At the end of every year, I always enjoy going through my photos and picking some of my favorites. It’s a fun exercise. And I inevitably end up finding some photos that I may not have thought much of at the time, but I really like now. Or sometimes, photos that I just plain missed on the first pass through. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to try it. I think you’ll really enjoy the process.

EDIT: Click here to see my Favorite Wildlife Photos of 2019

EDIT: Click here to see me edit all of the photos below from start to finish

Coming to Grips…

One thing to point out is that these are my favorite photos of the year. This is not my best photography of all time. I don’t travel as much as I used to, and I rarely take a trip specifically for photography (maybe a couple here and there). So I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’m not making photos that are as good as I was making, say, 6-7 years ago when I really dedicated much of my year toward landscape photography.

And that’s okay… I’m home much more. I see my kids much more (well, one is in college so I don’t see him enough), and I’m overall a much happier person. If it means I won’t get myself in to all the wonderful places I need to for amazing landscape photography, so be it. I realize that I’m not doing what it takes to stand out from some of the great photographers out there and I’m okay with it.

These Are My Favorite Photos, Not Instagram’s Favorite Photos

This year, more than ever, I’ve seen people post a grid of their Instagram top “liked” photos. I think that’s great and it’s a fun way to share, but I deliberately picked “MY” favorite photos over doing that.

The reason behind it is that Instagram (like all social media services) has an algorithm. And it chooses what you should see. So while Instagram can be interesting to browse through, I honestly don’t give it much credit. To me at least, it’s all the same. Instagram loves BIG landscapes with a person standing in it. Bonus points if that person is wearing red or blue. And EXTRA bonus points if they’re doing a yoga pose, or pretending to be in deep thought at the same time ?

As an example, this photo was by far my top liked IG photo in 2019 (3200+ likes), but it didn’t make my “favorite” cut. 

Sony a7R iii | 400mm prime + 2x Ext | f/5.6, 0.8sec, ISO 800

This photo (to me at least), has no originality and no creativity. It’s a technically good photo of the moon, but not something I’m proud of, or that I would like use to show off my personal photography vision or capabilities. It was simply a fun exercise to do that night and a photo to “collect” to say “Yep, I shot it”.

And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. But it showcases why I don’t want a social media platform / algorithm to pick my favorites. It’s biased… and these are MY photos, so if there’s going to be any bias happenin’, it’ll be from me 😉

Where’s the Wildlife?

I also really enjoy photographing wildlife (mostly birds). But I decided to do a second post, tomorrow, to show these photos. I figured this one would get too long if I showed both, so if you’re in to wildlife feel free to check out that post as well.

The Gear

Most photos were taken with the following equipment. I’m a Sony Artisan, so I use all Sony equipment (I have for over 4 years now). You can always see more on my Gear page as well.

Camera Bodies: Sony a7R iii or the Sony a7R iv (anything taken after September 2019)

Lenses: Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 | Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 | Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 | Sony 100-400mm

The tripod I use now is the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L. I’ve switched over to it (from the TVC-33) now that my gear is smaller. And I use the RRS BH-40 Ballhead.

As for filters, I didn’t use many this year, but the ones I do use are listed on my gear page.

Post Processing

All photos were edited in Lightroom, and some in Photoshop where needed. I’ll actually be doing a video the same week as this post where I quickly run through my edits for each photo. I’d say 90% of them were only in Lightroom and any Photoshop work (on the other 10%) was mostly for removing distractions or layering two exposures in the case of the first photo.

And Now…My Favorite Photos of 2019

Okay, here goes. Here’s my favorite photos of 2019. The first one is my absolute favorite, but everything after that is in no particular order. Click on any photo to see it larger.

Breckenridge Colorado Moon Set – This is my favorite. Partly because I think it’s absolutely beautiful and was an amazing site to witness, and partly because everyone thinks it’s fake. It’s not. It is a composite of two photos, because it’s nearly impossible to expose well or the moon and the mountains in one shot. But that is the size of the moon relative to the mountain, as seen through a 400mm lens.

Also, this was interesting because it was unplanned. We were in Breckenridge on a ski trip last March, and my wife pointed out that there was something called a full “Worm Moon” happening that night. So I got up early because I could tell it would be setting over the mountains. Without a plan, or a place to go, I just drove and kept pulling over and using my moon app (iOS: Moon Seeker) to see where the moon would set. It was fun and mostly unplanned and ended up being one of my favorite photos.

Sony a7R iii | Sony 100-400mm @ 400mm |f/11, 2.5 sec, ISO 100

Artist’s Bluff, New Hampshire – Here’s a sunrise shot I took last fall on a trip to the northeast US. This was some of the best fall color I’ve ever had the chance to shoot.

Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @ 40mm | f/11, 1/8, ISO 100

Here’s another one from the same spot. I included a little more foreground in this one and the sun hadn’t come out through the clouds behind me yet. Very different shot from the same place on the same morning. But I can’t pick a favorite. So I realized, it’s my site… I don’t have to 🙂

Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @32mm | f/11, 1/40th, ISO 100

Sparks Lake, Oregon – This photo was taken at sunrise. My favorite time to shoot lakes like this is usually before sunrise or just after sunset. But I really like the sunny warm feeling of this one instead. It was also a cold August morning, ringing in at 28 degrees, and this Florida guy forgot his warm jacket back at the hotel room. So the warmer sun may have something to do with it 😉 The next photo, is the same place, just earlier so you’ll get a feeling of what it looks like.

Sony a7R iv | 16-35mm @ 16mm | f/16, 1/20 sec, ISO 100

Sparks Lake, Pre-Sunrise – Here’s an odd photo from me. One of those photos with a person thoughtfully looking into the distance. A lot of people ask why I never put people in my landscape photos. It’s become a very popular thing – you know big landscape with a tiny person to show the scale of the scene. It’s nice, but not for me. I guess it’s because I try to shoot landscapes and use lenses and composition to put the viewer in to the scene – so that you can put yourself there, rather than looking at a photo and seeing some one else in it.

Sony a7R iv | 16-35mm @ 16mm | f/16, 0.5sec, ISO 100

Oregon Sunrise From Above – This is the only drone photo you’ll find on this page. Seeing the sun rays skim across the foggy trees was gorgeous! However, I actually decided to sell my drone while on this trip. I don’t know how else to say it but I just can’t be “that guy”. While I was within my legal rights to fly here, I couldn’t help but feel like I was disturbing everyone with my flying weed-whacker (because that’s what it sounds like).

Every time I put the drone up I feel like people are looking at me, thinking to themselves “Wow, that’s annoying”. Or wondering if I’m spying on them. I know some people take the approach that it’s their right to do it, so forget what others think. But I just can’t. I tried, and I gave it a good go – but right now the it’s just not for me and it now has a lucky new owner of a lightly-used drone somewhere in New Jersey.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Magnolia Plantation, Charleston SC – I was able to time a trip to Charleston SC last year right in time for most of the spring flower bloom. I loved the mossy trees and early morning light coming through the gardens. It was hard to pick a favorite.

Sony a7R iii | 24-70mm @ 70mm | f/11, 1/4, ISO 100

Tuscany Italy – The next group was hard to pick a favorite too – so I didn’t. These are some photos from my trip to Italy. I taught one of my workshops there last September at a villa, and as you can imagine the scenery was fantastic. I could have easily shown 30 photos here of Tuscany, so it was hard to cut down to 7.

I think one of my favorite parts of photographing Tuscany is that it sets up for my favorite type of landscape photography – long lenses. I love using a longer 70-200 or 100-400 to zoom in and pick apart intimate scenes of a landscape in a way that our eyes can’t absorb without the lens.

Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 200mm | f/11, 1/40, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 200mm | f/11, 1/30, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 127mm| f/8, 1/125, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 77mm | f/11, 1/40, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 95mm| f/11, 1/50, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 70-200mm @ 100mm | f/8, 30 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @ 200mm | f/11, 1/8, ISO 100

New Hampshire, Franconia Notch State Park – I took this photo in New Hampshire last fall. Like many people, I can’t resist a covered bridge. Add some fall color and a waterfall and I can get lost taking photos there 🙂

Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @ 44mm | f/11, 1/8, ISO 100

Port Angeles, Washington – My wife and I take a yearly trip to a Bed and Breakfast near Port Angeles, Washington. I love it out there. I barely take my camera out, but while walking around the grounds in the back I found this spot at just the right time.

Sony a7R iii | 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/16, 1/80th, ISO 100

Lake Crescent, Washington – While on the same trip, I got up early one morning to visit Lake Crescent. As you can see by the light, I didn’t make it there before sunrise because… well… I slept in a little (I was on vacation). So, needless to say, it’s not the best photo of Lake Crescent you’ll ever see, but I like it. It was a nice, calm, relaxing morning.

Sony a7R iii | 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/11, 1/40th, ISO 100

Venice Italy – This next group is from Venice Italy. After I taught my Tuscany workshop, my wife and I spent 3 days in Venice before going home. I loved it! The only thing was that it was pretty crowded. The crowds never really bothered me as a tourist. We could always get where we wanted to go, eat and drink without long waits, and see what we wanted to see.

But from a photography standpoint it was tough to get a shot without a hundred people in it, if you didn’t get up early. So that’s what I did. I woke up about an hour before sunrise every day, and did all of my shooting before 9am. In fact, I don’t think I ever even took my camera out after that each day, and decided to enjoy the food and wine for the rest of the day instead 🙂

Sony a7R iv | 16-35mm @ 21mm | f/11, 1/3 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @ 25mm | f/16, 30 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 16-35mm @ 16mm | f/11, 1/30, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 24-70mm @ 24mm | f/16, 30 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7R iv | 16-35mm @ 16mm | f/11, 150 sec, ISO 100

Ravenal Bridge, Charleston SC – Who can resist a curvy bridge with triangular structures on it right?

Sony a7R iii | 24-70mm @ 57mm | f/11, 15 sec, ISO 100

Well, That’s a Wrap on 2019!

Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my favorite photos of 2019. If you’ve gathered your best photos of 2019 anywhere, please feel free to share a link in the comments below or let me know your thoughts.

If you haven’t yet, it’s not too late. Nobody said it had to be done by January 1st, and it’s not a new year’s resolution or anything. I think it’s just an overall good exercise to give ourselves a project and goal to look through our photos, and you never do know what’ll turn up.

NOTE: Click here to see my Favorite Wildlife Photos of 2019

EDIT: Click here to see me edit all of the photos below from start to finish

Interested in Any of My Workshops?

Oh yeah, if you’re interested in any of my workshops, I have a few in 2020. Most are sold out but we have people cancel all the time and keep a waiting list.

But the New Zealand ON1 Destination Workshop with Tamara Lackey and I still has some openings in it.

New Zealand (November 2020) – Click here for more info

Costa Rica Wildlife Experience (June 2020) – Sold Out (Find Out More)

Matt and Blakes Editing Extravaganza Retreat (September 2020) – Sold Out (Find Out More)


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