Happy New Year to all of you. I hope you had a great Christmas, New Year and holiday season. It was a bit busy around here. My oldest son graduated from University of Florida the week before Christmas, so we had a lot of family get togethers and parties along the way.

As I do every year, I gather my favorites photos from the year before and share them. I think overall, it’s just a good exercise for a couple of reasons. First, I think it forces you to go through some of your older photos and bring them in to your photo library. All too often, we get busy and don’t look at everything. I also think it’s good to take an inventory of where you are in your photography world, what you did well, and maybe what you could have done better. And looking at those photos from the previous year helps you to do that.

I’ll kick it off with my absolute favorite photo. I’m sure many of you can appreciate what a proud moment this is. Not only is he a wonderful 22 year old, but he graduated with a pretty difficult major (Mechanical Engineering) and managed to do with with a 3.85 GPA. Proud doesn’t even begin to explain the feeling and I can’t wait to see his how he leaves his mark on the world – he’s light years ahead of where I was when I was 22. That said, if anyone needs a smart hard working engineer and wants to help him start his career be sure to send me a message (kidding… well, kind of… I’m sure he’ll take any help he can get) 😉

Editing

As many of you know I’m a really simple photo editor. These days, if a photo takes me more than 2 minutes to edit I usually toss it and move on to the next. With wildlife I try to capture a great subject, in great light, doing something interesting – and that typically doesn’t leave much editing to do other than some basic toning, cropping, and noise reduction in Lightroom – and distraction removal in Photoshop. For landscapes I would definitely take a little longer if needed, but I didn’t shoot many landscapes this year.

Anyway, most of the bear photos you see below were edited with a hybrid approach. While I was traveling, I typically opened the photos in Bridge and did quick edits in Camera Raw. Then when I got home, I loaded them in to Lightroom Classic, put them on my main photo hard drive, and some were edited there.

The rest of the photos and anything I’ve shot since July 2023 were organized and edited in Lightroom (not classic) using the new “Local” feature to browse the photos, pick favorites and edit (gasp!!!)

And as you know (or should know), all of the editing controls are the same in Camera Raw, LR Classic, and Lightroom – so it doesn’t really matter where or how it was done. They key to this – and most important part – it was DONE and that’s all that matters.

Gear

Full discloser… I shoot Sony mirrorless (I have since 2014) and am a Sony Artisan of Imagery. At the end of 2022 I got the Sony a7R5 and I also shoot the Sony a1. So the photos are a mix of the two, and most were shot with the 200-600mm lens.

Settings

My settings for wildlife are ridiculously simple. Lowest aperture the lens will go to (mine is f/6.3). I turn on Auto ISO so the camera chooses that. And I vary the shutter speed based on the speed of the subject I’m shooting but it’s almost always faster than I need.

I’m not posting settings with each photo because… well… it’s tedious and very redundant as they’re all almost the same. But if you want settings, I posted an album on my gallery website that has the settings for each photo. Click here to see it. (Press the i button when viewing the photos)

Generally though, all photos are at f/6.3 and around 1/800th to 1/1600th shutter speed with Auto ISO on. Posting the ISO wouldn’t matter because they all had noise reduction applied but ISO’s range from 800 all the way to 6400.

If it was a bird in flight, the aperture was f/6.3 and shutter speeds were probably in the 1/2500th to 1/3200th. Again, Auto ISO was on for every one of these photos.

I shoot (and have shot for over 20 years) with matrix/evaluative metering 100% of the time, and auto focus was set to Continuous with various AF modes used depending on the situation.

The Photos

Again, I posted an album with larger photos and all settings. Click Here to View it.

The bear photos were taken on a trip to Alaska in June 2023. Some of the others were taken on a trip in to the northeast as well as right here in the Tampa, FL area.

Here we go. I hope you enjoy them!

PS: I generally don’t name the birds in my photos. Please don’t ask me to, or I’ll just put “Juvenile Purple Breasted Pickle-feather” for all of them 😉

One of my Favorites – I Really like the eye connection here.
Can you get any more cute?
I almost wouldn’t have believed this if I didn’t see it
I don’t know why, but when I see this bear hug I can’t help but say “I Love you man!!!”
The foggy empty background really helps the texture of the bear stand out here
Looks cute and a tender moment, but mom isn’t enjoying… She’s on a constant lookout for male bears

Puffins! I also got to photograph puffins for the first time ever! The features on these birds are amazing. So much fun to have a large photo of one on your screen, and zoom in close to look at the detailed characteristics and coloring.

A nice portrait of a puffin
Here’s a cropped in version to see some of the detail
Got a little in-flight action here with a full-mouthed puffin in the background

Landscapes

Since my kids left for college a few years ago, I took up golf. And now, pretty much all of my trips revolve around golfing. This year, I had the chance to take a trip to Ireland, as well as some others throughout the year.

What you can’t see is the wind… it made for some really hard golf!
The weather was great at least 30 times a day… and then it wasn’t 5 minutes later.
Some amazing light right after a storm at a golf club in Virginia
Love the shapes in this one… unfortunately my ball got caught up in these lovely shapes too!
Some more amazing light after a storm.

*** An Interesting Side Note ***

I mentioned earlier how most of my trips now revolve around golf. Did you know that all of the photos above were taken with my iPhone 13 Pro? I actually looked through my photos for the year and realized that I never even put a wide angle lens on my camera. Why? Because I never took my camera with me on any of these trips. I’m curious about your thoughts on this?

That said, I belong to a golf club here in Tampa and when I golf I like to enjoy golfing so I don’t bring my camera. However, nearly EVERY time I play I see hawks all over the course. And they’re close and they constantly do cool things when I see them, so I do get tempted.

But I’m a minimalist. I bring no electronics when I play, except a tiny digital range finder (that gives me the distance to the green) that I clip on my bag. I turn my phone off and I just enjoy the sport and perhaps a little Bourbon when I make a birdie, because what’s golf without a birdie shot?

Just not the type of birdies shots you’re thinking of! 😉

More Birds

The rest of the photos are birds from various places. Some are from a trip to New Jersey and the others are shore birds in the Tampa area.

I love the fall colors in the background of this one
Another in flight post – I had trouble picking which one I liked better so you get both 🙂
Reddish Egret doing it’s thing
The hawk almost hovered for a second as it flew in
Some little bird looking for some little things to eat – I just liked the rim light and early morning golden glow
I always like the humorous shots too. And when you add some divine rim light behind it, it’s even better 🙂
I’m always searching for silhouette opportunities – you really need a colorful background to pull them off
Walking on water
Another funny hairdo for the Reddish Egret

Closing Thoughts – Things I Noticed From Looking at My Photos This Year

I mentioned to you earlier that looking through photos from the year can help you see what you did and didn’t do. Here’s what I learned…

I realize that I virtually take all wildlife photos now. That’s super crazy for me considering 10 years ago it was the exact opposite and they were all landscape.

But I also realize it’s not because I don’t like landscape photos anymore. It’s because I simply value my time doing other things more. Landscape photos require you to get your camera to an amazing place -plain and simple and there’s no workaround for it. And I just don’t want to take time from other things, to travel, and do that. Now, the times I have gone somewhere to photograph landscapes in the last few years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. So I know I still love landscapes. But it is time consuming and something I just don’t make time for.

For decades I was jealous of people that lived in great landscape locations (which Florida is definitely not). But now I get to live that part of photography life with bird photography. Within an hour of where I live, we have several world class bird photography locations, and that requires me to travel less since I can just hop in my car and get some amazing photos.

So what does all this mean? Who knows? I don’t plan on changing anything as I’m very happy with where I’m at. But things change, people change, and I have no idea what I’ll be writing about this 10 years from now 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

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