As I do every year, I’ll be following the advice of Jeff Harmon (the man behind the excellent PhotoTaco podcast) and posting my Top 10 photos for the year.
Among the benefits of reviewing your Top 10 photos of the year is that you can reflect on what you’ve done and compare your photography to the previous years’ work. In selecting my top 10 for the year, I’ve come to the realization that 2019 wasn’t a very good year for me, photography-wise. Oh, I got some very nice shots during the year (which you’ll see in their full glory below), but as I was paring my shots down, a few things stood out to me.
In 2018, my first round of culling left me with over 50 shots to choose from. This year, I only found 31 that I would have even considered for the top 10.
A large number of my Top 10 came from only a few places (including one trip to the Rockies making up a full half of the Top 10). Normally, I like to diversify more. Granted this happened because I didn’t travel as much in 2019 as I did the previous year, but, truth to tell, I could have gotten out and shot more during the previous year.
In previous years, my Top 10 has had some variety in terms of different types of photography — macros, florals, landscapes, etc. This time, it seems that I only have two: landscapes and astrophotography.
Lastly, I’m just not sure that the quality of my shots from this year match or exceed that from last year. Yes, I’ve tried some new things, but I don’t know that this year’s shot stand up to last year’s.
OK, so I have to do better in 2020. I can do that. I’ve already set up some goals in a goal tracker and intend to follow through with those goals.
And with all that being said, it’s not like 2019 was a complete disaster. As I said, I did get some nice shots in this year. And so, here they are, in chronological order:
On the night of Jan 20, a total lunar eclipse blanketed North America. This was my first attempt at a lunar eclipse (I did shoot a total solar eclipse back in 2017) and I have to say that I’m pretty happy with the result. I stood out in the frigid cold on a chilly January night in Brooklyn and took shot after shot of the moon as it changed over the course of the night. I’m definitely looking forward to the next total lunar eclipse. I may have to wait a bit (the next one in my area is on May 15, 2022), but I’ll be ready.
Green Cay, Florida
I was on a trip to visit my father in Florida in early February when some relatives told me that I must visit the Green Cay Wetlands and take some pictures there. It was a beautiful day (far warmer than the chilly night in Brooklyn just a few weeks earlier!) and took several really nice images, but this one, taken during golden hour, is by far my favorite.
Prospect Park Boathouse
Most people know New York for the skyscrapers, the crowds, the theaters and the nightlife. But there are also quite a few green spaces in the city. The most famous, of course, is Central Park in Manhattan, but another well-known gem is Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This shot features the boathouse, one of the most often photographed scenes in the park. I was fortunate enough to be able to capture the reflection of the clouds in the lake, helping to make this picture one of my favorites. If you ever come to city, yes, visit Central Park, but make sure to make some time for Prospect Park as well.
The Verrazzano-Narrows bridge is the longest bridge in the United States and, at one time, the longest in the world. Connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, it boasts daily traffic of over 200,000 people. This shot was taken from the Brooklyn side, from the park that runs along the Belt Parkway. The sun sets on different parts of the bridge at different times of the year. In the summer, it sets over the Brooklyn side (on the right side of the picture) and in the winter, it sets over the Staten Island side. This shot is a composite of three shots utilizing neutral density filters to smooth out the motions in the water and to (almost!) eliminate the people in the shot.
In September, I took a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is where the next five pictures are from. I got up early in the morning to take this path up to Dream (and later, Emerald) Lake. While the sunrise disappointed me (it was overcast that morning) the beauty of the scene did not. As a lifelong city resident of the East Coast, I don’t get to see huge mountains like the Rockies up close very often, and I was just blown away by the stark beauty of the peaks. Dream Lake was the first stop on my trip and it certainly did not disappoint.
I don’t know if this stream actually has a name or not, so I’m just calling it “The Stream.” I found this place as I was hiking back down to my car after visiting Emerald Lake. By then, the clouds had cleared up and I saw this wonderful little scene here, with the stream leading to the mountains. As tired as I was, I just couldn’t pass up shooting it.
There is a road in Rocky Mountain National Park called Trail Ridge Road. It’s the main road that runs through the park, connecting the eastern and western half of the parks. As I was driving along it, I noticed that the sunlight was starting to peak through the clouds. I worked quickly to get everything set up and snapped off a couple of shots to create an HDR image of the crepuscular lights before they disappeared.
Rocky Mountain Sunrise
I got up early and drove to the Trail Ridge Road to get a sunrise shot. I brought my crystal ball with me, hoping to get a shot of the sunrise refracted through the crystal ball. Once the sun appeared, I stopped down my aperture and took a few shots. One of the things I love about this picture is that even though the sky was cloudy just above the sunrise, you can see in the crystal ball that above the clouds, the sky was clear.
Milky Way At Lake Irene
Since I live in New York City, the most light polluted place in the United States and I don’t get to see (let alone photograph) the Milky Way very often, I made plans to try to photograph it when I went to Rocky Mountain National Park. After doing some research, I found that Lake Irene, a small lake on the western side of the park, was isolated from city lights and would therefore be very dark and good for shooting the Milky Way. Sure enough, when I got there, it was so dark that I don’t think I’ve ever been in a darker place in my life. I shot the Milky Way the previous year in Maine and thought *that* was dark, but that was nothing compared to this. The only things I could see were the stars (and they were so clear! Probably because at about 10,000 feet, there was two miles less atmosphere to see through) and the outlines of the trees.
I eventually found my way to the lake, which, believe it or not, I never actually saw. The only way I knew it was the lake was the fact that I could see the stars reflected on the water — something I had never seen in my life. I spent about an hour shooting before the moon started to rise – and this was the result.
I have a an app (Skyfire – available through The Photographer’s Ephemeris) that tries to predict who nice a sunrise or sunset will be. Before I went to sleep on Dec 24, I looked at the app and it predicted a nice sunrise for Christmas morning. So, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to drive to Weehawken and take some shots of the sun coming up over Manhattan. This one is one of my favorites.
So, that’s it — that’s my top 10 for 2019. What do you think? How do you think I’ve done in comparison to 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015? Do you think I’m improving in my photography? Have I hit a plateau? Or have I regressed (don’t be afraid to criticize — I’m always open to critique)? Let me know in the comments?