“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” (Ansel Adams)
January... time to look back, take stock, and look ahead. Taking this advice from "St. Ansel" to heart, I have selected a set of twelve photographs (out of almost 5000 shutter clicks) from 2016. These are not necessarily the "best" (whatever that means) or most popular on social media. Instead, they represent waypoints that were significant to me on my photographic journey. Here they are, in chronological order.
1. Thread Cones
In March I made a return visit to the historic abandoned silk mill in Lonaconing, MD. When I saw this rack of metal thread cones I immediately saw in my mind the image I wanted, and I ran through the rain back to my car for my 85mm f/1.8 lens. This is one of my two or three favorite images of the year.
2. Oil Cans
This image from the Lonaconing mill was also made with the 85mm f/1.8 lens. I was drawn to the subtle patina on both oil cans and the sense of depth afforded by the out-of-focus machinery in the background.
These two Lonaconing images, plus six others from this visit and and my first visit to the mill in 2013, comprised a portfolio that was selected by a jury for inclusion in the "Portfolio Showcase 2016" exhibit at the Image City Photography Gallery in Rochester, NY in August 2016. More Lonaconing images can be found in this gallery.
June found me in San Francisco, serving as the photographer for the production of an episode of "Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser," a serialized opera being produced for television. This episode was filmed on Alcatraz after the park closed for the night. My assignment was to photograph the entire production -- from the boat ride to Alcatraz, to behind-the-scenes shots of performers, musicians, and production crew, to shots of the performances in progress.
This image, one of my favorites from that event, was shot through the dirty glass window of the open door of the main cell block. I was able to frame both Greg Purnhagen (in the role of Doctor/Priest) and the steadycam operator recording his performance.
I was able to get this image of Emma MacKenzie (Vireo's "mysterious twin Caroline") between takes. The dramatic side lighting of the video lights caught her pensive expression as she awaited her entrance (in a straightjacket, seated on a hospital gurney and holding an odd skeletal totem) at the beginning of the scene.
5. Vision of Liberty
In July I had the rare opportunity to spend a brutally hot day with a group of hard-hatted photographers on a tour of the unrestored Immigrant Hospital on Ellis Island. The hospital was immigration "purgatory" where immigrants with health problems awaited a decision by the medical staff -- only those deemed to be healthy were allowed to immigrate, whereas the sick ones were returned to their port of origin. I found it interesting that the Statue of Liberty was so clearly visible from many of the hospital rooms, an ever-present reminder of a hoped-for future that was not yet attainable.
All of the remaining pictures in this selection are from our return visit to Iceland in late September and early October. Unlike our 2014 trip, we had many days of excellent weather, beautiful fall colors, and the Northern Lights. More extensive collections of images from the Iceland trip can be found in this gallery and in this album on my Flickr page
This year's trip was billed as "Aurora Madness" and it definitely delivered. This image, taken during the night of the most intense aurora display, captures for me the essence of being all alone overlooking glaciers and mountains with the aurora dancing overhead.
7. Blue Lagoon
No visit to Iceland is complete without a visit to the Jökulsárlon glacier lagoon and the adjacent black sand beach. Here the "blue hour" light, just before sunrise, accentuated the natural blue color of the icebergs.
Iceberg fragments carried out of the lagoon at Jökulsárlon are washed up on the adjacent beach made of black volcanic sand. At sunrise these diamond-like ice fragments sparkle and glow as if lit from within. Here, a long exposure softened the breaking waves to accentuate the sharp detail of the iceberg.
Kirkjufellsfoss is one of the most iconic (and over-photographed) locations in Iceland. During our 2014 Iceland trip we were here on a gray, rainy and windy day and I came away with no useful photographs. This year the weather was more benign and I was finally able to get this image. The moody look was achieved by conversion to black-and-white with a red filter to darken the sky and add drama.
10. Arnarstapi Arch
The sea arch at Arnarstapi is on the southwestern coast of Iceland. This photograph is the result of one of those rare occasions where I achieved exactly what I intended. I found a high camera position to achieve visual separation between the arch and the rocks in the distance, and I used a 3-minute exposure with a strong neutral density filter to soften the movement of the breaking waves and accentuate the movement of the clouds. I knew from the outset that this would ultimately be a monochrome image.
11. Abandoned Farm
The modernization of the Icelandic economy over the past several decades has resulted in the abandonment of many rural farms. This shot was not originally among my collection of most significant photographs, but I kept returning to it in my image review. It speaks strongly to me of the changes that have occurred in rural Iceland.
This photograph is the result of another second chance following a disappointing experience on the 2014 trip. Here, the Oxarar River plunges over a cliff and flows down the rift between continental plates in Thingvellir National Park. On the last trip I found this panoramic composition only with my iPhone; this time I was determined to revisit it with my camera. On this day, the fading fall color of the low bushes along the river and the dark clouds added a sense of drama, as if winter were just around the corner.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
In pulling together this set of images I was surprised to see that they represent only a handful of my photographic adventures. There were many other images from other locations that did not make the final cut. I am also surprised that none of the final twelve images were taken locally. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to get out and about more in the Finger Lakes, camera in hand, to take advantage of the scenes and subjects that are close by.