Alignment VI

Alignment VI

Alignment X

Alignment X

Alignment XXIII

Alignment XXIII

Alignment XXII

Alignment XXII

Alignment XXVIII

Alignment XXVIII

006_20150913_GRNnordvestfiord_0371-Edit-1

Constellation XV

Constellation_XIV

Constellation XIV

009_Greenland1

Untitled

008_Greenland2

Untitled

20141119_AFRskeletoncoast_0002-Edit-1_425

Illumination XXIV

20141103_AFRsosssusvlei_0117-Edit-2_425

Illumination XXXV

This is a selection of my top 12 images of 2015. This selection doesn’t reflect sales, publication, or activities on the web. It simply reflects my opinion. Click on the titles to find out more about each image.

Geography
My obsession continued with places defined by water (either an abundance of it or a lack of it) in the polar-regions of Greenland and Iceland and in the deserts (an absence of water, yet often shaped by waters long gone) of Namibia, Argentina, and California.

Process
Half the images I released in 2015 were exposed in other years. Several of the other images were processed on location or the day they were exposed. I date “straight” shots based on the date they were exposed and composites on the date they are completed.

Concepts
There were several new twists on old subjects and themes: amid sensual dunes multiple moments / perspectives became conjoined; levitating stones became ice; below reflective water surfaces instead of closer details full landscapes are seen; seeing through things to what lies behind them shifted from skies to landscapes.

Magnificent Moment
Once again, flying over the 1,500 foot coral dunes of Sossusvlei for more than an hour was simply divine, especially when coupled with the hours spent walking its shifting surfaces in constantly changing light.

It’s challenging to choose so few images from so many – but it’s insightful. Try selecting your own top 12 images. Try selecting the top 12 images of your favorite artist(s).

View more of my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

View more images in my ebooks here.

View my full Works here.

View my Series videos here.

View new images in my newsletter Collectors Alert.

Top12_2012

View my Top Images Of 2012 here.

Photographer Paul Strand said, “Your photography is a record of your living for anyone who really sees.” How do you see your photography? Where? How often? What ways? Why?

Performing an annual review of your images is one way to see your photography over and through time. When you do this, it’s useful to make a record of your observations. Consider both the selection of images and the observations you make about your selection a journal. It’s one of many different kinds of journals I keep. Like a journal, to get the maximum benefit, you need to make multiple entries at different times. The frequency with which you do this is up to you. I find I get the most out of this exercise when I do it annually.

An annual review or your images is useful in so many ways. It brings you more clarity. It helps you see what you accomplished. It shows you what is missing or left undone. It reveals new possibilities. It gives you more choices. It helps you set goals for the future. It increases productivity. It leads to greater fulfillment. While it takes discipline and effort to do, the results it produces feel great.

Annual reviews are not a waste of time. Quite the opposite, annual reviews help you spend the limited time you have before you more effectively. Annual reviews can even drive you to greater productivity. Knowing that you’ve got one coming up you may start working earlier, chart your progress over time towards a goal, and/or make a last minute sprint to the finish line to achieve your vision of success.

Record Your Observations In The Right Form

What’s the right form to record your observations in? The one you’ll use the most often. You could use someone else’s system or come up with a complex system of your own, but if it’s not practical and meaningful you won’t use it, so you might as well not have it. Remember what Albert Einstein said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

You could keep this process as simple as making a selection of images. Create a collection in Lightroom for fast access and flexible updating. And/or print out thumbnails for durable record that can be displayed for as long as you like. If you want to share your selection with others consider making a blog post, an ebook, or a print on demand book. Giving these types of activities a social dimension can encourage us to maintain them. Sometimes we get valuable feedback when other people see our selections. When, where, and how much you share is entirely up to you.

This process becomes even more valuable when you use words to state the reasons for your selections (inclusion and exclusion) and your observations about your new collections on their own and in comparison to past collections. In this way, what starts intuitively becomes clearer and more actionable, something you can use not just feel.

There are many ways you can record your observations video, audio, and writing. It might be fascinating to look back at and hear your younger self at some future date. Still, for quick retrieval of information, I find nothing beats text, especially when it’s flexible digital text. You can even use the search function to find an item quickly or to find connections between different items.

After you make your selections of and comments about new images, look back at your past selections and comments. The comparisons and contrasts you make between years can be very revealing. Doing this can reveal much more than a personal history of events. Looking back at past successes can reveal changes in level of skill, consistency of results, frequency of experimentation, clarity of vision, development of style, changes in subject matter and theme, shifts in goals and your definition of success, new opportunities, and so much more. In short, it can show you how your vision has developed, where you are now, and where you are most likely to go next.

Missed a few years? While your current perspective will never be the same as your past perspective, it’s never to late to create these kinds of collections. You may find that you will want to revise past selections and make new comments. Keep your old selections and comments for comparison at a later date, either in the same or in a separate location.

Find The Right Images 

Select only your best images. What’s best? That depends on what you’re trying to do with your images. While it can be useful to select images based on what gets a strong reaction from other people, that’s only one kind of selection that offers specific kinds of insights. There are many others. Make time and space for yourself. Define what success means to you before you start your selection process. How you define success will change your results. Remember. It’s your process. They’re your images. You’re doing this review for yourself.

The collections you create from annual reviews are often very different than the collections of images you make to develop a project. When performing annual reviews the images you select tends to be more varied and divergent, share fewer similarities, and contain little or no flow between them. You see core qualities but lose the narrative arc that drives your story forward or the connective tissue that makes it hang together. Subtler, more complex, sometimes contradictory or not fully resolved elements are often eliminated. Often, significant details are lost in this mix. The bigger picture may become clearer.

Select The Right Number Of Images

A very different kind of benefit is gained by looking at all of your images simultaneously. When you become more selective, you cut right to what’s essential. Limitations become useful. I recommend you select your top image (The apex is the bottom.), your top two or three images (Create a generative tension.), and your top twelve images (Confirm your vision and style.). (Read more about this in The Benefits Of Selecting Your Top Images.) There’s nothing special about the number twelve. With fewer than twelve images it becomes more challenging to fully see both the variety and the connections within images. If you choose more than twelve images make sure you don’t set the number so high that you can no longer see the larger patterns at work in your images.

Ask The Right Questions

They say that ninety percent of a solution lies in asking the right questions in the right ways. Not sure where to start? Get the ball rolling with these questions. Are there frequent technical deficiencies you’d like to correct? Are there past technical deficiencies you have corrected? Of all the new skills you’d like to acquire, which would be the most beneficial to invest your time in now? What kinds of images were produced? What common qualities do they share? What would you like to do more of? What project(s) would benefit from more sustained attention? What’s the easiest project to complete? What’s the most important project to complete? What haven’t you done yet? What missing? From these images, how many directions could you go in? How would you rate your overall progress? How would you rate your overall progress technically, compositionally, narratively, emotionally, and conceptually?

While there are some classic questions that we would all benefit from answering, only you can determine what the most useful questions are because only you know your true goals. It’s a healthy sign when you find that you need to ask other questions that are unique to you and your images. Engage the process of asking useful questions fully and repeatedly you will be guaranteed to make important discoveries.

When it comes to answering the questions you ask, remember that in this arena your audience is you. Use the language that you think the most fluidly in and the words that mean the most to you. Do challenge yourself to go deeper and achieve greater clarity. (Exactly what does that mean – to me?) Don’t censor yourself and don’t change your answers to please someone else. How much you choose to share with others in completely up to you. Do it if it’s useful. Don’t do it if it’s not.

Conclusion

Things change over time. So do we. And, so do our images. Nothing else records the change itself like a journal. Records of how our images change (and don’t change) can offer us (and others) valuable insights into both our creative lives and ourselves. Most importantly, we can learn from our past to make our future more like the life we want to live.

Read more on Creative Planning here.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.

Top12_2011_425

View my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

When asked, “How many good images do you make in a year?”, Ansel Adams replied, “Twelve good images in a year is a good crop.” Imogene Cunningham responded, “One in a lifetime.” Both perspectives are useful.

We all make a lot of photographs. Selecting the few that are worth developing and sharing is an essential skill. Choosing what to show and what not to show, we train our eye, connect with what’s most important to us, and develop our visual voice.

We edit our images with increasing degrees of focus; generally for all the images we make, more specifically for certain spans of time, and even more particularly for a few chosen subjects or themes. From the thousands (sometimes tens or even hundreds of thousands) of images we make, we select hundreds and finally dozens to focus our attention on.

Reviewing what we have created offers us an opportunity to revisit the events of the past and see them from a new perspective, savoring all they have to offer us and possibly what we missed. Selecting only a chosen few of our creations to collect, highlight, and often share, offers us opportunities to reflect upon and interpret our experiences and gain the strength that comes from the discipline of courageously committing to our vision.

To gain the maximum benefits from this process of selection, we can choose to be even more selective and identify even fewer of our most important images. To do this, we must ask ourselves vital questions, which become rich wellsprings of personal insight.

Take it to an extreme. Identify your top one image, two images, and twelve images. Do this for a lifetime, each year, and specific projects. Make this a habit; revisit it annually.

While the order you answer these questions and the time period you give yourself to answer them will influence your outcome, ultimately it doesn’t matter in what order you do this or how long you take, as long as you arrive at your personal answers. The vast majority of people never ask these questions, much less answer them. Be exceptional. Ask these essential questions and find your answers. In time, you will find that you will get better and more fulfilling results from all of your creative efforts.

Identify Your Best Image

Identify your best image – the one image that you feel is most successful at achieving what you want to achieve with your images. When you have finally selected this one most important image, ask yourself, “Why this image?” and, “Why not that one?” Doing this will help you identify your key core values and desired outcomes. There’s usually so much richness in this one image that it’s likely that you will need to ask this question many times over a significant span of time. Once you have begun to find your answers (Feedback from others can be helpful, just remember your answers count most.), ask a few follow up questions, “How many things can I do to make more images like this?” and “How many things can I do to make even better work?”

Finding this one image can be important for other people as well as yourself. When discussing the work of artists, people often ask “When you think of this artist, what one image do you think of?” Ask yourself, “What one image do you want to be remembered for?” “Which image is that now?” “What image would you like that to be in the future?” “If you were to create a new image that you would be most known for, what would you like that image to be?”

Your single best image for your lifetime is a guiding light that not only reveals your highest accomplishments but also coalesces core qualities that become the keys to unlocking your future successes and ultimate fulfillment.

Your single best image for a year is a touchstone that can be used to compare and contrast current successes with past successes and identify future directions.

Your single best image for a project communicates your vision and style most successfully. Often, it is used as the lead for a post, a cover for a book, and a card or poster for an exhibit.

Find Your Two Best Images

If you were to select a second image to go with your one best image, which image would that be? How is it similar? How is it different? Both the comparisons (reinforcement or confirmation) and contrasts are important. The comparisons are useful because they help you identify core qualities. There are so many things that can be said about one image and only a few of them are truly significant. When you see what two highly successful images share you can quickly cut through the noise and find what’s essential. This provides both confirmation and reinforcement. The contrasts are useful because the unresolved tension it created can become generative. It can lead you to more ideas. How many images could connect the two? How many ways can you connect the two? What kinds of images could be created by combining their different qualities? If the two images you select are so similar that no generative tension is created, you may want to select a third that creates it.

Your best two images for a lifetime create a synergy where all that is implied between the similarities and differences becomes a fertile field of possibilities.

Your best two images for a year can display multiple directions – whether subject, theme, or style – whose tension can become generative. Caution, if the tension is never reconcile, either in whole or in part, it often produces confusion rather than richness and depth.

Your best two images for a project can show how both are multi-dimensional, telling more than one side of a story.

Select Your Twelve Best Images

Twelve images are more than enough to tell a complete story. If they’re your images, the story your images tell is not only the story of the subject and themes you select, the story they tell is also your story. The curation you perform to create collections of your work speaks (and sometimes creates) volumes.

If your top twelve images display entirely different subjects, themes, and styles it’s likely that you love your craft but have not developed significant depth in your vision. Jacks of all trades master none. Commitment is the key ingredient to achieving depth – the greater the commitment, the greater the depth. It’s not that you can’t do different things; variety can be energizing. It is that if you have a way of doing things that is your own and it informs everything you do then you are on your path. You may wander but you are not wandering aimlessly.

Ask a few key questions will help guide you on your journey of discovery. How are the insights you gain from looking at individual images different than the insights you gain from looking at groups of images? How does your perspective shift when you create different groups from the same material? Remember that outliers can be both revealing and generative.

For professional artists, a majority of the income from the sales of their works tends to come from their top twelve images. But be careful not to use sales as the criteria for selection here; to live the most fulfilling creative life determine what success means to you.

Your best twelve images for a lifetime confirm that you’re much more than a one hit wonder and have a depth of vision that is supported by a well-crafted style.

Your best twelve images for a year can reveal many directions, potential projects, and overall levels of performance commenting usefully on growth both present and future. Look carefully for milestones, breakthroughs, and outliers.

Your best twelve images for a project provide a strong framework that supports and guides all the other images that are added to it serving as enticing introductions, setting and maintaining a course, and creating compelling conclusions.

If you can’t see the benefits of selecting your best works by now, then trust me and just try it. Nothing teaches you more than direct experience. If you can, just do it. Talking about it will actually reveal much, but doing it will reveal more.

View my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

Read more on Creative Planning here.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.

3d9fc5231ca12d96b1a9b85cff2fa7b0_f605

One of the things I do at the beginning of every year is review the accomplishments of the past year.

I take my projects list from the last year and color code it, assigning one color for done, one color for soon to be done, and another color for not done.

I want to know what happened. It feels great to see a list of everything that got done, especially when you get a significant surprise windfall. It can also be disappointing to see what didn’t get done, especially when the items that weren’t accomplished are important. Seeing it the items collected in one place is always revealing.

I want to do more than just see clearly what happened. I also want to know why things happened.

I find the vast majority of things that got done were things I identified as important and scheduled time for – wishing won’t make things happen. If something great and unexpected happened, I want to know why it happened, so I can make similar things happen again. If at the end of the year, I’ve completely rewritten my plan for the year, but it’s been substantially improved, I’m delighted.

If something important didn’t happen, I want to know why. I want to learn from my failures.  How many items are close to being done? (A calendar date can sometimes be arbitrary.)  Was something delayed for an important reason? Will the delay make it more successful? Did I not see the problem clearly? Were my expectations unreasonable? Did I not perform at peak? Did I overextend myself, taking on too many projects? Did I not allocate enough resources? Did I have the wrong team? Was the timing not right?  Did I get distracted? What I can do to avoid this in the future? How can this apply what I learned on one project to my other projects?

This yearly review helps me mentally consolidate everything I’ve accomplished and everything I’ve learned. Often, while I’m doing this review, I learn more things and find more ideas. At the end of the review, learn from my failures and repeat my successes. I want to know if I’m on track and moving forward toward my long term goals.

With those insights fresh on my mind, I make a new projects list for the next year.  (I copy last year’s list and delete everything that got done or is no longer relevant, add new items but be careful not to add an unrealistic number, and prioritize them.)

What plans will you make for your creative life now?

Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.

Alignment V

Alignment V

Alignment IV

Alignment IV

Antarctica CLXVI

Antarctica CLXVI

PS Manges Color, lighten, lighten shadows

Antarctica CLXXI

Antarctica CLXXII

Antarctica CLXXII

Constellation XI

Constellation XI

Constellation XII

Constellation XXI

008_Contrail V-4

Contrail V

Contrail IV

Contrail IV

Antarctica CLXV

Antarctica CLXV

Incubation X

Incubation X

This is a selection of my top 12 images of all time. This selection doesn’t reflect sales, publication, or activities on the web. It simply reflects my opinion. Click on the titles to find out more about each image.

Geography

Antarctica, Argentina, Iceland, California

Process

I added something new to old projects; Antarctica and Constellation. I began moving forward on bringing a long-standing series to completion; Alignment. I released the first images from a new series Contrail that shows man’s marks in nature found in even the most remote places on earth; a complementary companion series of is soon to be released.

Concept

Similar themes echo throughout most of my individual series creating a shared network of connections. Alignment connects with Contrail and Refraction in different ways. Constellation connects with Correspondence in other ways. More connections are revealed over time.

Magnificent Moment

An hour and a half flying over Iceland’s south coast is magnificent but four hours of zodiac crusing in Antarctica’s Plenneau Bay (The Iceberg Graveyard) followed by three hours of dramatic light while passing through the La Mer Channel is even more magnificent.

It’s challenging to choose so few images from so many – but it’s insightful. Try selecting your own top 12 images. Try selecting the top 12 images of your favorite artist(s).

View more of my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

View more images in my ebooks here.

View my full Works here.

View my Series videos here.

View new images in my newsletter Collectors Alert.

3d9fc5231ca12d96b1a9b85cff2fa7b0_f605

One of the things I do at the beginning of every year is review the accomplishments of the past year.

I take my projects list from the last year and color code it, assigning one color for done, one color for soon to be done, and another color for not done.

I want to know what happened. It feels great to see a list of everything that got done, especially when you get a significant surprise windfall. It can also be disappointing to see what didn’t get done, especially when the items that weren’t accomplished are important. Seeing it the items collected in one place is always revealing.

I want to do more than just see clearly what happened. I also want to know why things happened.

I find the vast majority of things that got done were things I identified as important and scheduled time for – wishing won’t make things happen. If something great and unexpected happened, I want to know why it happened, so I can make similar things happen again. If at the end of the year, I’ve completely rewritten my plan for the year, but it’s been substantially improved, I’m delighted.

If something important didn’t happen, I want to know why. I want to learn from my failures.  How many items are close to being done? (A calendar date can sometimes be arbitrary.)  Was something delayed for an important reason? Will the delay make it more successful? Did I not see the problem clearly? Were my expectations unreasonable? Did I not perform at peak? Did I overextend myself, taking on too many projects? Did I not allocate enough resources? Did I have the wrong team? Was the timing not right?  Did I get distracted? What I can do to avoid this in the future? How can this apply what I learned on one project to my other projects?

This yearly review helps me mentally consolidate everything I’ve accomplished and everything I’ve learned. Often, while I’m doing this review, I learn more things and find more ideas. At the end of the review, learn from my failures and repeat my successes. I want to know if I’m on track and moving forward toward my long term goals.

With those insights fresh on my mind, I make a new projects list for the next year.  (I copy last year’s list and delete everything that got done or is no longer relevant, add new items but be careful not to add an unrealistic number, and prioritize them.)

What plans will you make for your creative life now?

Learn more about creative planning and goal setting here.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.


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