Highlights from 2015

2015 - you were a great year!  You'll be remembered fondly!

2015 was a great year for me both personally and photographically.  I traveled a lot (though not as much as in previous years) and took a lot of pictures.  Those two things are core to what I love to do, and what this blog is all about.  I continued to grow readership here, as well as on social media channels.  And I continued to have a great time doing all this, which is a requirement.  If it’s not fun, why spend all this time on it?  

2015 was also a year of significant change.  I made many changes to the blog, with the intention of making it more aesthetically pleasing to the eye (at least my eye - hopefully yours as well!).  I made changes to my photography style, and then sort of changed back (I stopped processing in HDR for many months, then had an epiphany and came back to it).  I made changes to my goals for the year, and realized that goal setting isn’t all it’s cracked up to beI changed camera gear, returning to full-frame with the Sony A7II system, which is absolutely amazing.  And I also changed jobs at work, which is partly responsible for the slight reduction in travel.  That’s a lot of change when you think about it, but it’s all good.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t travel quite as much as I did in previous years, although I was still motoring around quite a bit.  I took about a dozen trips in the US, some short and some long, and took quite a few pics along the way.  I took 3 trips to Europe, which is less than previous years, although that covered 6 different cities (and countless photo spots) in 4 different countries.

I started out the year focused on taking a LOT of photos - and did so - but by September I had decided that I was getting too focused on quantity and ignoring quality, so I scaled it back a little bit.  I still take a ton of photos, but fewer than before, and I judge the outcome of a trip based on “winning” images, as opposed to a straight unit count.  But as you will see below, all this still resulted in a lot of photos in 2015.

I took a much needed break from Facebook.  As a family we had pretty much the best summer ever, which was based around an epic road trip across 10 states in the Western US.  And I had the most amazing surprise recently when I was named one of the Top 100 Travel Photographers in the World for 2015.  I feel incredibly honored and blessed to be included on that list among other photographers that I have admired and looked up to for years!

Jim, what about the pics?

Oh yes, as I said above, I did take a lot of pictures in 2015.  As far as I can tell, I took about 30,000 photos this year (Unlike many photographers, I don’t catalog my photos by year.  I catalog then by location first and then month/year.  So going through my Lightroom catalog and adding them up is how I got to that number.  More work that way when trying to get a summary, but easier to manage for me on a daily basis.)  That’s a pretty solid amount of production, averaging out to about 600 photos per week.  

And to be clear, these are just photos taken with my Olympus gear (up until about September) and then my Sony gear starting in September and going through year end.  I took probably another 5,000 or more with my iPhone, although I haven’t organized them well enough to count them up quickly.  Let’s just say it’s a shitload, ok?  :-)  I did shift somewhat away from creating iPhone-specific trip posts here on the blog though. 

I still shoot a lot with my iPhone and love to do so, but I decided that I have so many "real" images backlogged from so many trips, that I would rather process and share those instead of iPhone-specific posts.  I may still do iPhone posts from time to time, but not often.  However, I still share many of them on Flickr and on Instagram, and have a page dedicated to my iPhoneography here on the blog. 

So here is a summary of the trips I took in 2015 and a pic or two from each trip that are among my favorites.  To be clear, I have many photos still to process from these trips, so although these are my current faves, it’s hard to say that they are "the best" with 100% confidence since I have so much more to process.  Call them highlights if you like. (and click on any photo to enlarge and view in a lightbox)

Jan/Feb: Las Vegas (~1500 photos) - I went twice this year to Sin City - actually, just realized I went three times.  I like the town, but I’m not a Vegas kind of guy, despite going there 3 times.  My first trip was in January for a company meeting, and I didn’t even bring the camera as there’s just no time.  The second trip was in February for a customer event, and I got out a couple of times and fired away.  The third time was a brief one-nighter on our summer road trip, and I left the camera in the car that day.  We literally spent one night there just to show it to our daughter and take her to Cirque du Soleil.  She loved Cirque but isn't a big fan of Vegas.  I love shooting there (how can you NOT love all those signs?!) but I would never choose to vacation there.

blue hour on the strip

i finally got to shoot this sign!

March: Abiquiu, New Mexico (~1900 photos) - We took a trip for Spring Break over to New Mexico, opting this time to stay out in the country a bit in Abiquiu (instead of Santa Fe, where we have stayed many times).  It’s about 45 minutes from Santa Fe and is best known as the place where the artist Georgia O’Keeffe spent much of her working life as a painter.  The landscapes are beautiful and I caught some images I’m very fond of while there.  It's a rugged place without a lot of amenities you get in the city, but it's quite fun for hiking and photography, two things I love to do!

a stunning sunrise in abiquiu, nm

plaza blanca, or white place - amazing!

March: Copenhagen, Denmark (~3300 photos) - A day after arriving home from Spring Break, I hopped on a plane to Copenhagen.  I barely got to dump my New Mexico photos into my library before I was off again!  This was a great week in a wonderful city that I really love to visit, despite being a little tired upon arrival.  I shot like a maniac all around the town, and then took a day to visit an amazing castle about an hour away.  So much awesomeness here!  I would happily visit Copenhagen yearly - it's just beautiful and peaceful there, and I love it.

sunrise at nyhavn - so beautiful!

a trip to Frederiksborg castle

April:  Dublin and Howth, Ireland (~1800 photos) - Ah, wonderful Dublin!  I made a return visit to this city I love.  I think this was my 6th trip there over the years.  I hope for many more trips because it’s a place that I really adore.  There’s so much to shoot, the people are wonderful, and you just have to love all the little pubs!  This is another city I could visit at least once a year.  I find it especially beautiful at sunrise, when all the tourists are asleep and I can prowl the historic Temple Bar area alone.  It's pretty amazing.  

I also took a day trip over to the little fishing village of Howth while there.  It was great to hike around the edge of it, staring at the Irish Sea and taking a lot of photos, of course.  Well worth a detour over to Howth if you are interested in exploring outside of Dublin.  Probably my favorite part was the ruins of the old church you see below - so cool!

sunrise at the ha'penny bridge in dublin

ruins of an old church in howth

April: Glasgow, Scotland (~2000 photos) - From Dublin, I headed over to Glasgow and ended up with a weekend in the city.  I was joined by my good friend Mike Murphy, who came up from London.  We shot around town quite a bit and then spent the next day exploring nearby Falkirk, where we photographed The Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.  Really a great time in every respect!  I have also been to Glasgow many times, and despite it being a little "rougher around the edges" than Edinburgh, it's a great city and quite photogenic.  This was my first time out to Falkirk, which is a place where I have always wanted to visit.  It just worked out well and I was able to grab a LOT of photos at both The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel.  They are both just super interesting and photogenic spots!

sunset along the river clyde in downtown glasgow

the kelpies in falkirk - so big!!

May - home!  Time to process some of that backlog!  And rest!  And do laundry!

June: San Francisco (~1200 photos) - This is my favorite US city.  I’ve been to many of them, many times, but I continue to like San Fran the best.  It’s just so beautiful and I find so much photographic inspiration here!  I love to get up early (which is easy since my time clock is always askew while I am there) and wander around downtown.  It's always cool outside (which I love, being a Texas guy) and I tend to find myself in front of the Ferry Building, which is my favorite structure in town.  It's just gorgeous that time of day, and very few people are out.

blue hour one morning at the ferry building

just after sunset one evening overlooking the ferry building

June: Nashville and Oklahoma City (~1300 photos) - Nashville is a great town and I always enjoy my visits here - and generally come away with photos that I am proud of.  I caught this most memorable sunset one evening while there which made it all worthwhile!  I was shooting from the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge, which provides an incredible vantage point for capturing the skyline, and the sunset behind it.  I shoot it on every Nashville trip!

 Oklahoma City was the second half of that week, and I just realized I still haven’t processed any of the pics from there yet, LOL.  I was with my friend Mark and we headed out to the portion of Route 66 that is north of OKC.  While it's not the typical Route 66 stuff you see in places like Arizona, it's still pretty interesting and I am looking forward to sharing some of those pics.

I'm always inspired by this fabulous view of nashville!

Late June to mid-August: Our great Western US road trip!  There’s still just so much to say about this trip and as you can see below, so many photos to process and share.  This will keep me busy for quite some time I expect.  So while I could spend ages sharing photos from all these spots, I thought it best to share a couple of my favorites from Oregon, since that was the main destination of our trip.  Of the 7 weeks we were on the road, about 4 of them were spent in northern Oregon near the popular resort town of Cannon Beach.  It's incredibly photogenic in that area, and well worth a visit, even if you are in Portland (just over an hour drive away).

  • Arizona, ~1200 photos (most of these are around the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff area)
  • California up to Oregon, ~1700 photos (from Hearst Castle up to Mendocino/Ft Bragg)
  • Northern Oregon, ~4400 photos (we were here about a month and I caught some real beauties!)
  • San Juan Islands, Washington State, ~ 1600 photos (we spent ~6 days here)
  • The drive home from Seattle to Texas, ~650 photos (limited shooting because we were heading home)

an incredible sunset at ecola state park

golden hour at haystack rock

Late August: Boston, MA (~400 photos) - This was a quick 2 day trip, only one of which allowed me time to shoot, since I was there on business.  But I made the most of it, firing away at Fan Pier (a place I had always wanted to shoot) with my friend Bob Lussier, who I have wanted to meet in person for a long time.  It was a wonderful evening of shooting, trading stories over beers, and talking about photography.  And Bob lent me his wide angle lens for my Olympus camera, which was quite fun.  This was the last trip I took with the Olympus though, converting to Sony just a few weeks later (and in time for my next trip, which was a big one).

blue hour in boston as seen from fan pier

September: Stavanger, Norway (~800 photos) and Aberdeen, Scotland (~250 photos) - OMG Norway you are AMAZING!!  I fell in love with it right away, before I even left the town and headed out to the fjords.  It’s a gorgeous place.  But once I climbed up to the top of Lysefjord and stared at Pulpit Rock, I can honestly say it had a profound impact on me.  Just staring at this landscape below me filled my soul.  I could have sat there for hours, except that I had so many photos I wanted to capture.  So after some gawking at the views, I got busy hiking around and firing away!

And of course my visit to Aberdeen was rewarding as well, though limiting in terms of photography.  I didn't even take any photos in the city.  It's a nice place, but I didn't find anything that really got me excited.  I mostly just got one afternoon to shoot anyways, and made the most of it by heading out on a train to nearby Stonehaven so that I could visit Dunnottar Castle, which is jaw-droppingly beautiful.  It was well worth the short trip over here to see this castle perched on the edge of the sea.  So beautiful!  This entire week, visiting these two places, was just unbelievable.

lysefjord in all her majesty

pulpit rock as viewed from the side

pulpit rock as viewed from above

dunnottar castle in stonehaven, Scotland - so awesome!

October: New York City (~2300 photos) - While I have never been a huge fan of NYC, after this trip it really grew on me, and I became one.  It really is an amazing place, even if it took a while to grow on me.  I had an entire week here for work, which thankfully stretched over a weekend, allowing me plenty of time to fire away.  My family came with me and we seriously enjoyed the city.  Luckily, it was Fall and the colors in Central Park were amazing.  I was pretty fired up about capturing Fall color, because we don’t get much of a chance to do that here in central Texas.  But of course I also love to shoot cityscapes, and there's no better place for that than in NYC.

central park displaying a lot of fall color

sunset from top of the rock!

November: San Francisco (~1600 photos) - And as the year started to wind down, I had another trip to this city that I love, and I made the most of it.  I returned to a few familiar haunts but also found new ones and recaptured some things that I didn’t do justice to on previous trips.  It was a very quick 2 nights here, but I’m happy with the shots I did get and the sites that I saw.  I have plenty of things still to work on and it feels fitting that my last trip this year was to San Francisco, since I am such a fan of the place.

a gorgeous sunset at the palace of fine arts

In addition to all that travel, I made it a point to get out and shoot here in Austin quite a bit, especially in the last couple of months (and thus you have seen several posts here on the blog from Austin, which in my opinion is a nice change).  Part of that is that I have been inspired to capture this town with my Sony gear, but some of it is that I had a list a mile long of spots that I still wanted and needed to shoot here (and they are being added to this list).  As far as I can tell, I captured about 2500 photos in Austin this year, which isn’t really all that much in the scheme of things, and it has been mostly concentrated in the last 2 months, because I have been home more and focused on things here.  But there’s a reason for capturing all those Austin images, and I will be sharing that as soon as I can finish the little project I have been working on!  I'm excited to announce it, and I hope that you will like it!

where I spend all my extra money here in austin!  Great store!

the austin skyline on a cold winter morning during a colorful sunrise!

the Austin skyline on a recent wintry, cloudy afternoon

looking down over austin

the paramount theater in downtown austin during blue hour - i love that sign!

And lastly, I had a few quick trips to some other spots in Texas, mostly nearby ones like San Antonio, and though none of those photos made the list, it did contribute another 650 or so pics to the yearly tally!  It also means I have some more things to work on, which is always fun!

Well that's it folks - a summary of my year in photography and travel.  It was a great year in both respects (and many others - I feel very blessed), and I can honestly say that I am proud of what I have done, where I've been, and where I am in life.  I know the future is never guaranteed, yet I am always hopeful when I look ahead and grateful when I look behind me.  

I will keep working to produce new images that you will enjoy viewing (and catching up on my backlog!), and there are plans in motion for new things to come to the blog in 2016.  I am looking forward to that as well!  You'll be the first to hear about it, right here on the blog!  Have a wonderful Holiday Season, wherever you are!  Thank you for stopping by today, and all year long.  I really do appreciate it.  You have no idea how much so.

So all in all, I will look back on 2015 as a year of great change, great adventure, and great accomplishment.  I will remember it fondly.  Here’s to a great 2016!