Blue hour photo of four small pebbles set upon an empty bay beach.

Best Photographs of 2017

Sunset photo of rich pastel color over saltmarsh.
The Observer — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

The Observer | Captured: February 2, 2017 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, West Creek NJ

This checks all the boxes in the Big List of Striking Winter Sunsets on the Marsh™. Intense pastels illuminating a cloud filled sky? Check. Glassy water reflecting back the image of said cloud filled sky? Check. And of course dormant browns of of half frozen marsh grass now void of life? Check. This is winter on Dock Road. Winter in all its stark glory. The pause between breaths as we await life’s return. It is to the winter sky alone we look to light the fire in the otherwise dark and cold reaches lurking in the depths of winter.

Strong contrast black and white photo of sand dune enveloping sand fence.
Overrun — 35mm | f/1.4 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/4000

Overrun | Captured: February 4, 2017 | Location: East Coast Avenue, Loveladies NJ

I am best known for the high detail color photographs I produce on the regular. But it is minimalist black and white composition that is my preferred medium of expression. Simple lines and strong contrast, set against a proper light and form interplay to creates a product worthy of careful attention. It is easy to see intense color and a dramatic sky and connect to the pop in an instance. It is a whole other animal to sit with an image. To drink it in and consider the mood and the tone; not only of the scene but of that creator as well. What is the message? What is the metaphor? What is driving the simplicity weighed against a study in contrast and line? Is the subject large or small? More important does it matter? There are but a few of the questions you can sit with gazing upon a piece that offers room to breathe.

Golden hour photo lights the sky over calm bay water.
Golden Glow Before the Snow — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/160

Golden Glow Before the Snow | Captured: February 8, 2017 | Location: Stafford Municipal Boat Ramp, Cedar Run Dock Road, West Creek NJ

More simplicity. More February photographs. Patterns are forming that will hold true for the rest of this gallery. Here we move from vivid pastels and contrasty black and white to the warming glow wrought by the strong yellow tones of golden hour. Cast out over a lolling bay the light infuses the world with tranquility and summons you to relax. Breathe. Pause. Breathe again. Drink in the paradox that is warm winter light shone through the damning reality of cold winter temperatures. A look into this photograph tells us nothing of the cold outside and the snow on the way. Looks can be deceiving. Cherish them, but do not wholly place your trust—for it may be but a glamour coloring a whole other truth.

Blue hour photo of four small pebbles set upon an empty bay beach.
From Stone to Sand — 14mm | f/2.8 | ISO 400 | EXP 1/60

From Stone to Sand | Captured: March 23, 2017 | Location: Surf City Sunset Park, Surf City NJ

Work with what you know. Work different when you can. Here I set to work here with my 14mm lens—my most used lens. With intent I abandoned my usual manual focus process. Ditching rigid adherence to sharp focus throughout the composition, I flexed to a selective focus strategy. A strategy I often deploy when shooting my 35mm and 100mm lenses. The result is a wide angle photograph that falls away from the four small pebbles set atop a damp sand stage. Waves roll back to a blurred out sunset bringing a depth and illusiveness to the composition. Cool blue tones bookend a thin strip of fired horizon. A horizon as if painted by an easy brushstroke made with a loose hand bent on coy imperfection.

Blue hour photo with motion blur over calm bay water.
Clear View — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/10

Clear View | Captured: March 23, 2017 | Location: Surf City Sunset Park, Surf City NJ

Here we strip down landscape photography to its basic form. An uncomplicated study in line, movement and color theory. Laid bare have nothing more than a mirrored gradient of color. Our mirror halved by a thin line cutting the center with dark contrast. The photograph hinged to its bottom world darkened and brooding. The bottom world features gentle undulations furthering the difference to its elevated counterpart. Here we have a waved surface to counteract the staid air above. There is subtle movement in these undulations. Movement drawing us over the water as we travel from the left’s strong glow to the darkened shadow of the right. Our eyes move top to bottom, left to right in this simple study of color and line. Embrace the minimalist and remember less is more.

Honeysuckle photo with shallow depth of field and bokeh.
Nothing on the Top — 35mm | f/1.4 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/1600

Nothing on the Top | Captured: June 11, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

It is late spring now. What has been a journey in landscape photography now takes a turn to nature and flowers. A turn back to my photographic roots. I cut my teeth in 2012 with flowers. It’s how I learned how to shoot. In subsequent years wide angle landscapes cannibalized my attention but 2017 called my back to my origin story. In this photograph I use my backyard honeysuckle to play out many of my favorite tropes. First is the selective focus, keeping only two pods of honeysuckle together in focus. Your eye starts in the bottom left third and leaps up to the upper right third creating movement. From there it all falls back to bokeh in a kaleidoscope of pink, purple and green. This is a small scale fantasy writ large. Balanced only in what you can see weighed against what only your mind can make known.

Shallow depth of field photo of autumn colors black-eyed susans.
Sunday Alone — 35mm | f/1.4 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/640

Sunday Alone | Captured: June 25, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

Let us continue our flowery bokeh dream. Here we get moody and elusive. The blossoming heads of rudbeckia flowers drift in and out of focus. Cast as an array splayed out in a stunning bouquet of form and color. Have we been shrunk down to join this world? Or do we find ourselves pawns at the whim of giant flowers? Questions arise as we search to find our place. Where do we fit? One of the peculiar elements that attaches me to this photograph is its painted affect. This seems more a fit at the business end of a skilled oil brush than the product of glass and machine. Here lies the hidden jewel of photography—the serendipitous unknown of the journey. Unplanned surprises that render whole worlds in a way that elevate us beyond mere reproduction. Photography is more than a single moment captured as though frozen. We endeavor to convey movement and life both before and after we press the shutter. There is a story flowing by and our page most give clue to what was and what still may be.

Hosta blossom macro photograph in low key.
See Me — 100mm | f/2.8 | ISO 400 | EXP 1/1000

See Me | Captured: June 25, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

Is it joy you seek or darkness and foreboding? This photograph manifests whatever you take with you. Each journey is a personal and only your soul will choose. Your gaze starts atop the hosta flower bloom, hailing from the highest point. Now begin your spiral descent carrying a pack weighed with thoughts and projections. And down farther still you search the darkest reaches touched here and there by a lightened edge of leaf. Is it a lifeboat to keep you afloat? Or will you sink below to the depths beyond? Will you confront the self that lies beneath? Your weapons, you will not need them.

Black-eyed Susan macro photo with bokeh and shallow depth of field.
In the Flower of My Youth — 100mm | f/3.5 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/320

In the Flower of My Youth | Captured: June 25, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

In full disclosure this may be my favorite photograph of the year. My growing affinity sits in the drama playing out between the two rudbeckia flowers. There is an interplay and sense of conflict between the two subjects. Our foreground flower is moving on and leaving its companion left behind. There is an obvious parting but what is the meaning of their goodbye? Are they leaving on good terms? Is there strife? I read a sense of both ennui and quiet resolve through it all. Furthering the enigmatic mystery is the yellow hue dominating the image. Yellow often conveys happiness through warmth and yet it is still not clear that is the case here. Much like the previous photograph may haps this photograph must play out on the stage of our own mind directed by our own bias.

Explosive sunset photo over salt marsh, water, and house.
A Marsh Life — 14mm | f/8 | ISO 100 | 7 Bracketed Exposures

A Marsh Life | Captured: June 27, 2017 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, West Creek NJ

We have come to the final landscape in this 12 photo set. It is not without a small bit of controversy, either. I’ve been back and forth between this and its counterpart, yet have finally settled upon this for my set. My reason is simple. More than showing off a stellar summer sunset bathing a stunning pink glow upon the salt marsh, I wanted to show the human element at work. People make this place their home. There is a real and beautiful world right outside our doorstop. Some folks set atop the razor’s edge of nature’s wrath and its grace. The salt marsh fits this category. Weather and storms rain hell, yet in its benevolence it bestows gifts of wonder, peace and light.

Macro photo of eastern tailed blue butterfly atop purple coneflower.
The Small Blue — 100mm | f/3.5 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/500

The Small Blue | Captured: July 24, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

Take the stage your time is now. An eastern tailed blue stepped into the spotlight and I was lucky enough to serve paparazzo for a moment. The entirety of this photograph is set up by the sharp beam of light dropping vertical through the photograph a bit left of center. This strong light source further serves to illuminate the master crafted wing tips of our butterfly friend. There she feeds full of grace atop a fresh purple coneflower wholly unconcerned with our presence. May we all feel so empowered when the light fixes and it is our time to shine.

Black and white Maine Coon portrait photo.
Little Lion — 100mm | f/3.5 | ISO 100 | EXP 1/640

Little Lion | Captured: December 10, 2017 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford NJ

I end this set in a fitting place. My cat Daisy became part of my household in late July and my world has been richer for it. She has been both a source of comfort and a driver for change. With Daisy I have a partner and a friend. A pet to care for and an ally to support. Through that I have a new muse, a trusted friend to photograph. A source for comfort as I dabble into portraiture. So here it is with my last photograph, a portrait photograph, that I declare my pivot in 2018. I have a goal to expand my photographic reach into portraits. And not only pets, but human friends too. This will not be set to replace my landscape and nature work, more so it will augment my skill and range behind the lens.


2017 marks my fourth best of retrospective. (I invite you to check out 2014, 2015 and 2016 to assess my growth through the years.) It is the highlight of my photographic year. It puts into perspective my body of work over a set period of time. Instead of working one discrete photograph at a time as I do all year long, here I see my once singular photo as a piece of a larger whole. Each year I work through this process I learn new lessons and see my photographs in a different light. Time works for and against me in this regard. Some photos I was certain I loved fade over the year, while other photographs command my attention and affection in stronger ways.

With that in mind 2017 was different from 2014–2016 in three key ways. First, I made far fewer photographs in 2017—more than a 50% reduction in total exposures. Second, my volume of landscape work declined proportional to my overall shot reduction . A the same time my flower and macro work increased relative to my total body of shots. Third, I did not have any full stop stand out mega hits—see Ruinous Splendor for an example. However, my total body of work is more cohesive and consistent, and thereby stronger. It is in this same vein I am proud of my 2017 set. There is a core theme of simplicity, color theory and minimalism carried across my work here. A cohesiveness that has not always been there before. Better still is balance: a strong sampling across landscape, nature and flower photographs. There is even a portrait worked in. Presented together there is more breadth and focus to my work. I am confident I am finally cultivating a style to call my own.






3 responses to “Best Photographs of 2017”

  1. […] month revisiting all my photographs for my 2017 best of list I came across this image in Lightroom. Made on the same February 2017 afternoon as “The […]

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