2014 - Year in Review

2014 was a great year for me - and here's the proof! (and this is not your typical end of year photo post)

Like everyone else this time of year, I like to look in the rearview mirror and gaze back upon the roads that I have traveled – both literally and figuratively.  It’s been a good year in many ways, and I feel blessed to be able to sit here – on my last trip of the year – and think back on all that has transpired.

Travel-wise, I have been busy, and I am thankful for that.  While I had many more work trips than family trips, I did have 4 amazing trips with the family, which is more than anyone can ask for in a year.  One week in Oregon at Spring Break, one long weekend down to Galveston Island along the Texas coast, nearly two weeks in the mountains of New Mexico in the summer (when we escape the Texas heat), and a week with the family in Paris over Thanksgiving – that’s a LOT of quality time to pack into a year.  I’m very grateful for that.

On the work front, my travels have taken me far and wide, including 4 trips to Europe (which I love to visit – and photograph!) and my first trip ever to lovely Sydney, Australia.  All of them were productive for work purposes, and productive in terms of image capture as well.  That’s a win all the way around.  

Here’s a month-by-month summary of my 2014 travels:

January: San Francisco

February: Las Vegas, Dublin, Glasgow

March: Copenhagen, Oregon Coast

April: San Francisco, Dallas

May: San Francisco, Amsterdam, London

June: New York City

July: Galveston, Los Angeles, New Mexico

August: Cincinnati, Minneapolis

September: New York City

October: Sydney, Nashville

November: San Francisco, Montpellier (France), Paris

December: San Francisco

And here it is in airport codes (haha, this was fun and took a little Googling on my part!  And by the way, New Mexico and Galveston don’t show up here because we drove to both.):

January: AUS > DFW > SFO > DFW > AUS

February: AUS > DFW > LAS > DFW > AUS; AUS >

March: AUS > LHR > CPH > LHR > AUS; AUS > DFW > PDX > DFW > AUS

April: AUS > DFW > SFO > DFW > AUS

May: AUS > DFW > SFO > DFW > AUS; AUS > LHR > AMS > LHR > AUS

June: AUS > DFW > LGA > DFW > AUS

July: AUS > DFW > LAX > DFW > AUS

August: AUS > DFW > CVG > DFW > AUS; AUS > DFW > MSP > DFW > AUS

September: AUS > DFW > LGA > DFW >AUS

October: BTR > DFW > SYD > DFW >AUS; AUS > DFW > BNA > DFW > AUS

November: AUS > DFW > SFO > LAX > AUS; AUS > DFW > CDG > MPL > CDG > AUS

December: AUS > DFW > SFO > DFW > AUS

It was exhausting just typing all those airport codes – what a year though, wow!

And so I ended the year on a trip that I began the year with.  That’s fitting, and that’s a good thing. It’s a city I love to visit, even though I go there for work.   But I thoroughly enjoy my work, and that’s a good thing too.

here's an iphone shot from the ferry building in san francisco, taken on tuesday this week. looks pretty festive!  I was happy to end the year shooting in one of my favorite buildings anywhere!

here's an iphone shot from the ferry building in san francisco, taken on tuesday this week. looks pretty festive!  I was happy to end the year shooting in one of my favorite buildings anywhere!

Some stats and “Bests” from the year…just for the heck of it, because I’m in a sharing mood…

Miles flown: approximately 106,000

Number of foreign countries visited: 7 (Ireland, Scotland, England, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Australia)

Number of photos taken in 2014: approximately 25,000 of which about 4,000 are iPhone shots

Best trip:  That’s a toss-up between the family trip to the Oregon Coast (which we love) and the family trip to Paris (which we also love).  But I have to give the nod to Paris because…it’s Paris, for crying out loud!! 

this is the entry to the palace of versailles, which we visited while in paris last month.  take me back!

Strangest moment: I woke up one morning during our Spring Break trip to the Oregon Coast, and overnight had dreamed that a whale had beached itself right behind our rented house.  I walked into the backyard and what did I see on the beach?  A dead sea lion, just laying there.  And yes, I grabbed the camera and ran down there.  It was awesome, though sad.  Nature at work.  And I just realized I have never shared the pics.  Dang.  Time flies.

Fondest moment:  Standing with my wife and daughter in front of Notre Dame in Paris a few short weeks ago, while darkness fell and the bells rang from the tower. 

Favorite city visited: Again, I have to give the nod to Paris for this one.  Everyone raves about Paris, and for good reason.  It’s just an incredible place.  But a close Second Place goes to Dublin, which I just have a soft spot for.  What a great little town.  I hope to return in early 2015!  And I can’t forget Copenhagen, which is just beautiful.

just one of many shots i took this year in wonderful dublin - love that city!

City with most visits: San Francisco, with a total of 5 visits (though I don’t always have time to shoot there)

Airport with most pass-throughs: Dallas, aka DFW – man I see that place a lot!  I love Terminal D, but don’t always get to pass through it.  The American Express Centurion Club is there, and it’s a great spot.  I also spend a fair amount of time in the various American Airlines Admirals Clubs, since that’s my preferred airline.

Photo outings in my hometown of Austin: 5 or 6, I can’t remember.  Sadly, I should get out more, but I tend to be busy with the family or processing photos from my other trips.  I will admit though that I have a running list of spots in Austin I still want to shoot that numbers nearly 20 at this point.  So much goodness and so close to home.  Perhaps I will whittle that list down a bit in 2015!  We shall see!

one of my very first outings this year with my olympus mirrorless camera - shooting sunset at the loop 360 bridge here in austin.  Love this spot!

Hardware purchases made this year:

Thankfully my photography made a profit this year, and thus I spent some of my hard-earned dollars on new gear, both hardware and software.  It’s great to have new tools, because I can do things I couldn’t do before.  Plus, it’s just fun to try new stuff and get creative.  I hope to continue that into 2015 – the creative part, not the spending money part.  Ha!

I switched from a full-frame Nikon D700 to a mirrorless camera – the Olympus OMD EM-1.  So far, so good.  I am still learning tricks with it, but it’s been a great camera, and being able to travel so much lighter is awesome.  I will admit though that I still have a lot to learn about the various capabilities the camera has – it will take some time (and some photo outings!) to get it all down.

At the same time I bought the camera, I picked up the Olympus 9-18mm wide angle, the Olympus 12-50mm mid-range zoom lens, and the Olympus 40-150mm long-range zoom.  I have enjoyed them all, but my favorite lens has been one that I bought a little later in the year… 

The Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens!  I have used this lens a LOT (and it’s the only thing I used during my two weeks in France – well actually, I put on the 9-18mm for about 20 minutes one time).  I love that 12-40mm PRO lens, and get outstanding results from it.  It’s such an incredible and versatile piece of equipment.

inside galleries vivienne in paris - using the olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 pro lens - and shooting stuff i rarely ever shoot - people!

Recently, I bought the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 prime lens, and the Bower 7.5mm fisheye, just for the halibut (hehe, silly fish pun there, sorry).  I am still working through some testing on both of those, so expect to see and hear more about those two later, as I put them to use and have things to share.  I will say that on this last trip to San Francisco, I was able to shoot a little with the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 prime lens, and I am really liking it a lot!  So small but so capable!

I spent most of the year shooting iPhone images with my quickly aging iPhone 4S, until early October came around and I picked up the new iPhone 6 (not the Plus – it’s too big for me).  What a great product!  I love that device, and using that camera all the time is – I believe – actually helpful to me in terms of improving my photography.  I’m a fan.  You can find a lot of my iPhone shots here on Flickr or over on my Instagram feed.

just 1 of the nearly 1200 iPhone photos i have taken since i picked up the iphone 6 in october - this is inside the louvre in paris.  (louis xiv's apartments)

Software purchases made this year:

On the software side, I have been really enjoying some creative exploration thanks to several products from my friends over at Topaz Labs.  First I started using Simplify to create artworks from my shots, but then Impression came out and that one quickly became my go-to software choice for getting artistic.  Then at the beginning of this month, they launched Glow, which is real fun and has given me another jolt of creative awesomeness (and a lot of color).  So in other words, the good folks at Topaz have had a good year too. 

one of my current favorite shots that i edited with topaz glow - this is the entry to christiansborg palace in copenhagen - shot last march.

One other product suite that I picked up is the Perfect Effects Suite from OnOne Software.  I have always heard good things about it, and have just recently started using it.  So far, so good, though I will admit I need to spend some more time working with the products (or rather, find some free time).  Thus far I have mostly just used Perfect Effects 9, and I now use that almost exclusively for processing my graffiti shots.  I just like all the texture choices and so far have found this product works well for my tastes on that subject matter.  I’m sure it works well on other subjects, too.  I’ll be back with (possibly) some reviews of that Suite once I learn more and feel like I can contribute something meaningful.

And of course I cannot forget about MacPhun Software.  I started using their products this year too, and love them.  Tonality Pro and Intensify Pro are REALLY, REALLY good products, and I will continue to use them into next year.

This reminds me of a very popular post I did earlier this year.  It was entitled “One Photo, A Million Possibilities”.  Basically, I took a single photo but did the editing in lots of different software products, and came up with many variations on it.  It was a great creative exercise, and I highly recommend it.

I’ve also been an Apple Aperture user for years, and the news that they are killing the product was not welcome news to me.  In fact, it stings a little.  So I did what any rational being would do, and I picked up a copy of Lightroom 5. My thoughts on it?  I have no idea.  I have tried a few times to use it, but don’t understand it and haven’t had the time to learn it, because of everything else you just read.   I’ve been too busy. So, maybe this year I will learn more about it, and possibly even convert to it.  Then again, maybe I won’t.  The jury is still out on that one in my book.

So how about this blog, Jim?

Great question.  This blog has had a productive year as well, and so has my photography in general social media terms, and even financial terms.  It’s been a good year all the way around, really.  Here are a few highlights:

Blog visitors: up 34% 

Blog page views: up 25%

Flickr views: up 180% 

Number of photos on Flickr: approximately 2200

Number of photos on SmugMug: approximately 1200

I spent most of my time this year on building quality content for my blog.  I truly feel that if I create content that is worth viewing, people will come view it.  I plan to continue that into 2015.  I just enjoy it so much.

I also dialed back my social media engagement a bit this year.  At some point I figured I was wasting good, productive time just viewing things on Facebook, and I worked to reduce my time there.  I would rather create content for the blog.  It’s more rewarding to me, and more helpful to whomever comes here to view it.

broadway avenue in downtown nashville, tn - with a little topaz glow thrown in for fun!  shot this in nashville back in october.

I actually increased my engagement on Flickr a slight bit, and increased my posting volume there substantially.  More people find my work there than anywhere else, so it makes sense to populate my page there with more photos.  That trend will continue into 2015.  I have thousands of images still in the library that have never seen the light of day.  That will change.

I basically quit using 500px altogether.  I may have posted a couple of photos there this year, but it doesn’t feel like a good use of my time either.  Hardly anyone comes from there to the blog, and I don’t have time to engage there.  The work is beautiful though.  It’s a great place for inspiration, that’s for sure.

Google+ seems to have dropped in terms of popularity, though I still post 2-3 times every couple of weeks on that site.  It’s definitely very different from a couple of years ago.  

I joined Ello like everyone else, but I am not very active there.  I like the site ok, but I don’t think it’s going to change things for me in any sort of way.  I post there once in a while.  I will continue to try it, but don’t plan to invest a lot of time on it.

Instagram has been somewhat fun for me, even though I don’t post there a lot.  The funny thing is that I take LOTS of iPhone images – I just don’t share them all there.  Most of them end up in this set on Flickr, and I will keep doing that in 2015.  I’ll continue to use Instagram some as well.  I like the site.

this is a mountain lake near questa, nm - shot it this past summer while in the area escaping the texas heat!

So, what are my plans in 2015?

Well, I’m not totally sure, though I am certain that whatever I write about 2015 at this point will surely change by the time I get to the end of 2015 and look back on that year.  In other words, I don’t know yet, but I am preparing a post to share some thoughts on that, which you will find here in a week or so.

Well, I guess that’s about it for 2014.  This post is approaching 2500 words (which might make it my longest post ever), and you may be bored by now.  Or hopefully you got some popcorn and enjoyed this.  I enjoyed writing it, but since I lived it, it’s a bit more interesting to me I guess.  I will say that I’ve had a nice trip down memory lane though, so thanks for coming along with me, and thanks for the support! 

You were a good year, 2014 – thanks for the memories (and the photos).  I’ll look back on you fondly!