Once again, Brent Huntley has invited photographers to participate in his yearly Top Images from the Photography and Travel Community photograph project. It’s a year in review project, and photographers are encouraged to choose their top “10(ish)” images, publish them to a website, and submit the link to Brent for inclusion in a photography blogroll. You can see the submissions for 2018 and the submissions for 2019. I think it’s a fun way to review the year in pictures with far away (and near) photography enthusiast and each year I discover interesting photography blogs to add to my RSS reader.
Each year Jim Goldstein hosts a similar project. This year would have marked my fifth year of participation, but this year, it seems that Brent and Jim’s calendars did not match-up, or perhaps Jim has decided not to host this year. If Jim does host, I will update this post with a link.
Selecting just ten photographs from the thousands, I made each year is always challenging, and a challenge made even more so by the advent of COVID-19. The office where I worked is located right across the street from Pier 11. The office has a break room with an excellent view of Governor’s Island, a helicopter pad and the water traffic on the lower Hudson River. Up until March 10 of 2020, I rode the very crowded New Jersey Transit and PATH trains to Exchange Place in Jersey City to catch the NY Waterway Ferry to Wall Street. I don’t normally pay much attention to the news, but I started to hear something about a new highly contagious virus spreading throughout the city. That night, Bhavna suggested that I work from home.
Everything changed the next day when the New York governor issued “stay at home” executive orders. I knew New Jersey’s governor would follow that lead and a by the following Monday, all of us were “sheltered in place”. The world had changed. Our travel plans were on indefinite hold. I cried. I had struggled with my health in 2019 so much that I didn’t even attend my father’s funeral. After my last surgery in December 2019, Bhavna and I looked forward to travelling and entertaining. The kids would be off to college and university—the kitchen renovation project would be complete. I had wanted to host a craft beer tasting parties with my close friends for the longest time. At the same time, I was dealing with my health challenges, I had stocked the beer fridge with ales from some of the best craft micro-breweries from around the United States. I had also started to get into street photography and wanted to do more of that. We talked about returning to the finger lakes and visiting my family in Bequia for the first time since 1998. I had plans to go out of state for some wildlife photography.
But that’s not how things worked out.
Just weeks after COVID-19 had a name, it savaged the nursing homes in our area. Bhavna lost her dad to COVID in April, just a year and a few days after my dad passed away. Then a few weeks after that, a close friend called to tell me her mother had also passed away from COVID. We helped our children pack their things and find desks for “remote college”, another disaster in the making. We would spend the rest of the year living in fear of other people.
The shelter-in-place orders allowed us to leave our homes for essentials-food, medicine, and exercise. The neighbourhood streets became full of people, all looking to escape their home offices. Work from home isn’t much fun if you can’t get out with friends for lunch or dinner or a pint of ale.
For a while, every other day, I escaped to the woods of Hunterdon County and Mercer County with Bhavna. The virus continued to ravage New York and New Jersey. The executive orders became more stringent, and all state, county and township parks were closed. I am thankful that the local conservation societies kept their open spaces open. The woods provide a change of scenery, a place to contemplate the “new normal”, and a place to sit alone and cry. The woods and the forests helped me survive the summer.
Several northeastern states formed a COVID coalition, restricting the movement and setting quarantine rules for out-of-state visitors. Travelling had potential health risks and additional consequences. We had to adapt.
While many were protesting bad policing or systemic racism and inequality, the streets, restaurants and shops in the local area were empty. We were all in this together, except unequally.
We added to our family. Bhavna adopted a rescue cat, Sir Alphonso Mango aka Alfie from the same place Kiran adopted Camilla last year. Alfie is gentle and loving but mischievous.
We learned that dining outdoors was less risky when the tables (and other guests) were socially distanced, and our waitstaff masked up. We developed a weekly habit of dining at the Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell; every week since May. Except for this week when the outdoor temperatures dropped below 0ºC.
To keep me from boredom, I bought a few 1970’s and 1980’s 35mm film cameras and lenses, bought several rolls of film and rediscovered the joys and agony of film photography. My favourite film camera is my Minolta X-700. I bought adapters and adapted some of the long lenses to my Fuji X-T2 and photographed the wildlife in my backyard.
I completed the iPhone 11 Pro 365 day project I started last fall but abandoned the 52 Week Smartphone project. I participated in Jeff Sinon’s Isolation Photo Project for as long as I could. My motivation for photography dropped off near the end of the summer.
All of that is a backdrop to the challenges in choosing images for this year. What criteria should I use to choose which images are posted below, technical or emotional? Should my best images also tell the story of the year? How do I choose? I think the images below are chosen for a combination of reasons that I may not even know, but they are a mixture of both. And it’s more than ten.
I wish all of you a Happy Healthy New Year.