Saturday, January 18, 2014

Best Images of 2013

Last year I decided to create a new category in my Lightroom catalog: Best of ...

I went back through my images and chose the best image of each year. Most choices were pretty simple. Either there were only a few images worth considering, or there was a clear standout for the best image. But choosing a best image for 2013 was a different experience. I had a lot more to choose from and more "favorites." That's probably a good sign. I take it to mean that I've grown (still growing) as a photographer. My skills are improving, my vision is becoming more focused and defined, and as a result I'm creating more worthwhile images.

So to choose last year's best image, I elicited some help. I created a gallery on my photography website and a survey through google docs, asking friends, family, even strangers, to choose their favorite image from three categories: Color, Monochrome and Digital Painting. The results are interesting, but the process has been even more interesting, to me at least.

Before I give the final results, let me talk about the process and some of the 'losers.' Although I had a difficult time choosing a clear winner for myself, I had some favorites. Of course I liked all the images - that's why I put them in the gallery as nominees. But I discovered I had some sentimental favorites. As I looked through the results, some images received no votes, which made me sad. "Poor 'They Might Be Giants' didn't get a single vote. And I really like that image."
Let me tell you why I like this image.
I like the crop first. Yes, downtown Boise has some tall-ish buildings and cities are often photographed vertically, but standing on a busy corner, on a busy night, most of the action is horizontal. Cars whiz by, people walk by, sounds move from left ear to right and right to left, back and forth through my awareness. The panoramic crop matches the feeling I had standing on the corner.

I also like the energetic lines created by the moving cars and trucks. A photograph is obviously a static representation of a scene, but the lines of light create movement in this image.

Lastly, I really like the marquee sign. It's just text, but there is also symbolic language there: They Might Be Giants. Who are they? If they might be, they also might not be. What do you mean by giant?
I know they symbolism I draw from that short line of text, but those are my private thoughts and yours are assuredly different.

Apparently nobody likes it as much as I do, which is okay. The survey just points out that nobody thought it was the "best" of 2013. Of course this image has performed poorly other places I've submitted, so maybe it's just not a good image. Either way, I really like it.

There are a few other images that received no votes, which made me a little sad (but not for long - I'm a resilient photographer).

Sunset Fishing #92
In my opinion, this is a really good photograph. I've captured a story, a moment, and one that a lot of people understand. The clarity and definition of the water, and the sharpness of the silhouettes is wonderful. I love the hint of sunset in the background, lending context of time to the moment. But alas - no votes.

Snow Geese #42 V2
This image came about accidentally, sort of. The original image has two snow geese, flying very close together. When I converted it to a digital painting, and adjusted some settings, one of the geese disappeared. I'm not sure why and when it first happened I immediately undid that adjustment. But then I redid it. I like the simplicity of this image, the minimalism, the abstract expressionism of it. Nobody else liked it. :(

But let's move on to the winners.

In the Color Images category, the voting created a clear winner for Best Image of 2013.
Starvation Creek #116.

It was a clear winner in the category, by nearly 3 to 1 over the images with the next highest vote count.

In the Monochrome Category, the winner was a surprise to me.
Chevy Detail #52 V2
Once again, this image won by a landslide (2 to 1). It was not one of my top picks initially, but I do like what I've created here.

Lastly, in the Digital Painting Category, the voting was more tightly bunched. It came down to two images, and since I'm the photographer/artist, I get to choose the winning image.
BMC Diversion Dam Detail #4 V2

So there are your winners! (my winners)

The process of choosing the nominees was a year-long project, done with each new batch of photos. I identified the images I liked, then the ones I wanted to work on, processing them, identifying the best, and finally the best of the best. That process is continuous and happens without the goal of identifying a best image of the year. Hopefully I'll continue to create worthwhile images.

Next year, in January 2015, I'll attempt to identify the best of 2014. Check back and you'll be welcome to play along.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's Resolution, 2.0

Last year my only resolution was to make no resolution. I kept that resolution too, which means I failed my mission to not make any resolutions. Now my brain hurts.

In past years I've made resolutions, usually including the resolve to lose weight. But I'm still fat so none of them have ever worked. This year I decided to try something new. Early in the year I was perusing excel templates (exciting life I lead). I like spreadsheets. They're versatile, fun to use, appropriate for a lot of solutions. I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I able to do quite a few things with spreadsheets.

I stumbled across this template for a checklist and graph to track the progress. The person who made the template used it to track "101 Things in 1001 Days." I adapted it to "101 Things in 2014." Rather than make some broad, vague ideas about things I might want to accomplish in 2014 - which has never worked for me - I've decided on 101 specific things I want to do this year.

Some of them are health related, but no direct goal of losing weight. Instead I've made a goal based on number of hours I will spend exercising. It's much easier to track my progress. And I think if put in the time, I'll see results.

Some of my goals are small things: read this book or that book, take this class, write that article.
Some goals are photography related. Some are even musical.
But the key is: they are all specific goals.

I've already checked off several items, so I'm off to a good start.
Will I accomplish them all? Probably not. But I'm already better off than I was December 31, 2013.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year

I don't often send out Christmas letters. I can't even remember the last time I did. Usually it's because I assume people don't want to read a summary of my year. I could tell all the things that happened, hit the highlights, briefly mention some of the difficulties, remind people where I'm working and what my family is doing - but why would they want to hear/read all that?

The funny thing is: I like reading those kind of letters from my friends. Even though I keep current with a lot of my friends through Facebook, it's fun to see their year summarized in a Christmas letter. I look forward to the stories and to hearing how the last year has affected them. It's definitely a double standard. I'm interested in their lives (your life) and convinced they're not interested in mine.

But, this has been an interesting year, so I'm going to share.

Here are some highlights:

I taught a number of classes for NNU's graduate counseling program.
Being a college professor was never in my plans. In graduate school my only focus/intention was to become a school counselor. I wanted to be around kids, in a school environment. I wanted to impact students, families and teachers. Several of the program's doctors approached me soon after I graduated. "You should really get your doctorate Chris. You need to be teaching."

"I don't want to be a professor!"

However, the more classes I teach, the more I enjoy the job.
The more feedback I get, from students and faculty, the more my confidence grows.
I don't know how long I'll do this. But for now it seems I'm in the right place - right where God has planted me - so I'm blooming here.

I took over the job as newsletter editor for the Boise Camera Club.
After I left the board of the Idaho School Counselor Association, I avoided leadership positions. I didn't want to be on any more boards. I just wanted to be a member. Not that being on the ISCA board was a bad experience. On the contrary, I enjoyed it. I was a member of the board for 8 (?) years. I met and worked with some great people, learned new ideas, developed my leadership skills.

I was approached more than once and asked if I wanted to run for a BCC board position. Each time I declined. I like being an involved member, but didn't want more than that. However, once again I find myself enjoying something I was reluctant to do.

I added new doctors: a new ENT and a urologist.
These may not seem like highlights, but new doctors mean new perspectives.
New perspectives mean new ideas and possibilities.

I continued learning to play the ukulele and to speak Spanish.
I have a LONG way to go, in both areas. But I like both. I like listening to Spanish radio, even if I only understand a few words. I like playing the few songs I know, even if nobody else hears.

Grampa Latting died.
This doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the year's highlights. The others are all positive experiences, and having a grandparent die isn't a good thing. It was sad losing him - I was sad. However, he did get to spend the last few weeks of his life here in Nampa, close to his daughter. And that's a good thing. During those last weeks, Mom and Grampa got to share some important time together.

But even better, Grampa is finally reunited with Gramma. When she died, he lost the most important part of his life. He talked often about wanting to go home to be with Rena. And although it would have been nice to him around for longer, I'm glad he's back with his honey.

I published a book.
The story and the process was recorded mostly for myself. I didn't want to forget what I had been through. By the time I got around to writing my book, I had already forgotten some important lessons. I'd forgotten some of the steps I had taken to reach my conclusions. But now it's in print. I don't have to remember any more because I can re-read it. I can remind myself where I was and how far I've come.

The positive responses I've received are just icing on the cake.

2014: A New Year
Now I'm in a new year. There will be new highlights and lowlights. I'd like to decide which I'll have this year - or at least I think I'd like that responsibility - but the control isn't mine. God will direct my path and I'll follow taking each day as it comes, each moment as it meets me in the present.

I did have a realization today - one that I'm not very happy with.
In May, my disability will be reviewed. I looked online to find out what that review will look like. On the form, there's a question: Is your condition Better, The Same, or Worse?

My condition will never be better. I have a degenerative disease for which there is no cure. There's no chance of someday hearing my doctor say, "Chris, the arthritis is gone. You've RA free!"
Plus, I'm at the age when normal, healthy bodies start deteriorating. From here on out, as long as I live, every year will be worse than the previous year - physically speaking. My joints will get stiffer, my pain will get worse, I'll take more meds, see more doctors.

That's a difficult prospect to consider. The realization came suddenly today and it'll take while to consider the implications.