Top Image #1 - Male lion - Confidence - Taken at the Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City
Top Image #1 – Confidence – Taken at the Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City

Have you ever considered looking back at your year as a photographer to decide what your top images were from the past year? I think this is a truly valuable and amazing process that everyone wanting to grow as a photographer should focus on. Not only is it a way to reflect on your photography year, but also a way to see how you have grown as a photographer through the year.

I started trying to determine my top images for a year, only last year. I did this as part of an event I was running in my MeWe photography group – G Plus Photographer Expatriots. What I found, was that the experience was not unlike a process I had started to learn when I was an apprentice in the Arcanum. The Arcanum did not last as a mentoring system. The people involved and the concepts continue to be invaluable. I easily attribute my growth as a photographer to the lessons I learned while involved with the Arcanum.

I’ve been very fortunate!

No doubt, I was beyond fortunate to have Laurie Rubin as my initial mentor. Her photography skills and ability to teach concepts are simply amazing. When I finished in Laurie’s mentorship group, I was again beyond fortunate to be allowed into a group with Ron Clifford as our mentor. Ron is not only an amazing photographer, but an artist as well. He has a true gift for teaching and encouraging the exploration of the artistic side of photography. I have been very lucky in the groups I have been involved with so far. There is always more to learn, explore, and areas to grown as an artist.

One of the most valuable aspects of the Arcanum was in working on specific challenges, or levels. In many of these, I was asked to select a small number of images to highlight, receive feedback on, and then discuss. Possibly the most challenging aspect I learned through this process was to do my best to take emotions out of an image, so I could evaluate it based on the actual quality of the image.

Top Image #2 - Blurry Day at Drake's Bay. ICM motion blur of the waves at Drake's Bay, Point Reyes, California.
Top Image #2 – Blurry Day at Drake’s Bay – Drake’s Bay, Point Reyes California

Photos are emotional moments

I realize this may seem like a strange concept, but work with me for a moment. When I am out shooting, I can get caught up in the moment of a capture. Catching a great wildlife image, landscape, or whatever is in front of my camera at the moment. Although my goal is to capture an amazing moment in time with what will hopefully be a great image, part of what I am also doing is capturing that moment in time for myself.

There are emotions involved in that moment in time. My emotions may be the excitement of watching a bald eagle in the wild, or bull elephant seals battling. They may be basking in the beauty of a sunrise over Lake Tahoe, or an amazing sunset in the Yolo Bypass. Regardless, when I look at those images, I can relive the emotions felt when capturing the image.

This becomes the challenge in selecting my top images for the year. I have to remove my emotions from the images. This is a critical step. I try to evaluate the image, purely based on the merits of the image itself. The emotions I may be feeling when remembering the moment of the capture need to not be considered.

Image quality versus the emotions

Am I successful in removing the emotions from my images when selecting my top images? Likely not 100% successful.. lol But that is ok, this is an evolving process for everyone. Sometimes, a great capture happens to coincide with a great moment to relive.

Looking back at all the images I have taken and took time to edit in 2019, I was initially able to get down to a dozen contenders for my top three images. From there, it got a bit more challenging. My top image for the year was an easy choice. Everything came together for my capture of a male lion at the Hogle Zoo in SLC – Confidence. After a re-edit of my Blurry Day at Drake’s Bay ICM image, it quickly became my #2 for the year. The challenge ended up being making the final choice for #3, from the remaining ten images. In the end, I picked an image I have continued to go back to through the year as my #3 – Eagle Eye Intensity.

Top Image #3 - Eagle Eye Intensity. A bald eagle portrait.
Top Image #3 – Eagle Eye Intensity

Pick YOUR Top Images!

I love going through this process, no matter how challenging it is to actually do. I get to review all the images I took time to edit in 2019. It is also a chance to think about how I have grown as a photographer through the year. I HIGHLY recommend every photographer consider doing this. It is difficult to be sure, but also very rewarding in the end.

Each of these images and more are available for purchase here.