It is another new year and time for the annual round-up of my favourite images of the previous year. Once again, Brent Huntley has invited photographers to participate in his yearly Top Images from the Photography and Travel Community photography 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 review all the Best of the Year submissions or just the 2019 and the 2020. I think it's a fun way to review the year in pictures with far away (and near) photography enthusiasts, and each year I discover interesting photography blogs to add to my RSS reader.
This post also aligns with the Lens-Artists Challenge #180 – Favorite Images of 2021.
Selecting just ten photographs from the thousands I made this year is challenging and a challenge made even more so by the ongoing global pandemic, limiting travel and public experiences. I spent even less time outdoors in 2021 than I did in 2020. As you would expect, most of these photographs are not to my usual standards. As a friend used to say, these photographs are the cream of the “crap”. My choices below are based on my emotional connection to each image.
At the end of 2020, my contract with my last client ended. In June of 2021, I continued to work remotely but for a different client. I had a lot of time to explore the waves of emotions crashing over me. The future continued to feel “unsettled”.
Winter came along and brought a lot of snow, a lot more than I have experienced in recent memory. I was still unemployed, there was no vaccine, and I was challenged to assemble the words to express my feelings.
This year, Bhavna and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, a bright spot in a year that would continue to be “new normal”.
After the “new normal” school year these kids have had, it was great to see the return of some “normal” activities. I was still feeling out of sorts given how long I went without employment, but I was happy that I had finally signed a contract. I was still feeling blue but happy for the green.
Our cat Sir Alphonso Mango is now almost two years old. My youngest daughter, Kiran, is attempting to complete her studies at Oberlin College sooner. She will be away for all semesters this year and the next. I have set up an office with Alphie as my daytime companion in her room. I think he enjoys listening in on the Teams conference calls.
With not much else to do, Bhavna and I spent the summer outdoors at some of our “safe spaces”, including the Brick Farm Tavern, Flounder Brewing and Sourland Mountain Spirits. These spaces are our "away” from home spaces. I just loved the colour of this cocktail, Ray’s Reserve, named for the distillery’s founder, Ray Disch.
The best thing about being vaccinated is that we could, at last, hug each other and regain some of the intimacy denied during the lockdown. I had so missed these summer BBQs with family. My nephews were sporting new haircuts, and I had to capture the smiles. When adapted to my Fuji X-T2, the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 is an excellent portrait lens. Look at that bokeh!
In 2019, I started getting into bird photography, photographing warblers with a rented XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. I was smitten and planned to buy this lens to use in 2020. Inspired by Stephen Gingold and local photography David Mathre, I rented this lens again and went out chasing dragons. I want this lens, but I struggle with the $1800 price tag.
I continued to relearn 35mm film photography. I had more keepers in 2021. I grew weary of the increasing cost of 35mm film, film developing and scanning. I bought an Epson V600 film scanner and learned how to scan and colour balance the film myself. I am saving about $8-$10 per roll of film. I have also limited myself to using 35m film stock priced under $10 per 36 exposure roll. My current favourite is Kodak Pro Image 100.
Some old spaces moved to new locations. After years in a tiny industrial garage, Flounder Brewing finally completed the restoration of the 150-year-old farmhouse at Carriage Farm. The new site in the farm country in Hillsborough is fantastic. The taproom only has a few ales at this point, but Bhavna and I invited our friend Ed Velez to be our “plus one” when the brewery had a soft opening weekend for Delta House members only. Having a beer at Flounder Brewing became an almost weekly habit.
Note: I dropped and broke my Fuji X-T2 in August and replaced it with a Fuji X-T3.
This is my favourite image of the year. On a drizzly autumn day in October, I went on a quest. I had read about and heard about an abandoned freight car on some railroad tracks in Lambertville. The freight car has seen better days but has inspired multiple graffiti artists.
We hiked a lot less than we did last year. Maybe it was some pandemic fueled ennui, but I think we just lost our motivation. But, one weekend, while I was out exploring Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Pettoranello Gardens, and Community Park North, I saw a family cross a narrow wooden bridge that I had not noticed before. I had promised Bhavna we would go out for a hike this weekend, so later that day, we returned to Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve and explored one of the loop trails. We had so much fun hiking and exploring this new space.
"It's for you", Bhavna yelled from the kitchen. I opened the package, saw the Fujifilm MCEX-16 macro extension tube, and was upset and excited. I was upset because had I checked the mail sooner, I could have used the extension tube to photograph the fall berries and wildflowers I saw during the previous day’s hike. But I was excited because, with winter arriving, I had the means to transform ordinary things into extraordinary photographs. I experimented on some autumn leaves.
Before the pandemic, before taking to a nearby trail for a hike., I had a semi-regular habit of breakfast at Aunt Chubby’s. The restaurant re-opened for indoor dining earlier in the year, but Bhavna and I did not feel comfortable dining indoors until after our Pfizer vaccine booster. We started to feel almost normal.