My top 10 images of 2015

After dragging my feet for a long time I decided that 2016 would be the year I took the plunge and switched my workflow over to Adobe Lightroom. Inspired by Martin Bailey's Photography Blogcast, I kicked things off by following a yearly tradition where he goes through and shares his top 10 images from the last calendar year. This is an amazing exercise in how to trim down your body of work to showcase only your very best. I highly recommend listening to the episode where he explains this process in detail, it's a must for every photographer.

Lightroom allows you to set a 'target' collection so when you are in grid view you can simply tap the B key and add the selected photo into that collection. I started by filtering my entire library to only show shots in 2015 with a rating of 3 stars or higher. Then, going through with an editors mindset I started filling up my '2015 Candidates' collection. After my first pass I was around 45 photos which wasn't too bad. I switched over to view the collection and started removing the ones that didn't wow me. A few passes later I was down to about 20 which is where it starts getting difficult. Martin Bailey talks about editing photos which most people confuse with post-processing. Editing your photos means selecting which ones to display and which ones to shelve. Other photographers stress being ruthless in this process and often use the term 'killing your babies', which doesn't sit well with me. The main point is not to become emotionally attached to a photo that might not be as strong as you think.

Getting organized with Lightroom
Adobe Lightroom being used to organize photos

So lets take a look at, in my opinion, my best work of the 2015 calendar year.

The first shot I selected was actually intended to be a temporary scouting photo to be re-taken over the summer. In early March I took the L to Adams & Wabash, where I quietly setup my tripod on the overpass between the tracks, looking North towards Trump tower. My goal was to get the trains streaking past in both directions, but it was so cold I didn't stay for very long. This particular exposure was 15 seconds, f/8, at ISO100.

Adams & Wabash
Looking north over the L tracks on Wabash Ave in the Chicago Loop

In May I took my second trip to London and while I was there I had a small amount of free time to re-capture some images I wasn't happy with from my first visit. One evening I headed down to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge at sunset and took a series of long exposures of the London Eye over the Thames River. During this shot a tourist boat made its way down river leaving a wonderful light trail along the water. 60 seconds, f/9, ISO50.

The London Eye
The London Eye reflecting over the River Thames

Back in Chicago over the summer I picked up a small commission project for some black & white abstract architectural photos for an art dealer in Canada. I spent a few afternoons walking around the Loop and trying some new techniques as I hadn't really done much abstract work before. My favorite shot from the set was taken from the base of Trump tower in its loading dock on the North side of the building, where very few pedestrians venture. Looking up at a slight angle created almost a layered look from the base, midsection, and main body of the tower. Taken at 1/500th, f/9, ISO100.

401 N Wabash
401 N Wabash tower

In August I headed downstate to shoot the Bigfoot Bandcamp where a large number of acts performed, my favorite of which were The Krank Daddies and Reverent Horton Heat. I selected three photos from the evening, starting with probably the most Rock n Roll photo I have taken - Chops McClintock of The Krank Daddies taking a second in the middle of a song to pound a beer. It was a really high energy set, and this frame captures the essence of it in all its glory. 1/250th, f/2.8, ISO2500.

The Krank Daddies
The Krank Daddies

Reverend Horton Heat is a band that I had wanted to see for a very long time, so the fact that I got to shoot them at the same time was really exciting for me. It was a smaller festival so being right up against the stage gave me a lot of reach to get the Rev full frame. I usually hate having a mic in front of a singers face, but here it doesn't bother me so much as you can just tell he's in the moment singing and playing his big ol' Gretsch guitar. 1/250th, f/2.8, ISO4000.

Reverend Horton Heat
Reverend Horton Heat

During concerts I move around as much as possible to cover every angle the best I can. Sometimes being 6'6" is a hinderance when I am trying to be low-key shooting, but I can't help sticking out like a sore thumb sometimes - here it worked out in my favor. I was side stage towards the end of their set when Jimbo glanced in my direction as I was the only one over there. I raised my camera with the 70-200mm 2.8 on it which makes it really obvious I'm taking your photo. When I did he looked straight down the barrel, threw up the horns, and then went straight back to playing. It was literally a second or two, but I got it, and I knew as soon as I released the shutter that it was probably the best shot of the night. I didn't even have to review the shot, I just kept on going until they wrapped up. 1/250th, f/2.8, ISO8000.

Jimbo - Reverend Horton Heat
Jimbo throwing up the horns - Reverend Horton Heat

In November I found myself flying out to Los Angeles for a work event, but I was able to sneak up to Leo Carillo State Beach one evening and shoot a Pacific ocean sunset for the first time in my life. I was only there for maybe an hour and found it really challenging to keep the camera steady in the surf as the sands kept shifting, but I got a few shots I am happy with. I would really love to go back and spend more time there and a few other locations on the coast, but I am glad I got a few shots in during my brief stay. The first shot is of a few very large boulders as the waves slid up and down the beach. To give some perspective, the speck on top of the one closest to center is a seagull. 1.3 seconds, f/6.3, ISO1250.

Leo Carillo Beach
Leo Carillo Beach at sunset

The second shot from that night was not planned at all. When shooting landscapes I usually try to avoid man-made objects and keep them natural as possible, however as I was walking back to the car with soaked jeans I passed a life guard tower silhouetted against the fading sunset. The colors were brilliant so I set up my tripod again and made a few more exposures until the light was completely gone. 30 seconds, f/4, ISO100.

Leo Carillo Beach
A lifeguard station at Leo Carillo Beach at sunset

Finally in the middle of December I flew out to New York for a few days, staying in Carol Gardens in Brooklyn, a short walk from Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of my favorite spots. Having never shot a sunrise in Manhattan before I decided to get up at the break of dawn to lug my gear to a familiar spot along the river. With sunsets you usually get at least 30 to 45 minutes of great lighting, but I found with the sunrise I only had about 10. It went from almost pitch black to close to daylight seemingly in the blink of an eye. Thankfully I was set up and framed before the dramatic change in lighting so I got this exposure looking out over the river to the southern tip of Manhattan. 48 seconds, f/8, ISO50.

Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn
Manhattan skyline at dawn

My final selection of 2015 is actually a three shot panorama of One World Trade Center taken from North Cove Yacht Harbor along the Hudson River. I had shot nine frames here, but I am still struggling to get the buildings align correctly. The center stack of 3 merged well, although I would like to head over to the New Jersey side of the river and try to get One WTC with a long lens instead of being almost underneath it at 16mm. I still love the results here, the contrast is wonderful and I love how the clouds are moving by at quite a fast pace. 3 exposures of 30 seconds, f/8, ISO50.

One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center vertical panorama

Thanks for reading, and Happy 2016 everyone!