Hard to believe that 2011 is coming to a close! Another magical year and while it is often hard to choose the best image you took over the year, “The Crossing” image above was a pretty easy selection as my favorite overall image of 2011. I just may also be one of my favorite pictures I ever took! Ever since I was a little child growing up watching “Wild Kingdom” it has been a dream of mine to witness the wildebeest crossing the Mara River. I finally had an opportunity to photograph that spectacle this August on my Tanzania tour and I was not disappointed. As fate would have it, this image is from our first afternoon at the river and it is something my clients and I will never forget! We did have the opportunity at the river crossings four more times, but of all the images I took that trip, the image above for me really captures all the amazing power and chaos of the event. I will share some more images with my Tanzania trip report in a few weeks.
Without doubt, I take more images of birds during the course of the year than any other subject so it is very difficult to pick a favorite bird image! When I created the “Osprey’s Prize” image above, I was standing in knee-deep water with good friend and awesome bird photographer James Shadle as we were out on his boat for a morning shoot for Roseate Spoonbills. As a matter of fact, we were photographing the spoonbills when I noticed this osprey hunting about 200 feet away from us. A bit too far, even for the Sigmonster (my 300-800 mm lens)! We watched the osprey dive into the water, completely submerge, struggle to pull out of the water with the fish, and then fly right at us but to our left, off sun angle. With our itchy trigger fingers on the shutter button, you could hear both of us mutter for the osprey to turn as he was flying away from us and into the sun. About 30 feet away he obliged us and as the shutters unloaded, filling the 30 frame buffer, we both knew that we had just witnessed one extraordinary moment! I am forever hooked on the 10 frames per second speed of the pro line bodies!
I definitely take more images of birds and animals during the course of the year than anything else and while the slower pace of landscape photography doesn’t allow for quite the same volume of images, it more than makes up for it when all the conditions come together at the magical hours of sunrise or sunset. Making a favorite landscape selection was another tough call as I am fortunate to visit some of the most beautiful places on earth and the opportunities I get there are simply astounding. I was going to call it a tie as I narrowed my choices down to two images but I finally chose the image above of “Sunset at the Green River Overlook” over “Snowy Morning at Bryce”. I chose the Green River image because I have stood at that overlook 100’s of times waiting for the sunset. It is a breathtaking location and while the sunsets often don’t materialize, on this one day, by using a handful of filters including the reverse graduated neutral density filter, I was able to capture the sunset in all its glory! As I said, it was a tough choice because I always wanted snow in Bryce but I gave the nod to the image above.
My favorite macro choice may have been the most difficult because I photograph both flowers and insects. While many people may not find insects all that beautiful, I am just amazed at just how interesting our small insect world can be! I was going to take the easy way out and choose one of my flower images. Pura knows that I have bought her flowers when she walks into the door and the living room has pot and pan lids (which I use as reflectors) all over the sofa and chair. That would be too easy of a choice so instead, I chose the image of the cicada killer above. Why? I had started out that summer morning with fellow photographer and friend Nick Palmieri by going to 3 local parks, looking for subjects. After driving around for a while, we decided to head to another park to try our luck at dragonflies. I don’t know what it was about the conditions, but the activity that day was very slow. While walking along the shoreline, I noticed a swarm of what I thought was bees….low to the ground. It wound up being 100’s of Cicada Killers having what appeared to be both territorial disputes and trying to mate! Grabbing our gear, we laid on the ground for over 2 hours as the battles continued all around us. This image truly represents my philosophy when it comes to macro photography; that patience and perseverance will rule the day so that is why I chose it as my favorite macro image of the year.
I had many exciting new workshop locations this year so I had some cool “other stuff images” to choose from. I could have chosen from one of the castles, old cars, or even the graffiti bus and trolleys. Interestingly enough, I chose an image from the 4th of July as my favorite “other stuff” from the year. Like everyone else who photographs, images carry a special memory attached to it when you revisit it. The image above is just such an image from the Macy’s fireworks display. The reason it was so special to me is that I got to spend the day just a relaxing with great friends Susan and Anthony Candelario. Did I forget to mention that it was also my first time at the fireworks?!!! Susan and Anthony got to the location around 9am to hold a spot for Nick and myself. I have photographed fireworks elsewhere but after being at the Macy’s show, I want to take Pura and the boys there next year!
There it is! Another fantastic year and I hope you can join me next year on one of my tours. As many of you now know, you never know where we will wind up when we are roaming around but I can assure you that I will get you into the best possible spot, so you can make your own