My Top 10 Images of 2018

I know, I’m a slacker. Here we are one month into the new year and I’m just now getting around to publishing this. Selecting my top images for the year is an exercise I’ve been doing for the past several years. It gives me a good look at how the year went photographically, and also helps me to understand how (or if) I have improved over the previous years. If you are passionate about photography and really want to improve, this is something I highly recommend.

I’m not going to lie, 2018 was kind of a down year for me photography-wise. Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities. There always are. From a trip to Charleston back in March for a photography conference, another excursion to Utah in May, to some vacation time in Colorado in July, there were some good photo ops for sure. No, last year was more a question of motivation, or lack thereof. That was compounded by some creative roadblocks and waning passion. Simply put, I found myself in a “funk” for much of the year and just couldn’t claw my way out.

In any creative pursuit, it’s not unusual to find oneself lacking in the creativity department now and then. Authors call it writer’s block. Does that mean for photographers it is called image maker’s block? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, I’m working my way out of it and am looking forward to a new year. Who knows what 2019 has in store, but i’ll have my camera in hand and ready for whatever comes my way.

So, without further ado, and to put a seal on the 2018 that was, here are what I feel are my top 10 images for the year. Choosing a top ten is not easy. There are many images that may have sentimental value, but are not necessarily “good” images. Sometimes the process and the adventure of capturing a particular image gives it more meaning. Reminiscing about what it took to get that image brings back good memories that may cloud your vision. Just because an image has a good story behind it doesn’t necessarily make it a good image either. In these selections, I try to take all these things into account. Then there is the all-important technical aspects of an image. What makes it good might be the light, composition, patterns, textures, gesture, color (or lack of color), or any combination of these things. Cutting through the emotional aspects and really drilling down to the nuts and bolts of what makes an image a good image is what is important.

So, here they are. In no particular order. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to say about any of the images or questions about how they were created. I’m always happy to help.

“Reflections of Color”, Historic Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Milky Way over Lower Fox Creek School”, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, near Strong City, Kansas.

“Morning Gold”, a Pelican on the Mississippi River, Lock & Dam 14 near Le Claire, Iowa.

“Lower Calf Creek Falls”, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

“Sunrise on the Beach”, Morris Island Lighthouse, Charleston, South Carolina.

“Milky Way over the Watchman”, Zion National Park, Utah.

“Fast Food”, a Bald Eagle fishing the Mississippi River at Lock & Dam 14 near Le Claire, Iowa.

“Sunset in Canyonland”, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.

“Milky Way over Escalante”, a panoramic image of the night sky over Escalante, Utah.

“The Bright Side”, a sunset capture at Grinter Sunflower Farms near Lawrence, Kansas.

My Top Ten Images for 2017

Another year is in the books, as 2017 has come to an end and we begin 2018. The past 12 months weren't some of my most productive photographically, at least in terms of quantity of images captured and locations visited. A look at my Lightroom catalog shows exactly 14,000 images for the past year. Of course, that doesn't count several thousand that were taken for use in time-lapse videos, which aren't in the catalog. My guess is the number for the year is closer to 20,000.

The quantity of images, however, really isn't any way to measure the success for the year. Taking lots of pictures can be a good thing, but it certainly doesn't mean that any of them are going to be any good. Instead, I like to look back at some of my favorite photos and the great memories attached to them. 

The year started off with a bang, with a trip to Maui the first week of January. A week in the tropical island paradise provided numerous photographic opportunities, and you'll see a few images from that trip on this list.

Shortly after the Maui trip was a quick trip to LeClaire, Iowa to photograph bald eagles along the Mississippi River. The number of eagles was down compared to the previous year (which was my first), but the trip was a blast and I came away with a few 'keeper' images. 

In March, I attended the Improve Photography Retreat in Phoenix. I made the decision to make it a road trip with intentions of a few side trips on the way there and back. That turned out to be a great decision. One of my favorite Milky Way images was created in Kansas on my way down there. While in Phoenix, there were plenty of opportunities to shoot as well, which resulted in a couple more images in my Top Ten list. Then, on the way back, I spent a couple days with Aaron and Brendon of Photog Adventures fame exploring in and around Zion National Park. There was a ton of driving involved, but that trip was ever so worth it. 

The rest of the year was kind of quiet, with most of my shooting done close to home. There were no other photo trips planned, which was kind of a bummer, since there were still a lot of months left in the year. It's not surprising that what I feel are my best 10 images were taken in the first 3 months of the year. It is kind of disappointing that the other 9 months didn't yield anything that made this list. I'm not complaining though; it was still a very good year with the camera. 

Without rambling on any further than I already have, below are my top ten images for 2017. These are in no particular order. It's hard enough narrowing it down from 14,000 to 10, so I decided there was no need to rank them. Let me know if the comments which one you like the best.

"Island Dreams" - Night time on the beaches of Maui, captured on January 4, 2017. Not a bad way to spend some time in January. 

"Twin Falls" - Captured on January 6, 2017, along the Road to Hana. 

"Are you squawking to me?" - The image was captured along the Mississippi River just south of LeClaire, Iowa. January 21, 2017.

"A Whale of a Tale" - On a whale watching cruise while in Maui. Captured January 4, 2017.

"Bamboo Forest" - On the Road to Hana, while in Maui. Captured January 6, 2017.

"Monument Rocks Milky Way" - This is a panoramic image created at Monument Rocks, about 30 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. This was early in the season (March 8), so this was captured very early in the morning, not long before sunrise.

"Kanarra Creek Falls" - Located just outside of Zion National Park, this is a fabulous short hike into the canyon, with the reward of waterfall scenery. Captured on March 13, 2017.

"Picketpost Mountain Milky Way" - This area just east of Phoenix offered some surprisingly dark night skies for capturing the Milky Way on March 9, 2017. This was less than 24 hours after spending the night at Monument Rocks. 

"Canyon Overlook Sunset" - A wonderful view of the canyon in Zion National Park. Captured on March 12, 2017.

"Kolob Canyon Sunrise" - Captured on March 12, 2017, after doing some night photography and catching some sleep in the car while waiting for the sun to come up. Another of the amazing locations in Zion National Park. 

So, there you have it! My 10 best (and favorite) images of 2017. Hope you all enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed capturing them. Part of this exercise is to reflect on the year and to also look back to see how (or if) my photography has improved from previous years. I feel that it has. There is still much room for improvement. I look forward to 2018, and the adventures that are in store. My goal is to bring my camera along on the journey and share it with you. 

Thanks for reading!