Martin’s 2015 Top Ten Photographs (Podcast 505)

Martin’s 2015 Top Ten Photographs (Podcast 505)

This week I’m going to share the 2015 top ten photographs that we edited down to last week, with a little information about each image. There is a lot to be learned about our images from this exercise, so this is something that I like to do each year.

If you didn’t catch last week’s episode, in which I walked you through the selection process, you might want to check that out first. I really think that it’s important for a photographer to get used to whittling down images to a finite number, even for personal benefit.

There’s nothing worse than sitting through hundreds of photos from someone’s photo trips. In any situation, if you get a chance to show your photos to others, it’s always going to project you in a better light to show a tight edit of your images, and whittling down an entire year of photographs to just ten is great practice for this.

In a professional environment, I feel that providing more images than you are asked for is not only unprofessional, I think it’s disrespectful. You are basically saying that your time is more precious than that of the person asking for the images, because you are forcing the selection process on them, when it’s really your job.

Anyway, I went through that last week as well, so let’s jump in and start to look at my 2015 Top Ten photographs. Remember, these are my personal selected images. It’s highly likely that you’ll wonder why I didn’t include others, or why I even included some of these. Again, we talked about that process last week, but do keep in mind that this is a personal preference. What I consider to be my best ten, and we’ll work through these in chronological order.

I started 2015 with an amazing winter landscape tour in Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan, and this first image was from the second day. The trip depends heavily on having good snow cover and when possible also falling snow, which we didn’t have for the first two days, so we drove to a few locations that I had in mind, and on the way, we drove past an opening through which I saw this tree with the line of posts (below).

Hanazono Tree with Fence Posts

Hanazono Tree with Fence Posts

I could see that many people in the group weren’t really seeing this, but this ended up being one of my favorite images from the 12 day tour. I waited for the patches of lighter sky that were in the scene when we walked back to it to clear, before capturing this shot. I feel the very subtle line between the line of the hill and the almost uniform white sky works really well here. I love white on white, when the boundaries between the two is almost not even visible. The line of posts punctuates the shape of the hill nicely too, and the tree, being almost totally black adds the necessary weight to balance the image out nicely. I shot this at f/8 for 1/200 of a second at ISO 200.

I made the next photograph five days later on the same Hokkaido Landscape tour (below). We were photographing a small fishing port, and to the side there were these seven boats that had holes in their hulls and other places, so we figured this was like a boat graveyard. We also had a very dynamic sky with rain or snow falling on the horizon in the distance, so there are lots of different levels of detail to explore in this image.

Boat Graveyard #2

Boat Graveyard #2

I converted both of these first two images to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2, my “go to” black and white conversion software, because I love the control it gives me over the conversion process. I love to bring out a dramatic sky like this, while maintaining the subtle tones in fallen snow. This was shot at f/11 for 1/160 of a second at ISO 100.

This next photograph was from the last day of my second Winter Wonderland tour, also in Hokkaido (below). We saw this young fox at the side of the road, probably hoping for a scrap of food from the tourists, so we stopped our bus and all of the group shot from the bus through open windows. This lovely little fox walked around and then sat for us for a while. It sounded like the Olympics inside the bus as we all made the most of the opportunity.

Fox's Yawn

Fox’s Yawn

I thought I’d gotten my shots, and I do like the other images that I had, but then one of the participants closer to the middle of the bus, with a better angle said that he’d done, and offered me his window. As I walked up and started to raise my camera, the fox yawned, so I was able to grab this and a couple of other frames. I felt really bad for the guy that gave me his window, but this happened so quickly that as he walked away he would have missed it anyway.

I shot this with my 7D Mark II, so the fast frame rate helped me to get more than one frame. I’m going to take the 7D2 with me on this year’s tours, but will be trying to use the two 5Ds R bodies mostly, as I really want the higher resolution. I’ll let you know how this goes over the next few months as I complete each tour. The settings for this image were f/8 for 1/1000 of a second, ISO 400.

Drowsy Six Week Old Snow Monkey

Drowsy Six Week Old Snow Monkey

Some months past between the last and this next photograph, as I made my first summer visit to the snow monkeys that we also visit during my Winter Wonderland tours.

I’d been hoping to visit during the summer for some time now, as the babies are born in May each year, so this little guy was just six weeks old when I photographed him here (right).

It was a very different experience to that which I’m used to in the winter months. You can sense the lack of hardship in the monkeys, as they don’t have to battle the cold to survive. They lay on the rocks and seem generally more relaxed in the summer.

I shot this hand-held at 400mm with the 100-400mm Mark II lens from Canon, and the 5Ds R, which I had just bought and was testing out for the first time during this trip. I was happy to find that despite the ultra-high resolution, it is very much hand-holdable.

There’s just something beautifully innocent and yet slightly playful in the expression of this young monkey, which have made this a favorite photo for 2015. My settings were f/5.6 for 1/500 of a second at ISO 400.

During the same trip to photograph the snow monkeys in summer, while testing out the new 5Ds R camera, I also spent a lot of time in the Shigakougen (Highlands) and one of the things I love to do up there is to photograph Ichinuma, which means literally the number one pond (below). I always wish for a bit of mist, and usually go there before breakfast just for that, but as I walked up to the location at the end of the day, after photographing the snow monkeys, this mist rolled in for a brief time, as low cloud engulfed the top of the mountain.

Ichinuma in the Mist (Panorama #2)

Ichinuma in the Mist (Panorama #2)

Feeling very lucky, I quickly rotated my camera with the lens ring on the 100-400mm lens and shot a series of vertical orientation images for a stitched panorama photograph. Of course, with mist like this, moving quite quickly, you can’t wait too long between each exposure, or it becomes difficult to stitch them in Photoshop, but this worked well, giving me a 144 megapixel image. I can print this huge without any enlarging, and the detail is just spectacular. Regardless of that, this has also remained a favorite for the year, and one that I pretty much knew I’d include here from the start of my selection process. The exposure here was f/10 for 0.6 seconds, at ISO 100.

In August, I was lucky enough to be able to go back to Namibia with my friend Jeremy Woodhouse, to cohost another tour there with him. As part of my personal project to recapture some of my old favorites at the new 50 megapixel resolution of the 5Ds R, on my first visit back in Deadvlei, I recreated my 2013 image of the camel-thorn trees in silhouette at dawn. The following day though, I wanted something new, and this photograph was it (below).

Deadvlei Camel Thorn Tree Silhouettes

Deadvlei Camel Thorn Tree Silhouettes

I think of the two images, this is actually my favorite, so I’m not just trying to include fresh work here for this 2015 selection. I really like the way the left tree is very similar in shape to the right tree, and yet the image is asymmetrical in terms of size with the second tree being much further back in the scene. The settings here were f/16 for 1/15 of a second at ISO 100. I used a focal length of 349mm to compact the elements of the scene to emphasize the relationship between the trees and the orange dune in the background.

As I’ve mentioned before, this contrast is caused by the sun coming up over the sand dune behind me as I shot this, and there is a one or two minute window each morning when the sun only illuminates that dune in the background, before it starts to illuminate the clay floor of the valley that the dead camel-thorn trees are standing on. The contrast is amazing, and I think this is perhaps one of my favorite spots in the world to photograph.

I’m actually finalizing plans for a 2017 tour in Namibia right now, and will be releasing details in the coming weeks, so if you want to be one of the first to hear about that, do sign up for my Tour & Workshops Newsletter.

Himba Girl

Himba Girl

During the same trip, we were privileged to be able to spend some quality time with the Himba People, and this is one of my favorite images from the amazing cultural exchange that we had (right).

We are able to ask the Himba People to go inside their small huts, and here I photographed this young girl in just the light entering the hut through a small doorway, that you have to crouch down to pass through.

It’s all natural light, but I had increased the ISO to 5000 for this image. I know a lot of people are afraid to increase the ISO for fear of causing grain, but that same fear also makes people allow photographs in such conditions to become a little dark as well.

Here I was literally just about over exposing the girls eyes and the decorative items she was wearing, so although much of the image is still very dark, I was essentially exposing to the right, and this really helps to keep noise to a minimum. The image is not without any noise, but the levels of noise are so low that this is still a wonderfully high quality image.

My settings were 1/80 of a second at f/5.6, ISO 5000.

At the end of the same day with the Himba People, we went back to their village to photograph them herding their goats back into the coral, and that resulted in a photograph that I love so much I printed it at 24 x 36″ and now have it framed on the wall behind me. The sun was still hitting this scene over the top of the hill in the background, so although it wasn’t quite golden hour, the light is still very warm, helped by the color of the brown dust that the goats were kicking up as they walked (below).

Himba Goat Herding

Himba Goat Herding

I love how each of the goats is slightly different and that one with the big horns in the middle of the herd is a great character, as is the smallest goat at the front of the group to the right as we view the scene. The thing I love the most about this photograph though is the smiles on the faces of the Himba People, probably as they find humor in the fact that there’s a line of 12 photographers kneeling in front of them as they simply perform a task that they do every day.

These are wonderful exchanges that I treasure, and I hope that even a tiny piece of that comes across in the images I make there. If you are interested in taking a look at more of my Namibia work, my portfolio is here.

After Namibia I visited Iceland for my 2015 tour. We’re taking the group full circle in 2016, so we’ll be taking in some even larger waterfalls, but so far, the largest falls we’ve visited each year has been Gullfoss, that we can see a tiny segment of in this photograph (below).

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

It was unfortunately a sunny day when we visited in 2015, which is not great for photographing waterfalls. They always look better in the shade or on overcast days, because there is less contrast to deal with, and you can concentrate on recording the subtle beauty of the water and rocks. As usual though, as photographers it’s our job to find something of beauty to shoot, under the conditions we’re presented with. Of course, ideally we’d be able to go back when conditions are better, but there is only so much we can do when we have an itinerary to work with, and places to be, so we did what we could.

I was in the end actually very happy with some of the shots from this year, despite the conditions. This is perhaps my favorite, as I picked out just a small section of the falls, as they cascade down towards the main drop down into the gorge a little further along. I used a one second exposure at f/14 to record the movement of the water. I like to use around a half to a full second exposure for waterfalls, as I feel this records a nice amount of movement without removing all texture.

In this photo (above) I particularly like the area of texture in the water in the bottom right, just in front of the rocks, but I find myself pouring over a number of areas of detail in this image. I also like how the light mist above the center of the cascade enables us to see a little bit of detail in the cliff in the distant background. Looking at the focal length in the EXIF data, I shot this at 114mm, which also gives me confidence to take my 100-400mm lens with me on my Hokkaido Landscape tour for 2016, which I’ll have just started as I release this episode.

I’m really hoping that Canon release an updated 24-105mm lens at some point soon, as I currently have a gap between my 24-70mm and the 100-400mm, which makes me uncomfortable, but I’m finding that I am tending to be getting by without that 30mm at the moment, so the 70-200mm is generally staying at home now. I’ll probably hang on to it for the wider f/2.8 aperture, but I am definitely giving preference to using the 100-400mm now, even for my landscape work, as I really like being able to just zoom in past 200mm without using an extender.

Last up, is another photo from Iceland, which is this image of the blue glacial waters from Jökulsárlón as the water flowed through the narrow estuary to the sea as the tide went out (below). We were driving past the lagoon on the way to another glacier when we noticed a couple of icebergs trapped in the estuary as there are some large concrete blocks under the water to stop large icebergs from flowing out and breaking down the bridge that were were driving over. You wouldn’t normally see this sort of flow unless the iceberg is grounded like this.

Water and Ice

Water and Ice

I enhanced the color in this a little bit by increasing the Vibrance and Saturation in Lightroom, but these are generic changes, so you can tell that the blue really is there in the glacial ice and water. I really like the curves of the flow of water here, leading down to that plume of white water at the base of the ice. I used a 1/4 of a second shutter speed for this at f/16, ISO 100. I was zoomed in to 312mm, as it was this bottom corner of the iceberg that I found most appealing.

A Rolling Record of Progress

I really do find this exercise to be useful each year, and this year has been no exception. Looking at my images, I thankfully continue to get a sense of improvement in my work. The beauty of doing this selection each year, is that you can go back and compare your selections to previous years easily.

I didn’t do this in 2010, as I was busy exiting my old day job and incorporating Martin Bailey Photography K.K. but just for fun, I just displayed all of my top tens since I started doing this in 2007. Here’s a screenshot from Lightroom showing each year on a single row (below). I love that having these Top Ten Collections saved enables me to quickly go back and compare my work to previous years and view trends.

Eight Years of Top Tens

Eight Years of Top Tens

By the way, if you use Lightroom for this process, keep in mind that if you create a Collection referencing images on a hard drive that you later stop using, you basically lose your collections. They just become empty. So even if you start to use a new hard drive, instead of re-importing your images from the new location, it’s always best to right click the hard drive in Lightroom after moving the images, and tell Lightroom where to find the images in the new location. If you do this, the linkage will be maintained, and you won’t break your collections.

Looking back over the years though, I find it interesting that there were no black and white images at all from 2007 and 2008, and only one from 2009. In fact, to say how much a part of my photography black and white plays, there is generally still only around 2 to 3 of my ten images from each year that is black and white, which surprises me, although this is probably because I don’t tend to convert much of my wildlife work to black and white.

I feel that my photography probably took the largest leap forward between 2009 and 2011, rows 3 and 4, although that isn’t surprising either, because that’s when I severed the cord from my day job, and started to do photography full time. In all honesty, I have probably done less photography some years since going full time than I did before, because I spend a lot of my time now on the business side and marketing, and I also now do more writing about photography, but I feel as though my approach to photography changed as I started to make a living from my photography alone. I have become much more deliberate in my work, thinking through my technical and creative processes more each year, and I feel that this is showing in my work.

I am of course incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit the locations that I go to, and without that, many of these images would not have been possible. I would of course have still been doing going through this process though, even if I had only gotten images from here in Japan where I live. I hope you don’t decide not to do this with your own 2015 images if you haven’t been to exotic locations. It’s all relative to where we live and where we are able to shoot.

You’re Playing Against Yourself

I don’t think photography should be about trying to beat anyone. Of course, it’s important to try to improve, but I think photography in many ways is like golf, and although I haven’t played for years now, I always found that regardless of the fact that I would be playing with others, I never felt it necessary to compare scores. Ultimately, you are playing against yourself. If you allow yourself to ponder too much on how your golf, or your photography, compares to others, it can be crippling.

I’ve been saying this for years now, and my stance has not changed, but I truly believe that we should create photographs firstly and foremost for ourselves. The most important thing is that you are happy with your current work, and if you are not, take the necessary steps to create work that you are happy with, or at least moving towards what you believe you will be happy with.

Be it working to find new locations, new genres to work in, or even dare I say it, buying that new piece of kit that you believe will open up some new doors for you creatively. Don’t get caught up in gear acquisition syndrome or GAS as it’s affectionately known, but sometimes, a new piece of kit can open up doors both technically, by removing obstacles, but also creatively, by inspiring us to make new work.

However you take your work to the next level, the main thing is to continue to improve, and I hope we all continue to do that together through 2016 and beyond. As I said last week as well, if you do post a selection of your own 2015 top ten somewhere, please drop a link into the comments for this post, and also try to include a few sentences about what you found useful or interesting about defining your own top ten for 2015.


Show Notes

Martin’s Portfolios can be found here: https://mbp.ac/portfolios

Music by Martin Bailey


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Selecting My Top Ten Photos for 2015 (Podcast 504)

Selecting My Top Ten Photos for 2015 (Podcast 504)

As has been my tradition since 2007, I have taken some time over the past week to reflect on the images I have made during 2015, and worked through the process of editing down my favorites to just 10 images. Today I’m going to share my thoughts on the process, as I believe this is a valuable exercise for photographers to do each year.

Developing the ability to whittle down a collection of images to a finite number is a skill that photographers all need to develop or maintain. If you haven’t tried this yourself, you might think it’s pretty easy, but it really isn’t. I often ask people to provide me with say 5 images, and the majority of the time, I get 1o or 20 back. In an informal situation this is fine. I sometimes provide more images than I’m ask for to give the other party options, but I only do this when I know that the other person will be OK with that.

In a professional situation, if you are asked for 5 images, and you provide ten, it shows a lack of discipline in your work. It also sends a message that you think your time is more important than the person requesting the images. After all, if you don’t spend the time required to get your selection to the required number, you are pushing this task onto the other person, and that’s disrespectful. Generally, in a professional environment, if the person requesting the images wants options, they’ll include that in the number that they request. They might ask for say ten images, but only intend to use five. Either way, develop the skill to provide the number requested.

If you are going to do this “top ten” style exercise for yourself, I recommend you set your number before you start. I like ten. Top ten lists are popular, and it just feels good. You could do more or less, but the most I would go to is twelve, as that’s one per month. A dozen. It’s another good number. If you go for a larger number than twelve, you’re being too easy on yourself and won’t learn as much from the process.

Another thing that I’ve done in the past is done multiple top tens, one for nature and wildlife, and another for people photography, but if I’m totally honest, that was just a cop-out on my part. It was probably too difficult to get my selection down, so I gave in to the temptation to increase my numbers. I won’t be doing that this year, although if you do work in a number of totally different fields of photography, it could be an option. I just recommend that you set your goal before you start, and stick to it.

My Lightroom Selection Process

To start my selection process, I created a Collection Set simply numbered 2015 in Lightroom under my Top Tens Collection Set. Under that Collection Set, I created my first Collection called First Pass, and made it my Target Selection, which adds a + symbol to the right of the Collection name. With that set up, I navigated to the folder that contains all of my best work from 2015, and filtered out all of my two star images, because they are the originals of any photos that I have made a copy of, to work on them in Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex Pro, or in Photoshop etc.

Anything that causes me to create a copy means that I also copy my original raw file to my 2015 Finals folder and mark it with two stars. So, showing three stars or above, I went through this folder hitting the “B” key on my keyboard for any image that I like enough to consider it for my 2015 top ten. The B key adds the selected image to the Target Collection, which we just created and specified. Once I’ve gone through the entire folder, I’ll create a second collection called second pass, and repeat this process until I reach my final ten.

My Thought Process

As I went through the images for my first pass, I had a few feelings that I’d like to share with you, as I think this is an important part of the learning process.

I started making my decision based on the thumbnail view, which I found really easy to do for images that I’ve continuously gone back to through the year, but this didn’t work so well for my wildlife work. I felt that to make a decision for my wildlife work, I had to go in and view the images at full size to feel the connection needed to add them to my First Pass. There were a few favorites that would have made it to the first pass just from the thumbnail, but I felt compelled to add more when viewing the wildlife images larger.

What I noticed though, was that even as I was adding some of these wildlife images, I knew that they wouldn’t make the final cut. My thought process was, OK, so I really like this shot, and I’m going to add it for now, to see a collection of all of my favorite work from 2015, as an initial starting point. If I was sitting down without a lot of time to select my 10 images, I would have been far less likely to add these images at this point. Which way you do this is totally up to you of course. I feel as though at least adding them once is like giving them an honorable mention.

I have 870 images in my 2015 Finals folder, of which 693 are the actual Final images. The others are original raw files for images that I’ve done something to. After my first pass, I ended up with 124 images in my Collection. That’s about 20 more than I can even show in a single screenshot from Lightroom, so I’ll move on to my second pass. To start that process, I created a new Collection called 2nd Pass, and left all 124 images in there, then started the process of removing the lesser images. This is where it starts to get difficult.

I have a few sets of images from the same location, so at this point, I start to select similar images and hit N to display just these images in Survey view and flicking back and forth between them, then press the delete key on my keyboard to start and remove the lesser of these subsets from my Collection. I also removed a few of the honorable mention images, to get my set down to 97, and these can be seen in this screenshot (below).

2015 Top Ten 2nd Pass

2015 Top Ten 2nd Pass

OK, so I’m under a hundred, but still have 87 images to remove from my selection. Time to start getting ruthless. The next thing I did was to select images of the same subject. For example, I have five snow monkey shots, and at most I’m going to have only two in my final selection, so I try to take the knife to at least three of these. The first two weren’t so difficult, but with these three little monkeys on my screen, I had to differ the decision until later.

Three Monkeys

Three Monkeys

I started to remove red-crowned cranes, white-tailed eagle and whooper swan shots. I think the reason that I had to look at my wildlife work full size is because of the eyes of the animals, but it was these same eyes that made it really difficult to remove the wildlife shots once in the selection. Even when the eyes are closed, the feeling that I get from looking at animals makes this really tough.

Of course, even more difficult was removing some of the photographs of the Himba people from Namibia. I had a real cultural exchange with these people, making it incredibly difficult to remove any of these. I removed a few but still ended up looking at this set, and was stuck again.

Namibia Himba People Photos

Namibia Himba People Photos

At the end of my third pass, I was down to 64 images, and by this time, I need a break. This is hard! Here’s a screenshot of where I stood at the end of this third pass (below).

2015 Top Ten Third Pass

2015 Top Ten Third Pass

Starting from the beginning of the Collection again, I still have eight photos from my January Hokkaido Landscape Adventure, so I went to work on them. The first three minimalist tree shots are all strong favorites, but I removed two of them, going for the lone tree on the hill, which has been a favorite since I shot these. The Boat Graveyard shot was definitely going to stay too, so I removed the other boat shot with the clouds radiating out. That left me with three tetra-pod shots, which I really like, but I left only the one with the suns rays, as that’s also remained a favorite. I then removed a few more eagle shots, and removed three of the four sky full of swans shots.

Of the two fox photos, although I think the one of him just sitting there is a prettier photo, the one of him yawning is more unique, so I removed the first of the two. I removed a white-tailed eagle shot and the black-eared kite shot, and then selected all of my crane shots, with a mind to leave only one, which I managed to do.

Back in Namibia, I removed the milky way shot, which I like, but it’s not brilliant, and then removed the single point perspective shot of the room at Kolmanskop, leaving the sausage boilers and slats for now. I knew that I would only leave one of the two camel-thorn tree silhouette photos from Namibia, and because the first of the two was a retake of a 2013 image, I went with the new composition, which I actually prefer anyway, so that was easy enough. Of the two dune shots, I went for the less cluttered of the two, but I’m still not sure I’ll leave the other one in. There’s still a long way to go.

I really like the pink pelicans shot, but it’s not my best work, so that’s gone now too, and I have to say goodbye to the Himba lady dancing, because I prefer the other two low key images of these three. I can’t remove the goat herding shot. That’s still a firm favorite. I removed two of the three desert elephant shots, because they aren’t that good either, but I left the one of the elephants walking into the distance as I love the feel of that image. At this point I still have 13 Namibia shots left in the selection, which is not good, but I go back to Iceland.

I remove the shot of Gullfoss from the end of the gorge, because it’s a 5Ds R reshoot, and as much as it hurts, I remove a few more of the Iceland landscapes, because I have better images from previous years. The Icelandic horse shot also has to go. It’s not that special. That’s the end of the fourth pass though, and I’m still at 36 photos. Aargh, this is hard!

2015 Top Ten Fourth Pass

2015 Top Ten Fourth Pass

I actually found the fifth pass a little easier, because I now know that I still have to delete almost three out of four images. I have a specific number to work with now, and that was kind of liberating. It meant that I had start to really sacrifice images that had made it this far in my process.

I quickly cut a bunch of stuff. Swans in flight, sausage boilers, slatted room, the cave shot from Iceland. I kept the Landmannalaugar cotton grass reflection in as long as I could, but it just isn’t as good as many of the other shots, so that went too.

It’s a toss-up between the Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfall shots, but in the end, I leave the Skógafoss image in, because it’s landscape as opposed to portrait orientation, and therefore will look better on the blog. That’s my final thinking on that one, and this is a valid consideration. If I was selecting something for the cover of a magazine, I’d have gone with the portrait orientation image.

I’ve still only removed one in three images though by the end of my fifth pass, so I take another quick swing at it and get my Namibia images down to five, four Iceland images left, and still ten Japan shots left. By this time, I’m at 19 images, and it’s the end of my business day. I will go down stairs for dinner now, and try to pick this up again later. At this point I’m actually happy to walk away from the process for a while, to reset.

2015 Top Ten Fifth Pass

2015 Top Ten Fifth Pass

So, after writing the last paragraph, at 19 photos, I actually left this selection for four full days, as I visited in-laws over the New Year, and came back to this on the evening of Sunday the 3rd of January. One of the best ways to finalize a selection like this in my mind is to take at least a day, or a few when possible, to let the shortlist sit.

The Shortlist

I was able to within a few minutes pick 11 of the 19 images remaining that I absolutely felt I had to include, and the last two were a toss-up, so I basically had to decide between my shot of the elephants walking into the distance and the blue glacial water flowing around the iceberg. My other nine were set.

I’d decided to go with just the little Himba girl, and leave out the photo of the Himba man, as although I love both of those photos, I don’t have room for two of these, and I feel that the little girl photos is the stronger of the two, with a richer sense of culture. I also decided that I could live without another red-crowned crane and eagle shot, as these have dominated my top tens over the years. I still totally enjoy making these photographs, but for now, I need something a little more special to make what is to me, a pretty important selection of images.

I also decided to drop the tetra-pod image and keep the boat graveyard image, because again I think the latter is the stronger image, although I do really like both. I’ve had a shot of Skógafoss in my top ten a few years ago, and the 2015 version doesn’t do any more for me, so I dropped that too. Also, although I like the church shot, there is a definite aspect of been there done that, so I dropped that too.

I’ve also had monkey face close-ups, so I dropped the adult monkey in favor of the six week old baby, because it’s  fresh work for me, as I visited the snow monkeys in the summer for the first time in 2015. This was a tough choice though, as I find the strong human like expression on the thoughtful adult snow monkeys face hard to resist.

Finally, the bright and vibrant green shot of the pond from Fukushima has been a favorite throughout the year, but I feel that the misty tree and pond shot is a better image and closer to my overall style than the first pond shot, so I went with the atmospheric misty shot.

I was back to my decision as to whether or not to leave the elephants shot in, or go with the glacial flow and ice shot. I love the story behind the elephant shot, but I think the glacial flow shot is closer to my style, and perhaps a prettier photo, so I’m going to go with that.

For my final selection of 10 from my 19 image short list, I used the P button to add the Pick flag to my images, and then hit the U key to Unflag the elephant shot after making my decision, leaving me with my 10. If it’s important to keep a record of the selection after each pass, you can just right click and select Duplicate Collection, or create a new Collection and drag your images into it, and just repeat this with each new pass you make.

2015 Top Ten Final Selection

2015 Top Ten Final Selection

I honestly find it really sad to remove any photo from these selections, but as difficult as this process can be, I really do think it’s an important process for a photographer to undertake at least once a year, to help us to become better editors of our work. By editing, I don’t meaning modifying the individual image, I mean the act of editing down a selection to a finite number.

As I mentioned earlier, photographers seem to find this difficult to do, but in some situations it is a necessary skill, that we should practice, as often as we can, so that when we are asked for selections of images for any reason, we can go through the process relatively quickly when necessary. When time allows as well, it’s pretty much always going to help you to be more objective about your final selection if you can step away from the process for a day or more as you reach your last few passes.

If you don’t use Lightroom, you will of course have to figure out a way to actually select the images and whittle them down. I haven’t used any other tools for so long now that I can’t offer any advice, other than make it simple. If the process gets in the way, or becomes a pain to manage, you need to look for a better process.

Next week, I’ll share the actual Top Ten images that I was left with one by one, along with a little bit of information about each image. I’ll also talk about how beneficial it is to keep these Collections, to enable us to view our progress over the years.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I hope it has been on some use to go through this process with me, and if you do this too, remember that it is important to stick to your number, be it five, ten or twelve, once you’ve decided a number to shoot for, don’t allow your emotional attachment to the images force you to increase that number. If you do that, you’ve failed to learn from the process. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s why it makes us better photographers.

Share Your Top Ten

And of course, as usual, if you do post your selection of images anywhere, drop a link into the comments for this post. I know that many of you go through this process, and I love seeing how you are progressing as photographers, and even if it’s your first time, let me know, and include a note on what you learned from the process too if anything.


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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