you’d like to know specifics you can leave a comment at the end of the article.  I’m finding that the cameras settings don’t mean jack if you aren’t in front of something interesting.

I don’t intend for this article to sound pompous or in any way infer that I think my photography is the best around, quite the opposite actually.  I am writing to share my thoughts on some of the photography that, this year, I felt was some of my favorite work.  If you recognize some of these shots from previous articles that is because I do 99% of the photography for PhotolisticLife and have probably used them in various articles.

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I felt like this photograph was as good as any to begin the journey of reflecting on my photography of 2014.  It reminds me that there are still some great shots to be had in locations close to home.  This shot was instrumental in 2014 for a number of reasons but the most profound was that it proved, once again, that I didn’t need to travel to some far off place to find interesting shots.  If we are being honest, many of us fall into the train of thought that we have photographed everything around us so what’s the point of picking up the camera unless we are going someplace new.

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I liked this shot because of the color, lighting, and simplicity.  The greens came out perfectly and the pattern of the ferns along the path, though complex in and of themselves, actually make the scene less complex.  They cover all the chaos that usually lies on the ground in a forest.  The light and dark areas in the image work really well together, giving the image a sort of mysterious “let’s go and see what’s around the bend” feeling to me.

Would Do Differently

I have and will continue to visit this area to see how different times of the day impact the lighting and try to find an even better version of this shot.  I would also enjoy coming back here on a hot summer evening and capture the light trails of lightning bugs as they meander around the path.  Perhaps capturing a person hiking along the trail would add some context to the photograph.

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I’ll sprinkle in some of my Street Photography because I spent the better part of this year focusing on it. I didn’t start the year off intending to focus on Street Photography but as I worked on a Street Photography series for PhotolisticLife my passion for this style of photography grew. I found that I enjoyed capturing the human condition and I never ran out of subjects. I also like the challenge that is Street Photography. Taking a photograph of a stranger in the street is easy, capturing quality Street Photography is a true challenge that eludes most.

The shot above was taken outside of the New York Public Library in, you guessed it, New York City. Sadly, the man was homeless and seemed like he may have had some mental issues going on as well. This shot made me sad and I wanted to capture it in a way that conveyed that to viewers (that part was not difficult) as well as held viewers attention (much more difficult). What good is an image meant to tell a story if you can’t get anyone to stick around long enough to “read” it?

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For me, the pigeons are what anchor a viewers eyes to this image. The pigeon in mid-flight, contrasted against the light-colored wall, grabs my attention and directs my gaze to the man. The direction of the flying pigeon, towards the homeless mans, implies a flight path (much like a leading line) right towards the man.

Would Do Differently

I’d like to have spent more time with this subject, the amount of pigeons kept changing and I think more pigeons would have made the image more interesting. I also think catching more pigeons in the air would have looked interesting. Getting closer to the subject was not really an option for a couple of reasons…. First, I was not sure how he would react. Second, I felt like getting too close could make him feel uncomfortable and at the end of the day I want to capture the human condition not make it worse.

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This year was my best Landscape Photography year I’ve had yet, I’m not entirely sure why but I would venture to guess it’s just a natural learning curve that every photographer follows.  I wouldn’t say I visited anywhere out of the ordinary and I certainly didn’t spend a ton of time on Landscape Photography like I had in previous years.  I won’t even mention my gear because that has little to no impact on my abilities to compose an image.

The shot above was taken in the Adirondacks in New York State on Lake George.  I had to submerge my tripod in the lake in about 2 feet of water and hope that the passing boats waves didn’t knock my $5,000 worth of camera and lens into the drink (don’t worry, I had my hands next to it as if I was waiting for someone to drop a newborn baby).

I wish I could say I had some incredible motivation to take this shot but in all honesty it was the only place I could climb down the steep hill next to the lake.  I did use a ND filter to make the water look like glass and reflect the beautiful sky colors and the shadows of the trees.

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There are a few reasons why this photograph stand out to me as one of my favorite shots this year, color, reflections, and clarity.  The color in the photograph is not a Photoshop adjustment, the shot was taken during “Blue Hour” and that is why it looks more blue.  The reflections of the color and trees was made possible by using a ND filter to make the water look as though it was glass.

Would Do Differently

If I ever visit this same spot again I would like to try this same shot on a clear day and see if I can get some stars in the sky after the sun has gone down.  This is one of those shots you could do over and over again, day after day, to see how different colors and weather patterns impact the quality of the shot.

I think if I do return to Lake George I will skip this area all together and head to one of the many small islands and find much more interesting landscapes.  I have a few shots in my mind that would look incredible in this area, you are far enough away from any large towns that Landscape Astrophotography would be stellar here (pun intended).

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This shot is called A New York Minute, it was as deliberate as photographs come.  It took me a few tries to get the shutter speed exactly where I wanted it to blur the cab just enough that you could still recognize it but knew it was moving quickly.  The shot was taken very early in the morning before Times Square was bustling with thousands of people.  The idea was that I would catch a cab moving quickly with a little blur to give the impression that the city is always moving quickly.  Did I achieve this?

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I like the color, the emphasis is on the yellow cab which would not stand out as much in a black and white version of this image (I know, I tried).  The cross walk walks a fine line with me…  On one side it enhances the image because of its neat pattern but on the other it comes close to competing with the cab for attention.  Either way, I like it in the image as it draws your eyes forward and then around to the left over the cross walk towards the yellow cab.

Would Do Differently

More people!  I think capturing this same photograph with more people crossing the road directly in front of me would have looked neat and would have added to the “bustling city” vibe.  I really wish I would have lowered the camera about two feet and got a shot closer to the ground (I do this often and am surprised I didn’t think to do it).  Changing the perspective like that could have really improved the shot (perhaps).

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This is hands down my favorite Street Photography shot of 2014.  I captured this photograph at the end of a rather long photo walk through Pittsburgh, it’s one of those photographs that I think of when I’m ready to call it a day and need motivation to push on just a little further.

This is one of those situations where if you were looking for it you’d never find it but because I had my camera I was prepared for the unexpected.  What’s that quote by Seneca?

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

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Very little editing went into this photograph, the colors were spot on and I couldn’t ask for better contrast between the subject and it’s surroundings.  The color of the statue, red, really helps to draw emphasis to the boy sleeping on it.  I really like the irony of the photograph as well, if you look close you can see the camera laying on his legs.  The Street Photographer becomes the subject of a great Street Photograph…  Almost like a painter walking right into his canvas and becoming part of his painting.

Would Do Differently

This is one of my favorite shots of 2014 and I think it’s pretty close to exactly what I want but there is always room for improvement.  I would liked to have gotten closer but part of me thinks it would not have been as dynamic because more of the statue would have been cut off and that is something that really adds to the image.  Perhaps the angle could have been adjusted to where more of the resting photographers face would have been shown.

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The only thing more difficult than Street Photography to me is Landscape Astrophotography.  This shot was a “selfie” taken by setting the camera’s shutter delay to 10 or so seconds in order for me to run out to the other end of the dock.  This shot was taken at Kiawah Island in South Carolina while visiting there with my family.

The motivation for this shot came from seeing some beautiful shots of photographers with headlamps in the mountains shining into the stars.  Many of my photographs begin with inspiration from other great photographs.  I often draw inspiration from other paintings or photography that interest me.  The key is to allow others work to inspire you and putting your own spin on it rather than trying to copy it.

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I take pride in the minimal editing I do as a photographer, this picture is no different.  This isn’t a combination of shots, there are no Photoshop layers here.  The noise was reduced and there were some other minor adjustments to clarity, shadows, exposure, etc..  I love the vast number of stars and their reflections on the river as well as the mixture of light throughout the image (see the reflection of the LED light on the dock).  This is easily one of my favorite shots I’ve taken, not only this year but ever.

Would Do Differently

I’d like to play around with the composition next time around, maybe be a little closer to the camera.  A clearer night would eliminate the light pollution you see over the distant island but I’m not sure I would do away with that…  I am on the fence.  Part of me would like to see how it would look but the other part feels like it introduces a little warmth into an image with a lot of cooler tones.

The camera was fairly low to the dock in this image but I would like to try lowering it even further to change the perspective.  Normally I would spend a lot more time playing with different perspectives but the bugs were biting I had gotten up very early to capture some morning fog burning off at the beach.

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This image has made it onto my wall above my television in my living room…  I just loved this shot.  I loved taking it and I still love looking at it.  The shot takes me back to a carefree time and reminds me not to take life to seriously.  It’s also proof that Street Photography doesn’t have to happen on the street.

I woke up early one morning and checked the weather, the night before had been foggy and I was hoping it was still around.  Luckily, the fog was dense and it stuck around long enough for me capture this shot.  This was one of those situations where preparation met opportunity.  I noticed the woman riding her bike towards me while I was photographing the flock of birds she tried to murder with her bike, luck had it that she veered off course to have a little fun at the birds expense.

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I really like the feeling this photograph gives, the story it tells can be any ones story.  The fog plus the black and white processing really brings out the emotion in the image.  I also like the larger bird flying towards the center of the frame, almost as if it’s the bird the bike rider is after.

Would Do Differently

There was not a whole lot I could do differently, the moment was there one second and gone the next.  I do wish I would have knelt down and tried a lower perspective, one from the birds point of view.  Perhaps a zoom lens would have been nice, seeing the riders face could have been priceless.

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The shot above was taken on the same dock as the Landscape Astrophotography shot above.  Using a Neutral Density filter in landscape photography is almost a given anytime I venture out.  I think that the effects of the ND filter are surreal without straying away from the fundamentals of photography (it’s not really an effect you can reproduce in Photoshop).

There were a few things going on in this shot that I really enjoyed; the colors were incredibly vibrant, the reflections on the water (because of the ND filter) and the clouds in the sky all come together to make this shot look good.  The only think I would change in this shot is I’d like to have had the human element in it…  Maybe a boy sitting on the dock facing the sunset, or a couple.

There you have it, a small sampling of some of my favorite shots I took this year.  I always encourage readers to go back through their archives and look at their previous work to see what they can improve on and how they’ve grown as photographers.  What better time that the start of a new year?

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