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.

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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


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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


Audio

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Podcast 224 : Martin’s Top Ten Images from 2009

Podcast 224 : Martin’s Top Ten Images from 2009

Happy New Year!! 2010 has begun, and today to start a new year of podcasts and photography, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year! And to kick off, now in its third iteration, today I’m going to take you through my own personal selection of my top ten images from 2009.

I really enjoy going through the exercise of looking back through my last year’s images, and trying to decide which ten really are my favorites. It gives you a view of your progression, and when I compare this to my list from 2008, I certainly feel happier with this year’s work, although I do still very much like my selection from 2008 as well.

The good thing about going back through your images from an entire year is that many weeks and sometimes months has passed, since we made most of the photographs, and so you can be a little bit more subjective. As we’ve mentioned many times, when you have just shot something, you can be a little more influenced by the experience and excitement of the shoot, and therefore favor some images that you might not quite like as much later on.

I like to give my images at least two or three days to simmer before I make my final selection of what images I am going to take further in my work-flow, and upload to my gallery etc. When possible, I like to give them a week or so. After many months have passed though, when you look back at the images, they have to really stand on their own merits for you to still really like them. This gives me confidence that anything that makes this list really is my best work from 2009. Well, actually, to really do this properly, I should probably do this around February or March time, but the start of the year just seems a better time to do this.

Here are some quick stats on my selection process before we look at the top ten. On my first pass through my 380 or so best shots from 2009, I was left with a shortlist of 50 images initially. That’s around 13%, which I’m pleased with. Even though I felt like dropping a few more into the favorites bucket, I left many out because I knew that they’d be trumped by other images. The 50 were ones that I knew I was going to have to compare side by side before making a decision.

A second pass go me down to 26 images, and now it started to get really difficult to remove further images. You kind of switch into a different mode and feel more like an assassin than a photographer at this point. I got down to 15, and had to take a break for a while. In the end, I had to turn to my art director (read wife) for advice. She has a different eye to me, and a different sense of the aesthetic to a degree, but she can also be that little bit more subjective than I can, and is always a great help in these final culling stages. Let’s take a look at what was left after my final ruthless cull down to 10 images. Note that we’re going to look at these in chronological order, and not the in priority of how much I like each image or anything like that.

Kanzakura White Eye

Kanzakura White Eye

First up is image number 2103 (above) from early February, the weekend before last year’s Hokkaido Workshop. This is a White Eye bird, shot in the early blossoming Kan-zakura flower. These little birds are native to Japan and here all year round, but they come to feed on the nectar in the blossom early every spring, and although they move very fast, there are enough of them to be able to get a few shots if you visit a park with the trees in them. This was shot in the Shinjuku Gyoen park, in Tokyo. I particularly like this shot because of that sea of pink in which the bird is situated. This particular tree is often so full of blossom that you can create the entire background with pink, making a beautiful setting for your subject. This is also one of those few occasions when I think that bulls-eyeing the image worked, as we can see the White Eye is smack in the middle of the frame, though the eye is slightly off-center, which does help to reduce the bulls-eye effect a little.

Shadow Dancing

Shadow Dancing

Eleven days later I was in the middle of the Hokkaido Workshop and shot image number 2161 (above). This is probably my favorite Steller’s Sea Eagle shots to date. I just love the way the wings are spread open, but the flight feathers pointing down, and the snow being kicked up by the bird and frozen by the fast shutter speed really work for me. The shadow of the bird top it off though, and this image kind of reminds me of a native American dance of some sort. Also, this image is a tribute to the quality of the 300mm F2.8 lens, even with the 1.4X extender attached, it’s sharp as tacks. The eye on this beautiful eagle is totally sharp, and you can pick out incredible detail in the feathers. Definitely one of my favorite wildlife images from last years trip.

Lone Tree on a Hill

Lone Tree on a Hill

Mother & Child

Mother & Child

Three days later still, and we’d finished the wildlife leg of the workshop, and had moved on to the beautiful town of Biei, for some Winter Landscape photography, and without doubt, my favourite image from this leg of the trip is image number 2183 (above). Here we see a lone tree, standing on a hill, in a snow storm. It’s not easy to see in the web sized image, but the reason for the almost totally whited-out scene here is heavy snow being driven directly towards us. I remember having just a few seconds to shoot each time after wiping the snow off the front element of the 300mm F2.8 lens. Every time I cleaned the lens and pointed it back towards the tree, I was able to get literally just three or four frames off, before having to clean the lens again. Incredible fun though, and this tree, complimented by the curve of the top of the hill were beautiful. Of course, I was shooting with the exposure set to around 1 stop more than the camera’s meter thought I should be shooting at, to compensate for the frame being filled almost totally with white.

Almost straight after the 2009 Hokkaido Workshop, I went on a reconnaissance trip to Jigokudani, to photograph the Snow Monkey’s, and my favorite shot from this trip has to be image number 2230 (right). The love and affection captured in the pose and the closed eyes of this macaque monkey as she cuddled her child to keep warm still captures my heard every time I look at it. I have two others that I really like too, with the mother’s eyes open, but to me this one captures the moment better than any other. This was shot from a kneeling position, very much like my kneeling photographer logo that you’ve probably seen on the Web site, literally just a few meters from the monkeys. I used the 70-200mm F2.8 lens at 200mm, so you can probably tell how close I was. I could have gotten closer, and indeed we do get very close to the monkeys that bathe in the hot spring here, but I didn’t want to scare these two away, and lose my shot. Once I was sure that I’d nailed it though, I let them be, and moved on.

The next image, number 2256 (below) was shot in April, when the full moon coincided with a Saturday, and the azimuth at which the moon would rise was going to be good to capture this Shinto Gate or Torii, on the rocks in the sea at a place called Ooarai, in the Ibaraki Prefecture, a couple of hours drive from Tokyo. This was a four minute exposure, to render the waves on the sea as a smooth silky sheet, almost like in a valley mist rather than sea. It had actually been cloudy as the moon rose above the horizon behind the gate, and having waited an hour or so, I’d given up, and gone into the hotel near here. I’d eaten dinner, had a beer and was in the hot spring bath looking out of the window when the moon broke through the clouds. I took another minute or so in the bath to warm up, and then went back to my room to grab my gear, and went out for another hour or so, during which time I captured this image. I was very pleased that the bath had big windows, and that I was able to go back out, having initially failed to capture anything.

Ooarai Torii (Shinto Gate)

Ooarai Torii (Shinto Gate)

We jump exactly three months next, from April the 11th, to July the 11th, and it’s another long exposure, in image 2319 (below). This was a two and a half minute exposure of a jetty, from behind a café on the lake Towada, in Aomori, the prefecture at the northern most part of mainland Japan, before you cross the sea to Hokkaido. The long exposure here again helped to smooth the relatively choppy lake to make a smooth silky surface, almost as though the lake was frozen over. It was pretty much dark when I shot this, but there was just enough light to give some texture in the mountains and clouds in the distance. There was also enough light that I had to use an ND400 neutral density filter to reach this long exposure.

Night Jetty

Night Jetty

I also recall that as I was photographing this jetty, the lady that owns the café turned the lights on inside, illuminating the jetty with warm light, that really didn’t match the cold feel outside, and that is another reason why I went with black and white for this shot, but from the start, I was thinking it would look much better in black and white, and I’d just bought Silver Effex Pro, so was looking forward to seeing what I could do with this. This I guess is a really good example of making a photograph, as opposed to a taking it, as we discussed a few weeks ago in Episode 222.

Red Cosmos

Red Cosmos

Hmmmm... Bokeh!

Hmmmm… Bokeh!

Another absolute favorite for the year is image number 2352 (above). This is a good example of what I call flowerscapes, as it was shot with a long lens, again, the 300mm F2.8 with a 1.4X extender fitted.  Keeping the foreground bokeh in mind at all times, and selecting a position to shoot from that renders the background almost black helped to give a dramatic yet beautiful feel, really making the red cosmos flower stand out. This image is actually included in my Flowerscapes Folio that you can buy from www.mbpfolios.com. It’s a wonderful collection of images if I do say so myself, so check that out if you are interested.

Next up is image 2372 (right), which is one of the first shots I made with the new 100mm F2.8 Hybrid IS Macro lens that Canon released in October 2009. This was shot stopped down just two clicks from wide open, at F3.5, which is pretty wide for a macro shot, which inherently have very shallow depth-of-field. That’s what I was after though, as you can see the beautiful dreamlike bokeh along the front and back edges of the flower, with really just a few millimeters in sharp focus. The V shape cutting into the flower with the green background to the right is almost mirrored by the pink V formed by the left side of the flower, as well as the fact that really none of the outer edge of the flower petals are sharp here, are also things that attract me to this shot. I also just really like the contrast between the pink and the yellow and the green. This shallow a depth-of-field is not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I really like this one from last year.

Just two more to go, and the next image in my top ten from 2009 is number 2413 (below). This is just the top section of the Kirifuri Falls in the Nikko area of Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. I visited three times on the same day, and the first two it was two misty to see anything. Not surprising really though, as the name of the falls, Kirifuri, basically means “mist falling”, or “raining”. On the third visit though, shortly after I got there the mist cleared for about 10 minutes so I had a bit of a photography frenzy. I shot everything from very wide, to the 300mm and this shot, at 150mm, was my favorite. The colors are nice, with the yellows, some greens left, and the red and orange leaves smattered throughout the scene, but the think I like most of all is that the leaves from the tree in front of the falls had all fallen just at the right time. If you imagine this shot with that tree fully leaved, you’ll realize that you literally would not be able to see the majority of the falls, so this really is perfect timing, with a big dose of luck to help out.

Upper Kirifuri Falls

Upper Kirifuri Falls

Colour Collaboration

Colour Collaboration

Finally, let’s look at the tenth image in my list, which is number 2417 (right). This is one that we looked at just a few weeks ago, shot at the end of November, 2009 at the Jindai Botanical Park. Possibly because it’s one of my most recent shots, but I’d say that right now, this is possibly my favorite shot of 2009. I just love this image. The multiple colors, with the splash of green in the foreground and then the red leaves slightly further into the shot, and then the orange then yellow leaves all totally complement each other, and I really like how I positioned the tree trunk along the right side of the image, with the Y shape as the trunk branches out just at the right place in the top right, everything just comes together perfectly for me here.

I should tell you that although there are a couple of portrait photos that I really wanted to include, I decided once again, as with last year, that I was going to concentrate only on my nature photography for my top ten selection. I do value my portrait work, but I’m decided to leave that out, as I do think of it as kind of a side business compared to my nature and wildlife work.

So there you have it — my selection from my last year of photography. A little self-centered again, as with the other recent achievements and goals episode that I did. My aim in bringing you this sort of Podcast is really to get you thinking about doing similar activities, if you don’t already do so. Setting goals and tracking achievements is very important to your success. Also looking back at the fruits of your labor, as I did in preparation for this episode, really helps you to see how well you’ve done over the year. When I compare my 2009 list to my 2008 list, which we discussed in Episode 170, I definitely feel as though my photography as improved over the last year. Likewise, when I compare these images and my 2008 images to my 2007 top ten, that we looked at in episode 119, again, I feel as though on the whole I’ve improved. There are favorites from previous years that I might rank higher than 2009, but on the whole, the quality is going up in my opinion.

Try to select just 10 of your own photos that would best represent your own 2009. If you don’t shoot very much, you could try selecting just 5 or even three images, but doing the exercise forces you to take a critical look at your year, which I feel has value and in itself may help you to improve in your photography as we start again in 2010.


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Reflecting on 2007 & My Top Ten Images (Podcast 119)

Reflecting on 2007 & My Top Ten Images (Podcast 119)

Today I’m going to look back on 2007, mainly talking about my top 10 favourite images from the year, and also touching on a few of the other significant things that have happened, and a little about my plans for next year.

Before we get started, I wanted to mention that following last week’s episode on DxO Optics Pro I was made aware of some possible issues with the anti-piracy software that also gets installed with this software. Now, I have received a mail from a VP at DxO regarding their use of this software, and I am much happier about the situation at the moment, but I haven’t had chance to really digest the contents of the mail or follow up with DxO yet, so I’m not going to go into this today. All I will say is that DxO Labs of course have their reasons for their choice of licensing and rights management, and I’m going to continue to work with them to understand this better. I stand by my statement that DxO Optics Pro is a very useful product, and if you can handle the addition of the anti-piracy software, it is still worth a try. Anyway, let’s take a look at my 2007.

All in all, 2007 has been a good year for me. Photographically I feel as though I’ve grown, and we’ll get to that in a short while. First of all, I want to look at the technology that supports our workflows. The biggest thing for me has been the revolution that is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Until now my digital workflow has been a little clunky, patched together with lots of different pieces of software, to achieve relatively simple things on the most part. With the arrival of Lightroom I found that I could do 90% of what I needed to do in one application. I was disappointed when I found that the initial versions of Lightroom didn’t do a good job of handling large libraries of over 50,000 images, but from version 1.3 this appears to be fixed, so now I’m back to using one large library, instead of multiple ones, which is a big bonus for me, again making things much easier. I do still export my images in Photoshop format and open them in CS3 to save off in a few various formats and my framed small version for the Web, but pretty much Lightroom is where I live on the most part, from the import of the images to printing, which is also so much easier now than before.

Another major change for me was getting a new PC. Some of you will remember that in February I built myself a bit of a monster PC. I’d basically been getting frustrated with the speed of my old PC, especially when it came to photography related tasks, as you all know, this can be pretty processor and hard disk intensive, so is hit pretty badly by a low performance PC. I’d decided to make the switch to Windows Vista as well, and at first it all went smoothly. I’d gone to great lengths to make sure that all of the hardware I bought was Vista compatible, and I was happy enough initially. Then though, I found that 32 bit Vista deducts the total video memory from the physical RAM in the machine, and because 32 bit Windows can only use up to 4GB, which is what I had in the machine, I ended up not being able to use all 4GB. I have 512MB of video memory in my two graphics cards, so I was only able to use 3.5GB of RAM, which seemed very wasteful to me. I often open up Photoshop in additional to Lightroom, and then when I start working with other applications as well, as I tend to do, I really start eating into my RAM and wanted to free up as much of it as possible. So, I decided to switch to 64bit Vista, and spent some more time making sure that I could get the drivers for all of my hardware in 64bit versions as well.

The switch went well though, and I was able to utilize all of the RAM, but there was one important piece of software that stopped working, and I really missed. That was ProShow Producer from Photodex, which is the software I used to make my portfolio slideshow and DVDs to easily show my photographs to others. I was pretty cut up by this. I did get it working in a Microsoft Virtual Machine, into which I installed 32bit Vista, but it is not as responsive as I’d like, and getting at the files on my local system was clunky too. I contacted Photodex a number of times, and did some extensive troubleshooting, including sending them files and other information for when I was seeing problems. I should say that the software installed, but the images were corrupted, and I’d been told that this was down to the 64bit graphics card drivers. I continued to work this though, as I had no problems with the rest of my system. Then, about a month ago, I downloaded the latest version of ProShow Producer, and low and behold, the problem was solved. I hadn’t updated my graphics drivers, but I had reinstalled Windows since the previous version, so to this day I don’t know if it was my original system that was at fault, or if Photodex had actually fixed the issue, but it now worked, which made me incredibly happy. I was now able to update my portfolio, which was well over do.

I completed my portfolio update this morning, on December the 31st, 2007, the last day of the year. By the time most of you listen to this, the new portfolio will be live. This is one of the things that I really wanted to complete before we move into 2008, so I’m pleased that the software now works, pretty much completing my workflow tools, and that I managed to find the time to update the portfolio. I actually chose to make the new version in 16:9 widescreen format. I made it 1920 x 1080 pixels in dimension, which is the same as full High Definition TVs. I’ve reduced the Web version to keep the download size down helping to keep the streaming smooth, but for output to a TV this makes it much better quality, especially when transferred to the TV digitally. This format is a little restrictive on normal aspect computer screens, but most people have a number of toolbars in their browser, and even when going to full screen when viewing the portfolio, the plug-in handles it quite nicely, and it helps a lot to only have to deal with one format. Also, more and more new computer displays are now wide screen, on which the portfolio should display pretty nicely at full screen too.

The other technology that has come my way at the end of 2007, as most of you are already aware, is the 1Ds Mark III, which I have been waiting for, for five years now, since the first generation 1Ds was released. The more I use this camera, the more I find myself falling in love with it. Compact Flash cards are getting bigger and faster all the time, while the price of them continues to fall relationally. This means that I can now drop an 8GB card into the camera and get 300 RAW files into one card. Imagine how restrictive shooting with a 21megapixel camera would have been if we were still using saying 256MB memory cards. Slow ones, at that. Basically with all the R&D dollars that companies such as Adobe, Canon, Nikon, the various memory card manufacturers, and of course a multitude of other photography related companies are investing is really starting to work its way around to the everyday photographer, who all along really just wanted things to be simple yet powerful, and most of all, to just work. Basically, at this point, on the last day of 2007, I’m really happy with the technology at my finger tips, and feeling that this is an amazing time to be involved in photography and technology in general. I can’t wait to see what is around the corner, as we move into 2008 and beyond.

As I said, one of the things that I really wanted to do during this year was to update my portfolio, which I have achieved. Although I shoot in a number of genres, it turns out that so far I have only had time to make and now finally start to maintain one portfolio, so I have concentrated on Nature, specifically, The Nature of Japan, which is the title of my portfolio. I managed to get my portfolio down to 40 images, which was quite a feat, as I started off with more than 200 images that I really wanted to include. I was never really happy that I’d gone over my original goal of forty images though when I first put my portfolio together in 2006, so decided to give myself a hard roof for this update. Also, I am a strong believer that your last year’s work should always be your best. With that, I should ideally be able to create a 40 image portfolio just from the last years shots, but unfortunately responsibilities in my day-job, and also the time that I have to invest in creating this Podcast mean that I can’t get out shooting anywhere near as much as I’d like. Having said that, I’m still happy that 18 of the forty are now new shots from 2007, which is almost half.

Because of this, it was pretty easy to choose my favourite 10 shots, because I just had to look at these 18 images, and add a couple that I just could not leave out, but that don’t qualify to go into my Nature of Japan portfolio. I’ve also tried to loosely order these according to how much I like them. As I’ve mentioned before, images tend to get higher marks for a while after you shoot them, so to protect myself from this, I have added my two most recent favourites in the first two slots. Let’s first look at image number 1655, which I’m pretty sure is going to probably still be in my top five or maybe even top three for the year, even as time passes. This was shot just four days ago at the Kotokunama, or Kotoku Pond in Ibaraki Prefecture, almost a two hour drive from my Tokyo apartment. I had got up at 3:30AM to get over to the pond by 6AM, to start shooting before the sun rose. The sun comes up at around 6:50AM at this time of year, and because there are a number of wooded hills behind the pond, the sun doesn’t actually make it over the top of the trees until 50 minutes later, at 7:40AM, which is when I shot this. There are around 40 swans that winter at this pond, and they don’t fly a whole lot at this time of year, so I was incredibly lucky that these five Whooper Swans took flight, and flew over the pampas grass at the edge of the pond at exactly the time when the sun was coming over the trees. I was even more lucky here, because I have to admit that as the sun hit the front element of my 300mm F2.8 lens, as I was panning with the swans, I thought the shot was lost, and shot just this one frame and then stopped. When I looked at it on the LCD I was pleasantly surprised at how well it had turned out, and when I got to look at it on the PC and saw how sharp the swans were and the balance of the sunlight and the pampas, I was really pleased that I released the shutter this one last time in the burst.

Dawn Whooper Swans

Dawn Whooper Swans

The next shot, number 1647, is also very recent, shot on December the 16th, just a few weeks ago, at the Ueno Zoo here in Tokyo. Here we can see a Secretary Bird. Native to Africa, this beautiful bird won’t make it into my Nature of Japan portfolio, but I could not resist including this today, as I just love this shot. I was shooting through the wires of the cage which captivates this subject, but of course the wide aperture made that disappear. The bird stood up at one point, and I was surprised at how long it’s legs were, giving it a total height of around 4 feet tall, but it soon sat back down again, and continued to pose for me. I shot it for around five minutes, and it really did feel like I was working with a model, with all the poses it kept on making for me. I actually uploaded five shots of this subject from the series, which is about four more than I usually like to upload of the same subject, but all of the poses have their own beauty, so I couldn’t resist sharing them all. This one is my favourite of the series, as we can see not only the red face, with the pale blue beak, and those beautiful long eye lashes, but also we can see the head feathers splayed out nicely behind the birds head.

Secretary Bird #2 [C]

Secretary Bird #2 [C]

Next let’s take a brief look at image number 1485. In the interest of time, and because I’ve already spoken about most of the remaining 8 images throughout the year, I’m going to move through the remaining images a little more quickly. In this shot we can see a Japanese Green Woodpecker, trying to coax a fledgling from the next, minutes before it took its maiden flight. This shot is still special to me because of the tenderness in the gaze of the mother as she looks into the eyes of the child.

Eyes Meet

Eyes Meet

Clothes Merchant

Clothes Merchant

The next image, number 1532, was difficult to place in the other nine, because it is of a totally different genre, portraiture. This as many of you will remember is from my September visit to India, when I was fortunate to meet this gentleman in a market, and having asked for permission, was allowed to shoot this wonderful portrait. I’ll never forget the brief exchange and have a wonderful digital memory to backup my mental memory, even after my own memory is lost forever.

We can see a shot that I titled Cosmos Rhapsody in image number 1562. This was shot at the beginning of October as we started to get into autumn here in Tokyo. I like this because I feel it is one of my non-macro flower shots that encapsulates much of what I’m aiming for in this type of shot. I like to search out patches of the larger scene and create my own little world within. I have added a number of wide aperture lenses to my arsenal to enable me to shoot images just like this. Here I used the 70-200mm F2.8 wide open, at F2.8, to get minimum depth of field, getting just a handful of flower heads in sharp focus, but this allows the rest of the scene to fall into the bokeh, creating depth and atmosphere, helped here by some flare or another flower head in the bottom right.

Cosmos Rhapsody #2

Cosmos Rhapsody #2

This next shot, number 1625, is something that I shot kind of on a whim, on my way into a favourite park in Chofu City here in Tokyo. There were a number of bamboo stalls with slatted roofs covering a display of numerous chrysanthemum flowers. The heads on the flowers are pretty large, maybe up to around 20cms in diameter sometimes, so I just got in nice and close with my 100mm and got a few frames, of which this is one. I was attracted by the way the light behind the flower is illuminating the base of the petals. I was in too minds initially as to whether or not I should remove two dark patches in the top right and left corners, but our good friend Landon Michaelson commented that it would probably be better without them, and as I felt pretty much the same way, I cropped the shot again to this size. I’m really pleased that I did, and thank Landon for your advice. I really feel that I am drawn into this shot and couldn’t resist putting it into my top 10 today. Actually, this is number five when counting back from first place, so we’re now into my top 5.

Pure Chrysanthemum

Pure Chrysanthemum

In fourth place is image number 1633, which I shot in November with my 300mm F2.8. Again, this is one of those shots that I have tried to isolate a part of the scene by getting in close with a telephoto lens, but also have added a wide aperture telephoto to my arsenal to be able to shoot wide open, as I have here at F2.8, without forfeiting sharpness in the areas that I want sharp. Shooting colourful subjects in the shade and using the exposure and the histogram for checking has become a large part of my shooting style, and this is another of my favourites as I feel it came together nicely here in this slice of autumn.

Mellow Yellow Maple

Mellow Yellow Maple

Trees in the Mist #2

Trees in the Mist #2

A shot from early October, image number 1571, is in third place in my list. This is a small part of a sweeping vista shot from Shibutouge, which is a mountain pass which I have visited a number of times now. I shot this with my 600mm lens though, really just selecting a tiny slice of the scene. I love the layers that the mist creates, that are also emphasised by the way a long telephoto like this compresses space. The colours help, as autumn sets in, and the detail of the shot when viewed at full size, and also in a print is just something else. This is one of those shots that makes me really want to get my act together and make the time to arrange an exhibition of my work. The tones of this shot when printed out on professional cotton rag paper are also just out of this world, which is another reason I placed this third in my list.

Watercolour Daffodil - Hitachi Park #18

Watercolour Daffodil – Hitachi Park #18

Another shot which looks just amazing as a print is image number 1392. Another technique that I have been using more and more, which is to find a subject in the shade but with a bright background really came together here in this relatively simple shot. It feels just like a watercolour painting, again caused by using a wide aperture telephoto lens. I also pay a lot of attention to how the background forms the bokeh, or the out of focus portions of the scene, and ensured here that the daffodil head had a nice uncluttered patch behind it, and I also paid attention to the semi-focussed daffodil leaves in the image. Any of these could have ruined the shot if placed in the wrong quadrant or if they had been more in focus.

Finally, my favourite shot for this year has to be image number 1438, which I titled Night Falls, which is of course a bit of a play on words. I drove to these falls through a very narrow road, as my navigation system had taken me the wrong way to this area, and I ended up scratching my car quite a bit, but getting this shot, just as Night Fell, really made up for it. This was shot in May, as the surrounding trees got their first leaves, and it still remains one of my favourite shots of the year, so I promoted this to first place as it is standing the test of time.

Night Falls - Tatsuzawa Falls #3

Night Falls – Tatsuzawa Falls #3

I’m sure there’ll be some shots in this list that you are wondering why they are there, and that’s fine. I’m often surprised by the shots that people like, and sometimes left wondering why people don’t like some of my favourites. This is how it is. We are all different and with different tastes, and catering for the entire world is never going to be possible. I definitely feel though as though my work is getting better as time passes, and the fact that my current portfolio is now almost half made up of work from the last year is a comforting reminder that I’m improving.

So, let’s briefly touch on what would I have liked to have done in 2007, but could not, and also what I want to do next year. Well, having spent so much of my free time messing around with my computer for the first half of the year, I was getting very frustrated that I was not able to get out shooting as much as I’d have liked. I also want to spend more time getting my work out there, in more ways than just via my own Web site and this Podcast. I have now made an action in Photoshop that saves off two copies of my selected photos for upload to two Stock Photography sites that I have decided to get involved with. That will hopefully help to increase my photography income next year, so I am determined to make the time to upload a few hundred images early next year. I have been asked by many people to put a calendar together, and have actually promised myself for the last few years to do so, but didn’t get around to this again this year. Next year, I am determined to make this happen.

There is of course the Hokkaido Workshop in January that is all planned, and now just around the corner, and making that a success is my top priority for the start of the year, so I’m really looking forward to getting started on that. So, as far as commitments go, in addition to the workshop, getting some stock photo income and doing a calendar for 2008 are on the list. There are a few other things that I really want to do, but can’t commit to right now. Shooting more is top of the list. Doing an exhibition is also very high on my list, as is approaching some magazines to see if there is any way of getting my work out there more without selling myself short. I can hear you asking why I can’t commit to do these last three things, because they sure sound like very important things to work on. Well, to be brutally honest, you’re listening to the reason. This Podcast takes an incredible amount of time to do each week, and I’d be hiding the truth if I didn’t say that this is one of the main reasons why I cannot do some of the other stuff that I feel important. Why then do I continue the Podcast, I now here you asking? That is simple. I have not created a Podcast every week for more than two years now just for you. I gain so much from doing this Podcast as well. You are helping me to improve my photography, and I am gaining a lot more marketing for my images than I could have possibly done without this Podcast. It helps to improve my photography because every week I have to put down my thoughts in a structured form that you can understand and benefit from. This in turn allows me to sift through what I’m learning and do away with the unnecessary, and concentrate on the important aspects. I also find myself thinking through my shooting process much more carefully now, because I am often thinking of how I will talk about my shooting in the Podcast, and I believe that being deliberate in your shooting for any reason is going to help it to improve.

There is also the forum. The Podcast has attracted a wealth of talent to my forum and it is truly a pleasure to communicate with all of you in there, and this of course also helps my photography, as I know it does many of yours too. I could definitely do these last three things on my list if I stopped doing the Podcast, but it has helped me to build a community that I love being a part of, as well as all of the other benefits I just mentioned. I would be crazy to stop now, and I know from the many mail I receive from kind listeners that you want me to go on too, so the last thing I will commit to for 2008, is to continue with this Podcast. Whether or not I can get to those last three items on my list will depend on how hard I work with what’s left of my free time.

I hope you enjoyed that simple wrap up of my 2007. I need to say before we close that it had been suggested that I also talk about some of the member’s images from the mbpgalleries.com site as well. I would have liked to have done that if I had more time, but when I went into the members’ galleries to look for the images that had caught my eye throughout the year I realized that this was going to be something that I could not achieve in the time I have to prepare this podcast. There are just too many amazing photographs that you guys have uploaded over the course of the year, and I wouldn’t have been able to cull out a small enough number to talk about. I would like to also apologise for my own lack of involvement in the members’ galleries. I do look and am constantly amazed by all of your work, but rarely make the time to comment, and I do feel bad about this. Please understand that it is just a time thing, and I really do enjoy watching your images come up and the conversations that you all have in there.

If you have a few minutes, well, seven to be precise, please do check out my updated portfolio by clicking on Portfolio in the top menu at martinbaileyphotography.com. There are two formats. The best one unfortunately only runs on Windows, and that requires a plug-in from Photodex that will be installed automatically when you try to view the slideshow. If it is not, there’s a link to install it manually on the Portfolio page. I definitely suggest if you do use Windows, that you turn on your speakers or use headphones, because there is some nice music that complements the slides. Also, please right click the slideshow and select Full Screen from the short cut menu that is displayed. You should be able to view the images at high resolution on most monitor sizes, and it looks much better this way. If you don’t use windows, please select the Flash version of the slideshow. This can’t be viewed full screen, and is a little bit more pixelated than the Windows version, but you should still get an idea of what I currently think is my best nature work, as 2007 comes to an end.

So, with that, I want to say as usual, thanks for listening, and I also want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and a successful and safe 2008. And more in the short term, you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.


Show Notes

I want to also wish you all a Happy New Year!


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