My year in images, 2021

This was a weird year for me in my photography. I certainly shot a lot more than in 2020, but for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have lots of interest in picking up the camera as frequently as I have in the past. Not that I didn’t still make a lot of images in 2021, I just didn’t seem to have the zeal for it as I have in years past.

I’ve selected eight images from the year, including one that is the best image I’ve captured in years, an image that took me a long time to capture and then just a couple of other images I really enjoyed.

My son began playing water polo during the spring season of his freshman year. I’m still not really sure what’s always happening during the game, but the image above I captured in his final game after having tried to capture him shooting a backhand shot during a game for the nine previous games. The effectiveness of this shot is predicated on doing it in a moment where it’s not expected and done quickly, which doesn’t always work well with fast-moving indoor photography, so it took me some games to learn both the situations and my son’s tendencies. While I wish I had the ball a bit sharper, I enjoy the expression on his face, that a couple of his fingers are sticking up and a couple tucked under.

For Christmas 2020, we adopted a new beagle puppy. Bailey is the life of the house with her big ears, bigger bark and even bigger personality. This was her first time out in the snow. I’m not usually one for more high-key photography, but this image … you can see the flakes of snow on her ears and snout, but mostly it’s just the look on her face … priceless.

My daughter’s been swimming for three or four years now and this summer I think it finally kicked in that it’s a competition, a race. Swimming is first and foremost a race against the clock, but this summer Sydney finally got that competitive juice of things and the more she thought about races as, well, races she started dropping more time, no matter her finish.

The 2020 school year was really difficult to make photos of. In my school, masks were required and taking away the bottom half of students faces made it difficult to capture photos that shared their emotions. I got this one as the two girls in front, Natalie and Sydney, were designing a spread in the newspaper. Definitely, the best thing I captured in my classroom last year.

A happy accident. This was an image I didn’t even know I’d captured until I looked back at this batch of images. My son got to go to a dance at high school this year (and has a girlfriend) and this was from the prerequisite photos of dates and friends. His eye is a bit knowing, framed perfectly even as he puts his hand up toward my camera.

My wife and I took a weekend vacation to Hermann, Mo., shortly after school let out. This was taken in the cellar of the B&B we stayed at during a port tasting after dinner that we paid for. The port and dessert was great, but the atmosphere and conversation with our host, Adrian, at The Alpenhorn was sublime.

The above was a happy coincidence. I thought about calling it an accident, but I didn’t really make one here, just did something different than normal. I was out shooting with my brother-in-law near Rock Island, Ill. and we stopped to walk out on this bridge over the Rock River. I’d happened to have been making some images with a slower shutter speed at a previous site (maybe a 1/15 of a second?) and hadn’t changed back to what I guess I’d call more normal settings (at least for me). As I walked out onto the span, the live view came on after I tapped the shutter and as I started to set up, I noticed this (though in color) on the screen. Whilst I think the image below is the best photo I took last year, the one above is my favorite. For the happy coincidence, but also for being open to the idea of making a different image than I usually might. I’ve found during my photographic experiences, I tend to make the same sort of image pretty frequently and going with the flow on this one resulted in my favorite thing I shot all year.

Final image, best image. My school’s softball team finished second in the state this year and this image captures the moment they punched their ticket to the final four.

Part of possibly one of the best sporting events I’ve ever witnessed, the game was actually suspended the evening before due to darkness at the top of the 12th inning. A regulation softball game is seven innings. The teams traded leads a couple times. The game was picked up the next day, with the Spartans setting down their opponents quickly in the top of the 12th. They came up, got a double, an intentional walk and then a double to right set off this madness.

I often talk with my students about the importance of knowing the event you’re shooting and while I was definitely in the right place at the right time for this, it was because I knew the critical moment of the game would be at home plate … and so it was.

This was also one of the first things I shot with the new Canon R6 mirrorless camera I bought for my students (and me, I need to know how to use it to teach them, right?). And man, the 20fps of that bad boy really came in handy here.

I’ve made a lot of images over the last 15 or so years but I think this might be my favorite and best image in the last five years.

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