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.
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