There’s a saying in the photography world that goes something like this: “If you want to take better photos, go to better places.” Over the past year I took two separate trips that for me qualify as ‘better places.’ Photos from those two trips dominate my favorites from 2015.
Powerful pictures evoke an emotion or reaction. It isn’t always necessarily positive. Every time I look at this picture, I cringe just a little. While walking through a fresh (VERY fresh!) market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I spotted this basket. There was something about the way the light was hitting it and the pattern of the mesh that drew me in, but as I looked closer, I realized what I was seeing. Frogs. Lots of frogs. And they’re alive! And one of them is looking at me! Eew. Gross. Yet somehow intriguing at the same time. Did you see the toenails on the one?
I See You
A village in Northern Thailand. A dozen or so photographers wandering around snapping photos of everything and everyone we see. I stood back a little ways, taking in the scene. I don’t like to be in the front of a group and I’m generally not the one to direct or set up a shot. So I watched. This young man was the subject of many photographs. He smiled and posed for the others and when they moved on to another subject, he sat off to the side on this stump. I liked that he wasn’t posing and that he was taking a momentary breather-so I lined him up in my viewfinder. Yet he totally saw me and couldn’t help but give a subtle little smile.
Rural Thailand. Again a dozen foreign photographers spill out of their vehicles and make their way through a field to take pictures of natives simply doing their everyday jobs. I especially liked this man operating the tractor, as his straw hat and plaid shirt reminded me of my grandfather, who also was a potato farmer.
This photo shows me the importance of engaging with your subject. It’s the second of two I took of her. (Here is the first shot) As much as I like the first photo, it’s this second one that captivates me even more. Chin up and out, head wrap readjusted, and staring me straight in the eye. As soon as I snapped this photo, I said “I’m done.” I knew I had my signature shot from my trip to Thailand. I’m curious-how old do you think this woman is?
What it lacks in technical merit is made up in emotional impact for me with this photo. My kid, laying hands on an elderly elephant. We had the opportunity to visit a rescue park on our last day in Thailand. The animals roam free. No chains and they certainly aren’t ridden. We learned that in order for an elephant to be ‘tamed’ enough to ride, they’re first broken. Often by very cruel means. The animals in this park are treated with respect. I was awed by their size and their presence. If they wanted to, just a flick of their trunk or their head and they could send a large human tumbling. We learned to approach them slowly. We got to play in the river with them and bathe them. We watched their handler sing to them and intimately interact with them in their space. It was an awesome way to end an incredible trip. Elephant Nature Park
Sunset at Skyline Arch
Well, that was the idea, anyway. Until we got there and realized that our view of Skyline Arch was facing east. There would be no sunset behind this arch from this vantage. However a clear sky would give us a good view of the stars. And it was sheer good fortune that one end of the Milky Way seemed to emanate from directly behind this arch. I still have no idea what the pink and purple glow is, but I do know it was beautiful.
What a Ride
Braeden enrolled for his freshman year of college in California. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to drive him out there and experience the Western United States in the process. By far my favorite park that we visited was Yosemite. He had to convince me that it’d be a good idea for him to take his bike off the Jeep and ride it around this curve. I was nervous, more than a little. But he was right. I absolutely love the sense of scale he provides. And that he’s momentarily captivated by the expanse in front of him. Indeed, what a ride.
MacKerricher State Park
I’d just dropped the boy off to college a few days prior. I was now wandering the Pacific Coast Highway, trying to figure out what being an Empty Nester was supposed to feel like. It was lonely. And exhilarating. I watched the sun set, then began walking back to my campground. I turned back again and noticed this couple enjoying the same sunset. Isolated. Serene.
A Full Moon Lights up Old Faithful
I’d made a stop earlier in the day at Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. I discovered that I had very little patience for the crowds. If I was going to visit Old Faithful, I decided I was going to do it after dark-when most everyone else had given up for the day. After setting up camp I came back and waited for about an hour in temperatures that were rapidly dropping. Yeah, I can live without the crowds.
Alone at the Badlands
I literally made this shot out the driver’s side window of the Jeep. The Badlands are a weird place. Massive hills one minute and vast plains the next. As I wound my way along the route, I spotted this guy soaking in the view. I like simple, minimalistic stuff and the combination of both the distant hills and expanse of grass in the foreground made this an easy pick for one of my favorites for the year.
After experiencing Thailand earlier in the year and the beautiful National Parks and scenery of the Western US, I came home and pondered what it was that I got to experience every day that visitors might be impressed with. Big Red and a Lake Michigan sunset provide one possibility.
I thoroughly enjoy portraiture and am constantly trying to improve my own work in this area. I’ve not done much work with children, however. They certainly don’t hold still for very long! I love this shot of Brooklyn as I was able to catch her in a very brief pause. Her little red nose and lips match the pop of color in her hat, and her eyes bring out the blues in the rest of the scene. I also love how you can tell that she’s measuring me. “Who is this guy following me around with that camera of his?” 2016 will bring a little sibling into Brooklyn’s life.
What does the New Year hold in store for you?