Top Photos of 2014

Best photos 2014_

One of the things I wanted to do in 2014 was have experiences where I engaged completely in photography for several days in a row as it tends to up the number of “keepers” or photographs I am happy with by year end.  I made this resolution last year after reviewing photographs for the year and finding that the majority of images I was happy with came from a single trip focused entirely on photography and experiencing a new place, Cuba.  Unfortunately, this was only managed once this year on a trip to Janelia Farm.  Though as expected, 4 out of the 11 images that made it to my favorites list this year came from Janelia Farm.  Having the time to reflect and think about how light behaves in a place and to plan out your photograph and pre-visualize it is important.  Alternatively, having the ability to focus entirely on the matter at hand without other distractions really is like a vacation of sorts from what typically occupies most of my trips or opportunities.  Yes, I am passionate about photography, but science and the day job takes precedence.

In terms of hardware, it was interesting looking at this years collection of images compared with last year and seeing that I’ve used the big, traditional SLR cameras in my workflow much less than the new mirrorless, Fuji cameras.  This year vs. last year is almost inversely proportional as most of the work I was happiest with last year came from the Canon 1DX while this year, most came from the Fuji cameras.  Right now, most of what I use the Canon cameras for is flash based photography.  I imagine as Fuji invests more resources into flashes for their camera systems, unless Canon can do something to address the mirrorless market, I might migrate completely to Fuji for all applications.  Interestingly, while two of my favorite photos last year came from the iPhone, there are no iPhone photographs this year.  Instead they came from an amazing little point and shoot camera, the Sony RX100 III.  I hate what Sony has done with respect to trying to lock you into their software ecosystem with the camera, but it is a nice imaging device.  Finally, another mirrorless camera is represented this year in the form of a Leica M9-P that I’ve been exploring portrait photography with.  The jury is still out on that experiment, and while there is a certain “look” to the imagery that uniquely identifies images as coming from a Leica CCD based camera that I really like.  The question of whether it is worth the money is another one entirely.  Let’s just say the market will decide on that, but even the old Fuji X-Pro1 is a far better camera in so many respects.  I can’t wait to see what the X-Pro 2 looks like.



Jun Yang2_700_BW

This portrait of my colleague, Jun Yang is one of my favorite scientific portrait images and came together with 3 light sources (4 if you count the window).  Mixing different light sources in laboratory environments can be a nightmare (fluorescent, tungsten, xenon, sunlight and LED sources), so the trick is to take a reductionist perspective and then build up the light that you want selectively.

Camera: Canon 1D X
Exposure: 1/250
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 28mm
ISO: 1,250
Strobed from 2 light sources


House Finch

This male house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) was seen on a beautiful early spring day in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He was quite comfortable as I walked up to him and snapped his portrait in gorgeous morning light.  The optics from Fuji for their mirrorless cameras are amazing making the Fuji cameras ideal for birding.  Because of the diversity of wonderful autofocus zoom lenses that have prime levels of sharpness, shooting with mirrorless cameras that are much quieter than traditional SLR cameras with flappy mirrors, this has become my new birding solution.  I cannot wait for that super telephoto lens from Fuji coming out in 2015.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/500
Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 200mm (300mm full frame equivalent)
ISO: 1,600



Janelia Farm_

This photo was made on a visit to Janelia Farm where i was giving a talk.  The weather last year back East was volatile and this view of the small lake a couple days before a late winter/early spring storm rolled through captured that sense of stillness.  I did not have a tripod with me to make long exposures, so I propped the camera up on a jacket and a meeting booklet to get this shot.  There was a high overcast that night that reflected the light of Washington D.C. 40 miles away and the surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland.  I find that I’m making many more long exposure photographs with mirrorless cameras than with traditional DSLRs because there is less vibration associated with the mirrorless designs.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 8.5 sec.
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent)
ISO: 800



Crossing the Potomac to Selden Island

This was another image made at Janelia Farm on a return visit later in the year after the trees leafed out.  It was also my first experiment with the Fuji X-mount system and infrared photography.  I had not planned on making this shot, but as soon as we crossed the Potomac to Selden Island, I knew that the dark, still water would be just the foil for the new leaves and broken sky.  It was everything I had hoped for when seeing it pop up on the screen.  Fuji does have an IR filter on top of the X-trans sensor, but a fair amount of IR energy gets through to the sensor.  You just have to make longer exposures.  It would be interesting if Fuji offered a version of the camera without the IR filter on the imaging chip, specifically for IR photography and astrophotography.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 12 sec.
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 14mm (23mm full frame equivalent)
ISO: 800
Filter: B+W 093 Infrared Filter, >830nm bandpass.


Janelia Farm House Star Trails

This image was one I had pre-visualized before coming out to visit by using Star Walk to see where Polaris would be from this particular location.  I had hoped for more stars being visible, but the surrounding light pollution from all the metropolitan areas essentially wiped most of them from the sky.  This was actually an image composite of two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground with the farm house.  The night was wonderfully still and I had hoped for fireflies, but we were about two weeks too late.  Normally the farm house is brightly lit from inside, but the folks at Janelia were kind enough to get them turned out for me for this image.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: Sequential 3 minute exposures, stacked to create star trails, plus one 90 second exposure for foreground.
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 14mm
ISO: 200


Janelia Farm In The Rain

This image of the main Janelia Farm building was a 4.5 sec exposure made in the misting rain with Fuji’s 10-24 zoom lens which makes for a really spectacular architectural lens.  I was honestly a little afraid that all the rain would bork the camera or lens, but it turned out to be perfectly OK.  I had planned for this image beforehand, and considered not making it given the rain, but in retrospect, the rain made for a more dramatic image complete with the red “Nessie” sculpture on the right.  This image was the intro image to a photoessay on the building infrastructure behind the building which was a really neat behind the scenes tour of an impressive building.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 4.5 seconds
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 10mm
ISO: 200


July 2014 Supermoon

2014 was the year of supermoons.  I have made many images of the moon including some previous supermoon images and another moon image against a black sky simply would not have evoked the feeling I was hoping for.  Its hard to make layered astrophotographic images, but using the Earth as a foreground helped to evoke some of the sense of size and mystery of the moon.  This image was made just as the moon was rising above the mountains on the Wasatch Front with a Fuji X-T1 connected to a spotting scope from my back yard.

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/125
Aperture: f/12
Focal Length: 1000mm
ISO: 500


Praying Mantis face 3

I really wished there were more time to explore macro photography as it is tremendously fun.  This image of a praying mantis was made at the height of summer in the back yard with a surprisingly willing participant who I followed as it moved from the garden to the other side of the yard.  The Canon EF 100mm Macro f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a remarkably good macro lens with amazing levels of sharpness and autofocus speed.  That lens combined with a ring flash makes for a really nice macro solution.

Camera: Canon 1D X
Exposure: 1/40
Aperture: f/10
Focal Length: 100mm
ISO: 100
Flash: Ring Flash


Ethan Hudson Peterson B_W

This image of Ethan Hudson Peterson was made with the Leica M9 and nicely shows the quality of image that comes from the Leica CCD type cameras.  There is much to be frustrated with about the Leica experience, but when its right, it is sooo right.  The combination of razor sharp focus and out of focus bokeh uniquely identifies images captured with the Leica.  There is a “feel” to them that screams “Leica”.

Camera: Leica M9
Exposure: 1/125
Aperture: f/2.0
Focal Length: 28mm
ISO: 800


James Duncan Davidson_

There are more than a few images of Duncan on this blog, but this one is raw and I liked the posture and attitude of this one, made in an elevator in his apartment building in Berlin.  The light was from the elevator and directly above, but it works.   I had made several images before in the previous day in the same elevator, but they just did not work the way this one did.  There was simply something about that setting that I had to keep coming back to before I was happy with this image.

Camera: Leica M9
Exposure: 1/15
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 200



This image was made on a very quick trip to Portland, Oregon.  Since the trip was very fast and focused, I elected to only bring with me a small point and shoot camera, the Sony RX-100 III.  This trip effectively resulted in a review of the camera which, for the most part I’ve been remarkably happy with.  As mentioned above, Sony’s attempt to lock people into a software market is irritating, but for a point and shoot camera, the images from it are insanely good.  This particular shot of leaves was simply a set of leaves in the street, but I loved the subtle colors and forms presented in a most transient fashion.  5 minutes later, these leaves had blown down the street and the scene was forever gone.

Camera: Sony RX100 III
Exposure: 1/250
Aperture: f/1.8
Focal Length: 24mm
ISO: 125



This final image in my list of favorites for the year was made in November.  I had been experimenting with various ways of photographing the sun without resorting to H-alpha filters or anything insanely expensive.  Instead, this image of one of the largest sunspots in a while was made with an inexpensive Glass Solar Filter which preserved far more detail than I’d seen when shooting them with a polymer filter,

Camera: Sony RX100 III
Exposure: 1/250
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: ~ 1200mm equivalent with 70mm zoom + 700mm spotting scope
ISO: 125
Orion ID Full Aperture Glass Solar Filter

8 Replies to “Top Photos of 2014”

  1. Wow, fantastic photos as usual. Much more muted palette than your 2013 photos and wonder if that reflects something about this year or is maybe just an artifact of what you said about most of your 2013 ones being from your Cuba trip. My favorite was the leaves. I thought the upper right shadow was a curb but saw in your RX100 review that it was lens cover vignetting! Bummer in some ways but adds a little bit of mystery otherwise. Next for me would be the Janelia Farm lake (and wondering if you made a version where you photoshopped out that white object in the near center; curious if that “improved” it or made it somehow “duller” or somehow changed the feeling of it, I don’t know–and I don’t mean to suggest any unnatural horrors of pixel alteration, just wondering if that bit of white offsets the dead-centeredness of that main tree to give it that frisson of tension that it has underneath the quietude, at least for me; I can’t figure it out). Then probably the IR one but difficult to choose. Thanks for posting them!

    1. Hey Rene’,

      Thanks for the comments.

      Yeah, it is a bit more muted this year and perhaps that reflected how difficult this year has been in many ways. I’ve been fortunate so far in science, but its getting harder… for sure. Seems like we are constantly hustling for research funds and spending less time doing the actual work which is disappointing.

      I did not make a version where I photoshopped out the large, white, sleeping bird. I considered it briefly, but then decided to keep it in to preserve the fidelity of the moment. Besides, the bird was sleeping which kinda made the moment for me.

      Thanks for dropping by!

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