Top Photos Of 2020

Wow… What is there to say about 2020?  What an awful year.  What a long year.  What a long, awful year.

It’s funny because I remember when I was 10 (1980), attributing much import to the years 2000 and 2020 because those dates seemed so momentous… The turn of the century, twenty years into the future, and twenty years after that seemed like a good representation of what was to come, and I was so optimistic.  In retrospect, 2000 was pretty awful for a whole lot of reasons, and 2020 is well… 2020. So much unnecessary pain, suffering, and death this year.

Our world was convulsed with social unrest, violence, racism, incompetent leadership, unprecedented corruption of the highest office in the land in America, earthquakes, horrible wildfires in multiple places around the globe, and a global pandemic made worse through failed leadership in a number of countries. Pandemics are by their very nature, possible every year given the realities of biology, but this pandemic did not have to be this bad.

So, as I sit here in the waning hours of 2019, writing my summary of the year in photographs and selecting my favorite images, I am realizing what a small world this year has been for me.  It has not been unproductive.  But it has been hugely challenging from personal and professional perspectives.  Professionally, I am at the top of my game.  The lab is well funded, post-docs are on their way towards becoming faculty which fills me with joy. Undergraduates are making progress and contributing to the science in the lab.  We have a computer science grad student working with the lab now, and a couple of new grad students starting with us in the New Year, one from neuroscience and one from computer science.  However, while everything is going well, the exhaustion of this past year have left me wondering what I am doing.  Will we be able to catch up on the specific aims for our grants?  Will I be able to renew our remodeling grant?  Will IT issues continue to complicate my life in 2021?

I had so many plans for 2020. I had plans to go to Portugal, California, Maryland, Italy, Argentina/Chile, Sweden, Finland, and Germany in 2020.  Portugal was going to be a trip with dear friends. California was going to be for science and to visit with some other dear friends. Italy was going to be about delivering a talk and doing some consulting in Pisa, followed by the celebration of a dear friends 50th birthday in Rome. Argentina/Chile was supposed to be for a scientific meeting and visiting with friends and colleagues.  Sweden was supposed to be about a scientific collaboration with friends and colleagues, and visiting with other friends.  Finland was supposed to be for a scientific conference.  Germany was supposed to be a combination of visiting with dear friends and giving a scientific talk.  Needless to say, none of that happened and I have not flown anywhere for 9 months.  On the upside, my carbon footprint has been waaaaay smaller this year.

The year started with one of my very most favorite events ORDCamp, where I learn from wonderful people, get to visit with some of the most wonderfully human people in my life, and charge up for the year to come.  I updated some of my old compute infrastructure at work while starting the struggle with new IT initiatives at the University of Utah that would prove to be an incredible tax on time and resources throughout the entire year.  We started capturing a new connectome that will serve as a database to be mined for a decade or more.  We said goodbye to an enormously talented technician who is now off to graduate school.  We welcomed a new technician who has been such a breath of fresh air, eagerness and progress.  I am so grateful for her.  My last trip of the year was back in March to visit colleagues at West Virginia University, deliver a talk, and start a collaboration.  We published a *bunch* of manuscripts this year, and while I had been tracking and doing some basic modeling of the COVID-19 epidemic starting in January, by the first week of March, I realized it was in our local community and I took the (then aggressive) step of shutting the lab down.  Reading through that post seems both prescient at the time and infuriating because of the completely incompetent response.  2020 was the year I turned 50.  In August, we got a new NSF grant. And in October, we lost one of the best human beings to have walked the earth.  And Glory Be, in November this country voted to bring adults back into the White House.

I am grateful for those around me, physically and virtually.  I am thankful for the humanity of all my friends and family who share our world with compassion and empathy.

As to the images of the year…  They are dominated by photos made in the first part of the year of people… The last time I was able to be close to human beings who have all worked to make this world a bit safer, a bit more interesting, a bit more compassionate, and a bit more just.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/50
Aperture: f2.8
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 200

I was pleased as could be that my friend David Hobby @strobist was able to join me and around 400 friends for the ORDCamp meeting in Chicago back in January. We made plans that fell apart because of the pandemic, but… we’ll make them happen.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/400
Aperture: f1.4
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 1,600

DeRay Mckesson @deray and I had a chance to sit down in January, and get aquainted.  Chatting about his growing up in Baltimore and his subsequent civil rights work, and my work in vision research was a riot that I hope we’ll get a chance to do again.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/160
Aperture: f1.4
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 800

My friend Anna Galland @annagalland and I had a quick moment to sit dowd and catch up earlier this year.  Anna is one of those rare people who is able to navigate difficult political issues and help organize people around a united front.  Thank you Anna.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/320
Aperture: f2.8
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 200

My friend, USMC Maj. Eileen Donovan @ECDonovan01 is one of the phenomenal people that I just immediately clicked with.  This world is better, funnier, and safer because of Eileen.

 

Camera: Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Exposure: 1/9524
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 15mm equivalent
ISO: 25

This was one of those days where you look up, and *run* to the nearest object that will give you some contrast with what is going on in the sky.  I looked out my office window, dropped everything and ran the half mile to the Legacy Bridge on campus to capture this image.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/400
Aperture: f4
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 800

My friend Rick Klau @rklau and I had a chance to catch up over breakfast in Chicago and talked about a monumental change for him that was coming.  I’m always grateful for the opportunity to catch up with people like Rick.  His insight into technology, society, politics, and equal representation helps to make this world a better place.  Thanks Rick.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/80
Aperture: f2
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 800

Marcin is one of those incredibly valuable individuals who has strong passions about design and typography, and makes this world that much more interesting through his observations and insights.

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/6
Aperture: f/16
Focal Length: 65mm
ISO: 100

This was almost my complete and total image of the year for 2020.  Because, right?

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/15 sec.
Aperture: f/5
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 1,600

I sat down with my friend and colleague, Ning Tian to get a formal portrait for Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), an organization that helps to fund vision research and works to find therapies to treat and prevent blindness.  This was effectively my only chance to get a formal portrait of someone after the pandemic really took hold.  We practiced safe protocols in the making of this image.

 

Camera: Leica M9
Exposure: 1/250
Aperture: f/8
Focal Length: 18mm
ISO: 160

Image was made on Thanksgiving of this year, as H and I took a walk around Sugarhouse Park.  What a strange, truly weird year.

 

Camera: Canon 1D Mk III
Exposure: 1/15
Camera connected to an Olympus SZX16 Stereomicroscope.
ISO: 400

This image from a human patient with age-related macular degeneration struck me as having an almost dutch grand master color palette.  I’m not sure why it spoke to me the way it did…

 

Camera: Leica SL2
Exposure: 1/250
Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 35mm
ISO: 2,000

This was the cover of the Salt Lake Tribune the Sunday morning after the national election.  What an enormous relief that was, and despite the ongoing pandemic, those results gave me, as well as many others on this planet, life.

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