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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂
Ravenal Bridge, Charleston SC – Who can resist a curvy bridge with triangular structures on it right?
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)
This is the first year that I did this exercise. It’s interesting to see how one’s perspective changes if we just keep taking photographs throughout the year. Many thanks to all for sharing your creative work. My photos can be seen in karakellogg.smugmug.com in Photo Group folder, “Best of 2019” gallery. Cheers!
Matt, you are a wonderful photographer and educator. Behind every image that was co-created, is a story. It is the sum total of the creative impulse that caused you to pick up your camera at that moment. I believe the context of the image is just as important as the image itself. I totally agree with you that no algorithm can “select” an image made with good technical factors and include the heart and Soul as well.
Thanks Barbara – and I agree to a certain point. However, I don’t necessarily agree about context being just as important. The image does need to stand on its own to make an impact. A very small percentage of people will ever read about the photo and when it’s hanging up, you can’t read about it. So I do think there needs to be an overall immediate impact – something that leads a person to say “Wow, Amazing! How or why was this created – tell me more”. If that impact isn’t there, no story will make a poor photo, a good one (in my opinion) 🙂
Thanks for the inspiration and all the descriptions on the images :-). I particularly loved the Sparks Lake and Venice ones. Were you at the Sony Kando retreat in August? I have some images from the Sparks Lake with a very similar sky color at sunrise from my morning there during the workshop! Maybe we were there on the same cold morning 🙂
Yep, I was at Kando and probably there the morning you were as I went out there every day for sunrise 🙂
Thanks Matt for your wonderful selection, and in particular, your comments on why you picked them. It is quite a relief to hear “human” thoughts, instead of judges critical and technical comments, and sometimes less than inspiring. Despite that, and recognizing that “Perfection leads to procrastination” these are wonderful images and near perfect from my amateur perspective.
As always Matt very nice images – but I don’t think that’s what you want to hear. As a travel photographer and watercolor painter, I found about 3-4 to be my fav (no more). You might consider looking into the “old masters” design techniques for inspiritation. Things like dynamic semmetry, gestaltism, golden rectangle and golden ratios. Its different, but it opened my eyes a lot to real world composition and image design. Please continue to explore, grow and create great images.
Thanks Joseph… oh and for the record, when some one “shares” their photos… “these are nice” or “wow great shots”, is what we ALWAYS want to hear. You will never find me publicly posting “Hey here are my photos… please critique” 🙂
I finally got my best of 2019 uploaded. I enjoyed yours and I like the idea of doing this every year. Here’s a link to my favorite images from 2019:
Sorry. I guess I posited this in the wrong chain.
Beautiful photos, Matt. Thank you so much for the lens and camera setting information. I noticed most of the landscapes have a fairly small aperture and slow shutter speed. Do you usually use a tripod for landscape? What is the lowest shutter speed you feel comfortable with when hand holding your camera?
Hi Kathy. Yes, if it’s a landscape I care about and I think I may want to print it, I use a tripod. Handholding is tough to call out a shutter speed. My Sony camera has IBIS (In body image stabilization). If I turn that on, I can hand hold and get a pretty sharp waterfall photo at half a second to a second. But that’s stretching it 🙂
A really beautiful selection of photos. I particularly like the two fall shots at Artists Bluff – maybe because we get no fall colours where I live near the Gold Coast in Australia.
Thank you for offering the Fresh Start program. I’m looking forward to watching and participating.
I loved your Fresh Start last year…..what a great way to begin this year’s journey…..great photos….encourages me to get off my behind and out shooting…
love the photo I too like covered bridges
Thanks for sharing these and giving us your opinions. I chuckled at the Instagram comment! I especially like the last photo, showing Ravenal Bridge. I’m going to Charleston this weekend, which is my first visit to South Carolina. I did my research and prepared an itinerary last night, including walking over Ravenal Bridge. Your fabulous photo has got me all fired up for the trip!
Thanks for putting this course together, Matt. Like other folks have mentioned, I have been in a “funk” lately and I think this is just what I need to get going again. I love your pics of NH in that it is only about a 2-3 hour drive from home and I can visualize where you were standing when you took those pics. I also love the Ravenal Bridge pic.
thanks matt for offering this course. i’m looking forward to following – have already learned a lot from you, and i love your presets! your selection of images is top notch – my favourite probably the sunrise in venice, but it was hard to choose. i enjoyed this first project, which i haven’t done before. i shared it on the 365 website, where i’m just entering my sixth year! and it can be seen here (i hope!): https://365project.org/pistache/365/2020-01-07 meanwhile i’m trying hard to create a portfolio website – knew nothing about it until i watched your video, so thanks for that too 🙂
I am enjoying everyone’s photos and have selected some of mine to share with everyone. Unfortunately my technological skills are not great, and I cannot figure out how to share some of my photos. I don’t use Lightroom or Adobe. I edit in ON1Raw 2020.
Thanks Matt – your photos are an inspiration. And thank you for offering this program – it’s a New Year gift!
Thanks for sharing, Matt. This is an inspirational posting for me
Thank you for the inspiration and the ideas!
Thanks for sharing your favorites. This is not a thing I have done in the past, but it looks like a good idea. Unfortunately I will be travelling and away from my main LR library for a while so it will have to wait until I get home.
Matt, Matt when will you ever learn about Oregon weather. I sill remember your blog about the snow at Trillium Lake.
Oh… I learned… I came prepared with my winter puffy jacket, hat and gloves and all. But one thing that I’ll probably never get away from is my forgetfulness. Those items did no good sitting on my table back at the hotel room 🙂
By the way… Come on!!! 28 degrees in early August! That’s just wrong!
Thank you and I enjoyed each photo. So much beauty in this world we live in.
Really nice work Matt.
Love those Venice,Tuscany shots.
Like most internet presenters, the metadata included with the picture states the lens used.
That does not help me by bragging about the lens used.
I’m not interested in the lens focal range. I’m more interested in the actual focal length that the image was shot at.
So what annoys me is, not knowing the actual focal length of the capture.
Please state the FL. ie; Taken with a Canon 70-200 mm lens at 150mm.
That is a more accurate depiction of the capture.
You’re not the only one in the world that does that.
I still follow you intensely and love your help with your very informative videos.
Keep up the good work, we all benefit from your knowledge and expertise in Photography and Photoshop.
Added just for you Joe. Pro tip for next time though… rather than write a paragraph telling me I’m just like other presenters that annoy you and telling me I’m bragging about my lens – how about this… Simply write “Thanks Matt, any chance you could please post the actual focal length too?”. Sometimes saying less is actually saying MUCH more 😉
I really have no words for most of your shots. Beautiful…all of them. Some are even more than that. Thank you for showing us your favorites as sometimes my most liked are not my most liked either.
I posted in an album on my FB. I realize that limits who can see it, but at least I got it out there. It was extremely difficult whittling down the number. 🙂
I really enjoyed the NH shots, especially the Franconia Notch picture (my wife is going to paint a version of it). As a New Hampshire native, you made me homesick.
Beautiful, each and every one – thank you for sharing them and their background. A lot of my personal favorites (which I’ll need to cull for this exercise), are so because they remind me of how things looked, smelled and felt at the time. Memories make photos special!
I love your photos. I just got to Portland a couple of hours ago so I looked up Sparks Lake. Thought I would check it out. According to Google Maps and Apple Maps, all the roads are closed to it. 🙁 Last week, I booked our trip to Florence and Rome for this summer. Hope to get some great photos of Italy. (Guess I won’t be doing the first activity right away as my photos are on my disk at home.)
The roads are only closed to cars. It is a nice snowshoe or cross country ski trip into the lake.
If it was 28 degrees in August, I can only imagine the snow on the ground now 🙂
Love that you posted your favorites an not an algorithm’s. I am also ecstatic about the drone. When I was in Iceland, the drones drove me CRAZY! Especially when there are No Drone signs all around. Love your photos and looking forward to this year’s Fresh Start.
Great post to start with! About 4 years ago I started printing a photo book each year called “My Best Shots of XXXX” (xxxx’s – the year). Like you stated, I always found shots that I hadn’t remembered or thought of after taking. And, it was always a fun project to do.
Awesome shots Matt. I recognize some of the shots as I have travelled a lot through Italy.
I’ve followed you for years and have always appreciated your relaxed and candid nature. Very important to hear again to be true to yourself, whether it’s regarding drones, style or iconic locations. I also find it refreshing that many of your favorites were taken on vacation with your wife–the best of all worlds! Being a lady in my 70’s, I have traveled this country and world back when there weren’t hundreds of people in my viewfinder. I am a little more than agitated and annoyed fighting the crowds in National Parks and other scenic locations that have become so popular. It really discourages me from going out. But, the majority of my photos are taken short distances from home. It’s important to realize you can be creative without expensive travel! Finally, your examples left me with new inspiration. I am very much looking forward to your wildlife photos, as that is my main genre. Thank you for freely sharing yourself with us!
Your photos of Tuscany made me realize how much I miss being able run up there from Naples on a weekend. If I had to guess you were somewhere near Montalcino (the home of one of Italy’s great red wines – Brunello). I agree with you it is one of the great places for a landscape photographer. I envy your time there.
Lovely shots! I love the idea of picking my favorites photos. I do share the ones with more likes (2019 was the 3rd year I did it) and like to see wich ones people like. But I think it’s important to select the better for us. Thanks for the inspiration as always. Some of mine would be from Italy too where I’ve been in February last year. 🙂
Happy 2020 from Buenos Aires!
Matt, Enjoy your website, and your Lightroom tips . Here is my web site with just a bit more than 19 photos.
Looking forward to the next video’s.
Thanks Matt, loved checking out your favourites, and loved the fact that you do not like to have people in your landscapes which is how I like it, over the last couple of years I have been given a lot of flax about that. Thanks for giving me that boost to stick to my own style and not try and please everyone. Looking forward to Fresh Start.
Glad to hear Lyn. Yep, I get harassed all the time and well… now you know my answer. I want you, the viewer, to feel like you’re alone, standing there looking out at the scene I’ve put in front of you.
Just to mention. Link Really Right Stuff TVC-24L gives Error 404
Thank you for this, I am one of those “ overwhelmed and where to start procrastinators” . Looking at all and choosing a few favourites of one year is some thing I definitely can do.
I really liked your Photo examples, but appreciated most the easy way you brought the mind back to basics “ just look and choose” perception. It’s good to forget about post processing difficulties.
One at a time…………..
Beautiful images! I’m not a fan of flashes and love natural light.
Those are heavy lenses for me when you add a camera like mine, Sony AR ii, but the results of using them are stunning images. Thanks for sharing them and including your thoughts.
Thanks Gina. I have actually sold my 24-70 and replaced with the much lighter 24-105mm. Also, Sony has a 24-70 f/4 that is just as good. Much lighter too.
Thanks Matt for the inspiration!
Nice to see your favourites, seeing more from the inside of your thoughts, to show us the feelings and not what you’re supposed to show and the effort you make for a picture.
Just a curious question about no 7 of Tuscany, doesn’t it bother you the red spot on the right?
Nope. I never even saw it 🙂 Like I said in the video, there’s plenty of things I would do to continue to edit them if I had the time. Remember, “Perfectionism leads to procrastination” 🙂
However, you may want to check the picture titles. That long red trail is highly unlikely to get captured by 1/8 exposure.
Thanks. All fixed.
Beautiful photos. I noticed your choice of lenses in most of these is either a 24-70mm or a 70-200. Are these your most used, favorite lenses?
Thanks! Yes, those are my favorites for landscapes. I actually recently sold the 24-70 f/2.8 in favor of the more versatile and much lighter 24-105mm Sony. And the 70-200 is nice but I tend to bring my 100-400 with me more since I can do more with it. Between 24-105 and 100-400 I have just about everything I need for landscape / travel and even some wildlife thrown in.
Did I notice on one of the early photos that you were using a 2x multiplier on a Sony non-GM lens? I have been wanting a 2x but thought they were only available for GM lenses.
Oops. That is a GM. I missed that.
Hi Bill. I had the 2x on the 400mm prime. With a $12K price tag, that lens better be a GM! LOL!
Great shots, looking forward to the Wildlife photos.
Thanks for doing the Fresh Start. Helps to get back in the photo groove. I really appreciate your personal touch and style. I’m not into people in landscape. Actually, I prefer to not take any portraits. Just nature😊