Best of 2011

Best of 2011

It’s late December so it must be time for my annual ”Best of” post. In the past, I’ve posted this over on my blog but this year, for a change, I’m posting it here on the photoblog instead since it tends to receive quite a bit of traffic and I prefer the layout here.

Despite the fact that I’ve posted a lot more images on the blog this year (I managed a total of 311 posts this year – not quite 1 a day but pretty close. The blog has been running just shy of 3 years and currently has a total of 646 posts), I spent fewer days shooting than I have previously and I’ve tended to shoot more documentary work and less for ”pure art”. This is probably the main reason that only 3 of the images in my top 10 were produced using HDR and, of those, 2 of the 3 were processed so that you shouldn’t know that I was using HDR. That doesn’t indicate that I’m less interested in HDR these days but more that I’m tending to use it more as a tool than as a universal approach to all my photography.

Looking through my Lightroom catalog, I see that I’ve added a total of 13066 images this year of which I have 313 marked as ”publishable” and 2856 from recent shoots that I still need to finish keywording and editing. I used my D700 to shoot over 10,000 of this year’s exposures. My 24-70 and 70-200 lenses were used most frequently (about 3000 images each) with the 14-24 not far behind (1900 images) and the 15mm fisheye, a new addition last Christmas, claiming 1200 shots.

My most exciting job this year, the pictures from which I have yet to publish, was a commission from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to shoot the entire facility in HDR. This took place over four days in July and offered me amazing access including the ability to shoot sunrise panoramas from the roof of the control tower and to spend an afternoon 20 feet up in a scissor lift inside the main terminal. You’ll see some of these photos early in the New Year. Other exciting shoots this year included Austin Rodeo, two FIRST Robotics Competition regional events in Chicago and New York, the BEST Robotics Competition Texas/New Mexico regional, a day at a local classic car museum and another evening acting as the stand-in photographer for the Texas Longhorn Band during a home game at Texas Memorial Stadium.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favourite images taken between January 1st and December 17th, 2011.

Old Hand

Despite the fact that I said these pictures were not in any order, I’m pretty sure this is my favourite shot of the set. It was taken at Wimberley Rodeo during the July 4th holiday. Despite being a single shot, there was a deceptive amount of post-processing involved in getting this into its final state. Hopefully, I did the job well, however, and you don’t notice anything specific!

Old Hand

Rotating Ride, Austin Rodeo Carnival

I had a great evening shooting the Austin Rodeo back in March on behalf of their marketing department. While I’m delighted with the rodeo shots taken during the competition too, this is definitely the shot of the night for me. It was taken with the fisheye lens and is a composite of two images, one taken as the ride was loading and a later one with a far longer shutter speed taken while it was spinning. I love the overall shape of the image but the look of trepidation on the guy’s face as he waits for the ride to start really makes the shot for me.

Rotating Ride, Austin Rodeo Carnival

Cypress Root and Needles

This was a quick grab taken early on a Sunday morning during a Cub Scout camp at Pedernales Falls State Park in October. The texture of these roots and the needles lying among them and the beautiful warmth of the colours really appealed to me. I now have a canvas of this image hanging in our front room.

Cypress Root and Needles

Pedernales River Reflections

This shot was taken within ten minutes of the previous one. The light was gorgeous that morning and the angle of the rising sun meant that it lit up the reflected portion of the valley before it reached the river bed. As a result, the brightness of the reflection in the river closely matched the intensity of the light shining on the boys (my son and one of his Cub Scout friends) giving this result. Five minutes later, the sun was on the rocks and the effect disappeared.

Pedernales River Reflections

Crusty Cadillac, Johnson City, Texas

When David Nightingale came to Austin last February, we spent a morning shooting in Johnson City. The weather was uncharacteristically cold for central Texas (16 degrees F!) so we spent as much time inside the local cafe drinking coffee as outside taking pictures but we still managed to get quite a few good shots of the derelict feed mill. This was actually taken right outside A Smith Gallery, my favourite local photography gallery. As I write this, this particular image is actually hanging there as part of their ”Alterations” show.

This is an HDR with a fair bit of Photoshop rework to remove phone lines, tone the image and generally tweak it into shape.

Crusty Cadillac, Johnson City, Texas

Smith & Bell, Houston at Dusk

On a business trip to Houston in March, I managed to sneak away in time for sunset and do some photography. My plan was to find a location to shoot a skyline panorama but, with the light fading and no suitable location found, I switched to plan B and headed to my favourite downtown road junction to shoot the Chevron tower and surrounding buildings. I had completely forgotten about the fountain which offered some great foreground interest and left me with another of my highlight shots for the year.

Smith & Bell, Houston at Dusk

Conch and Sea Grass, Grand Bahama

I’ve always fancied another shot at underwater photography after the mixed success I had during a scuba trip to Grand Cayman about 15 years ago. Since our summer holiday this year was going to be a cruise to the Bahamas, I figured now would be as good a time as any. I picked up a second hand underwater housing for my Canon G9 and took it along. We had been hoping to go snorkeling but, unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate so, instead, I played with it on one of our beach trips. I only took a dozen or so images that day but this one turned out rather nicely.

Conch

Christmas in the Capitol

I normally sit on a picture for a few months before considering adding it to my ”best of” list but this one made it after only a couple of weeks. It was shot recently in the Texas State Capitol House of Representatives Chamber. I have more images of the Capitol than I can count so I was keen to try something different. Since the Christmas tree was up, I reckoned that would offer some excellent opportunities to try to create something different. This image was a 4 second exposure where I zoomed in during the first second and then left the camera alone for the remainder of the time. The result is exactly as I had planned it (no happy accident for a change!). I took a dozen or so shots and this was the one where the zoom trails looked the best to me.

Christmas in the Senate

Chicago Sunrise

Another business trip allowed me to get some great shots of Chicago back in March. I shot this very early in the morning (5:30am call) with Matty Wolin (of Shutterrunner fame) on the North Beach Pier. It was bitterly cold and, had I not been completely freezing, I could have taken many, many more images of ice patters on the lighthouse and other cool things. In the end, though, I got this shot and a couple of great panoramas that I’m delighted with.

Chicago Sunrise

Blue Hour Skyline, Austin

If you’ve been following the photoblog for any length of time, you know I have a love affair with images of the Austin skyline taken from Auditorium Shores. This year’s effort should keep me happy for a while since it’s the first time I’ve managed to catch the skyline with a great sky, great reflection and no construction cranes! I’ve already had this one printed 5 feet wide on canvas and it looks fabulous. That print went to a lawyer’s office but I may yet treat myself to a copy of this (though I’m not sure where I would have wall space for it since it really needs to be printed enormous for best effect).

Blue Hour Skyline, Austin

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