my best 10 pictures of 2011??

This post will be a little longer then usual. Rather then just posting the top 10 images (which I will get to) I would like to discuss the process of figuring out which ones are actually the best.

The process is a difficult one. Try as you can to be an unbiased editor you have a relationship with the pictures on a very visceral level. To counteract this I take the editing process to a certain point and then solicit outside opinions. Using those opinions as well as my gut feelings I winnow the pictures down to the desired number.

This year what I did was put all the pictures I posted to my site this year into a collection in lightroom, then worked to get them down to a reasonable number. Doing this it went from 1264 posted pictures for the year to a collection of the 84 best pictures from the entire year.

You can look at the top 84 here: My top pictures of 2011

There are many worthy pictures here which did not survive the next edit for one reason or another, and I might come back to these in the future and find that I prefer some of them to the ones I actually picked. Time will tell.

Anyhow, from here I walked around with my computer to anyone I could actually get to look at the pictures and asked for their favorite ones. I didn’t give them a particular number to choose, just asked for their first reactions. Some people choose many, some few, but after the dust had settled I had my top 25 pictures.

You can see the top 25 here: My top 25 pictures of 2011

I had to make some editorial decisions here, as the votes did not nicely round up to 25 candidates. I added a couple I wanted in and removed one:

which I felt was just sort of eye candy because of the colors and didn’t represent my best efforts.

Anyhow, after getting it down to the top 25 I figured the number was small enough to approach the world at large for input, so I posted to facebook and my blog with links to the pictures and asked for input. The response was useful and I let it sit for a couple of days until most of the activity had settled down then collated the numbers.

In the end this came down to 11 pictures, and I decided to let that number stand and posted the images here:

my top 11 pictures of 2011 as decided by popular vote

Now these are all great images, but they are not necessarily what I would have come up with if left to my own devices so I decided to add my own top 10 images and try to explain why I had picked these ones. I put my picks into the following gallery:

my top 10 pictures of 2011

As you can see, 5 of them are the same, but 5 are not and I will try to explain why.

This one was included in both collections, and I’m not sure I can really decide why. I suspect it has something to do with examining the beauty and interest in the mundane. It may be because it tells a story of some sort. All I know is as soon as I took the pictures I knew it was going to be a keeper.

This one is also in both, but it seems more obvious to me why. It is a strong composition which tells an interesting story with people and pretty colours in it as well. It is also somewhat abstract. Where is it? where is the light coming from? the water? Who are these people? It is just a fun picture.

This one, is also in both lists, is a little harder to figure out. What makes it tick? The composition, with the highlights edging the ice makes the image very clean and clear, but at first glance it might not be enirely obvious what is going on in the picture, so you take another look. The subtle colours in the water are pleasant and draw you in, but they are not strong enough to distract from the textures and shapes. Or maybe it just looks cool.

The fourth image included in both lists is obvious enough. The water droplets catching the sunset light look like sparks in a forge, but the contrast between warm and cold, sparks and water is fun. The picture also has plenty of motion, even though the details of the water have been smoothed out.

This is the last image included in both lists. It seems to me that the image contains enough interesting bits to keep the eye moving and the mind engaged. Where is this, who is it. why are they there, what are they doing. What are the rocks in the foreground. Where is the light coming from …. you get the idea.

This is the first of my own choices. I have had a string visceral reaction to this picture from the first time I took it, and processed it to this final image. To me it is very otherworldly, and the contrast between the hard ice and rocks of the foreground and the soft mist and thundering water in the background is wonderful. I love the way light plays on the textures, and leads you from the dark rock and bright ice to the soft greys and whites of the waterfall. It reminds me of our hike up the mist trail in Yosemite, and the wonderful time we had there as well.

This picture of Mono Lake is so different from the usual image you get there, and the colours are both unexpected and exciting. There are no tufas or sierra mountains rising in the background, but I know they are there int he back of my mind. The image is very abstract, and I can almost feel the motion of the water. It makes me feel peaceful.

This image in the spirit of Ansel Adams is one of the best formal landscapes I have done, but I’m not sure why. I find it captures my eye and my mind whenever I see it. It also brings back memories of the Canadian Rockies, but I’m sure that isn’t affecting my judgement … is it?

This picture just infuses me with youthful energy and exuberance. It also reminds me that serendipity has a huge part in photography. I had mistakenly left my camera on a high ISO, so a number of pictures were completely blown out, but in attempting to bring back detail I came up with this otherworldy bright day at the beach. wonderful

The last of my chosen images is in Yellowstone, but it isn’t of the flashy colourful geysers or hot springs, there are no mud pits or buffalo, its just a dead tree in front of a barren valley with some forest and clouds int he background. What pleases me about this image is the wonderful lighting on the dead tree, the hard light from the sun on one side, the bounce light from the valley floor on the right, and the core shadow facing me. The clouds looking like an exploding volcano int he back ground, and the dark sky, giving the impression of an infrared image and giving contrast to the tree all serve to make this a very strong composition in my opinion. It also looks like something from a star trek episode to me.

Anyhow, there are my pictures and the explanation as to why I picked them. If you have time please check out the other pictures that might have made it to this point here: top pictures of 2011 and leave a comment or an email saying which ones you would have chosen.

Have a wonderful new year one and all

All my love,



12 thoughts on “my best 10 pictures of 2011??

  1. Your 10 are closer to the ones that I would have picked. I just looked at the 25 today, so I hadn’t done my picks.
    A great year for you, clearly,
    Love, Allison

  2. I found all your images compelling and side with the top ten by popular vote. Photo 11 especially captures me as it draws me into the scene. It brings me that sense of calm I get when starting out a hike early in the morning. As always, I enjoyed viewing them all. Happy New Year to you as well Duffy. Hope you are well!

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