HDR photograph of an abandoned dock set afire by intense sunset color

Best Photographs of 2015

HDR photograph of Antoinetta's Restaurant backdropped by a stunning blue hour over frozen bay and shores.
Never quite the same — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Never quite the same | Taken: February 23, 2015 | Location: Antoinetta’s Restaurant, Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford, NJ

If you’re thinking didn’t this shot show up last year? you’d be at least half right. Antoinetta’s made an appearance in my best of 2014 list with a great sunset last year. So while I thought for half a second about striking this one from the list, I couldn’t do it—I like the shot too much. I’m a winter lover first and foremost, photography of an ice-locked bay is always going to rise to the top. Such is the way of bias.

An HDR photograph of winter in the Pinelands: fresh fallen snow, numerous pitch pines, footprints and lively golden light make the scene
Fall in love with the forest over and over again — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Fall in love with the forest over and over again | Taken: March 6, 2015 | Location: Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, West Creek, NJ

When I wrapped up on March 6, 2015 there was no doubt that was my Best Day Shooting™ yet. Between the fresh snow, the picturesque pines, the frozen lake, and primetime golden hour light, conditions were perfect for making an I’m really going to like this, aren’t I? kind of a photograph. This confluence brought memories of my time growing up playing in the woods of East Brunswick. Memories that while occasionally overlooked, will hopefully last a lifetime. Having a photograph I made at the ready to trigger such thoughts is an added plus.

High drama at sunset befalls a lone house sitting along the bayfront of Little Egg Harbor in this HDR sunset photograph
Bayside Living — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Bayside Living | Taken: May 17, 2015 | Location: Holgate, Long Beach Island, NJ

This was the result of a smidge of exploration. A task as simple as checking out some previously unexplored bayside street ends until something looks good. Enter this house. Defiant in its solidarity I was drawn to its lines, and in this shot the lines are everything. Drawing the eye down the side of the house, out along the dock, and finally out to the vanishing point—the sun itself. Couple that with some dramatic cloud action and you’ve got something. The way the blue and purple at the top-right does battle with the orange and yellow to the middle-left lends an added level of balance and interest to the shot. This one’s definitely in my top 5 for the year.

World class sunset over the sandy beaches and jetty rock of Long Beach Island
The Great Gig in the Sky — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/5

The Great Gig in the Sky | Taken: May 28, 2015 | Location: Spray Beach (possibly), Long Beach Island, NJ

If I remember correctly this photograph was borne out of chicken wings. En route to The Chicken or the Egg with friends some crazy sunset drama started happening over the ocean to the east. One of those reverse side sunsets that only pop a handful of times per year. Somewhere in Spray Beach—we think—we took a quick left and made for the beach. As soon as we crossed the berm the magic and pink hue dominated the landscape. I’m hard pressed to ever remember that kind of glow out over the ocean. Just this warm pink-orange glow. It was more aura than natural sunlight. It was nothing short of amazing. My heart was pounding.

Eager to capture the essence of the scene while trying to remain calm and observant was a task in and of itself. The clock was ticking—this kind of color was only going to hold out for a few minutes, so acting quickly but smartly was key. Within seconds noticing the good fortune of low tide I spied a section of exposed jetty rock and I’m pretty sure I fist pumped and dropped and audible hell yeah! With my camera fixed atop my tripod I bolted as fast as I could down the beach. This didn’t last very long. You see a calf injury from an early jogging incident decided to flare up and lock up. From here it was a teeth grinding limp-sprint to get in place and make the shot. Thankfully I pulled it together and made one of my all time favorites—and I’m not just talking 2015.

HDR photograph of sunrise over the green marsh of Cedar Run Dock Road.
In Morning — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

In Morning | Taken: June 14, 2015 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford, NJ

What? An actual sunrise? How could I not put this in here? Being bad at mornings it’s a rare occurrence for me to get up and at ’em with the sun. No doubt a shame as I’m missing opportunities to capture the beach in all its morning glory, but I digress. Being a week out from the solstice the sun’s up super early in mid-June and this photograph was made around 5:30 a.m. I was able to cheat waking up early because I was still up from the night before. Convenient. Unable to sleep I knew I wanted to head for Dock Road’s north side marsh exposure. I’m a big fan of this meandering bend and wanted to make the most of an opportunity to get the sun out over it. Fortunately that worked out quite nicely under a brooding deck of clouds.

Vertical orientated shallow depth of field purple coneflower macro
Live alone in a paradise — 100mm | f/3.5 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/1600

Live alone in a paradise | Taken: July 16, 2015 | Location: Ocean Acres, Manahawkin, NJ (my backyard)

Ah for my love of macro. I will always have a soft spot for floral macros. It’s where I cut my teeth in photography, and I love admiring all sorts of plants and flowers up close and personal through the viewfinder. Purple coneflowers—featured here—are a favorite subject of mine, and this holds true through all phases of their development from pre-bud to death. I’m using a portrait orientation here to create room and balance with the vertical lines of my deck spindles to the rear; backed with a nice soft bokeh to bring out the flower itself. I am drawn to the softness and space of the composition coupled with the flower petals working in and out of focus thanks to a very shallow depth of field.

Low key abstract black and white macro photograph of a purple coneflower
Daedalus Bid You Take Heed — 100mm | f/3.5 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/125

Daedalus Bid You Take Heed | Taken: July 25, 2015 | Location: Ocean Acres, Manahawkin, NJ (my backyard)

Sticking with the flower theme I’m rolling with one that’s made with my favorite medium: black and white. Here I’m focusing on elements of simplicity, strong contrast, negative space, symmetry, and abstraction. I’ve taken a lone purple coneflower bud that never quite blossomed and shot it dead on overtop. Staring down the viewfinder the flower triggered images of our sun. But not exactly our sun in its traditional sense, instead more like something you might see hanging in an elementary school student’s Heliosphere diorama. Maybe it’s just be but I cherish these kind of associations.

HDR photograph of a summer sunset over marsh and estuary
Unplanned Deviation — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Unplanned Deviation | Taken: August 13, 2015 | Location: Great Bay Boulevard, Little Egg Harbor, NJ

File this one under happy accidents. I was all geared up to head to Stafford Forge but had to deviate at the last moment because cars. That’s right, the Forge was loaded down with people, all 15 of them, and I simply was not prepared for that. Before I was even off the Garden State Parkway I had singled out Great Bay Boulevard as my plan B. This was a good thing. Conditions were beautiful, visibility was strong under clear air, and the marsh was still in its vibrant green glory. While locking in my position I had the pleasure to be within earshot of two older gentlemen regaling themselves with stories of good times. You could say it was just one of those great summer nights people wax poetic about on the Jersey Shore. Heh.

Golden hour wide angle HDR landscape photograph of clouds and marsh
Back Home in the Comfort Zone — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Back Home in the Comfort Zone | Taken: September 26, 2015 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford, NJ

Here’s one of those this has grown on me photographs. Made during a one day layover back in my hometown sandwiched between two vacations, I shot at my go-to spot on Dock Road—this was as much a decision of recalibration as it was a chance to spend some time behind the camera again. I’m a creature of habit so these kind of moments mean the world to me when I’m pulled away from my creature comforts for too long. What I like most about this shot is the marsh itself. Being way down low and close in on the grasses, I’m captivated with how the marsh comes into and out of focus as your eye moves out toward the horizon. This is the result of a strong breeze that was pushing the grass combined with just enough lazy shutter to get the motion down. This was an effect I did not fully notice until post processing when I saw the image blown up to a better size.

Wide angle HDR photograph of a vibrant golden hour over marsh
A Toast to Autumn — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

A Toast to Autumn | Taken: October 16, 2015 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford, NJ

I’m always a little bummed when the marsh finally dies out for the season. The Great Browning we call it derisively. I partly exacerbate this because let’s face it, Fall just ain’t my season. But with all that said, this photograph really captures the beautiful amber essence that is autumn. We’ve had an almost impossibly warm and beautiful Fall here in New Jersey, and I tapped into that mojo here. So here’s until next year, marsh. To when your glorious green grasses return.

HDR photograph of an abandoned dock set afire by intense sunset color
We Face the Path of Time — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

We Face the Path of Time | Taken: December 8, 2015 | Location: Great Bay Boulevard, Little Egg Harbor, NJ

While a derider could decry recency bias, these final two shots happened on my new Best Day Shooting™ yet. Just over two weeks ago some seriously stellar conditions descended upon the region. I had the good fortune to be in just the right spot at just the right time—of course lately SunsetWx has played a big part at infusing some sunset science into said fortune. Whatever it was, it all came together on Great Bay Boulevard, and I was able to compose a frame I am proud of. People are back in forth on this shot and the one below it, but for me this one is not only my best photograph of 2015, it’s my best photograph yet. How long will it stand?

HDR photograph of a fiery sunset mirrored over reflective water
Ruinous Splendor — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

Ruinous Splendor | Taken: December 8, 2015 | Location: Great Bay Boulevard, Little Egg Harbor, NJ

At the height of the shoot I was concerned We Face the Path of Time wasn’t cutting it, and by cutting it, I mean making the most of the conditions (light, glassy water, posts, and clouds). This photograph was the product of that paranoia. Right around peak light I abandoned my spot out on the dock and retreated for the main bulkhead where I quickly composed what some have taken to calling the I — II — II — X shot. Quite possibly one of the most intense scenes I’ve photographed, there’s plenty to like about this picture—Flickr user and photographer E.P. Scott makes the best case. Strip away everything else I’m most pleased with the prominence of the pillars popularly enumerated with roman numerals, backlit by a sky that can best be described as hellfire.

Here’s to 2015. Thank you everyone for being part of my journey—your support and participation is fully appreciated. In the meantime take a look back to 2014 and let’s see what’s in store for 2016. Cheers.






2 responses to “Best Photographs of 2015”

  1. […] I already posted my 2015 retrospective last Thursday, I have to say this photograph would have garnered at minimum a passing […]

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