Martin’s Personal Top Ten Photographs for 2021 (Podcast 765)

Martin’s Personal Top Ten Photographs for 2021 (Podcast 765)


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2021 is drawing to an end, and to be honest, in many ways I’m pleased to see this year fall into the past, and looking forward to a brighter 2022, although with my winter tours not possible, we aren’t going to get off to a great start. Still, my yearly top ten selection of my own images is an important part of my year, and I know that some of you listeners and readers enjoy this, so I’m sitting down on December 30 to go through my yearly ritual. Before we jump in on the top ten, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the year.

I can’t complain. I’m still alive, which isn’t something that 5.4 million others can say. I’m kind of amazed that the world has been in the grip of this virus for two years now, although experts did warn that it would probably take up to three years to get through this. I think my general optimistic tendencies just hoped we’d handle this better. The governments around the world seem to be handling things with varying degrees of incompetence. The Japanese government has actually done a reasonable job of getting more than 80% of the population vaccinated, although they are dragging their feet with the third vaccination. Luckily the people of Japan are far more intelligent than the leaders of the country, and our collective efforts have kept casualties relatively low, although again, people have lost their lives here too. My heart goes out to anyone that has fallen to the pandemic and to their loved ones left behind.

Apart from gaining even more unnecessary pounds through increased lack of exercise, I’ve gotten through the year healthy, considering I have a hole in my sphenoid bone that leaks cerebrospinal fluid if I take enough medication to shrink the remains of my brain tumor to the point that it no longer completely plugs up the hole. I did have a slight dance with the C-word this summer too. I had a hard growth on the side of my nose, near where my glasses perch themselves, and it grew pretty quickly, so I went to the hospital and they quickly whipped it off, then tests showed that there were cancerous cells in the tissue. The dermatologist told me it was what they call pre-cancerous solar keratosis, which would probably become a form of skin cancer if left to its own devices. I’m told that although I may get more, there isn’t really anything to worry about, and that suits me fine. There’s plenty of other stuff to worry about, and as a terminal optimist, I’m pretty good at not worrying too much about things that I have little control over.

I haven’t done so well not getting concerned about my lack of ability to travel and pursue my passion for landscape and wildlife photography. Apart from the much-needed visit to the Tatsusawa Falls in October, it seems that almost every time I try to plan something, the pandemic tightens its grip on us again, putting the mockers on my plans. I’d dearly love to go up to Hokkaido over the next month or two, and am still hoping it can happen, but watching the daily cases of the new omicron strain of COVID increase, I’m not sure it will be possible. Fingers crossed on that one.

Anyway, let’s have a look at my 2021 photographs. This is something that I’ve done each year since 2007, and you can actually see all of my posts on this with this link. I’m running a little short on time as I’ve had a few reports of issues with the software I’ve developed that have taken a bunch of the time I put aside to do this, so I’m not going to go into quite as much detail as I usually do. It’s also a pretty light year anyway, with my new passion of microscope photography somewhat dominating my selection, so we’ll whiz through this relatively quickly.

As usual, I started by creating a folder to drop my first pass of images into. As I work through the year I drop all of the images that I am happy with into a year folder in my Finals catalog, which I keep on a separate SSD to my main shoot drive which contains everything for the year. So far my most productive year was 2018 with 1452 images that I was happy with. For 2021 I have 333 images. The last time I had less than that was 2010 at 230 images, and all years from 2005 and earlier.

After my first pass through my images, I had 66 shots in my selection, and as you can see in this screenshot, it was a pretty colorful crop of images. I’m grateful that I was able to stay somewhat productive with microphotography. I honestly think I’d have gone insane this year if it wasn’t for the joy I found in the microscopic world. It actually reminded me of when I had a somewhat stressful day job and would find it relaxing to simply have the camera in my hand. I wasn’t always shooting the greatest images, but just the act of doing photography was stress-relief in itself.

First Pass 66 Images

After my first selection, I went through and removed all of the obvious offenders. I was never going to have four yellow flower shots, for example, but wanted to have another look at all four before picking one or throwing them all out. This was more difficult than I thought it would be, and that is why this is such a valuable exercise. Editing skills are important and although I do this regularly as part of my job, selecting your favorites from a year’s work is never easy, even when the year was as crazy as this one was.

I ended up with 32 images after my second pass. I’d just over halved my selection, but I was stuck to a degree on what to remove next. I was actually not looking forward to this process this year because it’s been such a dry year, but looking at this screenshot, I’m feeling a lot better. Despite the work lacking the grand landscapes and majestic wildlife that I hang my hat on, it’s still quality work in the most part. The difficulty now is in removing some of the images that I know are simply left in the selection for variety.

Second Pass 32 Images

I kept the more abstract yellow flower shot but the cherry blossom photo really does nothing for me. I can’t justify keeping it in the selection simply to show that I did more than the microscopy work. How I feel about an image as it comes onto the screen is an important indicator, and I feel a slight dip in my mood as that comes on screen, so out it goes. And, as bad as I feel removing it, the woodpecker shot doesn’t really cut the mustard either, so out that goes as well. I also removed the Shinjuku Eye photo from a few weeks ago. I like it, but it doesn’t do that much for me.

From an artistic perspective, as I got down to thirteen images, I decided that the plankton shot had to go too, and the black and white flowerhead shot seemed out of place at this point too. Compared to what’s left, I might as well remove the final abstract yellow flower shot, after all, leaving me with my final ten. That leaves me with just two real-world photos, and the other eight are microscope shots. Of those eight, only the scarab beetle is still something that could just about be seen with the naked eye. I’ll quickly walk you through the final selection before we wrap up for this episode.

We’ll look through these in chronological order rather than a ranking. This first image from the beginning of May was one of the first shots that started to really draw me into the microphotography world. These are citric acid crystals sandwiched between two polarizer filters, which causes these beautiful colors, and the rainbow colors that we’ll see in some of the following images as well. The flower of crystals here grew around a spec of fiber that had gotten onto the microscope slide, and kind of seeded the growth into this particular pattern.

Alien Flower Head (Polarized Citric Acid Crystals 100X)
Alien Flower Head (Polarized Citric Acid Crystals 100X)

The next image is one of my favorite sodium sulfite crystal shots. The colors are really appealing to me. This was also one of the first shots to show me the potential of these microscopic crystal formations. We’re looking at less than half a millimeter of the world here.

Monoliths' Salute (Polarized Sodium sulfite 400X 26 Frames)
Monoliths’ Salute (Polarized Sodium sulfite 400X 26 Frames)

The next image is another sodium sulfite crystal shot, looking like an explosion in space to me. The fact that we can imagine these forms to be pretty much anything is probably part of the attraction for me.

Sodium Sulfite Crystals (Polarized 100X 22 frms)
Sodium Sulfite Crystals (Polarized 100X 22 frms)

Here’s the scarab beetle I mentioned, which was shot with my stereo microscope as opposed to my compound microscope. I found this beetle dead at the bottom of my apartment steps, which ultimately became my preferred way to shoot insects, as I thought it probably would.

Scarab Portrait (15X 75 Frames Stereo Microscope)
Scarab Portrait (15X 75 Frames Stereo Microscope)

Here is the third and final sodium sulfite crystal shot, which I have actually minted on Foundation, so if you collect NFTs you can check that out on my Foundation page at https://foundation.app/@MBP/~/114844 If this sells for more than 1 Ethereum I’ll send you a large format print as a thank you!

The Mole Biplane (Sodium sulfite 400X 23f)
The Mole Biplane

This next shot is one of my wife’s kindly donated gray hairs, which I also sandwiched between two polarizers to create these wacky colors. This was a massive 206 frame focus stack to get the entire knot in focus.

Grey Hair Polarized (200X 206 Frames)
Grey Hair Polarized (200X 206 Frames)

The next image was another eye-opener for me, as I looked at thinly sliced cross-sections of the stem or peduncle of a cucumber to find these vascular bundles. They were stained with light green, as they are almost completely transparent without a bit of stain to help us see them. You can also see the tiny chloroplasts in the cells, which I also got a great higher magnification shot of, but resisted included it in my final selection.

Vascular Bundles in Peduncle of Cucumber (100X 30f Light Green Stain)
Vascular Bundles in Peduncle of Cucumber (100X 30f Light Green Stain)

Back to the real-world, here is one of my shots of the Tatsusawa Falls from my October trip that also contributed to keeping me sane this year. These really are beautiful falls and I’m so pleased that I was able to get out there this year.

Tatsusawa Falls
Tatsusawa Falls

Here is another real-world shot, which is one of my favorites from a visit to our local park while the autumnal color was gracing us with its presence.

Yin & Yang
Yin & Yang

And finally, we travel down into The Abyss, which is actually the microscopic gap between two citric acid crystal formations.

The Abyss (400X 8 Frame Stack - Citric Acid Crystals)
The Abyss (400X 8 Frame Stack – Citric Acid Crystals)

OK, so that’s my top ten for 2021. A very different year from previous years, but as my selection shows, microscope photography is probably here to stay as one of my chosen photographic genres. That’s not to say that I’m not chomping at the bit to get back out into the field, but under the circumstances, I’m relatively happy with the year.

As usual, I invite anyone who has selected your own top ten to leave a comment and share your work with me and the rest of the audience. And finally, a huge thank you to our new Patreon supporters Larry, Char, and Paul, who, along with the rest of the patrons are awesome supporters of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast!

So we’ll wrap up there. All the best for 2022!


Show Notes

Check out previous year’s Top Tens here: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/tag/top-ten/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Martin’s Personal Top Ten Photographs for 2020 (Podcast 729)

Martin’s Personal Top Ten Photographs for 2020 (Podcast 729)


Visit Library for MBP Pro eBooks

It’s that time of year again, when I sit back and select my own personal top ten photographs from the previous year, in order to take stock of where I am in my photography, and provide an overview of my progress over the years. As I often do, I’m sitting down to start the process now, and will write this as I work through my selection. I’ll try not to go into too much detail as I’ve done this many times, but we’ll see how this goes. Note too that you can check out all of my Top Ten posts since 2007 with this link.

2020, as you might expect, is very different from previous years. Luckily, I was able to carry out all three of my Japan Winter Tours before the virus stopped play, but my Namibia Tour had to be postponed to this year. I should also now be two days into my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour, but unfortunately I’m stuck at my desk. None of my Japan Winter Tours this year can go ahead. Recently I spend every night dreaming of being out in open spaces with a group of photographers. Just this morning I woke up and started to tell my wife about my dreams of being in the mountains and had to stop as I felt a lump forming in my throat. I had planned to spend some time on the road this winter in place of my tours, but daily Corona infections are on a steep rise again here in Japan again at the moment, so I doubt I’ll be able to make that happen.

As I look back at my Finals folder for 2020 I see 612 images of which 552 were shot in January and February on last years Winter tours. That means that from March to December I only moved 60 images to my Finals Folder for the rest of the year, and a good chunk of these were from testing the Canon EOS R5.

In Capture One Pro I’ve just created a new Collection Group called 2020 Top Ten and inside that I’ve created my first album called First Pass and made that my selections folder, and I’ve set up Voice Control on my iMac Pro to recognize a few words so that I can literally sit back and work through this process without touching my mouse or keyboard. Because it’s not possible to simply hit the Q key with a voice command, I changed my Capture One Pro shortcut for adding images to the Selects folder to ALT + COMMAND + Q and assigned that to the word Select, so when I have Capture One Pro selected and say “Select” the current image is added to my Selection folder. I also mapped “next” and “back” so I can just talk my way through the selection process. There’s a slight pause after saying each word, so I still sometimes just use the keyboard, but it’s nice to be able to just speak these commands.

2020 First Pass
2020 First Pass

OK, so after my first pass, I find myself with 129 images in my selections folder, so I selected about one in five of my Finals. This is pretty much what I expected as all of the images in my Finals folder have already been selected from my various shoots, so they are already images that I like, and that is what makes this process so valuable, and difficult. I made a second folder in my 2020 Top Ten group and named it Second Pass, and copied all of the images from my First Pass into this second folder. From here it becomes a deductive process, as I try to reduce the number of images from 129 to 10. As usual, I’ll start to look for groups of images. The most obvious one being Steller’s Sea Eagles catching fish.

I have 20 images of Steller’s Sea Eagle with their talons out catching a fish from the sea, so I’ve selected all of them and will start to compare them to whittle this selection down to just one image. Capture One Pro fails to provide the functionality I need when doing this though. With multiple images selected I want to be able to hit delete to remove the currently selected image but when I hit delete all 20 images are removed from the Selection so it’s a bit of a mess in this respect. Still, I was able to remove all but one fish catching shot, and started to reduce my Steller’s Sea Eagle shots in general as there was an obvious winner for the flights shots as well.

The next obvious big group was Whooper Swans, of which I have 18, so I’ll work on that selection now too. This was actually more difficult than the Steller’s Sea Eagle shots because most of the Swan shots are panning shots, so the aesthetic beauty of the shot comes into play more. I got down to the final four that you see in this screenshot relatively easily, but then it got more difficult. I think I’ll leave the bottom two in the selection for now and then remove one of them later.

Final Four Swan Shots
Final Four Swan Shots

I’m down to 83 images now, and I’m moving on to the Red-Crowned Crane shots. I had 15 left which I quickly got down to 4, and I also removed 2 of the four snow monkey shots while I was at it. I then went back to my Hokkaido Landscape work and removed a bunch of boat shots. I then went through the remaining images and removed a few more that were obviously not going to make it now that I was getting a better picture of my final selection. I was left with the following 36 images. Note that I’m uploading these in pretty high resolution, so if you click on them and open up your browser window you should be able to see a fair amount of detail in each image.

Down to 36
Down to 36

I saved this as the results of my Second Pass, and created another copy of this set called the Third Pass, then I went to Fullscreen and ran a slideshow. I used the voice command “Green Label” to add a green label to each image that made me feel good as it appeared on the screen. This enables me to vote with my heart as I literally feel my reaction to each image. The result was a reduced collection of 20 images for my third pass. I selected all of the green labeled images and created a new Album and this time turned the checkbox on for both the Select collection after creation and Add selected images after creation.

Down to 20
Down to 20

To help me remove the final ten I called on my secret weapon. My trusted critique, in the guise of my wife. I always find that making the more painful decisions of this process is much easier to do with an impartial and unbiassed set of eyes on the images. It took us about 10 minutes to remove ten more to reach my final selection. Probably the hardest to remove was the fox shot, as I really like the feel of that image, but it was not one of the strongest of the set. We also agreed that although the shot with two owls is nice, the single owl looking at the camera is more impactful and the texture of the tree is better.

Removing the sunrise shot was not so difficult. I’m really not much of a sunrise person. I don’t mind being out before dawn, it’s just the sunrise and sunset photo that doesn’t really do a lot for me. On the landscape front, I was disappointed to lose the lone tree shots, but I believe the line of trees and the color image of the morning mist are stronger images, so the deal was pretty much done.

2020 Top Ten

I’m not going to talk about each individual image as I’ve spoken about all of these in the past, but there are a few points of interest that I’d like to cover. The colors of the second shot of the morning mist in Biei for example, are the colors that I used for one of the Light Appearance color schemes in our iOS app Photographer’s Friend. The cranes dancing shot really captured my heart because the two cranes are dancing in perfect synchronization. Their poses are identical, just rotated around 180 degrees, and I found that fascinating.

The Hokkaido Long-Tailed Tit is a tiny little bird that I’ve been hoping to capture for the last few years, and finally got some shots that I was happy with last year, so I had to leave that in. It’s the cutest little bird I think I’ve ever seen. The Great Spotted Woodpecker was a nice catch as well. We go looking for these guys on the last day of my Japan Winter Wildlife tours but they’ve been pretty elusive in recent years. It was nice to be able to get a shot of one is such strange looking surrounding last year. The first nine images were all shot with my EOS R, and the final maple leaf image was shot with the EOR R5 and the new RF 100-500mm lens. I’ve been out shooting with the new gear quite a lot, but my local work doesn’t even come close to the sort of images that I get on my tour locations.

I feel that photography-wise I’ve been true to myself and feel that the images are of a high enough standard for me to be happy with, but I do miss my photos from my yearly visit to Namibia in the summer. My 2021 Top Ten is going to be very different again, but hopefully I’ll be able to get out on some personal projects as soon as the virus is under control. The government here is planning to put us into a state of emergency again later today, for at least one month, so maybe something can happen in February, while it’s still my favorite season for photography here in Japan.

Post Your Own Top Ten

OK, so we’ll start to wrap it up there for this week. As usual though, I’d like to invite you to share a link to your own personal top ten if you also go through this exercise each year. I’ve been in remiss in recent years and too busy to comment, but this year I’m at home and will make an effort to reply to anyone that posts a link to your own gallery or blog post etc. I look forward to seeing what you made of 2020.


Show Notes

Check Out Previous Top Ten posts here: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/tag/top-ten/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.