Blog: Best Of The 2010's - 12/30/2019

Wow, 2020 is almost here. Like many people, I have been looking back on the last decade. It happens to coincide mostly with my photography career, as I went full time at the end of 2010. I have decided to compile a list of what I think are my "best" images of the 2010's. I limited it to Florida and landscapes and went with 10 color images and 10 black and white. These were not necessarily the most well received, but images I am personally most proud of. I weight composition a lot, as well as good light and mood. I also love finding images that cannot be replicated by copycats easily. So without much rambling, I will start with color and go through them chronologically.

Holy Sunstar!

Holy Sunstar! - Named after the old Batman show where Robin was always yelling "Holy Whatever Batman!"  I visited the Hillsborough River in 2010 for an assignment and was rewarded with this amazing atmosphere. This image pushed my skills in editing, as the strong front light required multiple exposure settings and blending in shots with my hand blocking the sun in different positions to reduce the flare. Overall, a lot of details to take in but strong elements that catch the eye.

Mangrove Magic

Mangrove Magic - Later in 2010 I was lucky to get this image. I was shooting the other direction at sunset and turned around and immediately saw how well the cloud was mirroring the mangrove. The color contrast was perfect and this has been one of my best sellers. I have been chasing the success of this image ever since.

Suwannee Spring Sunrise

Suwannee Spring Sunrise - If it isn't obvious, I have a thing for trees. This old oak growing above the clear waters of a spring was an amazing combination. Add in the color contrast from the cool waters and the warm light of sunrise and you have one of my favorite mixes for impact in an image.

Path of Light
Path of Light - The pine rocklands are special to me, and as a globally imperiled habitat, I have spent a lot of time trying to showcase them. This spot was found in 2012 and after a few tries, this image came together. Composing in the woods, especially the "ratty" looking pinelands can be very tough, so I was really happy to have this composition come together and get a good sunset. I was then even more fortunate to have it picked to represent the Everglades on a set of USPS Forever stamps. 
Celestial Cypress
Celestial Cypress - As of 2014, cameras were getting much better and the night sky was becoming a popular subject. I decided to try and get a unique take on the Milky Way shot. With my good friend John Brady, we set an alarm for midnight and took off in boats to try and get shots as the milky way started rising in the sky. With a 10 foot tripod and John painting the tree from the side with a flashlight, this image came together. I was fortunate to have the low clouds and light pollution which gave the image some color contrast as well as a brighter background to set the tree apart. 
Dagobah
Dagobah - I had started expanding my portfolio into north Florida more by 2014 and this location was high on my list to repeat with some mood. On this 32 degree morning I definitely got it. A long exposure caused the floating fall colored leaves to "race" toward me. Between the composition, mood, and and color contrasts, this is one of my favorite images ever taken. 
Amazon of North America

The Amazon of North America - The Fakahatchee, rich in epiphytic diversity, has been coined the Amazon of North America, the closest we have to a jungle. Talk about a place hard to organize into a cohesive image! I am most proud of finding a composition that works in here and the late light back-lighting everything really gave it the pop I like.

Renewal

Renewal - Back to the pine rocklands, this image was taken in 2016 after almost a year of trying this composition. I knew I wanted a strong sky and kept striking out. Then, a series of fires hit the area and I had to wait almost 4 months for the regrowth to look good again. The color combo of fresh greens of the palmettos, touch of blue and all the warm light really worked for me, and of course I had been sold on the composition for a while.

Gator Hook Greens

Gator Hook Greens - I have been after an images showing off the vibrant bacopa that grows in the cypress domes for years. This image from late spring in 2018 finally came together. Diffused early morning light brought out those greens without being too strong and contrasty for the rest of the scene. I love good diagonal lines that lead the eye into a scene as well.

Zephyr Spring

Zephyr Spring - Named for the blooming zephyr lilies, I love all the detail and elements I was able to include in this image while still being cohesive. The mood cannot be beat, I almost feel like a dinosaur is going to pop out of the scene. This was taking earlier this year and quickly jumped to be one of my all time favorites.

For a long time I avoided doing many black and whites, as you inevitably get compared to Clyde Butcher. However, I really love it and eventually embraced it, shooting a lot in infrared now. The unique look and mood it creates makes it fun to revisit locations with a new eye.

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the Jungle - Awesome trees, check. Composition that all comes together, check. Taken in 2010 in Big Cypress, this is one of the first images I created in the "darkroom". As a color image, it was low contrast and drab. By slowly dodging and burning, I really brought out the details and shapes and highlighted things to transform the image into something that grabs the eye. Still one of my all time favorites. Oh and those lines in the mud, gator tail drags. ;)

Drama over the Dead Lakes

Drama over the Dead Lakes - The dead lakes are an unusual area of the Chipola River where the remnants of once flooded cypress are interspersed with younger living trees. Talk about a moody spot, I was ecstatic to get a sky that really fit this place. Shooting from inside the decaying stump of a large dead cypress toward the new generation, it really helped tell a story.

Fisheating Oak

Fisheating Oak - Cool old tree overhanging a creek? Sign me up. Fisheating creek always has something new to give, as the fluctuating water levels can really change a scene. This trip was perfect for this image, as the grasses were a bit of a mirror in shape to the branches while being an opposite in brightness. Full of details but still cohesive, my favorite combination for a composition.

Palm Island

Palm Island - I have a totally different side of me that loves simple and bold images, many didn't make the cut here, but man this shot just came together so well for me. A long exposure streaked the clouds perfectly to draw the eye toward the island of front lit palms. Really shows the power of infrared here, as the scene to the eye was pretty unspectacular.

Palms of the Econ

Palms of the Econ - Sometimes a day really works out for you. This was taken within minutes of the previous image. Again infrared, again really giving a unique look to a drab scene.

The Wild West

The Wild West - The west side of the Everglades is a wild place. Mangroves show the signs of being battered by storms coming off the Gulf of Mexico. I owe this image to a redfish that made a ripple in my smooth water in the shot before this. The lucky lightning catch really ups this image in my opinion. This location takes a lot of work to get to, and it feels like you are really out there, exposed to the elements. Sadly, Irma changed things up a lot and these trees are no longer what you see.

Storm in the Pines

Storm in the Pines - Back to the pine rocklands, I just love how this composition and breakup of tones came together.

Arching Apples

Arching Apples - Maybe I love images from the swamp too much, but I am always proud to come away with something cohesive. 90% of the time you are walking by really cool trees that are just buried in clutter that does not translate well for images.

Marsh Monsoon

Marsh Monsoon - Ok, so I haven't included many images where an amazing sky made them, as I consider that a lot of luck, but man, look at that beast! The strong tonal contrast brought on by front light in infrared really made the image pop and the repetition of horizontal bands broken by the island of palms makes it for me.

Sinuous Cypress

Sinuous Cypress - Just look at that root. Places like this make exploration while being plagued with heat and mosquitoes worth it. This took a bit of fine tuning to figure out the composition, and I will likely revisit this spot again, but for now this image from early 2019 is one I am very happy with.

And with that, we begin the next decade. I have slowed a bit in my image making but look forward to getting new images that hold their own with these 20.