Yearly Top Ten Selection Process 2018 (Podcast 645)

Yearly Top Ten Selection Process 2018 (Podcast 645)

I have just finished cleaning up my photography storage and preparing for a new year, as well as selecting my top ten favorite images for 2018, so today I’m going to share some workflow tips and my thoughts of the process.

[download id=”55097″]

As you may recall if you have followed my previous workflow articles on how I organize my images so that I can easily move between my laptop and desktop computers, I have a few tasks to do as a year ends, and another starts. The main task at hand is to do one last pass through my Traveler Solid State Drive, and move any remaining Final Selects to my Finals SSD.

I keep all of my current year’s images on what I call my Traveller drive, and as I shoot and finalize my selections from each shoot or tour, I copy my selection of images to a second SSD called Finals. This allows me to carry all images that I’ve ever shot that are worth a hoot on one drive, and all of my current year’s work on another.

With one thing and another, I had still not copied my Morocco work to the Finals drive, so that was my first task this morning as I started work on this. I had 154 images selected from Morocco still, and I wanted to get that down a little, so I did one last pass and removed 14 images, which tells me that my initial selection was relatively tight.

Copying Final Selects to Finals SSD

Copying to Finals SSD
Copying to Finals SSD

Having ensured that all of the Morocco images had at least the necessary generic keywords assigned, I selected them all in my Traveller catalog for 2018, and selected Export > Originals, ensuring that the “Include Adjustments” option was checked, then copied all of them to the 2018 folder in my Finals SSD.

Then I opened my Finals catalog, and right-clicked the 2018 folder, and selected Synchronize from the shortcut menu, and ensured that the Show Importer option was turned on. I checked and was somewhat disappointed to find that this is still not fixed in version 12, but in Capture One Pro, if you don’t show the importer then physically select all of the images rather than just hitting Import All, the adjustments made to images are completely ignored and not imported.

Double Check Archived Backup

Back on my Traveller drive, after making my final few changes to my selection, I ran my ChronoSynch job to synchronize my 2018 folder with all of my original raw files from the year, to my 2018 folder on my Drobo, and then right-clicked the folder in both my Traveller drive and my Drobo and selected Get Info, to just check that exactly the same number of files was in each location. I also checked that the date and time of my 2018 Catalog was updated on my Drobo, signifying that it was also synchronized correctly from my Traveller SSD.

Locating Images on Drobo
Locating Images on Drobo

Then with my Traveller SSD unmounted from my iMac Pro, I opened the 2018 catalog from my Drobo for the first time, and of course, because the Traveller was not there to reference my images from, Capture One Pro showed an exclamation mark against the Traveller and all of my folders, so I right-clicked the Traveller icon and selected Locate, then navigated to my Photo Originals folder on my Drobo which contains my 2018 folder, so that Capture One Pro could relink my photos, which takes about 2 or 3 minutes. Once that’s done, my main 2018 archive is now located on my Drobo, so that I can go ahead and clean out my Traveller SSD ready for a new year of photos to be stored on it as I start the process again.

Selecting my 2018 Top Ten

Now ready to start selecting my 2018 Top Ten photographs, let’s quickly recap on the reason for selecting my top ten images each year. I believe that this is an important process to help us understand how we are growing, or not growing, as creatives, by reviewing our year’s work, and forcing ourselves to make some tough decisions about which images we’ll include in our selection, or often more importantly, which we’ll leave out.

How many images you try to select is up to you, but I would not recommend more than 12, which of course equates to one image per month for the year. I like ten, probably because of watching the top ten music charts as a kid. The important thing is to decide on the number, and then stick to it.

Honing Our Editing Skills

Part of the value in this exercise is to help us to hone our skills in the editing process, so that we get better at whittling our images down to a finite number. Whether you are a professional having to provide a selection of images for clients, or a hobbyiest, selecting images to show family or maybe at your local camera club, no-one wants to sit through hundreds of images. It makes our presentation stronger if we can present fewer, stronger images, and selecting a top ten for the year helps us get better at this process.

Whether I’m editing a selection for a client, or selecting my top ten for the year, I start by creating a Collection called First Pass, and make that my Selects folder, so that I can just hit the Q key on my keyboard to add the image I have selected to this Selection. The Q key is just the key that I’ve assigned the function to in my Capture One Pro Keyboard Shortcuts.

Get into the Editing Mindset

Then, I start to go through the entire year of images in my Finals catalog, hitting the Q key whenever I see a photograph that I want to consider for my Top Ten. This is actually another great benefit of having my Final Selects in a separate Catalog, because I don’t have to look for my final selects out of all of my raw files. If you don’t do this, I’d recommend at least ensuring that you star rate your images so that you can filter out your better shots to avoid looking at your lesser images.

The editing mindset has to be engaged right from this first pass. Keeping in mind that every image I’m looking at has already been selected out of all of my raw files, it’s important to not simply hit the Q key on every photo. I know that I have just ten slots to assign, so we have to be as ruthless as possible right from this first pass.

At the same time, you need to give yourself options and the opportunity to compare similar images, so you will likely finish the first pass with a relatively large number of photos selected. After going through 1,452 images from 2018, after my first pass I had 120 images in my Collection.

First Pass 120 Images
First Pass 120 Images

To start to whittle this down, I created a second Collection called, you guessed it, Second Pass, and chose to initially simply copy all of the images from my first pass to this new collection. From this point on, I’m removing images, not adding, so I just hit the Delete key as I go through and make comparisons and gradually reduce my selection. Of course, inside a Collection, the Delete key only removes the images from the Collection. It doesn’t actually delete them from the hard drive, or even the catalog.

Attack the Packs

As I start my second pass, the first thing I do is look for groups of similar images. It’s highly unlikely that I will include more than one of the same or similar subject unless the photos are both very special, so I can be pretty ruthless as I look through images of, for example, winter trees, Red-Crowned Cranes, Sea Eagles, and Camels in dunes etc.

Multi-View

When the images are dispersed I hold down the Command key and select each of them, then ensuring I’m in Multi-View mode I can view the candidates together to see which are the stronger images. To me, out of this four it was easy to see that the bottom right image stood out from the group, so I removed the other three.

Four Eagles in Multi View
Four Eagles in Multi View

I finished my second pass having reduced the set of 120 images to just 44, almost one-third of my original selection, but to be honest, this is a pretty easy process, until this point, although it starts to get really difficult now that the list is condensed down this much.

Second Pass 44 Images
Second Pass 44 Images

There are still groups to attack, so the next thing I do is to see if I can just remove as many Namibia wildlife shots as possible, and I still have a number of images of the same subject or subject type, so these are obvious candidates, but they are still in the set because it’s really hard to remove them at this point. I’m actually about to be called for dinner, so my best course of action right now is to save what I have in my third pass folder and seak the advice of my trusted critique, my wife, after we’ve eaten.

A Day Later

OK, so it’s now a day later, and I sat with my wife after dinner last night, and went through my 44 images. I feel that having someone available to confer with, someone that you trust, but also that is able to give you honest feedback on your work is a vitally important part of this process. My wife gets almost sadistic pleasure out of telling me that she doesn’t like something when she doesn’t, but when she does like something, she’s equally as vocal, and I know it’s coming from the right place.

Having said that, we don’t agree on everything. Although her preferences are very much included in my final selection, she felt very strongly that I should include the shot of the dancing Himba because of the dynamism, and because it’s different from the work I often do. She also felt that I should remove the photos of the man in the well and the man in the adobe building from Morocco because I had these same two people in my top ten from last year.

While I completely agree with her, I really struggled with the idea of leaving the two images of the Moroccan men out, because I feel that they are strong images, and without a doubt in my mind, some of my best work from 2018. The dancing Himba image is strong too, but I feel that it’s slightly more removed from my style than the other two, and when I viewed the final ten that I worked on with my wife, I felt somewhat deflated, as though something was missing.

I’m a big believer in trusting our feelings with regards to sets of images. Whenever I’m whittling down a selection, I walk away from the computer for a while, then I watch a slideshow of my selection and literally take note of how I feel as each image appears on the screen. If it feels good to see the image, it should probably stay in, but if you detect a slight dip in your feelings, it’s a good sign that it should be removed.

White Rhino
White Rhino

I also really struggled with the White Rhino shot. I wanted so badly to leave this in out of respect for the people that are protecting these wonderful animals, and in protest against the poachers and people buying that horn for reasons that should never result in the death of such a magnificent creature.

Down to Twelve!
Down to Twelve!

As a statement, my heart is screaming to leave it in, but artistically, and because of the restrictions I’ve set for myself, to get this down to a final ten images, with a heavy heart I removed the White Rhino shot as well.

My 2018 Top Ten

And with that, we have my 2018 Top Ten photos, which I will share in a separate post next week, with a little information about each of the images.

Martin's Top Ten Photographs for 2018
Martin’s Top Ten Photographs for 2018

This year’s process was, I think, more difficult than usual, and I was saddened not only by removing the rhino shot but also by the fact that so many of my Japan winter tour images bit the dust. I love those tours and the images that I get on them, and I wonder if part of the reason is just that the tours are so much more distant in time, and the images from more recent tours feel more familiar. Or is it just that I have so many images from my winter tours, that the newer locations I’m visiting are just naturally winning over.

Compare To Previous Years

Another thing that I like to do, is to browse through my previous year collections, just to see how I’m doing. I have a folder in Capture One Pro with my Top Ten Collections for every year since 2007, so this is the twelfth time I’ve done this, and although I learn from it each year, it really does seem to be getting harder to make the final choices.

I am also sitting here right now feeling incredibly fortunate and humbled as I browse through these years, and noticing how my work has changed. It has become so much more mature, as I’ve obviously matured as a photographer and a human being, over the last twelve years.

I doubt that anyone will be interested enough to take a look, but because all of my top ten posts are tagged with the word top ten, you can actually list all of my previous years’ posts with this link. Note though that there is no post for 2010, as I didn’t post it, although I did go back later and go through the selection process.

At some point, maybe when I’m so old that I find myself stuck indoors more than I’d like, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, I will go back and select a top ten for all years since 2000 when I started shooting digital. Maybe by then though I’ll have so many yearly collections that those extra seven years will seem completely insignificant.

Of course, you don’t have to have a number of previous year’s selected to make this a useful exercise. When I first started it back in 2007 I had nothing to compare myself to, but in 2008, I had a benchmark, and it only grows from then on. I guess what I’m saying is that you won’t have anything to look back on if you don’t start doing this, and this year is as good a starting point as any.

Share Your Work!

Whether it’s your first year, or your fifteenth, I’d love for you to share the results of your yearly top ten images by dropping a link into the blog post and also please do share your thoughts on the exercise, and anything that you may have learned from it.

If you haven’t done your top ten yet, how about setting about the task and then share your work next week, when I share my ten images? I truly do believe that this is an important exercise for us to carry out each year, and it always helps us to learn more about ourselves as creative artists.


Show Notes

View all top tens since 2007 with this link: 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.


2017 Top Ten Photographs Selection Process (Podcast 602)

2017 Top Ten Photographs Selection Process (Podcast 602)

As 2017 drew to an end, I completed my yearly exercise of selecting my personal favorite top ten images from the year, and as has become a tradition, I’m going to share my process with you today.

As usual, I started this exercise by creating a Group in the Library area of my Capture One Pro catalog called “2017 Top Ten”, and then created an album initially called “First Pass” and made that my Selects Collection, so that I can just hit the shortcut I’ve defined, in my case the “Q” key, to add images to my collection. Because I have all of the images I felt were worth a hoot in my 2017 folder in my Finals catalog, it’s easy to go through and select images that I’d like to consider to my First Pass folder.

I like to do this each year because it helps us to be objective as we evaluate our images, making us better at editing down a selection. If we keep in mind that all images in my 2017 folder are there because I like them, it’s actually really easy to just want to drop them all into my First Pass folder, but then I’d just be duplicating my 2017 folder. I know that I have to whittle this down to just ten images, so you start to think about whether or not each image has a chance of staying in the selection even before you hit the shortcut key.

A Productive 2017

By doing one more tour than previous years, I actually finished 2017 with 1,052 images in my Finals folder. Also, having switched to Capture One Pro in June 2016, 2017 was the first year that I processed the entire year exclusively in Capture One Pro, which means that there are now very few images in my finals folder that represent a base raw image that I worked on with a plugin.

When I work on an image in Photoshop or in the past the Nik Collection, I used to save both the original raw file and the edited TIFF or PSD in my Finals folder. In 2016 for example, 78 of my 928 Final selects were duplicates, because I saved both a TIFF and my original raw files, from the first half of the year, before I switched to Capture One Pro. By comparison, this year I have just 8 TIFFs and one PSD file, so 1,043 images are original, meaning that I have approximately 200 more original images to choose from over the previous year. 

I’d like to think that the quality of the work is still increasing gradually too, and this is something that this process helps me to keep tabs on. I also feel that for sure, looking through a full year of Capture One Pro images that Capture One has helped me to raise the bar again image quality-wise. I’m still very happy with my decision to switch from Lightroom and have no intention of switching to any other raw processing software for at least the foreseeable future.

I still have all of my top ten selections as Collections in my Finals catalog, so I can easily go back and review previous years, and it’s always fun to do that, just too see how you’re doing. It’s also interesting to see how my tastes have changed over the years. There are some images that I see in old top ten sets that I wouldn’t include now, even though they may still have merit as a photograph. They just don’t appeal to me like they did when I initially selected them to represent my year’s work.

I also found that work from my Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours is finding its way into my short list much less often. I guess this is a luxury I’m afforded by the fact that I’ve now visited these locations so many times that I’ve pretty much shot everything in previous years, and anything that I add to my list at this point really has to exceed my previous work. That’s partly why I still love going, because I’m constantly challenging myself to better my old work, but that gets more and more difficult each year, especially as I have no control over the conditions and what the animals might do in those conditions.

For example I found myself only selecting a couple of Steller’s Sea Eagle shots in which I’d captured something that I’d not seen or shot before. My Snow Monkey shots were really difficult too, because I didn’t really have anything so special that I felt compelled to drop it into even my first pass. 

I also surprised myself a little with a powerful realization that a lot of my wildlife work from Etosha National Park in Namibia was screaming out to be converted to black and white. I had always thought of that work in color, but when I went back through my images during this exercise I felt that the color in some images was getting in the way, so I converted it to black and white. This worked mostly with my zebra shots, which are already black and white animals, but I found some of the wildebeest shots worked well in black and white as well.

First Pass

After spending a few hours going through my 1000+ images, I had a collection of 97 images, so just under 10% of my images. I guess one in ten from my final selections for the year isn’t too bad. I could have been more brutal, but this was a good start. I also at this point found myself being hit by a deep sense of gratitude to have been able to visit the locations I have in my work. I’ve included here (below) a screenshot showing my initial selection, and it humbles me to see what I’ve been able to photograph this year.

First Pass 2017 Top Ten

First Pass 2017 Top Ten

To start my second pass, I created another album and added the 97 images from my first pass. I could just continue to whittle down my first selection, but I like to keep tabs on what I selected and how I whittled it down, by keeping my working collections. Once inside my Second Pass album, it’s now a case of hitting delete to remove images from the collection, instead of adding them, as I did on the first pass.

Although it helps to select similar images and identify the best of each group, I find that on my second pass, it’s often easy to remove a chunk of other images now that I have a holistic view of my selection just by going through and feeling my reaction to the images. I start to instinctively know that some images just aren’t going to make it, especially when I consider that I have to remove another 9 out of 10 images. It’s just easier to do this having just gone through the images.

It only took me five minutes to go through and remove another 46 images, getting me down to 51 at the end of my second pass.

Second Pass 2017 Top Ten

Second Pass 2017 Top Ten

So, with another 4 out of 5 to remove, I copied my selection again, to a collection named third pass, and quickly removed another 22 images, but then I was stuck. I was down to 24 images that I absolutely wanted to leave in. This is when it starts to get difficult.

Third Pass 2017 Top Ten

Third Pass 2017 Top Ten

Still having to more than half my selection, the obvious place to look at is the three camel shots. I definitely wanted to keep the photo of the camel handler with his animals against the dunes, and perhaps one of the sunset shots, so I removed the one with the camels bunched up a bit, as I prefer the spacing of the shot with the sunset just in the bottom left corner.

I also don’t need three zebra shots, so I looked at all three together and initially removed the color shot, and continued to deliberate over which of the two black and white shots to keep. I also removed the Namibia silhouette shot from the Quiver Tree Forest. I like that shot a lot but I have to start making some hard choices.

I really like the shot with the cranes in the mist too, but I’ve had a number of those over the years, so that’s gone. I also removed the shot of the Lioness looking out across the plain, as although I love that shot, it’s not as impactful for someone that wasn’t there to look at.

Cutting the Emotional Connection

I then realized that I still had eleven shots from Morocco, and that has to be partly because this is my most recent work, so there is still a strong emotional connection, that is probably preventing me from getting ruthless. As I’ve mentioned in previous years, this is a good illustration of the importance of giving yourself some time to live with your work before making important editing decisions. It’s much harder to cut the chord until you have some time between the shoot and when you edit your selection.

I removed the blue city shot, as I don’t feel it’s as strong as my emotional attachment makes me feel. I removed the other zebra shot, leaving just one, with the zebras at the waterhole. Still having 7 images to remove, I deleted the Namibia dunes with the stormy sky shot, because there is a line of ground in the bottom right foreground that annoys me.

Having three closeup portraits from Namibia I decided to remove the man in the blue turban, and the man with the dark red background. This was a hard decision, but at this point, I’m shooting children. If it comes to this, I guess my mostly orange dune shot from Namibia has to go too. 

Secret Weapon

Down to thirteen, I decided to use my secret weapon; my wife. She’s my trusted critique and although she’s not a photographer, she has a good eye and sense of the aesthetic, so I loaded my selection onto my iPad Pro and went downstairs to solicit her advice. We don’t always agree on the selection, but I trust her opinion more than my own sometimes, and it’s usually the best way forward I find.

For example, I recently shared my Morocco work on Instagram and found that of the two photographs of the camel handlers in the dunes that were still left in my selection, the one with the red of the sunset in the bottom left hand corner got significantly more likes than the one with the dunes in the background. And, as you might imagine, my wife chose the sunset shot over the dunes shot. Personally, I could go either way on this. I think there is a classical appeal in the dunes and camels shot, and but the sunset shot has more impact.

Now, I want to stress that Instagram Likes are not important to me from an ego perspective, but when trying to make a decision as to what to leave in, it can be a good indicator to bear in mind. It’s good information. But, it’s my own personal favorite top ten, so I started to deliberate as to whether or not I should simply leave in both camel train shots. They are different enough for that to be OK, but what else could I remove?

We also decided to remove the photo of the Mosque, because although I like it a lot, I find the fact that the rest of the town around the mosque is a little messy sort of reduces my overall satisfaction with the photo, so that was removed. Also, the young musician from the oasis in Morocco is a nice shot, but it’s not as artistic as the other portraits, so we removed that too.

Two Day Contemplation

I started this exercise on Friday the 29th of December and actually sat on the final decision for two days. Sometimes a bit of time is necessary to enable that last decision, but sometimes, especially if you are a working photographer, you don’t always have time. Sometimes we have to whittle down our selections quickly, and that is why I find this exercise so useful, especially if you don’t do tight edits of your work regularly. This gets you accustomed to making tough decisions. 

I had the luxury this time of spending a few more days and decided to keep both camel train shots and remove the black and white zebra shot. Although I like that image, especially now it’s black and white, it’s easier to cut from the selection as I can’t believe it’s better than either of my camel train shots, so it’s gone.

The Final Ten

With that, we now have my final Top Ten selection for 2017. It’s a bit Morocco-heavy, with 6 out of the 10 images from there, but I think that’s really only natural as it was my first visit to Morocco, and I have many images that are new and fresh to me. Of course, part of this is also because Morocco was only just over a month ago, but I have tried to be objective, and base my decisions on the artistic merit of each image, rather than the fact that the memory of the trip is still fresh in my mind. This is another thing that I believe doing this exercise helps with.

2017 Top Ten Final Selection

2017 Top Ten Final Selection

I’ll talk about each image in next week’s Podcast and blog post, so please tune in for that as well, if you’d like to hear a little more about each of them. 

Your Top Ten

As usual, I also invite you to decide on your own Top Ten images for 2017. Don’t make it more if at all possible. Twelve is a nice number, matching the months of the year, and it’s your choice of course, but what you need to avoid is starting out looking for ten, then increasing it to twelve or fifteen, because you find it difficult to whittle down your selection. This is supposed to be difficult, or there isn’t much benefit in doing it.

Also, try to be objective. Don’t keep a shot of grandmother or your cat in your top ten unless it’s an absolutely beautiful photo with great light etc. I’m using grandmothers and cats as a generic example of course. The point is, your family are special to you, but not to anyone else unless it’s a beautiful image, so please do try to be objective and make some difficult decisions.

Share Your Work!

And then when you’ve completed this task, please do share a link in the comments of the blog post.  Some of you have been doing this every year, and I always look forward to seeing your selections, and I absolutely welcome any newcomers too. Try to keep a record of your selections if possible. This enables you to go back and compare your work to previous years over time, and that helps you to check that you are getting better each year. I have all of my previous top ten selections in Capture One Pro still, and they are all available to see as blog posts too.

Of course, there will be years when you’ll visit somewhere amazing, and produce work that stands out more than other work, but remember, that helps us to ratchet up as photographers. It’s important to learn from the highlights and not become bogged down by the feeling that other work closer to home can feel a little mundane. I talked about this in my Evolution of the Photographer post back in 2014.

So, I look forward to seeing your selections, and a Happ New Year to you. I hope 2018 brings everything you hope for and more.


Show Notes

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

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Selecting My 2013 Top Ten Favorite Photos (Podcast 404)

Selecting My 2013 Top Ten Favorite Photos (Podcast 404)

Now into 2014, I thought I’d carry on my tradition of selecting my favorite ten photos from the previous year, and I found the process so difficult this year, that this is what we’ll discuss today, as I believe this is something that we can all learn from, especially if you decide to do this with your own images too.

I know that I’ll be repeating myself to a degree here, as I do this every year, but I always learn so much from the process, that I like to share it with you. Unlike other years though, this time, I’m going to concentrate much more on the selection process, and then just include the top ten for you to look at, rather than explaining about each image, as I’ve already spoken about these images in earlier episodes from 2013.

If you recall from previous episodes, I always copy what I can my Finals, or my final selects, to a new folder for each year, so as the years go by, I can always go back and look at what I thought was my best work for each year. Because I do all of my initial rating in my original RAW file folders, I can also go back to my library and select a year, and show only 5 star images, and automatically get the same set of images. How you do this will depend on how you archive your own images of course.

My New Rating System

I should also clarify that my Finals folder contains images that although aren’t necessarily portfolio class, I consider them good enough to show people or put forward to be considered for inclusion in my Offset stock library now. Until now I’ve marked these images with 5 stars, not because they’re amazing, it’s just been my system so far.

From 2014, I’m going to change this so that my Finals are now four stars, and my portfolio images will be five star. Three stars are now images that I need to keep in my Finals folder, but that are not necessarily images that I want to show people. Two star images are my originals. For example, if I take an image into Silver Efex Pro and create a black and white version, I mark the original RAW file with two stars now, and keep it with the Final copy. One star images are images that I initially selected after my shoot, but then decided not to use.

For example I might have had five or six similar images, and just needed to mark them initially until I drill down to a finer selection, which I do by filtering on the higher star number, and then demoting the images by reducing the star rating removes them from my view. I call this now one star rating my “once great” images, and just like to leave the stars there so that I can go back and see what I though were good enough to at least think about including at one point. All other images have no stars assigned.

Selecting my Top Ten

So, to start the process of selecting my 2013 top ten images, I go to my Finals folder for 2013, I start my first pass. I know that throwing in too many images is going just make the process longer, so I’m very critical as I go through the folder. I create a collection in Lightroom called “2013 Top Ten First Pass”, and make that the Target Selection, so all I have to do is hit the “B” key to add an image to the collection. My 2013 Finals folder contains 359 images that I was happy to show people. From those after my first pass my selection stood at 40 images, which we see here in this screenshot (below).

2013 First Pass 40 Images

2013 First Pass 40 Images

Once I had this selection of 40 images, the next thing I did was to start to reduce the selection down in groups. For example, I had 2 sand dune shots from Namibia that were similar, so I chose which of the two I preferred. I also decided to remove all three snow monkey shots. I wanted to consider them, so I added them to my initial selection, but with a total of forty in that initial selection, I knew they weren’t going to make the cut, as they definitely aren’t my best snow monkey shots when compared with previous years.

Once you get to this point, and you already have a fresh understanding of what’s in the selection, it’s not hard to reduce the selection to around half based on just knowing that the image you are looking at simply doesn’t excite you as much as some of the others. In two more quick passes I was able to reduce the 40 to the 21 images that we see here (below).

2013 Second Pass 21 Images

2013 Second Pass 21 Images

It’s from this point that the process starts to get really hard. For me at least I can get a year of images down to this shortlist relatively quickly, but this last part really takes a lot of time. Every image in this last 21 is very special to me for one reason or another.

Emotional Roller-Coaster

I’m still relatively happy with my other selected images, but to be honest, even though I try to be very selective after a trip or shoot to only add the very best shots to my Finals, and I always give it some time for the initial excitement to die down, I find that I really like my images for a month or two after the trip or shoot, but then once a few months have passed I start to think that some of the images aren’t that special after all.

I think the thing is that for me, the gap between the excitement I feel about new work and work that is a few months old is so great that I sometimes even feel as though I dislike some of my images for a while. The strange thing is though that after that dip, I often start to like the images again, so I don’t remove shots from my final selections even if I don’t like them that much for a while. If I don’t come back around, I sometimes remove images after six months or a year or so, but I’m on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with regards to how I feel about my images until that point.

Reflection on 2013

So, after getting down to my 21 images over the weekend, and not being able to reduce past that after a few more looks through the selection on Sunday evening, I left this final stage until the morning of the day that I have to record and release this Podcast episode.

As I write this I literally just sat at my desk and watched the images in a slideshow on my iMac screen, and suddenly I’m sitting here once again thinking how fortunate I am to be living this life. I was able to visit two of my bucket list countries last year, and now I’m faced with having to cut this 21 images more than half to just 10! It’s a wonderful problem to have, and this reflection on the previous year is another reason that I love to go through this exercise.

Continuing to work in groups, I had three sea-eagle shots, so I removed two, leaving just one. I also had multiple Namibia wildlife shots, so I initially removed the Springbok shot, as although I like it, the Cheetah shot wins out. I left the elephant’s ass shot in for now, as I love the mood of that sepia image. The Milky-Way shot went too. There were two whooper swan shots left, so I removed one of them.

At this point, I still had seven shots from Iceland left, so I got these seven up in Survey view and started to think of which ones of my children I was going to shoot. An obvious first place to look was which of the two similar waterfall shots I’d remove. After that though, I was stumped for a while. As much as I love the Aurora shot too, it was in the selection more because it represents the realization of a childhood dream rather than artistic merit, so it had to go.

Iceland Shortlist

Iceland Shortlist

Now at 14, I’m still struggling with my Iceland selection. I started to look at the two black and white landscapes, and although I wanted to go with the abandoned farmhouse, the surfboard on the beach shot just grabs me by the heart, so the decision was made. At 13, I decided to remove the Namibia sand dune shot, which took me to 12 images. Jeez this is hard!

2013 Top Twelve

2013 Top Twelve

At this point, I went back to my slideshow mode. I use the Lightroom Slideshow a lot when trying to whittle down my selection of Final images from a shoot too. At this point, I’m looking for a slight change in how I feel as the slides progress. If the next image comes up and I feel a dip, it’s an indication that the image isn’t as good as the last, and therefore should be considered for removal. Conversely, if I feel more excited about the next image, the previous one may have to go.

With this, I removed the image of the copse of trees on the hill from Hokkaido, and the last one, which was a long exposure of Mount Fuji from Hakone. I love both shots, but I dipped slightly as these came on the screen, compared to the rest, so I now have my 2013 top ten. I’ll add them at the end of this post for you to take a look at.

I hope you enjoy looking at the images, and hearing about my selection process. I know that a lot of listeners have started to do this each year with your own work, and I always enjoy looking at your shots when people let me know that they’ve done this. If you go through this process, do post a link in the comments of the blog post, so that we can all check out each others images. Also let me know if you learned anything by doing this, as it is such a valuable process.

What Did I Learn?

In addition to being incredibly thankful for being able to make these images in the first place, selecting my top ten really helps me to understand which images really work better for me. It also shows me that I seem to have appreciated my Namibia and Iceland work more than my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido work this year. That’s not surprising, as I have been traveling to the Snow Monkeys and Hokkaido for much longer, and I already have in the most part much better shots from previous years. Namibia and Iceland were totally new experiences. That does make me happy too though, that I was able to be productive in totally new environments.

This also tells me though, that I am probably making my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido selections based on this years images, wanting to select something because I made the images, but I’m not really adding to much to my portfolio if I don’t rate the resulting images over my existing work. More images would make say a 40 image portfolio of course, but under these restrictions, they don’t make the grade, and that’s important to know.

What that makes me want to do is not only be more critical with this year’s work, but also to try harder to come home with some images that beat what I already have. This of course depends very much on weather conditions and the wildlife that we encounter, but there’s a fire in my heart now, so I want to see what I can do with that.

OK, so here are my top ten images for 2013–remember to click on the images to view them larger than the embedded images, and you can navigate around with your mouse or keyboard arrow keys.

My 2013 Top Ten!

Pensive Power

Pensive Power

Seven Swans

Seven Swans

Quiver Tree Sunrise (with Moon)

Quiver Tree Sunrise (with Moon)

Deadvlei Silhouettes

Deadvlei Silhouettes

Relaxed Cheetah

Relaxed Cheetah

Elephant's Ass

Elephant’s Ass

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar

Surfboard

Surfboard

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Vík í Mýrdal Church

Housekeeping

Before we finish I wanted to quickly mention that if you missed our old Podcasts page that I took down over Christmas and the New Year, it’s now back. I’ve created a redirect so your old link will work, but the new page, now under the Links menu above, has much of the functionality of the old one, but I’ve added a few different new views, and it’s all under this WordPress blog, so the look and feel is much more consistent now too.


Show Notes

The new Podcasts archive page with a  number of new views:
https://martinbaileyphotography.com/podcasts/

Music by UniqueTracks


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.