What were my qualifications? Well, I don’t know, really. I wanted a good representation of pictures that I loved or had great stories about, but also those I felt were my best from a technical and/or artistic standpoint. You’ll probably notice a common theme: the pictures which were the hardest to get to ended up being my favorites. I’ve been lucky in life to fly to some far off places, and you’ll definitely see them below.
I take more pictures of people these days, and some of those pictures very nearly made the cut. I guess nostalgia won out, though, as the peaceful and serene moments alone on the edges of the earth taught me how to be alone and comfortable with myself. Here’s hoping my next top ten ever in 2024 will include some more pictures of people!
10. Atlanterhavsveien, Norway
First off, let me address it: this is not a technically good photo. The more you pixel peep in, you’ll see all sorts of kludgy selections and artefacts from overprocessing the heck out of it. From a distance, though, it’s great! This is on the list purely because I drove nonstop for basically 50 hours roundtrip for this photo and had one shot for an interesting sunset. The road, if I’m honest, wasn’t worth it but the ambitious effort I expended helped me realize that sometimes you just have to go for it. Granted, I very nearly drove off a cliff in the Norwegian countryside at 3am during the journey, but that’s beside the point.
9. Gergeti Trinity Church, Kazbegi, Georgia
This is one of my more recent pictures and it was an instant favorite. The trip to Georgia (which I know I still need to write about) was cool for many reasons, not the least of which was my girlfriend joining me. From an annoyingly bad flight schedule with long layovers in FRA and MUC and a 4-hour drive north from Tbilisi up to just about the border with Russia, then finding a random driver to drive us through the snow up to the Trinity Church, I told myself that the picture better be worth it after traveling all that way.
8. Vestrahorn Mountain, Stokksnes, Iceland
My trip to Iceland last summer was exhausting. It seemed like I had been driving basically the entire trip up to this point, primarily because, well, I had been driving basically the entire trip up to that point. The sunrise forecast looked great for the Vestrahorn, so I got up early and drove over, meeting an Instagram friend from Dallas who also happened to be in Iceland. What had been a trip in isolation so far turned into meeting a buddy whose photography I had always admired. It was great to have someone to shoot the breeze and talk photography with before we went our different ways. Oh yeah, the scene out at Vestrahorn Mountain was incredible, with incredible reflections and epic low clouds behind them. It almost looks fake! That’s actually the main reason I left the muddy footprints in the lower right, so people would know it was a real reflection and not just something I photoshopped.
7. Machu Picchu, Peru
I mean how could you not pick Machu Picchu? It’s one of the great places to visit in the world. It takes forever to get there (even if you bypass all the hiking part and just take the Lazy American way via planes trains and bus), is relatively hard to get a ticket, and is absolutely 100% worth it.
This was back in 2014, right after I got my first “real” camera. I had recently watched a Serge Ramelli tutorial on how to make panorama images out of multiple exposures shot handheld and gave it a shot with this scene. From the sun rays hitting the citadel just perfectly to the blue sky above it, this image is just lovely and colorful, but my favorite part of it remains the small group of people on the bottom right, it lends a bit of perspective to the whole scene and provides the sort of human element many have said my photography is missing.
6. Lago Pehoe, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine was an incredible experience and probably would have been much more so if I had done any pretense of research before my trip. I went in without much of a plan but still had an epic and incredible time. The weather was hideously bad the entire time, but getting this picture from the outset really put my mind at ease, as it’s a picture I’ve wanted to take for a long time. Knowing I had the picture “in the bag” made the rest of the trip more fun because there wasn’t any additional pressure to get a “hero” pic of the park.
5. Lake Bled, Slovenia
You didn’t really think I’d give a top ten of my career and not share one from Lake Bled did you? I’ve been to this majestic little tourist trap in northwest Slovenia either 4 or 5 times now and have loved every moment I’ve spent here. This picture, in particular, was taken when it was freezing cold in the late autumn before winter set in. I’ve always thought the buildings have an old and almost sinister look in this one, with Bled Castle perched atop a cliff just behind it. The layers of clouds in the background concealing the foreboding Julian Alps only add to this feeling, and the tree branches framing the entire scene really add to the effect in my opinion.
4. Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
I mean how could you not love this picture? The village of Vernazza is so unbelievably picturesque and quiets down nicely after all the day-trippers leave. While I didn’t have much time in Cinque Terre before making my way to Como the next day, I wanted to get this picture while I could. I got to the cliff about three hours before sunset because I had a feeling that the sunset would be epic and that the well-known viewpoint I wanted to go to would get crowded. I thought three hours was playing it super safe, and indeed I was the first person to arrive at the spot to get set up for sunset, but I beat the second person there (a phenomenal photographer named Jim Nutty) by only 20-25 minutes!
The sunset came through and lit up the village below the cliff beautifully. While I’m not at all opposed to blending bits and pieces of different images together, this was a single click of the shutter. I have a metal print of this hanging in my room and it looks even better than it does here.
3. Dallas Altitude, Dallas, Texas
This was, and probably always will be, my favorite shot of Dallas. It was the culmination of a lot of planning with Epic Helicopters, then all I had to do was fly up in a helicopter with no door on my side, lean as far out as I could into the blackness of night, and pray one of my shots was in focus.
I love this image because it’s of Dallas as an entire entity, not a bunch of fractured neighborhoods. It’s where I’m from and I loved the challenge of capturing it like no one else had before.
2. The Northern Lights, Norway
What really made this picture is just how unlikely it was. I had two nights in the Lofoten Islands before I had to head home. The first night was completely covered with clouds. The second night (which began at 3pm) was cloudy at first but I drove out to my pre-planned spot, more than two hours away along windy moose-filled roads.
I set my camera up, freezing in the chill of a stiff January wind coming off the Atlantic Ocean. Then I saw the first tendril of the Northern Lights. It started its dance across the sky and got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Before I knew it, the Northern Lights were dancing across the entire night sky!
A little over 48 hours before this picture was taken I was at my office in Dallas when I noticed award availability open up for this flight. Next thing I knew I was freezing in Norway watching the amazing work of our planet (and Creator, depending on your belief) against the canvas of a dark and mostly cloudless night sky.
1. Hong Kong
A dear friend (who I didn’t know that well) and I went to Hong Kong on a whim one January. I was still new at the whole photography thing but had heard about a spot in Hong Kong called Lugard Road. I had to visit for myself for a sunrise. We got in position for the sunrise and, frankly, it was just meant to be. The haze for which Hong Kong is known was largely absent and the sunrise exploded in color over the incredible megalopolis. It was all I could do not to screw it up. All these years later this is still my favorite picture. Something I’ve never done, though, is capture Hong Kong at night from this spot. It’s on the list and I’m going to make it happen, hopefully soon.
1a. Surprise co-favorite: St. Gilgen, Austria
Those of you who have read the blog well definitely expected this picture. So, yes, it ended up being 11 favorite pictures and not 10, hopefully you won’t complain too much!
St. Gilgen, Austria, has my heart. It’s a peaceful little mountain village about 30 minutes from Salzberg and is the perfect place to sit on a park bench and just exhale for a while.
Honestly, this picture was luck more than skill. I set my camera up for exposure bracketing and then ran it through an HDR processor and somehow this picture was the result. For all the work, effort, money, and time I’ve put into photography, I chuckle when I realize that one of my favorite pictures is straight out of Photomatix.
Those are my favorites, which are yours?
ten eleven above, which do you like the most? Or, is your favorite picture of mine missing from this list? Tell me in the comments below! I can’t wait to add some more over the next five years!