It’s been a crazy year. Twenty-five thousand photos - roughly four times any amount I’ve shot in a year before. Still only half of what my goal was. Initially, I was going to do my top ten photos of 2016. Nice round number, keep things simple, you know. Typical. But then I tried to pick them. I got to eight shots and I couldn’t pick another two. So rather than my top ten, these are just my top images of 2016. Images that I’ve taken and had that feeling of “yeah. nailed it” afterwards.
I have to admit, even if I’d met my goal of a thousand images a week, I don’t know if I would’ve had more of these to post at the end of the year. Honestly, I doubt it. But I think they would’ve been better. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way disappointed with the work I’ve done this year. I’ve seen a ton of growth - as much, if not more, than that time I ran off to Europe exclusively to shoot for two months. Still, the more I shoot, the better I get, and maybe these would’ve been ever so slightly improved. I’m still proud of how far I’ve come in 2016 - even comparing my images to those of 2015, I’ve grown significantly. Doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. I don’t think I ever will be. And that’s a little bit frustrating, but at the same time, that’s the best way for my work to improve. I never want to settle. That was something instilled in me by a mentor and director ten years ago now, and it still sticks in my mind. Never settle for “ok” or “good." Never accept mediocrity.
Anyways. Before I get too preachy and go off on a tangent (because that’s a whole other essay in itself) - what follows are the eight photos that I’m happiest with from 2016. They’re sort of in order - at least, in an order as much as my mind will settle on.
This was actually shot the same day as the Wedge Pond one below. Talk about a lucrative day. My friend and I had decided to do the Ptarmigan Cirque hike in Highwood Pass, on the autumnal equinox, and this was taken from that route. It’s always so interesting to watch the weather change with the elevation as we hiked from the trailhead up - and it’s short, barely a quarter kilometre elevation gain - we went from threatening drizzle to blowing snow. I like this image because it shows the changing seasons. It’s shot on a 17mm tilt-shift lens - so it softens on the edges, and you don’t quite get the scale of the rock with the wide angle, but it shows everything. Flowing tiny waterfalls and pools lined by green shurbbery to snow-dusted jagged peaks. Welcome to the mountains.
I still don’t know if this is in my top picks because of photo reasons or sentiment reasons. I have difficulty separating the two at times, and it’s probably more the latter, but oh well. This is Tyler Joseph of the band Twenty One Pilots. I’ve wanted to see these guys for awhile - not only do I really like their music, but they do crazy stuff like this at their shows and it just looks so damn cool. I wasn’t accredited for this, so it’s shot on a quote-unquote “compact” camera - a Fuji X100T. Large sensor compact with a fixed 23mm lens - so it’s (relatively) great in crappy light, but only if you can get close enough. Great images though, I really like Fuji cameras. I dunno, I just like the stark contrast of him and the crowd against the night and the interaction between band and fans. That interaction, and how it feeds the energy of a live show, is everything to me at concerts. That’s want I want to learn to capture. This is a good step one, and hopefully, something that will be pursued still further in 2017.
Lovely Los Angeles. This was shot my first afternoon there, before I had time to be completely overwhelmed by the sprawling disparate metropolis that is LA. I don’t remember how long I waited for someone to perfectly frame themselves on the balcony, but patience pays off. I just really like the composition and tonality of this. It’s a cool building.
I’ve photographed at Wedge Pond once before, a few years ago while completing my Certificate of Photography from SAIT. At the time, my instructor had mentioned that it’s the place to be in the fall, when the larch trees turn yellow and the pond gives you gorgeous reflections. Since then, I’ve been meaning to get out every year, though autumn here is shorter than short and often the window you have is barely a week. This year, no thanks to one of my friends, I made it. Not much to say - literally the location and the weather we lucked out with made the photo, I just had to be there to take it. That’s the game sometimes.
Canon Canada issued a photo contest to all of their registered dealers. First prize: a Canon 5D Mark IV body and $1000. One of my colleagues and I went wandering around on Labour day to shoot for the contest - just street shooting around downtown and Kensington. This was shot blind - camera hanging down by my side, portrait orientation initially, but I saw the reflection in the marble and this man washing the sidewalks. Shot it, didn’t think more of it until I got home and edited it a bit. Then I liked it. And liked it enough to submit it. About two weeks later, I was wandering around work when my email chimed and I opened it to find a message informing me I won. [I freaked out.]
I have to admit, this was a big photo for me. To my mild abashment, there was some discussion about the photo around work - why it was good, the possible reasons it could’ve had for winning - and I was a bit taken aback by the realization that a lot of what makes the photo work were decisions made subconsciously; the realization that I have no idea what I’m doing, but... I do know what I’m doing. I have another blog that’s really just more rambles on this coming down the pipes, but long story short, it was a moment that proved to me that trusting my instincts can take me far. It’s also an amazing feeling to get this kind of recognition for a street photo, which isn’t a style I’ve been working on for long - two and a half, maybe three years at most.
So one of the photographers I’ve followed for a while, Adam Elmakias, started something called the #beaphotographer challenge on Instagram this year. The premise is simple: ten days, ten different prompts, shoot something for the prompt every day. This was shot for that challenge. The prompt was “window light.” I cheated; this is light from a doorway. Basically, Stampede fell right in the middle of this challenge, so I was running around like a madman, shooting not only for the challenge, but my own personal ideas, every single day - after work if I had to, or from morning to night if I had the day off. I was really pushing myself, and this was another example of that. One of my biggest focus points [haaa, photo pun] this year was pushing myself to photograph people. I’m an introvert. It scares me. I’ve written about this before. But I was skulking around the barns before the Heavy Horse pull, and I saw this gentleman - Calvin, his name is - standing by the entrance to a barn as they warmed the horses up, and I snuck this shot with my 200mm. And then I forced myself to go and introduce myself, to get his permission to use it. He was kind enough to consent, and I ended up practically skipping away and bouncing gleefully that “I DID THE THING” for the next half hour. Additionally, another photographer (Thomas Falcone) who I’ve been following for a while and who’s work I also really like saw the image and called it his favourite of that day’s challenge. Made my day.
This one’s no surprise. I’m proud of it. It’s one of those photos that I realized from a pre-conceived vision before I even landed in LA, something I’ve been working and working on. Visualization through to realization. I have a print of it that hangs above my bed. It conveys the calm sense that both sunrise and the ocean inspire in me. I love the tones. I love how the lines lead to the corner. I love that I’m at a point with photos where I know what I want to shoot, and I know exactly how to get there. Sometimes. This is one of those times. I fell in love with LA this year - and maybe that, too, has some influence on why this photo is so high on this list. It’s such a unique city. Centre stage, full of life and variety. It’s so different from home, and spending a total of ten days there - not much, but more than I’m used to in a foreign city - barely even scratched the surface. I’m sure I’ll be back.
This is probably the only photo that as soon as I had selected it to edit, I knew beyond any doubt it would make this list. And it’s probably the most understated one. I couldn’t even tell you specifically why I love it so much. I think it’s because it’s a perfect moment. Even SOOC - honestly, I’ve barely touched it in editing. BW conversion and some tweaking of the tones as I always do. I haven’t even cropped it. I just got exactly what I wanted. The shadow, the coin frozen perfectly between hand and guitar case, the frame of the trees and tent, the people perfectly centred in the background, the onlookers attention and yet how the performer is so engrossed in his own world. I love it. It’s a moment, a story. This is the kind of picture I’m after when I go out street shooting and I so rarely get it. Especially in such a large, crowded setting like Lilac Fest - I too often get overwhelmed and can’t focus in on intimate moments. For whatever reason, I nailed it here. (It’s also shot on one of my favourite combinations ever - Leica M Typ 262 + 35mm Summilux - not just for image quality but for pure enjoyment of shooting. Maybe that has something to do with it too.) Is it my favourite photo of the year? I dunno. It’s tied, probably, with the one above. One abroad, one of home. But this is the kind of photo I chase. Unlike the one above, I can’t plan it, but it’s always what I’m looking for.
There we have it. My top photos of 2016. I'm so excited to see how I can push myself in the year ahead. A year ago I wouldn't have expected these images from myself, so I'm looking forward to the blog coming a year from now with my write up of 2017. I have a number of exciting things ahead (see previous post) and I'm stoked to see where they will take me.
Once again, I want to reiterate my thanks to any and everyone who has been any facet of my support system this year. Even if you don't think you're part of it - you're reading this, so you are, and I thank you. My best wishes extend to you and yours in the New Year.
Cheers to the good of 2016, and the future in 2017!