Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Favorites from 2015

A popular thing for photographers to do at the end of the year is to share their best photos of the previous twelve months.  I've done this in the past.  This year I'm not sharing my best photos.  Instead, I'm sharing my favorites.

My favorite photos are not necessarily my best.   The best photos will be well composed, exposed correctly, be sharp where they need to be sharp, have pleasing colors and contrast, and are what other people like.  My favorites are the ones that make me happy when I look at them.

My favorites don't make me happy because they are all that special, but because I remember where I was, who I was with, and the challenges of taking the photo.  They bring back good memories.  Of course, you don't have any of those memories and will probably not be all that impressed with my favorites. 

It doesn't matter if anyone likes these photos.  In this case, they are for me and what makes me happy.

Dark Eyed Junco
My first favorite was taken at Warriors Path State Park on February 21 after one of our better snowfalls. It was only a few miles down the road from home.  I like minimalist style photos where there is little in the photo except the subject.  A minimalist photo will often have large patches of white, black or some other uniform color.  I have not been overly successful making this style photos but in this case, the snow provided a nice white background.

Trillium After A Rain
This was taken at Anna Ruby Falls in Georgia after an early morning rain.  We were walking up the path to the falls and found this beauty right on the side of the path.  The morning light was hitting the flower at just the right angle to show the water drops from the rain.   This flower was not the main attraction of the park, but I found it just as beautiful as the falls.

Texas Sunrise
This photo and the next two were taken on a trip to Texas with  some photographers who are great friends.  They all live in different parts of the country and we don't get to see each other as often as I would like.   These photos bring back memories of a great time.  That alone makes them worthy of being some of my favorites.   I like this one because it is different from anything we have here in East Tennessee.  I like the ranch entrace with the wagon wheels and the Texas star next to the morning sun star.   To me this says "TEXAS".

Standing Apart
While in Texas we saw abundant fields of Bluebonnets and red Indian Paintbrush growing wild.   I came home with many photos of these fields. I like all of them but I like this shot because it is different.   The one yellow wildflower growing above the carpet of Indian Paintbrush seems to be saying "look at me!".     I used a wide aperture of f/2.8 to create the shallow depth of field which made the yellow flowers stand out even more.

Leading Lines
Just to the right of where I was standing when I took this photo is a solid field of Indian Painbrush.   It was beautiful and I got some shots when the orange sun going down in the background.  Although this photo has fewer flowers I like it better. The fence and the path are two lines that draw the viewer's gaze into the photo to the cabin and sunset.

Results of Getting Up At 3 AM
Sometimes landscape photographers have to do crazy things to get "the shot".  In this case June and I got up somewhere around 3:00 AM to drive 2 1/2 hours to get to a good spot for sunrise in the Smokies.   I under estimated how long it would take to get there and we were still a ways away and the sky was already looking great.  We almost stopped earlier figuring the sunrise would be over by the time we got to this overlook but kept going and were rewarded with this really cool sunrise.  The clouds were like cotton balls floating in the sky, making it an unusual sunrise.

My Favorite Smokies Steam
The river around Tremont Institute in the Smokies is one of my favorite places to shoot.   It's just a good place to be in any season.  We've been there in a snow storm and in the summer when we took a nap on boulders in the stream.   This shot was taken while with a group of photographer friends gathering in the park for an annual reunion and bring back nice memories of that time.

Dream Wildlife
Our biggest trip of the year, and one we had been planning for years, was to Alaska.  We had high hopes of seeing and photographing great things, such as mountains, streams, and wildlife.   We have been on a moose hunt through several states over the years and have never seen a big bull with a rack.  On our first day in Denali we were rewarded with a group of several bulls and cows near the side of the road.   We were blessed with plenty of time to enjoy these animals and make many photos until they were scared off by the bark of a small dog.
Abstract From The Air
The above photo is one I really like and no one else seems to care for at all. The gray part is the gravel bar of a braided river and the green part is the tundra.   I like the abstract nature, the flowing lines, the color contrast and the lighting.    Maybe the real reason I like it is because it was taken from a small plane flying over Denali National Park.  The flight was a grand adventure for June and I and this picture brings back great memories.

The Mountain Appears
The photo of Mount Denali is special to me because seeing the highest mountain in North America is actually pretty rare.  Only about 20% of the people who visit Denali National Park actually see the mountain.   We were hiking and the entire mountain range was obscured by clouds for most of the day.  As we were hiking back to the lodge the clouds started to break.  We stayed and waited, as did the group on another hill between us and the mountain.   What a treat seeing the mountain appear from the clouds.

Trumpeter Swans
This is a favorite because it was difficult to take.  It was late in the day, there was not a lot of light and the swans were pretty far away.  I would take a series of photos then walk a little closer after I was sure I had some shots.  I kept repeating this process until I was directly across from these magnificent birds.   I timed my shots to make the most of ripples in the water, positions of the birds, and reflections.  The birds are as big as they are beautiful.  They are North America's biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds.

Head Butting
These four Mountain Goats were part of a group (herd, pack?) that were grazing on a hillside next to the Exit Glacier Trail in Alaska.  I had several shots of groups and individuals but I like this one because of the two preparing to but heads.   I think it tells a story.

Learning To Light Paint
I have to have at least one photo of my sweetie as a favorite.   June and I went out with our friend Ron specifically to take photos of the Milky Way.  While there I tried my hand at light painting.   While taking a photo of the stars I used a flashlight to light June while she gazed into the starry night.  

Close To Home
I started my list with a photo from Warriors Path State Park and this one is from the same park only in a different season.  Some of my favorite photos are taken within a few miles from home.

Not One Of My Strong Skills
My final favorite of 2015 is a portrait, which is something I don't do often and am not very good at.  I was pleased with how this came out.   It was not planned, arranged, or posed.  He was playing by a window in an old church in Cades Cove.   I moved around to the side to make the most of the window light and was able to get something I was happy with.

There's only two days left in 2015 and I'm working both of them.  Given it's dark when I go to work and dark when I get home I will probably not be making any more photos this year.   This is it for 2015.   I like the photos I made in 2015.  I can't wait to see what I get next year.


  1. Really enjoyed these, Richard, especially the comments framing each one. The final portrait is grand! Looking forward to your "take" in 2016.