Top Photos Of The Decade, 2009-2019

The last decade has seen huge changes in camera technology and over the years, I moved with those changes embracing the latest technology.  I shot with ‘pro level’ cameras for over 20 years, but over the past decade, started looking around for something with more soul.  Some talk about the end of traditional photography in favor of smartphones, and while modern smartphones are capable of beautiful imagery, I was surprised that none of the photos I made with a smartphone made the cut for favorite photos of the decade.  Smart phone cameras are becoming phenomenal imaging systems and I have some truly favorite images that have been made with them that appear in previous Top Photos Of The Year collections, but they don’t yet generate images that have “soul” for me.

While traditional cameras too, have become more technologically advanced, manufacturers push the boundaries by adding more bells and whistles, and subsequently, more complexity.  Certainly there is a market for that, but I found myself over this decade going back to the basics with simple cameras that have simple interfaces, manual apertures, and manual focus lenses. It slows me down in all the right ways and leads to a level of satisfaction that I never got with the 14-FPS, incredibly impressive, almost prescient autofocus super-cameras.  That is where the “soul” lives for me I suppose.  The ability for intimacy with a scene, person, place, or event.  The “feeling” of being there and getting a flavor for what or who that image represents.

There are 10 images in my favorite images of the decade presented here, and 4 of them were made with cameras that used auto-focus.  The other 6 were made with manual focus lenses that allowed me to slow down enough to appreciate the scene and compose focus, framing and exposure to something that was more satisfying to me.  Granted, pretty much all cameras being sold these days are exceptional imaging systems that will let you make great images, but the best camera for me at least, is the one I am most comfortable with, and that is moving in the direction of simplicity.

The selected images are also notable in that more than half of them were made with 35mm or 35mm lens equivalents. One image was made with a 10mm hyper-wide angle lens, one image with a 50mm lens and two with zoom lenses at 140mm and 1200mm equivalents.  35mm is the natural lens with which I see the world photographically speaking, and that is reflected in these images.

This decade also saw me moving away from pure color photography and in the direction of black and white to better understand how light works for composition in the absence of color information.  When Leica came out with their black and white only Monochrom camera, I did not understand… and unfortunately, like most things we don’t understand, I made fun of the concept of buying a digital camera that *only* shot black and white images.  However, that camera has become one of my very most favorite cameras ever, and it shot a stunning to me, half of the images chosen for my best of the decade.  It’s crazy to think that a camera could change my life, but the Leica Monochrom clearly has.

So, without further ado, I give you… My favorite photographs from the past decade, and a little explanation for why.


Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/8
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 5000

This image was made in the Peloponnese of my friend Katherine on a warm Greek night as we were heading back to our rooms for the night.  We were all marveling at the beauty of the moon, Katherine gestured, and everything came together.  I had been reading Homer, and asked Katherine to hold the pose for a moment, and this is the image that emerged.



Camera: Canon 1D X
Exposure: 1/400
Aperture: f/2.2
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 100

This image from a trip to Havana, Cuba was made on an afternoon walk that my friend Duncan and I took in search of light.  The sun was starting to set and we had just walked up from the Malecón along Paseo de Marti when the light started to get amazing, and we decided to sit and wait for something to happen.  As we looked West along Virtudes street, the road channeled the sunlight up towards us with an amazing gold color.  The specular highlights on balconies highlight the vanishing lines down the street and backlight the kid playing ball in the middle of the road set up the background for this layered shot and slice of life in Havana.



Camera: Fuji X-Pro1
Exposure: 1/900
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent)
ISO: 1,600

This image of a Carcharhinus melanopterus in 2015 was a reminder for me to look up more, and get me back to thinking about photography as something that happens all around us… Not just in the flat 2D plane where we spend most of our attention.  One of my first photographic jobs was doing aerial photography from the back of a plane, and we looked down for all of that.  When digital cameras came around, I started paying attention to that flat plane around us, and lost sight of the concept that images happen all around us in a 360 degree sphere.


Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/220
Aperture: f/8
Focal Length: 140mm  (210mm full frame equivalent)
ISO: 200

This image is the only image in this collection that was made with a telephoto lens.  I was walking down the street in Chicago, looking for lunch when this scene presented  itself with light and layers upon layers of things and people.  The original image was in color, but desaturating the image lets the quality of light and depth speak louder, telling a story of a time and a place, and rendering the “feel” of a large city center.


Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/750
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 3,200

This is perhaps, one of my favorite images ever, made inside the Louvre of H in the room with the Mona Lisa.  The time I had been to see the Mona Lisa before, I was the only person in the room and was planning on that being the experience for H as it was her first time seeing the painting.  However, the Louvre was crowded, and as we turned the corner to enter the room, it was standing room only…  It was incredibly, almost unbelievably crowded and rather than struggle to the front to see it, we stayed in the middle to simply take in the moment.  At some point, I turned around and fought my way back a few feet to capture H sending her sister a text saying she was “admiring the Mona Lisa with 65,000 of our fellow humans”.  The woman peeking out from behind H made the image complete along with the layers of faces and the painting against the wall at the back, of more people stretching off into the plane of the wall.


Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/45
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 6,400

This image of my friend Jason Snyder was made in Washington, D.C., outside the National Geographic headquarters at I think, 1 am.  It was cold, and we were walking around talking neuroscience, life, religion, photography, society, and politics when this scene presented itself, and I knew that the portrait had to be made.  This image was a lesson to me that I need to remember, that portraits can be powerful things when layers are implemented.


Camera: Leica SL
Exposure: 1/15
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 10mm
ISO: 800

This image was made last year of the Ely Cathedral.  I have been experimenting with wide angle lenses which typically have quite a bit of distortion.  however, have found a Voightlander 10mm hyper wide lens that I have been hoping could help capture the sense of space in an image.  Ely Cathedral is an early pre-Norman construction, and this was one of those moments where you walk into a space and immediately feel grateful for the effort made to see it.  This is also a reminder to me that while the plane of focus on such wide angle lenses is practically infinite, there are still layers to master, along with many other technical details inherent in such wide angle lenses.


Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/1500
Aperture: f/1.7
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 3,200

I love this image made back in 2016 for nothing more than it is a proper portrait, made quite informally at a local coffee shop in Salt Lake City of a good friend as he was scheming the next phase of his life.


Camera: Leica Monochrom
Exposure: 1/8
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 4,000

The image was an opportunistic shot made in Berlin, Germany on a nighttime walk with friends.  I love this image for the abstract, yet very real quality of a moment in time.


Camera: Fuji X-Pro2
Exposure: 1/240
Aperture: f/14
Focal Length: ~400mm (~600mm equivalent) Fuji 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with Fuji 2.0x extender (~1200mm equivalent).
ISO: 400

This image, for me was one of the most remarkable of the decade for so many reasons. The event was awe-inspiring… effectively, a spiritual experience as you realize the dance of the universe around us.  This image almost did not get made as I stood absolutely gobsmacked at what was unfolding around us and H says to me… “I thought you were going to photograph this”.  I panicked and got off a few shots including this one just as totality was ending, and the sun started appearing over the mountains of the moon.

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