My Best Images From 2021

Once again, Brent Huntley has invited photographers to participate in his yearly Top Images from the Photography and Travel Community photography project

It is another new year and time for the annual round-up of my favourite previous year’s images. 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. 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 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. Most of these photographs are not to my usual standards as you would expect. 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.

Waves | 4 February, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

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 much time to explore the waves of emotions crashing over me. The future continued to feel “unsettled”.

people running in snow while snowing
Winter | 7 February, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

Winter brought a lot of snow, much 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.

woman smiling
25 years together | 4 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF27mmF2.8

This year, Bhavna and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, a bright spot in a year that would continue to be the “new normal”.

kids playing
No worries | 23 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

After the “new normal” school year that these kids have had, it was great to see the return of some “normal” activities. Given how long I went without employment, I was still feeling out of sorts, but I was happy that I had finally signed a contract. I was still feeling blue but happy for the green.

Sir Alphonso Mango | 8 June, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

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. He enjoys listening in on the Teams conference calls.

Ray's Reserve cocktail
Ray's Reserve | 19 June, 2021 | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2

With little 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.

Rahul | 27 June, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

The best thing about being vaccinated is that we could finally 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!

Dragonfly | 3 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

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 photographer David Mathre, I rented this lens again and went out chasing dragons. I want this lens but struggle with the $1800 price tag.

woman smiling
Bhavna | 10 July, 2021 | Minolta XD-11 | MD ROKKOR-X 45mm F2

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.

Flounder Brewing at Carriage Farm
Flounder Brewing at Carriage Farm | 16 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

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, but Bhavna and I invited our friend Ed Velez as 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.

ababoned freight car in Lambertville
Look | 10 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

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.

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve | 16 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8

We hiked a lot less than we did last year. Maybe it was some pandemic-fueled ennui, but we lost our motivation. But, one weekend, while exploring Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Pettoranello Gardens, and Community Park North, I saw a family cross a narrow wooden bridge I had not noticed before. I had promised Bhavna we would go hiking 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.

Autumn Macro | 17 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 + Fujinon MCEX-16

"It's for you", Bhavna yelled from the kitchen. I opened the package, saw the [Fujinon 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.

Aunt Chubbie's at Christmas
Aunt Chubbie's at Christmas | 7 December, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

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.

Adox SCALA 160

During a recent wildlife sanctuary photoshoot, I had the chance to try out ADOX SCALA 160 Black and White Slide film. I was impressed with the quality of the images it produced, even though the development process was a bit challenging. Overall, the final results made it all worth it.

NOTE: I’ll begin this experience report with a brief disclaimer. It’s been less than three years since I returned to shooting 35mm film after switching to digital photography over 20 years ago. I’ve inundated myself with as much film education as possible between web articles and advice from experienced film shooters. But, since my prior experience with film is decades old, this review is from a rather novice point of view.

In January, I put a 24-exposure roll of ADOX SCALA 160 Black and White Slide film in my Pentax P3n and took it on a trip to the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Brigantine. I purchased the ADOX SCALA last year when I started putting more effort into re-learning 35mm film photography. I had never used ADOX SCALA before and wanted to experiment a little. Once I completed the roll, I sent it off to the Dark Room for development, along with an enrollment of Rollei RPX 25 and RPX 100. Unfortunately, the Dark Room does not develop black and white slide films. The undeveloped ADOX was returned to me, and I set about finding where I could get this film developed.

I discovered that very few places develop black-and-white slide films. All my Google-foo me to dr5 Chrome. dr5 Chrome works well, but their business process is still circa 1990s internet. Instead of an online form, I had to download a PDF, print it out, fill it in, and then email the form and film back to dr5 Chrome. Once they receive it, they develop the film and invoice you via email. You pay the invoice via PayPal and then wait some more for the scanned images to arrive on a compact disk. I got the compact disk over the weekend and reviewed the images during lunch.

The following five frames are taken over the last week of January and the first week of February. My favourite is the family room image. I think it has a full spectrum of black, whites and greys.

Would I reshoot this film? NO! The images look better than I expected, but developing these is a PITA.

NOTE: I don't normally submit two entries for Lens Artists Challenge, but I had forgotten about the compact disk until I saw it on my desk this morning.

Tech Specs

  • Development: Black and White Colour Reversal Processing
  • Film Type: Reversal
  • ISO: 160
  • Exposures: 24
  • Pack Size: 1
electric meter
Metered | January 2021 | Pentax P3n | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | Adox SCALA 160 Black and White Slide Film
outdoor water meter
Winter garden | Friday 22 January, 2021 | Pentax P3n | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | ISO 160
sliding door, plant, room
Family Room | January 2021 | Pentax P3n | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | Adox SCALA 160 Black and White Slide Film
landscape wetlands
Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge | January 2021 | Pentax P3n | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | Adox SCALA 160 Black and White Slide Film
Alphie | January 2021 | Pentax P3n | SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/2 | Adox SCALA 160 Black and White Slide Film