My 11 Best Images of 2012 and Why

December 30, 2012  •  117 Comments

ya, there's 12- I know.

Happy year everybody- I hope you all can look back at this past year and put a big check in the box next to what says you at least are looking forward to the next one and will approach it with as much enthusiasm as 4 cups of strong coffee/ and or tea daily will allow. ? In my worst years (and I've performed pretty badly for a few of them at least!) I never was of the opinion that it was all a great failure- call me an optimist or call me lucky but a whole years worth of time is big old chunk of time and there are always moments that make the whole thing worth it! The toughest thing for me is going to be making next year even better then the last because I had a good one. I sincerely hope you did too, interloping reader, because its always better for our community as a whole when everyone is happy! I'm not imagining a fantasy dreamlike utopia here where the unicorns are driving on rainbow highways or whatever- I'm just hoping you all can find the simple pleasures of life that make it all worth coming back for more. Do your best next year and I'll promise to at least sometimes try to do the same. 

Right then- with all that ridiculously "bright side of life" Python-skit stuff out of the way- I mean I'm not trying to tell you guys how to live your life here- do whatever you want!- wallow in your own misery if that's what you want!- if that's what makes you happy then just know that all I want is for you to be happy! Maybe happiness is overrated? maybe the real art lies in sloth and pride and lust and greed and wrath and envy and gluttony? Bah- who's to say?

Anyways- this year is the first year that I've gone about making a critical selection of my 10 best shots (images/photographs) of the year (reads 11 in this case because simply I like the number 11 better). This is always a tough call because the whole point is to pick favorites, it would be easy to pick the top 100 or even the top 20 probably but the best eleven (11) is pretty discriminatory, and the idea of "picking your favorite children" certainly applies here. So the ultimate motivation therein is to select images that either are aesthetically nice, or more significantly, images that are important to me for deeper reasons like for instance a picture that challenged my vision and led to a moment of "breakthrough", or transcendence: (per example using my tilt shift lens to exaggerate perspective and scale and enable an abstract way of visual thinking where I actually felt like I was falling through the camera- I just love that lens!) or just simply making a picture that seemed somehow original-! Good luck with that! You know what I mean. But it's also a great exercise- picking the ten best- so here we go: in an particular order that has the most to do with chronology::

#1. Hancock 2 Hancock 2 John Hancock Building Boston Ma, March 8 2012- I live 296 miles from this building but it was a certain destination when back in the spring I was so inspired by my European friends ala Joel Tjintjellar's and Julia Anna Gosporadoux's amazing architectural work, among others, and correspondingly fascinating post production approach that I wanted to try it for myself- and since my family lives in the Boston area, the Hancock Building was the go-to destination. The complications of that 50+ mph winds shoot I detail here: -the crazy fast moving clouds of that day made for some great atmospheric wispies over the building and that combined with a really sweet commercial sale of this print a month later made this a real standout image for me. I was pretty much laying on the sidewalk for this one in the middle of a regular business day afternoon about 15 feet from the corner of the building. Zounds!

#2. Overture (ICM) -(ICM means Intentional Camera Movement) ((where you shake the camera during the exposure and jump and and down and stuff like that to blur the details)). Overture I went on something of an ICM bender from the end of March through April when I was needing something new to do with my camera- ICM imagery is pure painting with light and you never know what you're gonna get until you see the exposure- so it always takes dozens of tries and erratic motions wherein you must look like such the freak waving the camera all around like a fool! But the results are great, when you're in the mood for it= that is to say when there is nothing left to shoot because the skies have been cloudless and dull for weeks and there is no snow and everything else is just dormant and waiting for spring to come but you're just dying to hear the click of the shutter and the flap of the mirror. So this one was one of the first of a set that really worked for me and was just the thing I needed round about that time.

3. Tree Motion Study #6 Tree Motion Study #6

If I had to pick just one then it would be this one- To make this picture I had to hold and swing the camera at about a 40 degree angle because the tree was leaning and almost fallen over- I just really dug the character of the dessicated branches- so to make this shot I held the camera still for about 1 second then slowly panned it up to the left following up the trunk of the tree for one second or so- the result shows definition of the branches and sweeping streaks of the background forest. One exposure of about 30 to get it right. Film would not be good here.

4. Immersion Immersion April 17- we had a great period of fog around here for about 2 months this spring on and off- whenever the fog sets in everything becomes totally magical- the gas station develops cinematic appeal, the most mundane things are enveloped in serendipitous surreality. And the great thing is that you often have lots of time to exploit the effect- as long as the fog lasts that is- which for many days this spring was hours and hours at end. Good times! This railroad-tracks-into-the-sea bit is a boat launch at a boatyard only about 1000 yards from us. 

5. Eagle Lake Acadia Lichen Rocks Eagle Lake Acadia Lichen Rocks

Usually a big motivator in my photography is trying to avoid the cliches or the easy shots- so I try to stay away from the lighthouses and some of the other overshot places around my home of Acadia. But then I realized that I don't really have enough of these or really any good ones to sell as prints to the tourists. This was the beginning of a series of "iconic Acadia" scenes where I shot the more popular carriage trail bridges and ponds and lakes around the park from or near vantage points riddled with tripod holes or padded flat from the loafers of all the point and shooters. The fun part was trying to apply my sense of "style" to the scenes. This was a nasty windy and darkly overcast morning on May 1st that was as cold as February and my intention that morning was initially to make photo's of the moose skull that I found in Baxter laying in the waters of Eagle Lake, but the waves were too big to cooperate so I went to find something else and these lichen covered rocks stood out to me- I like how the scale and weight of them feel to balance the scene and there are tons of nice details in the rocks to get lost in. And this is the blog that I walk around filming myself with the Iphone looking to make this shot-

6. Great Meadow Lily Pads Great Meadow Lily Pads

June 16th- day after my birthday, decided to celebrate that fact by getting up early which is that time of year about 03:00am- which is ridiculous, but summer mornings are always beautiful for photography. So I had this scene on my list of the "iconic Acadia" locations to shoot next and I knew the lily pads would be blooming so I came to this location without even my Muck boots because I knew I wanted to be wading to get this. The tricky part is to not go too deep and you want to check your pockets for all those cellphones and stuff but I would walk aways then probe ahead with the tripod to try and make sure that I wouldn't submerge too far. I just went to check the files to make sure this isn't a 3 shot pan done with my tilt shift- and it isn't: just cropped to 4x5. I do remember that I shot it with the 24 Ts-e and I swear I can feel the sharpness from that lens. As far as realizing this development I applied a green filter in Nik Silver Efex and then dodged up the lilly pad leaves in Lightroom 4 because I wanted them to pop out of the shadows nicely- otherwise I applied a generous medium contrasty curve, pulled back the highlights and applied a grad to the sky and sharpened the details and warm toned the final copy by just a couple points. I hardly ever want any pure paper white in my prints and where the lily pad blossom in the lower right and part of the sky between the mountains is bright- without checking I'm betting that they are more mostly zone 9.

7. Silver Ferns Silver Ferns

Another "if I had to pick just one"- this time because of the silvery, silvery!, midtones, and also because it's not a wide-angle landscape! Something almost completely different for me- actually just something that I don't do enough of- looking down. So this particular afternoon of July 21 it was misting rain lightly and perfectly overcast to go looking in the forest for this intimate ferns kind of image that I was looking for at the time. There are a couple fern groves that are favorites and close to home and I went there and shot all normal and horizontally trying to compose clumps of ferns against the vertical background of woods- which I've done before and it rarely worked out then either- just so much chaos and too many distracting elements. So when I realized that I was parched and didn't bring any water and was all bummed and started to up and leave all disgusted in myself, I came across this little patch of hayscented ferns and was immediately attracted to the delicate foliage and radiating lines. I went with the tilt-shift to affect the sense of proportion and scale to draw attention to that particular frond, and it's since become one of my favorite prints. If I recall correctly the blue filter in Silver Efex created this particular subtle contrast on the green leaves of this fern- sweet! Go blue filter- go!

8. Off The Shelf Off The Shelf

August 5, 2012- 05:24:35 am. More soupy yummy fog- along the Schooner Head Road in Acadia National Park. Not too much to say about this one- it is a 3 image stitch made with the 24 f/3.5 Ts-e: in landscape orientation I shifted the lens from center to the top then to the bottom to make this and blended them in photoshop. One thing that stands out in my memory about this one was that shortly after this shot I was composing something facing out to sea when suddenly the forward tripod leg slipped in its leg lock and the whole kitten caboodle almost went into the drink if I hadn't caught it with the shutter release cable that was still in my hand! Sheesh! Ever since then I hover like an attack hawk over my tripod during the exposures. Yowzas- And then some!

9. Summer Fog Fields Summer Fog Fields

Aug 12. On the way to meet my Ma and Dad for lunch, again the fog was thick like stew!- I took the wrong turn and ended up in the sweetest farm country that I had been through before but years ago, and never would have ended up there otherwise. I saw this scene from the road and pulled off to hop out with my tripod and kit and got my feet soaked in the deep grass by the foggy dew and it became one of my favorite shots of the year. What makes this for me is the fall off of the tilted plane of focus and the highlights in the grass under the hay, which in Maine is pronounced Hi-eee The reason I'm including this in the critical wrap-up I think is the balance that it provides my portfolio in a way that I've got tons of ocean stuff and some tree's and stuff but not much farm- which is a big part of Maine and all, and it's gorgeous, so- more of this. To come. MOTTC.

10. Cadillac Mountain Autumn Brook Extract II Cadillac Mountain Autumn Brook Extract II

Sept 30. A totally simple scene but one that works for me where I like the idea where if you try: you can imagine this as a tree on a high cliff bluff shaking in the wind with clouds moving by.  But it's just a sapling by a running brook. Some of my more successful images this year (in my mind), have been those that have more then one level of interpretation- something that you can look at one way one day and another the next. Replay value and all. Ya.

11. Mood Swings Oceanside Oregon Beach Swing in the Fog

Because it's out of a dream- another reason that I love fog: makes the most mundane thing completely surreal.

12. Rialto Beach Sea Stacks: bonus pick cause that's the way I roll- Ruby Beach Sea Stacks

Nov. 7, 2012. The trip to the west coast was definitely the most inspiring photographic thing for me all year, it became obvious what the value of traveling is, I really must do more of that in the future. All I wanted to shoot out there (the PNW) were the sea stacks, which were completely awesome, and everyone was unique and had tons of personality and I could shoot them for years without getting bored. Loved it- gotta go back there some day! And it's completely different from my part of the world- which in my opinion is the whole point of traveling :-).

So that's it for that- a year down and hopefully more than a year to go- honestly these picks were mostly arbitrary: one of my favorite words for this year!- I could have picked a completely different set of twelve dependent on time and space, but in my place right now these are these. With that in mind it would be totally interesting to me to revisit these picks a dozen years from now, to see that maybe my choice of contrast was too much or that my sense of sharpening was off. Or something like that.

I wish you well in your endeavors- whatever they may be, so long as they are heartfelt and real. In the end I hope your passions are more real and retroactive and rewarding then ever before and that you find your place in the world sooner then you should have to suffer- Whatever it may be, do a good job in it and embrace the new year as a chance again to make things right with the world and find your place in it properly- your's with great respect -Nate.



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