Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top 12, 2010

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was going to go through my photos and produce a 'best of' set of about ten of my favorites. It took a little longer than I thought (perhaps because I uploaded 2,500 photos in 2011?), but it was a useful exercise for me.

Here's a little blurb I wrote by way of introduction on our photography@ list at work:


"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."
                                             – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I'm no HCB; I felt like my first 100,000 photos were my worst, but I can happily say that as I come up on my third anniversary of owning an SLR, I feel more things clicking.

I also have a clearer idea what I'm trying to do.

I believe that there is a universe of moments all around us. Some of these moments almost anybody can see, and they cluster in a great big majestic swath of time -- stuff like a sunset over Market Street; a steady juxtaposition of old and new; or the architecture of modernism triumphant. These can be great and awesome, but I find that these vistas are less of interest to me than an entirely different class of moment.

I believe that as we drift (some, perhaps, are dragged -- others, pushed?) through life, we are surrounded by little slivers of beauty which persist only for a moment. Blink once, and they're gone. Don't even blink, and you might actually see one.

The most miraculous thing about a camera is that it opens you up to this world of minute moments -- both in its capacity to capture such instants, and because it necessitates teaching yourself a way of seeing which is outside of your day to day experience. These moments have always been there, but it took a camera to let us see them for what they really are. The camera can allow us to capture a scene that some artist should paint, but never would without a camera to see it.

I don't always (or even generally) capture these moments, but I find that when I do, I feel like that I have discovered something. Sometimes I have to chip away a bit (maybe with the crop tool), or remove the extraneous (color), but there is the impression that what is there was somehow waiting to be found.

And that's the type of photo I like best.


Without further ado, here's my top 12 for the year:

And, to see where I was coming from, here was my top 100:


Many of the photos from this blog were in the top 100, but a number of shots crept in that weren't normally posted here just because I tend to emphasize street photography (which is my favorite) and portraits (my second favorite type of photography) on the blog.


I could write a lot about these photos, but I think it's better now to just thank everyone who helped -- all my long suffering friends [and their pets] who for the last few years have let me photograph them over and over (some of whom now pause like a hunted animal at the click of the shutter), and also all the photographers on the internet who are inspiration to anyone doing my type of photography. The Bay Area is lousy with great photographers, and it's a pleasure to see a steady stream of amazing shots from my home.

And of course, my girlfriend deserves the most praise of all -- for inspiring (and putting up with) me. During the time we've been together, I've brought a tripod on our first fancy date, rushed to the edge of the water near her family's vacation home to photograph an alligator, snuck away at night to photograph downtown Las Vegas, and even fired away in the French Laundry when they bought out the foie gras.

She took it all in stride -- thanks B. :)


The remaining question after conducting an exercise like this is 'What next?'.

At the beginning of last year, I made a few goals:

  • Take more street photographs (and get better at them)
  • Do a few projects
  • Make a place to highlight my favorite photos away from the flotsam and jetsam of Flickr

The good news is, I think I've done all these things, even the part about getting better. Looking back over just a year, I think I can see a definite improvement -- if nothing else, getting a lot better with using my primes with a wider perspective (28mm, 35mm), and stepping away from longer lenses with which I was producing consistent if not eye-opening shots.

I'm not sure where I should go next. I'm pretty happy with my weekend trips up to San Francisco to shoot on the streets, along with hitting the right sort of events (I think of them as the ones 'with character') at key times and dates. "Walking the beat" with my camera on the weekend has slowly begun to give me a set of street photos I really like -- maybe the next step is collecting some of those in a book or a showing somewhere?

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