It is my tradition to pick my favorite images of the year and tell the stories behind them. Reviewing all my photos from the year is always fun. The exercise provides insight on where I have been, the people I have met, and gives me some ideas for resolutions in the new year. I get to relive the experiences and special moments all over again, and I learn a lot. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys photography. You will find the difficult part is selecting only 10 favorites. I spent almost another full year socially distanced at home but managed to enjoy some travel to National Parks at year end. Several of my favorite photos came from these travels, and a few from right around my hometown.
So once again, here are my top ten favorite images of 2021 and the stories behind them.
Launch Complex 34 – I was in awe of the reverence we all felt as we stood under Launch Complex 34 on the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. You see on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at 1831 hours when a flash fire in their Apollo capsule killed astronauts Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White III and Roger B. Chaffee. Their pioneering spirit was present on this clear cloud filled day as we stood silently on the hallowed ground of LC-34. A good friend associated with NASA space programs provided expert commentary as we toured many historical sites at the “Cape” that day but none other was quite so emotionally charged as this scene. I decided a fisheye lens best captured the entire launch pad and what we were feeling as we paid our respects to the fallen heroes. The photo certainly will not win any photo contests, but it captures a remarkable moment I will never forget.
American Pride – I love parades. I think it comes from my family’s love of parades. When I was growing up, Mom and Dad took us to see all our hometown holiday parades. As a kid, I even marched in a few. Every chance we get, my wife Nancy and I go downtown to see and capture people enjoying the parade. I was struck by the smile on this little girl’s face and the gleam in her eyes as she participated in our July 4th parade. I remember hoping that her future is as bright as her smile as I snapped the shutter. I know she helped make my day at the parade a memorable one. . . just like old times.
A little Different – She was pretty with an attitude. That was my first thought as I wandered my way through the local market event. The nose ring and kitty tattoo displayed a character certainly different than mine. I enjoy taking photos of strangers, so I raised my camera motioning. . .while asking if she was OK if I took her picture framed by the food truck window. With her approval I snapped a few frames. This one is among my favorites of 2021. It also reminds me that we are all unique individuals, contributing differently maybe, but most of us are contributing just the same. I think it would be a better world if we were just a little more accepting of those different than us. In the new year, I am going to try a little harder to follow my own advice.
David Censured – A statue of David was the last thing I thought I would see on my photo walk, especially one modestly covered chained to a post. For me this was a symbol of yet another strange year. Sometimes I felt a little restrained myself in 2021. It is at least encouraging that David seems to be looking off into the future as he has for centuries. . . hopefully seeing a better future indeed.
Standing Out – This tree seemed to be electrified, lighting up the whole canyon as we hiked the Narrows Trail in Zion National Park in November. It certainly stood out from its environment. Very few trees were able to grow within the high walls of the canyon, but this one certainly persevered. I am sure it must provide welcome protection to small animals all year long. It is a favorite photo because of the contrasting colors and textures. But it also reminds me in these most unusual times to persevere, keep growing, and protect those around us in the new year.
Emerald Pools – It was one of those experiences I have once in a while. Sometimes, natural elements seem to come together providing us a complex view of nature few have experienced. It stops you in your tracks. Nancy and I were hiking Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park when we came upon one of those rare moments. The backlit fall colors of the tree, “diamonds” falling from the waterfall above into the emerald pool below, and a sun starburst all came together through my viewfinder. A beautiful sight to behold. . . and to capture in a photograph.
Sunrise at Badwater Flats – The rising sun began to light up the sky like no other sunrise I had ever seen. Nancy and I were in the middle of Badwater Basin Salt Flats in Death Valley National Park. Like most of the landscape in Death Valley, we thought we might be on a different planet. We had to stop for a moment to take in the sight before us. The unique salt formations presented such a profound contrast to the soft blue and pink clouds above us. We had just witnessed another example of Divine Art that will probably never be just like this again. . . but we will relive this experience through our photographs for many years to come.
Chasing Sunrise – I had just turned around while standing in the parking lot of a Death Valley scenic overlook, I was struck by the sunlight reflection on the park road in the distance when a vehicle approached. It was as if the driver was chasing the sunrise. Sometimes your favorite photos are right behind you. You just need to look for them. I need to spend more time seeing more creatively all around me in 2022.
Alone – He was all alone. A single well-worn trail guided him through the barren mountains at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. His presence provided viewers a sense of the gigantic scale of the mountain landscape. It reminded me that we live in a big world, but we can take comfort that we are often guided along our way by those who came before us. Not to say we can’t take a detour along our own way, but at least we can navigate our life’s path guided by those that came before us. . . The trick is to pick our guides carefully.
On the Narrows Trail – My last favorite photo of 2021 is of my wife and me. We were enjoying each other’s company as we hiked a Zion National Park trail. Photos like this remind me that Nancy is not only my wife but is also my very best friend. We really enjoy being together on our adventures. I am especially thankful this year for her support and encouragement in our 44 years of marriage as I pass another decade of life. Of course, we have plans to spend another few decades together exploring and discovering, but you never know. There are no guarantees. So, we will continue to live each moment to its fullest in 2022 and shoot a few selfies along the way. I have learned that the most meaningful photos are those of my family and loved ones. Even this cell phone selfie provides such insight into the fun and excitement we experienced together that day. Many photographs give us the opportunity to relive our past meaningful moments, but none are more valuable than those we have taken with our loved ones. In 2022, capture more meaningful moments with your loved ones. Print a few of them and display them in your home. They will be the ones you will cherish most.
I hope your 2022 is healthy and happy for you and your family. And as always, may only the most remarkable photos be yours.