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.
A New Online Gallery
I realize a blog isn’t the best place for photos. So I have a gallery (hosted on Slickpic) where you can view them, as well as all of their settings if you’d like (click the little i icon in the top right and look for “photo details”). Plus, I shared a bunch of other photos that didn’t make the blog in there too.
Also, Slickpic has given me a link to share in case you want to use them for your portfolio. It’s a lifetime 40% off discount on their most popular plan (and they’ll even design it for you). Click here for more info.
No Landscapes?… Really!… None!
This may be the first year that I didn’t take one landscape photo. Not one! Can you believe it? It’s so weird for me to say that. But I looked through my Lightroom library and in the “Filter” area you can see what lenses you’ve used. I selected all of my 2021 folders and not one of them had a wide angle lens. Every photo was taken with the zoom lenses I mention below. Crazy huh?
I can’t say that I’m doing it on purpose. I know the current times have kept many people at home and I totally understand that decision or requirement for some. But for me, I’ll travel where ever at this point, so I can’t blame anything for me not taking landscape photos, other than I simply haven’t had the desire.
Plus, I live within 1-2 hours of world famous amazing bird photography locations. I’ve always loved living in Florida for many reasons. But as a landscape photographer it meant I had to travel a lot. Now living here is paying off big time in my photography 🙂
But in general I don’t travel like I used to back in my Kelby-employment days so getting to landscape locations means I need to go out of my way. And that’s okay… I’m home much more. And while I really enjoy photography, I love running my training and educational online business and that keeps me busy 110% of the time. All in all, I’m a much happier person than I was back in the early 2010’s when I was chasing the next photo all of the time and trying to compete with everyone around me.
The Gear and Settings
Most photos were taken with the following equipment, so I’m not going to mention it for each shot. I’m a Sony Artisan of Imagery (it’s Sony’s ambassador program), so I use all Sony equipment (I have since 2014). You can always see more on my Gear page as well.
Camera Bodies: Almost all photos were taken with my Sony Alpha 1 which arrived in late February 2021. It is by far the most amazing wildlife camera I’ve ever held in my hands. I feel like I’m cheating and have a smile on my face every time I use it.
Lenses: The Sony 200-600mm is what was on my camera 75% of the time. I also shot with the Sony 100-400mm and 600mm prime at times.
While I shoot mostly hand held, I do use a monopod at times with a FlexShooter Pro gimbal-like ballhead. I love it when I use it but again, I do shoot handheld at least 90% of the time.
All photos were edited in Lightroom, and some in Photoshop where needed. Just about every bird photo you see also makes a quick visit to Topaz DeNoise if the ISO was high. If not, I generally run them through Topaz Sharpen AI. But that’s a very small percentage of them so just assume that each was edited in Lightroom / Photoshop and had DeNoise applied to it.
Okay, here goes. Here’s my favorite photos of 2021. Captions and descriptions are BELOW each photo if you’d like to read more.
Also, I realize a blog isn’t the best place for photos. So I have a gallery (hosted on Slickpic) where you can view them, as well as all of their settings if you’d like (click the little “i” icon in the top right and look for “photo details”). Here’s the link for the gallery. Plus, I shared a bunch of other photos, that didn’t make the this blog post, in there too.
I love teaching and photography... In that order. I feel that enjoying photography, and photo editing can get WAY too complicated. So my personal mission (and favorite thing to do), is to create education that simplifies the process of taking great photos, and how to edit them to get the results you’ve always wanted.
You showed some of these wonderful photos in your Webinar 7/14/22 Fast Action Razor Sharp Bird Photography. They are good examples of your concepts. Thank you.
Matt, I have been following you back to the Scott Kelby days. You were always down to earth, and I liked your presentations. I have taken several of your classes and watched lots of videos. This class really got me practicing on shooting at 1/3200 of a second and Auto ISO and from my results I love it. Thanks for all your help.
Those are really nice shots coupled with delicate postprocessing techniques. Thanks for sharing and providing inspiration. I just downloaded the updates to the Photoshop System course. Thanks to you I find myself using PS more and more and getting better results.
Love the pics. Thanks for sharing!
Matt – your knowledge of the tools is fabulous which now days is probably between 40-60% of the work
I am not much of a bird’s photographer though done few at beaches…mostly seagulls as they go about pestering people for food. I will add a photo of birds in flight in my 1st weeks entry – which is running behind everyone ese but I did want to participate as a landscape/abstract/minimalist photographer
Your work and support for us novias photographers is foraminal
Love the bird photos but don’t take many-occasional swan and seagull. Hope to expand my outlook. It’s taken a while but here’s some favorites. https://susantiffen852277132.wordpress.com/2021-favorites/
Great photos Matt. You were definitely in the right place at the right time with the right gear! I really loved the great egret photo, just beautiful.
Fantastic shots. An inspiration. I liked so many of them. I think your comment about birds taking off give a more interesting shot.
I think that snake is a “Bothriechis schlegelii, known commonly as the eyelash viper:”
Probably good that you used a telephoto lens.
You’re right, JB. I used to have a golden eyelash viper in my collection when I was into venomous snakes.
Great photos! Gives me something to aspire to. The one of the pair of owls just really struck. Also the one of the either egret or heron with the neck stretched out over the water beak just above the surface of the water.
Gorgeous photos, Matt! I am gratified to learn that they are mostly all handheld as I am tripod phobic. That said, the sharpness of the end results are astonishing. I see the really high shutter speeds but how much should I credit the Topaz software (which I don’t use but am tempted to explore)?
Hi Joan! I hope you’re doing well. Simple rule about sharp photos… If it’s not sharp coming out of the camera it will never be sharp no matter what you do on the computer. I 100% feel like I failed if my photo isn’t sharp out of camera – and I personally spend ZERO time on soft photos. They are almost all instantly deleted. So everything you see was razor sharp coming out of the camera, and DeNoise just cleaned it up a bit. Hope that helps. Take care!
This has been a very busy week and today was the first day at home to review your pictures you posted on Monday. I love the photos of the birds. While on vacation a couple of years ago I took several photos of birds while on Sanibel Island. Just looking at your photos and reading your description I recognize that being patient is important. I enjoy your tutorials and frank discussion of what you feel is important .
Very nice collection of photos. I thought some of them would have benefitted from more light on the eye or a catch light in the eye. Do you ever cheat a little and use the computer to “help” edit in post?
Hi. If needed I will, I just don’t feel these needed it. Thanks!
Nice inflight images. I am trying to get landscape with wildlife. Challenging to say the least where the landscape is the big part of the image.
Wonderful images! Birds are a challenge for me, but I’m trying to do better capturing them doing “gestures,” like your landing/taking off, etc., not just sitting on a branch. Very inspiring, thanks!
Wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing the settings you use. Also, I really enjoy your courses.
Superb set of images, Matt.
Greetings from Australia.
I love birds and have tried shooting them, (with a camera of course) but with very average results.
Thanks for this course, I struggled to pick my best for 2021 but it was a worthwhile challenge.
I have followed you for a number of years leading back to the Kelby and have always your what I consider laid back approach. Not all of us expect to be published but I have learned a great deal from you. Keep up the good work.
Matt your photos are spectacular and inspiring. . .and your videos/classes have helped me immensely. Beginning 2022 with a review of photos from 2021 has been interesting, mostly landscape, wildlife, and grandchildren. Your photos encourage me to attempt capturing birds. I’m looking forward to the rest of “Fresh Start.”
Absolutely gorgeous photos! Can’t wait to get back out there after my cataract surgeries this month…when I can see to focus! Kills me to not be able to get out and take photos. (Probably telling my age, oops!) But LOVE taking photos and have lost out a lot of the end of 2021 because of sight and waiting to get in to get surgeries. But I can see your photos and they are amazing. Makes me so anxious to get back out there. Thank you Matt!
Incredible. I’m not a bird photographer per say. But after seeing how you’ve captured these amazing images, I’m inclined to pursue some bird images when the opportunity affords itself. Thanks for giving me the motivation.
Beautiful images. Thank you for sharing. You are inspiring me to work on my bird shots.
Great shots Matt, I can’t tell you how hard it was to pick only 20… with that being said, it was about 38 that I posted on Facebook. We just got back from Costa Rica and it was absolutely amazing and we will definitely be going back; 2 weeks was not enough, still so much more to see!!
Matt15 doesn’t work to get 15% off for Topaz.
Hi. You have the code wrong. Maybe try copy paste. It is MattK15. Thanks
Loved the photos, and explanations.
Great images and thanks for sharing the link. I am so glad you got to spend time photographing eagles here in WA State. I wish you all the very best for 2022.
Wonderful photos! I took your Bird Photography course this last year and so appreciated your clear, to the point, explanations. I have enjoyed putting into practice your instructions. Now seeing so many of your gorgeous photos I better understand how your settings work. I would like to know if you zoomed out fully with most of these photos; are they cropped at all? Thanks for this upcoming opportunity!
Hi Anita. Nearly every photo I take is cropped and some of them are cropped heavily (50% or more). Fortunately I have a 51 megapixel camera so it can afford quite a bit of cropping if the photo is clear and sharp. Thanks!
Great photos Matt. I want to learn more and get better
Thanks for sharing these Matt. I enjoyed viewing them and reading your comments on each one. You are always inspiring and a great teacher!
A great series of bird pics.
This is so different from what you were shooting a few years ago, and I like it very much.
Lovely colors, Nice action going, on each time.
These are beautiful collections.
Great shots Matt, but I’m glad it was you so close to that venomous pit viper and not me. LOL Great bird action shots,
Love the images especially the not so mean-looking bird. He just looks a little out of sorts. Have been following you on Creative Live and love your style of teaching so looking forward to Fresh Start 2022.
Wow these are just beautiful. Something for me to aspire to capture. I normally do landscapes, but it makes me want to be on the lookout up north.
I have sign up for Fresh Start 2022 not knowing how extraordinary are you skills in nature photography. Your birds images are very showy and beautiful.
Even though I usually don’t photograph birds (quite a challenge for me), I appreciate you sharing info and hope to learn from you.
Hi Matt Great shots You are still getting too many birds with no names, like the Least Tern, Yellow Rumped warbler and Wimbrel, are mislabeled. . Thanks there still great shots
Wow, wonderful photographs. Bird photography is one of my favourites but I have a way to go to get to your skill level. Seeing these photos has encouraged me to keep trying. Thank you for sharing.
Great captures. I have not been one with camera in the past few years, but I once again have been inspired. One of my sisters lives on Sanibel Island; just purchased the plane tickets. It will be a nice break from my home on the coast of Maine.
Wow, great images! I live near the Chesapeake Bay and never get enough Osprey and Bald Eagles either, but I’ve never tried to get a photograph. Maybe one day.
What time of year or month did you take the pictures at Ft Desoto park?
Hi Ken. All year long. Jan through March/April are some of my favorites, but I get some great stuff in the summer too. Plus, summer is nice because the tide pools and water (that you inevitably have to walk through or even sit in) is much warmer vs the colder temps we have right now. The downside… I sweat like crazy so the sand sticks to me like glue 🙂 Best!
I’m not one that photographs birds — you have an amazing job of capturing their beauty! Great work!!
Your work is outstanding and I enjoy your tutorials.
Beautiful bird shots! I think the tern with the splash is a least tern. They are inspiring me to try for more bird shots. Thanks for sharing. I also really enjoy your teaching; thanks again!
Beautiful work. Better than ever, if that’s possible. Additionally, thanks for getting us through the pandemic with your on line posts and webinars. Love you classes that I’ve purchased. All helped making it through lockdowns.
Spectacular shots, Matt! I appreciate that you shared some technical details and copy to go along with them.
Great shots. I didn’t shoot much during the pandemic and your Fresh Start is perfect timing. Thank for for reigniting my love of photography.
Wow ….stunning captures, Matt!! All of them are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your talent.
Beautiful work as always. Thanks for sharing!
Dang, these are next-level awesome, Matt!!! My bird-loving heart is very happy after viewing your gallery.
Great shots Matt – thanks for sharing. As a birder, I have been striving to photograph as many birds as I can at home and on travels. I really appreciate your courses, videos and tips on photographing wildlife – they have helped me to greatly improve my shots.
For your info, your last 2 shots – the Marbled Godwit is the 2nd last shot (golden colour on water) and the last photo – bird in take off mode, is a Whimbrel – both super shots!
Great photos, Matt! I enjoy seeing bird photos but I don’t take photos of them – they move!!!!
Hi Matt, you have some really nice shots here! Been a follower of yours since years ago at KelbyOne and Goggle+! And yes your work has really changed over the years as far as subject matter!
Maybe it was because of the pandemic but I found when I looked at my work over last year I also tended to shoot a lot of wildlife and sports (grandkids) and also shots in general with long tele-zoom lenses. I also did not travel as much as I normally do, especially international travel. In past years so much of my work was from abroad. This year my best shots were within a few hours of home here in Houston.
When I pull up my choices in a Lightroom Gallery view I can see from the metadata that I shot with 3 different cameras but mostly with my Canon R which is my newer camera and one I love to shoot with. I also shot with 10 different lenses but around a 3rd of my choices were shot with my Tamron 150-600. And 3 of my choices for year’s best were for the post process editing, either sky replacement or some other creative effect. All my work had most of the processing in Lightroom but for the 3 just mentioned I used Luminar 4, On1 Raw and Topaz Simplify.
FYI, I’m a retired professional with 35 years doing commercial advertising work. It’s fun now to just shoot shots for myself and not worry about what the client or an art director wants.
Lovely work, Matt! Now to go pick my best pics of 2021:>)
Your photos are amazing! I live in the snowy north, but still get to see and photograph
beautiful birds of prey as well as other wildlife. I appreciate that you posted your settings
as well. Always trying to learn and improve. Thanks Matt!
Matt, such terrific shots, nice to now I am not the only obsessed with eagles.
Hey Matt, Y
es these are great shots indeed! You should be very proud.
Sad that there are no landscape pics since that is my main genre, but I guess except for a few of the photos, you have gone to the birds! (smile)
I like the Year in Review aspect of this and that you included a few sentences with each shot along with the basic technical detail.
And, the photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing! When using your zoom lens, looks like you used a shutter speed of 1/3200 second, aperture of f/6.4, and auto ISO. Have you standardized on a shutter speed of 1/3200 for bird photography? And is there a minimum shutter speed that you recommend?
Hi Ron. When I set my settings and walk out of the house with my camera it is set to the lowest f/stop setting (usually f/6.3 for the lens i use the most), 1/3200th and Auto ISO. If the bird is moving, 1/3200th is my go to setting. If it’s a larger bird or perched than I work my shutter speed down which, in turn, reduces the ISO. This is all covered in my Bird Photography course if you have it. Hope that helps.
Wonderful images. Thanks for sharing.
Remarkable! I dream of these shots.
Great shots! Thanks for sharing.. Gives me some inspiration, Have to invest in a long lens I guess..
Stunning pictures! You have captured such beautiful motion. I’m just starting to photograph birds and have soooo much to learn. I am normally a landscape person and need to branch out! I’m looking forward to our 3 weeks and what I will learn from you!! Thanks so much for sharing!
Matt, what incredible bird photos. I’ve been a “virgin birder” (beginner) for several years and a now a retired semi-professional photographer, I appreciate your skills as a birder and professional photographer. What I also appreciate is your ability to provide easy-to-follow instructions on how to use the many features of Lightroom and Photoshop. I hope you will be around for a long-time to assist us in being better users of LR and PS.
Matt thanks for share. Those are all Beautifully Captured!!! All your information has been a great help. Thank You , You and your family have a Blessed 2022
Great photos! I especially noted the sharp clear focus of the eyes and feathers. I also liked the water droplets and splashes with the birds.
Gorgeous and inspirational work, Matt.
Oh wow…..beautiful images. Love the colors and the action. Very inspirational. Up close & personal…..feel like I was there.
Thanks for sharing these with us.
I am a big fan of birds, these are wonderful to view. Makes me wan to get the lens you use, the 200-600, I have the same body as you use. I love the one of the man bird,I wish I had wings whenever I see that.
Thanks for sharing these
Hey Matt, Great shots! I noticed you have several images from Fort Desoto Park. I’m from St. Louis and visited there last February for the first time and got several of MY top shots for the year there too. What a fantastic place. Headed to Merritt Island for this year’s February “Exodus from Winter” trip out of St. Louis to see if I can get some good bird shots there. Am looking forward to continuing to learn!