Favorite Shots of 2012

Well, I figured since it is mid-March (already!) I should get on my favorite photos of 2012…

It was a pretty busy year, full of travel to some pretty amazing places.  I think the biggest jumps I took with my photography are mostly centered around being more thoughtful and confident with composition as well as knowing my equipment better.  The goal (and I haven’t achieved it yet by any stretch, but we’re getting there….:) ) is to make the camera disappear and concentrate on capturing the image as you want it.  And have fun.

I took a lot of shots last year, and there are many that I’m fond of, so choosing a few was hard.  Clicking on a shot will open a larger version.

Strictly speaking, this and the next shot were some of my last shots of 2011.  But since I sort of lost track of them and they didn't make my 2011 series, I'm cheating and putting them here.

Strictly speaking, this and the next shot were some of my last shots of 2011. But since I sort of lost track of them and they didn’t make my 2011 series, I’m cheating and putting them here.  This is the pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC.

My second visit to this boat produced one of my favorite photos ever.

My second visit to this pilot boat in Charleston Harbor produced one of my favorite photos ever.

Spring found me in Alabama for the 10th edition of my favorite car show.

Spring found me in Alabama for the 10th edition of my favorite car show.

A business trip took me to Beijing, where color always seems to surround you...

A business trip took me to Beijing, where color always seems to surround you…

My favorite drink is done well in Beijing...

My favorite drink, a rye Manhattan, is done well in Beijing…

There is an art district in Beijing called 798 where you can find a lot of off-the-wall art, but the old buildings there offer some nice texture, too...

There is a  district in Beijing called 798 where you can find a lot of off-the-wall art, but the old buildings there offer some nice texture, too…

I liked the mood of this shot, but knowing it was taken in Beijing adds a little incongruity to it as well...

I liked the mood of this shot, but knowing it was taken in Beijing adds a little incongruity to it as well…

This statue was in the 798 art district in Beijing, which was ironic enough.  The billboard on the walls just layered on top...

This statue was in the 798 art district in Beijing, which was ironic enough. The billboard on the walls just layered on top…

They wouldn't let me take my tripod and it was really windy 55 stories above Tokyo, so getting this shot wasn't a picnic.  The view was stunning though, so I made due by holding my camera to a railing on my L-bracket, giving me enough stability to get reasonable sharpness.

They wouldn’t let me take my tripod and it was really windy 55 stories above Tokyo, so getting this shot wasn’t a picnic. The view was stunning though, so I made due by holding my camera to a railing on my L-bracket, giving me enough stability to get reasonable sharpness.

I like this shot, though it doesn't do a great job of showing the scale of the world's largest Buddha.

I like this shot, though it doesn’t do a great job of showing the scale of the world’s largest Buddha, located in the temple city of Kamakura, Japan.

This carved stone monolith was near the Great Buddha of Kamakura.    I thought narrow depth of field helped give it a sense of texture.

This carved stone monolith was near the Great Buddha of Kamakura. I thought narrow depth of field helped give it a sense of texture.

Prague is famous for the Love Locks that decorate fences along the waterway inside the city.  It is a growing trend around the world.  This shot was the feature of my "Touristy Photos" post.  If you're looking for cities filled with amazing things to photograph, this area of Europe is your ticket.

Prague is famous for the Love Locks that decorate fences along the waterway inside the city. It is a growing trend around the world. This shot was the feature of my “Touristy Photos” post. If you’re looking for cities filled with amazing things to photograph, this area of Europe is your ticket.

Budapest is a city filled with history, texture and stunning views...

Budapest is a city filled with history, texture and stunning views…

I wonder how many people walk through the doors of this charge and never look at the detailed and ornate metal castings all around them...

I wonder how many people walk through the doors of the La Madeline church in Paris and never look at the detailed and ornate metal castings all around them…

These shots took me through the end of the Summer, and to be honest by then I was a little worn out!  The rest of the year was also very busy at work and featured much less interesting travel, so I wound up with a sort of involuntary vacation from photography (not to mention this blog…).

So that’s it!  I’m off to a much stronger start in 2013, and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather to get out and have some fun with my camera!  If you’ve got favorite shots from last year posted, paste a link to your blog, flickr or whatever!

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Touristy Photos

I wanted to briefly share a simple contrast between a “snapshot” and a “photograph”.  So often you hear about people coming back from exotic places with a lot of boring photos that just don’t make anyone happy – they don’t excite the people who look at them and they seem only a vague shadow of something amazing to the person who took the photo hoping to catch a sliver.

I did a lot of traveling around the world recently, and my renewed dedication to photography gave me the chance to see different photographic opportunities than I did just a few years ago.  I wanted to come back with as few snapshots as possible, and I wanted my images to mean something to me as well as make an impression on anyone else who sees them.

My vacation was exactly that – a vacation – so I didn’t want to turn the whole trip into a photography exercise.  However, I wanted to use my understanding of composition, aperture and other mechanics to bring home images that told a story and communicated how I felt when I took the shot.

The best example I have of this from my trip came from Prague.  Along the waterway, there are occasionally fences where lovers place locks for good luck.  The most popular one is very close to the John Lennon wall.  It is a really cool site, but the snapshot I took of it just doesn’t do it justice:

This is what a touristy snapshot looks like. It physically captured the scene, but isn’t visually very interesting and doesn’t really tell a story.  Shot at f/5.6, shutter 1/80.

Standing next to it, this scene is a lot more striking and cool than the above photo.  I really wanted to show off the brilliant colors and the diversity of the locks as well as create a sense of drama for the shot.  Here’s another view of the same scene:

Here the locks are the stars of the show. The composition and narrow depth of field create a much more dramatic perspective, and bring the colors to life. This was shot with the same 35mm lens, but shot at f/1.8 to create the thin zone of focus (focal plane) and composed to create drama and an opportunity for the creamy background (bokeh).  I manually chose the focus point for this shot, and tried several moving left to right down the frame to get the one I ultimately liked the most.

This shot speaks far more strongly to me as a memory of a cool place I visited, and it stands alone as an image, too.  All it took was a few seconds of thought about how best to tell the story of this place, select the best aperture for the job, compose the shot and shoot a few frames.  In this case, the “rule of thirds” applied more to the point of focus than the composition itself.

So often when I’m taking pictures, it is specifically about the pictures.  Whether it is photos of my children at a family event or outings specifically about creating images, my priority is photographs.  On vacation, only slivers of my attention were focused on the photography.  My main goal was to relax and enjoy two wonderful weeks with my wife.  A secondary goal was to bring back images as warm as my memories of the places and the experience.  Getting very comfortable with the hardware, theory and practice allowed me to do just that.

Has photography changed how you take vacation photos?  Did it help you enjoy your vacation more?  Anyone want to share a link to your favorite vacation photo?