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Favorite Five Photographs of 2018

Favorite Five Photographs of 2018

Five to Stay Alive

I have renewed my end of the year custom of choosing my Favorite Five Photographs of the past year. I first did this back in 2009, my first full year as a professional photographer spanning time in Tokyo and Florida. I kept up this custom until 2013. Then there was an absence as things meandered in my life and my business. However, I have reemerged in 2018 with my photo business having had its best year ever, and with a diversity of photos that once again made it very hard to choose just five.

My criteria for choosing are simple:

  1. photos made in the 2018 calendar year (so some great Malibu shots just missed the cut that would have made it otherwise

  2. Only one photo per category

  3. There is something about the photo that appeals to me in a unique way

Below I will post links to all past Favorite Five years. I would really be interested in feedback in the comments on what you think of my 2018 selections, and as compared to my past years’ selections

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Favorite Five Photographs of 2013

The five photographs below represent my personal favorites that I made in 2013, from various categories.  The process, as always, for selecting my favorite images of the year is based on if the photo made me feel emotion.  Another factor for choosing is if the particular photograph was a breakthrough for me in terms of technique or content.

Severe lightning strikes in St. Petersburg Florida during a powerful June 2013 storm - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 bulb mode lens covered until strike tripod mounted with cable release

1 - Lightning Strikes Downtown St. Petersburg - category: nature, long exposure

This was by far the most dangerous photograph I have ever made.  I did not purposefully go out into a lightning storm.  I was teaching a photography lesson along the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront as I had done hundreds of times before.  You may have heard the saying that a storm can come out of nowhere, well that is what happened this time.  Dark clouds could be seen rolling in that including funnel clouds dipping down!  Then the lightning started.  It was a lesson teaching how to shoot from a tripod which allowed us both to get a chane to capture lightning.  The crack from this lightning bolt was the loudest I had heard in over 20 years.  I ran to cover along with the student just after making this shot as rain began pouring down.  It was a bit scary and a little risky, but it resulted in the photograph that makes me feel the most emotion from 2013 because of it. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Tampa Car Photography Shoot in Ybor City - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/320th with two speed lights behind custom ADV.1 Wheels

2 - Lamborghini Gallardo in Ybor City - category:  car, strobist, Photoshop

It was a good year for photographing cars as I got to photograph a number of special sports cars and super cars.  I ended the 2013 shooting year with this Lamborghini Gallardo shoot.  It was a mid-day shoot, but I knew I wanted to create a dark, atmospheric shot nonetheless.  Using mostly digital photo editing skills, I transformed the shady street the Lamborghini was parked on to look like a dark alley.  I also placed two speedlights under the wheels creating the glowing effect at the bottom, something I had never done before. (read the original photo story for this image

 

Father holds his baby girl in the air at Madeira Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/6.3 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power beside camera & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame right

3 - Father Holding Up Baby Daughter - category: portrait, candid, strobist

Making portraits on the beach is always an unknown due mostly to weather.  If there is no great sunset, so be it.  If there is, then the sunset background canvas helps make any ordinary photo look special.  Then if you can add subjects willing to do something different placed in optimal lighting from two speedlights, the results can be one of the best beach portraits I have made.  This type of shot is full of pitfalls from shadows falling on the subjects face to the baby not having a happy expression.  For this particular portrait, everything fell right into place. (read the original photo story for this image

 

After 10 seconds, a swinging ship on a pendulum looks elliptical at St. Rafael Church Festival Snell Isle Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/16 ISO 200 10.5 sec tripod mounted with cable release

4- Carnival Ride on Snell Isle - category: night photography, long exposure

I am a nostalgic person.  It delights me greatly that a small carnival travels from who knows where each October to setup right across the way from my apartment.  One day just a grass soccer field, the next a wonderland of excitement that reminds me of going to them as a kid.  Now when I visit this carnival I do not go on any of the rides, I just observe with my eyes and then my camera capturing what the eye cannot even see.  Then I eat deep fried Oreos and go home and overnight the place returns to a quiet soccer field. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Great Egret looking straight at the lens in St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/1000th

5 - Great Egret Looks Awkward From Straight-on - category: bird, nature, perspective

This area of Florida provides close access to all kinds of large wading birds, like the Great Egret.  From most angles, they are very beautiful and elegant birds with their long slender necks and white plummage.  However, if you remove the dept of their shape and look at them from straight-on, to me, they look incredibly odd and like another creature entirely.  One is so used to seeing these birds from the side perspective, that from the front, they look almost unnatural, not unlike how Beavis should only be observed from the side. (read the original photo story for this image

My Favorite Five Images of 2012

My Favorite Five Images of 2011

My Favorite Five Images of 2010

My Favorite Five Images of 2009

--please post links to your own favorite photographs in the comments below

Favorite Five Photographs of 2012

The five photographs below represent my personal favorites that I made in 2012, from various categories.  The process, as always, for selecting my favorite images of the year is based on if the photo made me feel emotion.  Another factor for choosing is if the particular photograph was a breakthrough for me in terms of technique or content.

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione looks out over the Tampa International Jet Center airfield - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 9-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable release

1 - Alfa Romeo 8C HDR at Tampa Jet Center - category: event, car, HDR

Photographing the Cars & Couture event in October 2012 was the most fruitful evening of shooting of the year for me by far for getting portfolio shots.  The term kid in a candy shop could not be more well applied.  I had free range to photograph numerous supercars in a unique (jet hangar) setting as the light of the day was providing an ideal sunset backdrop.  I felt as if in a blissful trance.  It was hard to choose which shot from the event for my favorite.  I chose the above shot of an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione because it incorporates the best of my 9-exposure HDR technique in a shot that composes the car and event photography categories.  I also believe it tells a story with the couple embracing framed in the windshield of the car, the woman standing alone in the center, the jets in the far background and the other people mingling at the right of the frame.  This image is the one I am currently using on my business card too. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Abby surrounded by bokeh using "sandwich lighting" - Nikon D300 Nikkor 105mm VR Micro @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame right both @ 1/4 power

2 - Abby Wrapped in Shadow with Bokeh - category:  model portfolio shot, strobist

I had several model portfolio shoots in 2012, but like the Cars & Couture event described above, my shoot with Abby produced the most portfolio shots of any other model shoot.  The image of her above largely in shadow also represents a new photography style for me pushing my strobist techniques into different, less traditional areas.  This shoot was also on location, not in a studio, and the bokeh in the background is the result of finding trees filled with small lights.  The shadow the model is wrapped in to me, is what produces the emotion of the shot, along with the pose Abby chose on her own.  Both of these add up to some mystery the viewer has to ponder. (read the original photo story for this image

 

Isabella dancing at her first communion celebration at the Don Cesar St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th Strobist: SB-800 with diffuser cap @ 1/4 power to frame right

3 - First Communion Dress Sping - category: portrait

I had photographed Isabella's mother twice before as she is a professional flamenco dancer.  She asked me to photograph her daughter's First Communion celebration at the Don Cesar.  As soon as I saw Isabella in her beautiful, flowing white dress, I knew I wanted to make a shot showing the dress twirling in the air.  In the driveway of the Don Cesar I stood on the top of a low wall of potted plants to get a high perspective.  Then it was about timing the shot right to get Isabella smiling and looking at the camera as well as her dress in full spin.  (read the original photo story for this image

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 11 sec tripod mounted with cable release

4- Fiery Dusk Sky Over St. Petersburg - category: fine art, landscape, long exposure

2012 may well be the last year I would be able to make a shot like the one above as the location I made it from, the top of The Pier, is slated for demolition soon.  If that is so and this shot is the last twilight sky over downtown St. Petersburg I ever make, then at least I got great cooperation from Mother Nature.  Just minutes before sunset, everything was totally gray and overcast.  Then, suddenly, light burst out from just above the horizon and changed color at least three times.  This view is more commonly shot framed to the west and north, but I chose to frame it west and south, making it stand out from others I have taken from this same vantage point.  (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Kiki's mouth opens too wide when yawning to even fit in the frame! - Nikon D300 Nikkor 105mm VR micro @ f/8 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power in brolly to frame right

5 - Kiki Yawns on Digital White Background - category: candid, Photoshop, pet

A photograph of my beloved puppy Kiki returns to my favorites of the year after a one year absence.  This one demonstrates the benefits of being restricted by focal length.  On my Nikon was the 105mm macro lens, making it impossible to get Kiki's entire head in the frame.  I think had another, wider lens been on my camera then and all of Kiki's head could have been in the frame, the shot would not have had nearly the impact this one does by showing only part of her tongue and jaw and featuring her eye looking straight ahead.  The other reason for choosing this shot is that it demonstrates my improved Photoshop technique for removing a subject from a background and my new liking of putting subjects on digitally created white backgrounds.  (read the original photo story for this image

My Favorite Five Images of 2011

My Favorite Five Images of 2010

My Favorite Five Images of 2009

--please post links to your own favorite photographs in the comments below

Favorite Ten Photographs of 2011

This is a collection of my ten personal favorite photographs that I made in 2011, with roughly each image from a different category.  I somehow totally forgot that in the past I only selected my "Five Favorite" shots (2009, 2010), as I from the start set out to choose ten this time.  All photographs were made in the greater Tampa Bay area using a Nikon D300, various lenses, various techniques and various lighting.  My process for selecting the images was based on if the photo made me feel emotion, and also if the particular photograph was a breakthrough for me in terms of technique or content.

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1 sec tripod mounted10 - Carnival Time Machine - category:  motion blur

In 2011 I finally invested in a proper tripod.  This allowed me to explore the world of motion blur photography when the annual carnival came to the church right across the water from where I live.  This tilt-a-whirl image appeals to me because of its perfect roundness on a pure black background.  It has a cleanness of form that appeals to me aesthetically. (read original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 Speedlight @ 1/4 power to frame left & SB-600 Speedlight @ 1/4 to frame right9 - Close Family on Colorful Sunset Beach - category:  strobist

This family were repeat clients from 2010.  It is always great to photograph people you already know and have photographed before.  Last year it was their daughter's seventh birthday party.  For this year, they wanted family portraits on the beach.  As you can see Mother Nature did her part providing a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  Using my 2-strobe off camera flash technique I caught the family in a candid exchange of daughter from father to mother. (read original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/1600th8 - Great Blue Heron Sunset Silhouette - category:  nature

I had pretty much never made a silhouette shot before the one you see above as I thought them too common, too easy to do.  However, when I saw a great blue heron right in my own backyard with the sun setting behind it, I thought, why not?  The result to me is a classical representation of Florida, the Sunshine State.  I feel a sense of near and far with the image as well, with the great blue heron so close, and the Sun so far.  Sunset is my favorite time of day and this shot will always help me remember what it was like living here on Snell Isle. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable release7- New Salvador Dali Museum at Twilight with Moon - category:  HDR

This very well could have been my #1 image of the year.  I had a print of it made for my portfolio, which I only do for a very select few images.  I made the shot while teaching a DSLR Photography Lesson, otherwise I would never have been there that evening.  I have always from the beginning tried to make my HDR look realistic, to use the HDR technique to show images in a more real sense, rather than hyper-real as a lot of HDR tends to look.  Using HDR allowed me to expose the people inside the glass enigma feature of the museum, as well as the purple twilight sky surrounding the waxing moon.  This is yet another image taken at sunset/dusk, my favorite time of day.  This image appeals to me because of its futuristic sense. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/60th Strobist: SB-800 to frame right SB-600 to frame left6 - Fashion Model With Dog Statue - category:  fashion

I can tell you that photographing models for money is rather enjoyable.  Photographing a model is totally different because they know how to act in front of the lens, and like being in front of the lens.  When working with a model I can focus on the creative much more since keeping the subject's interest and coaching them into a flattering pose requires little to no effort.  It was my idea to introduce the dog statue into this shot as an element of pure curiosity. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 with Tamron 17-50mm @ f/2.8 ISO 1250 1/60th ambient light5 - Old High School Friends in Dennys - category - candid

This is by far the most personal image for me out of the ten, and the one that in ten years will have the most personal value to me.  I had it printed and mounted and it resides on my desk as of this moment.  On the left is old high school friend Rick.  On the right is eldest friend Terry.  We were all best friends in high school.  I had not seen Rick in ten years.  It was the first time for all three of us to be together since we could remember, possibly as long as 1996.  As is the case with childhood friends, ten years might as well be ten seconds once back together again.  This candid portrait perfectly captures how I remember these friends in my mind, which to me is the best result one could ask for in a photo, capturing something as it really is. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame right4 - Family Facing the Sea & Setting Sun - category - family beach portrait

The beach is not an environment with that many features.  Basically there is the tall grass at the edge of the beach, the sandy beach itself and then the water.  Therefore, family beach portraits can all tend to look similar.  I am always trying to think of new ideas for photos as I do not like to repeat myself.  This portrait was the first time I had a family face the setting sun, thereby putting their backs to the camera.  For me creatively, this makes the impact of the photo totally different than if you could see their faces.  The mood is entirely different, mystery is added, and their reflections in the wet sand add yet another dimension to the image.  When the family looks at this photo in ten years, I want them to wonder what they were thinking about in that moment. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm lens @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR mounted on Induro CT214 tripod with cable release3 - Binocular Viewer Relic of the Past - category:  black & white

This is another image that was made while teaching a DSLR Photography Lesson.  This image ranks so high among my favorites because it haunts me.  In a world rapidly becoming all digital, I am taken aback that suck an analog relic from the past still exists.  I am very pleased that it does.  An object made of thick metal, so heavy that it simply cannot even be moved using one's full strength.  It is such a tangible object.  I chose to use black & white processing to show my nostalgia for the binocular viewer and its links to childhood in general.  I will have a print made of this photograph soon.  (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable release2 - Lexus IS F in Abandoned Ybor City Tampa - category:  car

This is the one image not made in St. Petersburg.  I scouted this location in Ybor City, Tampa before the day of the shoot as the client wanted a brick warehouse background.  For a short time, the Lexus IS F was my favorite car in the world.  So when the opportunity came to actually get paid money to photograph one, I was ecstatic.  This also marked a transition in my business toward car & commercial photography.  I liked this image so much that I have been using it on the front side of my business card for most of 2011.  I need to get a print of this one made sometime very soon too. (read the original photo story for this image)

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/160th SB-800 to frame right & SB-600 to frame left1 - Guitarist Playing to the Sunset - category:  commercial

Quite simply, I believe this was the best time I ever had making photographs, at least professionally.  The client gave me the ideal instructions:  just photogrpah me while I play.  In this way, I was able to combine a commercial shoot with essentially candid street photography.  Thus, it was my ideal photography job.  Since he was actually playing, the music also set the tone for the shoot as well.  I never shot a greater variety of photos using all my lenses, both natural light and strobist shots, wide shots, tight shots, sunset shots, silhouette shots, basically a little of everything from all the other above images.  Once again, the image that appeals most to me is one where you cannot see the subject's face.  I already have a print of it in my portfolio.  This is my favorite photograph made in 2011.  (read the original photo story for this image)

My Favorite Five Images of 2009

My Favorite Five Images of 2010

--please post links to your own favorite photographs in the comments below

Favorite Five Photographs of 2010

This collection of five photographs are my personal favorites that I made in 2010, all from a different category.  All the images were made in the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County areas.  All were taken with a Nikon D300 DSLR.

 

Nikon D300 Tamron XR Di II 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5-bracket HDR tripod mounted with cable release5 - Purple Fiery Florida Sunset Sky - category: Fine Art

This HDR shot was taken on Sunset Beach, Treasure Island, Florida while teaching a DSLR photography lesson to a student.  It is amazing how little I have gone out by myself to photograph the dramatic sunset and twilight skies that are the highlights of fine art photography for Florida.  If not for teaching a photography lesson that evening, I would never have made this shot, so I am very glad I did.  Why I chose this shot in particular is for the mix of colors ranging from purple to yellow tints, to the pink reflecting off the clouds in the left-center.  There appears to be a kind of vortex opening and my imagination always believes something fantastic just might pass through to our world.  Read more philosophy behind this shot.

 

Nikon D300 Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D @ f/4 ISO 200 1/1000th

4 - Sandy-faced Kiki at Honeymoon Island State Park - category:  Pet

It was easy choosing this photograph of my own beloved puppy, Kiki.  For me it is two things about this photograph, first, her sandy snout.  Second, and most of all, it is the super creamy bokeh created by the awesome Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens.  It was a really hot August day at the dog beach part of Honeymoon Island State Park.  The light was extremely harsh.  Not the conditions one thinks a well exposed image can be made in.  Thanks to the Nikkor lens and thanks to Kiki having black fur, the harsh summer light served to show detail in her fur not normally seen in photos.  I have an 8x10 mounted print of this image on the nightstand by my bed.  It is the last thing I look at before I go to sleep every night.  Read more about that day at the beach.

 

Nikon D300 with Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 Speedlight to left & SB-600 to right

3 - Mother & Daughter bond on Sunset Beach - category:  Portrait

I cannot take complete credit for this portrait.  Placing their heads together was the mother's idea.  I take many portrait photographs over the course of a year, so this was perhaps the toughest category to choose a single favorite.  It might be odd to choose as a favorite portrait an image where you cannot even see the subjects faces, but to me, that is one of the reasons why I chose it as my favorite.  The viewer has to use her/his imagination, not just for wondering what their faces look like, but also for what they might be thinking and feeling at that moment.  I hope it is something this mother and daughter continue to wonder twenty years from now.  

 

Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/100th Strobist: SB-800 to left & SB-600 to right

2 - Smiling Bride with Veil on Pass-A-Grille Beach - category:  Wedding

This was an easy choice, and I knew it would be my favorite wedding shot of the year the second after I took it.  As soon as I saw Rosa in her veil, I got excited because I knew, finally, I would have a chance to make bride/veil shots, which are some of the most beautiful a wedding photographer can produce.  Again, I was greatly helped by both Rosa and her big smile, as well as Mother Nature for being able to make this shot on Pass-A-Grille beach at the very tip of St. Petersburg.  View the Bride Series images of Rosa.

 

Nikon D300 with Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 lens @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th Strobist: SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame left

1 - Grandmother's Kiss - category:  Black & White

As soon as I applied the sepia landscape filter to this image in Silver Efex Pro, it became perhaps my favorite black & white image I ever made.  This was not shot in a studio, but right on Sunset Beach, the scene of many other photography sessions this year.  I still consider this a candid image, my signature type of shot, even though the grandmother was aware I had set my light stand next to her and had taken a position some paces away with my camera.  Her granddaughter I believe had no idea of my presence.  The contrast between the granddaughter facing the lens, but eyes to frame left, and the grandmother in profile lips just slightly pressed against her granddaughter's cheek, are what make this shot my favorite of 2010, in addition to the magic Silver Efex Pro does for black & white image conversion.  Read more about the inspiration for this photograph.