It seems a bit tone deaf to single out the best of anything from 2020. A year so bad, actual dumpster fires are suing for slander. Who can blame them? We stayed inside. We doom scrolled. We baked. We stayed inside. We watched the Tiger King and Michael Jordan’s weird yellow eyes. We stayed inside. We did a jigsaw puzzle for Christ’s sake. We stayed inside. We literally mailed in our votes and then watched as they attempted to throw those votes away. We stayed inside. We watched the horrific numbers continue to rise, and we counted whatever blessings trickled our way. This past year, to put it mildly, was not the greatest.
Despite the ever-present sadness, uncertainty, anger, and crushing anxiety, certain things still endured. Makers were still compelled to create, artists didn’t cease needing to express themselves, and photographers still had to capture their unique visions. It’s cliché to say that creativity is an outlet, but it really is the best metaphor to describe the necessary conduit between an artist and how he or she reflects their worldview. Creativity can only be denied for so long before the negative aspects of your life are magnified by its absence. It needs to be let loose.
So it came to be that I still took some photos this past year. Most were taken within the confines of my house, many were created with the assistance of my four newly-minted (and sometimes reluctant) photo assistants, and all were taken amid the backdrop of great sadness, anxiety, anger, and uncertainty. Only the photos don’t really reflect those things. Because, in spite of 2020, I still choose to reflect the world as I want and hope it can be.
These are my ten favorite images from this past year.
Taking my 16-year-old son out for evening driving practice on Lancaster County back roads has its advantages. I love big sweeping clouds and shooting away from the setting sun often provides some more subtle pink and purple hues that I particularly enjoy.
A simple at home photography project (side lighting smoke with a flash) but one that I think always produces dramatic results. The beautifully random swirls provide plenty of visual interest.
Quarantine definitely created a paucity of available models, so this is one of the few self-portraits you’re ever likely to see on one of these lists. I did like the end-result of this simple lighting setup, and it gives me hope that I will be confident enough to set up a shoot with an another “real live” person someday when we’re able.
Instagram bait for sure, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. High contrast, simple patterns, colorful, it checks a lot of my favorite boxes.
In our lone foray out of the state of Pennsylvania, we were able to make our annual pilgrimage to the Jersey shore this summer. It was a different type of trip to be sure, but many of the sights (such as the signature Stone Harbor water tower) were reassuringly unchanging. I thought the chaotic silhouetted electric wires provided an interesting contrast with the calm gradient-like evening sky.
My youngest son and I spent a full morning photographing wildflowers at Shenk’s Ferry in southern Lancaster County but it was this run down sign on the outskirts of Lancaster City I spied on our drive home that ended up being my favorite shot of the day. Retro signage mixed with decay set against a backdrop of dramatic clouds scratches a lot of my photographic itches.
Despite having dropped many different types of items in a fish tank over the course of one long quarantine afternoon, this tennis ball dunk ended up being my favorite. I think it’s the almost perfect crown-like splash that seals the deal.
I’ve always struggled with this set of falls at Ricketts Glen, never quite capturing what I want to get out of it. This year, I’ve gotten pretty close to how I see it in my mind. I did have to do some fancy photoshop work to remove some pesky boy scouts who seemed content to sit near the base of the falls on the right-hand side for what seemed like hours (probably 10 minutes, but still…) It’s not quite that perfect shot I’m imagining, but it’s still my favorite image from this past year’s visit.
This guy was taken as part of a daily photo challenge I was participating in during the early days of quarantine. I don’t always like how reds come out of my camera (sometimes they’re muddy and kind of all blend together), but for this shot I think it acquitted itself quite nicely. And that dude is just so happy to be a Lego, what’s not to enjoy?
Pre-pandemic trip to the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg. If only those chicks knew… they wouldn’t be standing so close to one another. Then again, they are family living in the same household.