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My best photographs of 2013

Laurel Creek fall colors, near Mammoth Lakes.

Is this my best photo of 2013? Read on...

I've been reading a lot about photography the past couple of years. What started as a hobby as turned into a quiet obsession: the mad pursuit of more and better images. 

One tip I've held onto (among hundreds of others) is that a good goal is to shoot one strong image a month. That is, by the end of the year a serious photographer should have at least a dozen really strong images. 

I like that tip. It provides structure, it's a way to monitor progress and improvement. 

The following are my favorite baker's dozen images from 2013. They don't represent each month. I tried to choose my best work. I was pleased that I had to leave out a few images that I really like to get to 14. 

There is a definite bias toward images made more recently. I traveled more in the second half of the year and, to be honest, got more competent with my camera.

The photos below also show a strong bias toward the kind of images that interest me stylistically: I like to put nature and/or humanity into perspective. I like little things in big habitats.

All photos were taken with my Nikon DX 5100, a 16 megabyte cropped sensor DSLR. I used four lenses, all made by Nikon: the 10-24mm wide angle, the 35mm 1.8 lens (which is super sharp), the 70-300mm telephoto and the 85mm macro. 

In descending order, my best work of the year: 
  A pair of ducks on Hosmer Lake in the Deschutes National Forest.

This photo was taken from a kayak on Hosmer Lake in the Oregon Cascades, near Bend. I like the near perfect symmetry between the duckling and the mama duck. The only knock on the photo is the color of the water; it's a little too pea green. A slightly different color and this photo is higher on the list. 

On a warm October afternoon, my partner and I biked to Will Rogers beach in Santa Monica. I was messing around with my wide-angle lens (the Nikon DX 10-24mm) in the surf when I saw the sailboats off-shore. The wide-angle lens was perfect for trying to show the tiny size of the boats set against the big ocean. 
  Bee hanging from a flower.

I picked up a macro lens at a camera flea market this fall. I thought it would be fun to capture the vast landscapes encountered by smaller creatures -- the landscapes too small for humans to appreciate. I took this one in my backyard. There are certainly crisper and more closeup shots of bees out there; this photo isn't even perfectly focused. But I like the bee hanging from the flower, something almost humanlike. 

  Canyon Wren nesting in tree in Zion National Park.

I captured this image of a canyon wren during lunch break on a three-day photography workshop this past spring at Zion National Park -- I was playing around with my camera along the Virgin River when I saw this bird flying into and out of the tree. I hunkered down and within 30 minutes got this shot. 

It's actually my favorite image of the weekend. It tells a story: big tree, little bird cavity, some safety -- but not entirely safe. I gave the photo a healthy crop to better see the bird.

On a long drive down the Oregon coast, we stopped near the California border to stretch our legs, walk the dog and take a few photos. This wild grass was a few feet from the car and I liked how it was being tossed about in the wind. Getting close to the grass with my wide angle produced a nice result: it softened the focus on the rocks in the background. The muted colors, the soft focus on the beach, rocks, ocean and sky -- it just has a nice feel to it. 

Driving back to L.A. from the Eastern Sierra in August, we encountered smoke coming from the Windy Peak wildfire in the Kings Canyon National Park backcountry. The smoke and sunset combined nicely and we picked the perfect place to stop and add some scale: a farm field being irrigated. I tried a black-and-white verison, but the color is too good to pass up. 

After work I like to take my dog Sammy to the park and I've gotten in the habit of bringing my camera. On this evening, I was just doodling around when a nice sunset came out of nowhere. As usual, I couldn't get Sam to look at me, but I was smart enough to add a touch of flash to throw just enough light on him so that it appeared natural without overwhelming the color display in the sky.

Sam looks like he's pondering a big thought. The sky suggests he is. He probably just wanted to poop and/or eat, but if it works....

Hosmer Lake in Oregon on a warm summer night with Mt. Bachelor looming in the foreground. I included this photo because it's a great memory well captured and I love how the colors work together. 

Sunset at Wrights Lake in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe. The light was pretty much perfect and I tried to put the tree stump and the duck in the right place in the frame. I used the VSCO slide film presets that I had recently purchased to help with the processing and give the photo more of a film look. 

A young black bear near Zumwalt Meadows in California's Kings Canyon National Park.

Young black bear, Zumwalt Meadows, Kings Canyon National Park. A few days earlier I had re-injured my bad knee playing hockey. On a limp/stroll around the meadows in the evening, we encountered the bear. I tossed my telephoto lens on the camera and got as close as I good. This was the keeper. The colors are muted because of the shade but I got the bear on the move, the kind of photo not everyone has. 

A spectacular sunset at Arroyo Burro beach in Santa Barbara in Dec. 2013.

We knew by mid-afternoon from the clouds that Arroyo Burro was going to enjoy a nice sunset; we didn't know it was going to be this good. For this shot, I set up my tripod at the surf line and used the 10-24mm wide angle lens, keeping the shutter open long enough to smooth out the water. The quartet of surfers provides scale. The sunset actually grew more fiery a few minutes after this image was taken; but this photo has the better range of colors. 

Lady bug in a rose at Huntington Gardens.

The inside of a pink and yellow rose may be the tiniest of spaces to you and me. But it's a mansion to a ladybug. My partner spotted the ladybug while we were visiting the Huntington Gardens; I spent half an hour trying to wrangle a photo out of it with my macro lens. This isn't super crisp, but it's colorful and unique.

A white-tailed kite hunting at Ellwood Mesa in Goleta, CA.

I took a lot of bird photos the past year, with the vast majority of them including birds sitting on various things. I was thrilled when I finally got a good photo of a bird in flight. It helped that this white-tailed kite was practically floating over a meadow at Ellwood Mesa in Goleta (CA). The bird was too high to include the meadow but that mattered not -- I wanted the Santa Ynez Mountains in the background. I love this photo because it's so simple: bird, sky, mountains. 

Laurel Creek fall colors, near Mammoth Lakes.

I was tooling around on an autumn Saturday morning in Mammoth Lakes trying to find the best place to take a photo of the golden aspens along Laurel Creek, which spills from the high country. And thus my favorite photo of the year: the aspens and a lot more -- an icy pond, a meadow, the barren foothills and the snowy high peaks with a touch of forest. 

The thing I like most about the photo is that it's not a jumble. It feels orderly. It gracefully includes a lot of things but there's no doubt the subject: the golden aspens.

Obviously I post a lot of photos on the web and I have a pretty good idea of the ones that get a lot of clicks versus the ones that don't. This one didn't. I don't care. I stand by it. In 2013, it was my very best work. 

Related: Honorable Mentions 2013, my almost best photographs

Interested in buying a print of any of the above? More info here on my Smugmug site. Thanks for looking! 


The above photo is ©Steve Hymon and may not be used elsewhere without my advanced written permission. All rights reserved. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve: These are all spectacular! I agree with you #1 choice--love the colors, textures, etc. I wasn't sure what the yellow was at first, so I'm glad you explained. Keep clicking!