As we navigate the holidays that bring us to the END of 2023, I find myself reflecting on projects throughout the year. What better way to reflect than to reminisce on my favorite and most challenging shots.
We have made a large push on our stock photography and videography portfolios this year, scaling our collection of media online from around 10,000 to over 18,000 (and with 7,000 more in processing still!). Many of those came from traveling all around the midwest and beyond with a focus on capturing a variety of landscape, architecture, and detail/abstract shots that potential customers might be interested in.
We officially booked 40 days of travel this year across 9 different trips, from Indiana / Ohio / Kentucky / Michigan to Wisconsin, California, and ALL the way out to the Bahamas. It has been a lot of fun devoting more time to travel photography and also rewarding to see the results of that labor in our stock media sales.
I am excited to announce we have developed a unique system using Open AI that allows for intelligent yet efficient bulk processing of stock image titles, captions, and keywords. A process that might have taken 4 hours before for 100 images now takes roughly 30 minutes! That extra time frees me up for even MORE travel into 2024, so be ready!
But I now ramble. Let’s get back to the matter at hand - my personal top 20 favorite and/or most challenging shots of 2023.
Downtown Indianapolis by drone at sunset, another standard challenge of waiting for the perfect cloud coverage and planning ahead for the best spot to go.
Similar to the paint/oil/milk project, this one uses skittles and water to pull their color out and create these rainbow colors. It happens very slowly but eventually extracts all the dye from the skittles.
Not so much a challenge but one of my favorite aerials. Taken in Chicago, I got lucky that this image also captured a flock of birds, and I love the shadow of the people on the beach giving perspective - made possible by shooting in the early morning.
Ann Arbor Downtown
Night shots of course present the standard “bring your tripod” challenge to get the best results - OF which I forgot to have on me in this Ann Arbor, Michigan shot. Nonetheless, we prevail with higher ISO and make do. This one isn’t so much a challenge as much as I enjoyed the result and having timed it with the blue hour.
San Francisco Hyde Street Pier
Just after sunset on Hyde Pier in San Francisco, the clouds parted beautifully to reveal a golden glow over the horizon. I had to hurry to capture this brief moment in time. Good to always have your camera on you!
Botanical Garden Butterfly
Fast moving subjects like butterflies require much patience to get the right shot but a few hundred shots and you may fall in love with a few.
CD Rainbow Drops
Using a CD misted with water drops, lit only by a small lighter - this image requires a tripod in a dark setting and a lot of coordination to get the lighter to hit the right angle with the camera lens to capture this rainbow effect. Additionally, it often required multiple image composites to fill in the entire frame with the rainbow.
San Francisco Night
After extensive research, I found the perfect road in San Francisco to view straight down to one of their tallest buildings. I came here at daytime as well, but very much enjoyed the night vibe.
Another drone-zoom feature, this time with the moon!
I made an effort to photograph all surrounding smaller cities and I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Columbia City Courthouse has a stunning brick alley that lines up with it perfectly.
The Painted Ladies
‘The Painted Ladies’ of San Francisco are an iconic set of homes by Alamo Square Park that feature downtown in the background. It creates a stunning juxtaposition of homes and greenery to the large skyscrappers. Photoshop was the burden here. Not only did I wait patiently for the right sky and weather, but then I was faced with a very crowded area. A combination of multiple tripod exposures would help to remove people, but alas I chose the path of pain - using Adobe Generative Fill to slowly remove everyone.
Country Heritage Winery Sunflowers
The challenge here was more or less about timing. Sunflowers peak in a very narrow window, so being able to get these shots took frequent visits every other day as they started to bloom, waiting for them to be ready.
Aerial Radio Tower Sun
Our new drone, the Mavic 3 Pro, features a secondary zoom lens and I’ll admit - I’m obsessed. It allows for creative shots like this! That being said, planning around sunsets and clear skies always presents a challenge. Additionally, getting the drone to hold perfectly still with a zoom at JUST this spot took a bit of time.
Acrylic And Milk
This particular project required much patience and experimentation. Using acrylic paints, oils, and milk, you can create macro worlds - after a few dozen attempts!
Golden Gate Beach
Taking the bus around San Francisco, I spotted this beach building and immediately envisioned this composition. Getting there, on the other hand, was a different conversation. It took a bit of navigating, hiking, and sandy beach walks to get here.
Trolley San Francisco
Last, this trolley in San Francisco is an iconic photography spot, only made possible by using a telephoto lens. While I had known roughly where to go, it did take some time and patience to find the exact best spot to stand from to get this shot - compressing the bridge in the background to be prominent with the trolley.
In downtown Louisville, flying a drone at night provided some logistical issues (ensuring you have all the correct equipment and licensing as well as a secondary pair of eyes to monitor the drone). But, all of that effort allots for stunning city shots like this!
Chicago Night Trains
From the archives of the internet, a fellow photographer from Chicago gave some location tips for lesser known photography spots. This particular shot is taken from a parking garage and makes for a fantastic long-exposure of their transportation system.
Ohio Wind Turbines
Ok, ANOTHER drone-zoom, but this one I absolutely love as it really makes you see how large these wind turbines are. The zoom lens made this possible because of the obvious fact that you don’t want to fly your drone right up to these beasts. The cherry on top? Sunset!
Rose Island near Louisville was on my travel bucket list for some time, almost entirely for this shot. I absolutely love lining up this super symmetrical composition and pairing that with the abandoned structures was perfect. This is a great example of perseverance - I saw it online, and I knew SOME day I’d capture it.
With that, here’s to 2023 and looking forward to another year of travel adventures! In the wise words of my wife, Sarah-Maree, “May your adventures be many and your inspiration be endless”.