Well, here we are in 2011. Another year as an amateur photographer. How did this year stack up, and did I learn anything? Compared to 2008 and 2009, it was a lean year. Since I got back into photography a few years ago, some of the novelty has worn off. I feel like I’ve visited everything of immediate interest within driving distance (that is to say all the zoos, gardens, and museums), and the appeal of going back and shooting them again is diminishing. To make matters worse, I lost my computer to a lightning storm in June, and with it, my access to Lightroom. I spent most of the summer on an underpowered laptop trying to process photos with Picasa. Picasa is a great program, but it just can’t bring the heat to RAW files the way Lightroom can. My grass was too yellow, my blues too grey, and my reds too… realistic. I learned that I’m hopelessly dependent on Lightroom’s post-processing, and spending two days processing hundreds of RAW files, to end up with only 4 or 5 keepers, was a disheartening experience. Even after I rebuilt my desktop in the fall, I never really got going. I’ve already decided that part of my tax return is going towards a copy of Lightroom 3 so I can get myself in the habit of shooting regularly again. Enough excuses, though. I had some good experiences this year, and did more than my fair share of travelling. Michelle and I went to Costa Rica in March, and though I got fewer pictures than I would have liked, we had a great time. We followed that up with a trip to Washington, D.C. and Florida in August, and I got plenty of pictures in both places. This summer was wedding season with a vengeance, and we managed smaller trips to Mackinac Island, Fort Wayne, and Cleveland. Fall and winter were busier and we only managed to get away to Cleveland for a weekend.
This photo was taken at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which I had always imagined to be a temple of pop culture. As it turned out, there was only one pop culture room; the rest was bland patriotic fare and nonsense about trains and electricity. This Greek-inspired statue of Washington was tucked into an alcove near some bathrooms (or maybe it was by the elevator?) Like many of my favorite pictures this year, it’s taken at the widest angle my current lens collection allows. If 2009 was the year of the telephoto lens, 2011 will be my year of the fisheye.
Western Crowned Pigeon
I found this bird at the National Zoo in Washginton, D.C. The zoo was great, but I wasn’t having a lot of luck photographically. It was very sunny and everything I shot was coming out overexposed. In the aviary, near the exit was a big fake tree, with this colorful bird in it. I got within 4 feet of it, and it barely twitched as I took 30 or 40 pictures of it. What a good sport.
Another picture of my cat. This was taken earlier in the year, before I lost Lightroom. I’m a sucker for the 50mm lens and the dreamy look it gives when you shoot it wide open.
Flags, Maharajah Jungle Trek
Technically speaking, this photo is sort of crap. It’s overexposed and the focus isn’t great. I love the idea of it, though. In my mind it represents a place I’d like to go, someplace exotic where the air smells like spices and banners of unfamiliar religions flap in the wind.
Surfers, Tamarindo Beach
We spent our last four days in Costa Rica just hanging out on the beach. I’ve never really taken that kind of vacation before, and I liked having no plan and no expectations. Every day we’d sleep in, walk down to the beach, sit under an umbrella and read until lunchtime, then find a restaurant and go back to the hotel for a nap. We’d come back to the beach at the end of the day, after the worst heat was gone and watch the sun slide into the Pacific and bathe everything in golden-orange.
I chased this iguana around one day in Costa Rica while Michelle was being fitted for a swimsuit. There’s nothing special about it really, I just like the sinuous lines of its body and tail.
Some subjects just make it too easy. If I had to take this shot again, I would have looked for something to fill in the foreground a little better, but it’s pretty good as-is. This photo also holds a special significance for me, because it was taken 10 minutes after I proposed to Michelle.
I’ve been coming to the Toledo Botanical Garden and taking shots of this bridge for three years, and this is the first one I’ve thought was good enough to post. I decided this time to try the rarely-used A-DEP mode, to keep the whole scene in focus. Maybe I just got tired of waiting.
This photo came from the Fort Wayne Zoo, which was a phenomenal zoo, but one of my least-successful photo outings of the year. Everything I shot came out too flat and too green. I managed to get some good colors and a very sharp portrait of these two Australian parakeets.
No one goes to the zoo in January, but they really should. Something about the cold makes all the animals want to come outside and show off. I’ve rarely seen zoo animals more active than I did this day, and even the ones that weren’t, like this tiger, were still right out on display. A little Lightroom magic helped me get some beautiful rich oranges against the blue winter sky.
My dad is a Vietnam vet, so the wall has always held an almost religious significance for me. I expected it to be moving, but I didn’t expect to get as choked up as I did just walking along and reading the names. Like I said before, some subjects just make it too easy. The wall is a beautiful piece of art and a fitting tribute to the people that Vietnam affected forever.
Deck Chairs, Tamarindo Beach
This was taken on another evening in Costa Rica. I look at this photo, months later, and feel the same warm satisfaction that I did on the beach. Every vacation should be like this.