Looking back on 2020

The sun sets on Sleeping Bear Bay in Glen Arbor, Michigan

With 2020 thankfully in the rearview mirror, I am taking a moment to look back at the past year in my photography.  I’ll share with you my personal favorites from among the photos I took.  But first, I want to share some thoughts on my development as a photographer this year. 

I have a sense that I did not shoot as much in 2020 as I did in 2019.  I suspect, however, that is not really the case.  I made 10 day trips to northern Michigan, nine to my favorite of places – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and one to Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, home to a stand of virgin white pines.  My wife and I also spent a week socially distancing in the heart of Sleeping Bear, allowing me to shoot in the park early each morning without having to leave home at 3:00 a.m.  I also had a productive visit to the sand dunes at Silver Lake State Park. So, I had plenty of opportunities to shoot.

Locally, I got out quite out frequently as well, visiting Seidman Park multiple times and shooting at Fallasburg, Lowell, Yankee Springs, and the Sixth Street Dam,.

Logjam on the Sixth Street Dam, Grand Rapids, Michigan

So, as I think about it, it is probably not that I did not shoot as much this year as I did in the past. Instead, I didn’t shoot as much as I would have liked.

I have tried to use this year to improve both in the field and in my post-processing. I attended two on-line photo conferences that were incredibly instructive and inspirational.  Out of Chicago Live was held right after we came under Michigan’s Covid stay-home, stay-safe order.  The conference brought together instructors and participants from around the world and offered three days’ of instruction.  I submitted 4 images for review and was thrilled with the positive feedback I received from Jack Curran and Tim Cooper.

Encouraged by their review I submitted three images to LensWork magazine for possible inclusion in a book it was publishing called Our Magnificent Planet.  I learned later in the summer that one of the three – my photo of the Burfiend Granary – had been selected from among 2,700 entries for publication.  The book came out in the fall.  It is stunningly beautiful.  I am honored to have been included.

The granary on the Peter and Jennie Burfiend farm in the Point Oneida Historic District in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

LensWork is a premier fine art photography magazine published by Brooks Jensen.  I have subscribed to Lenswork for a number of years and listen to Brooks’s daily and weekly podcasts to benefit from his incredible insights.

In August, I attended another photography conference, this one titled Out of Chicago – In Depth.  I participated in a number of 4-hour workshops, including one taught by Brooks Jensen and Jack Curran.  That workshop focused on creating projects rather than simply single images.  It inspired me to look at my photography in a different way and led me to produce my first folio to share with family and friends.

The cover page of my Folio No. 1.

A folio is a set of photographs printed and intended to be viewed together.  Choosing the photos, selecting the paper, and printing them became a project this fall.  I decided to process the photos in black and white.  I struggled to come up with a title for the folio and ultimately failed.  Instead, I called it simply “Folio No. 1,” taking comfort in the fact that Ansel Adams named his seven portfolios simply numbers “I” through “VII.”

So much of photography today is viewed online.  I wanted to provide a tactile experience where the viewer can hold the photo and study it without aid of a computer or cell phone.  I was pleased with the final product and have begun working on Folio No. 2 and thinking about other projects to undertake.

Processing my folio photos in black and white was inspired by a workshop I did with Jack Curran at Out of Chicago Live.  Jack was one of several influencers from whom I have learned this year.  I did three workshops with Jack, who helped me begin to see the potential of black and white. Unfortunately, Jack passed away shortly after the workshop he taught with Brooks Jensen.  Jack was an amazing, generous person with a love for sharing his gift for photography with others. I am glad I had the opportunity to learn from him.

Another influencer has been Brooks Jensen himself.  Each issue of Brooks’s magazine, LensWork, exposes the reader to beautiful fine art photography, most of it in black and white.  Brooks issues daily podcasts that cover a wide range of topics of interest to an aspiring photographer. Brooks also shares his photography for free in pdfs he publishes under the masthead Kokoro. On the website Lenswork Online, Brooks shares a treasure trove of commentary on fine art photography.

There is one other influencer I have come across only recently, Michael Kenna.  Kenna is a British photographer now living in the U.S.  His black and white photography is stunning. He spent several years in the early 1990s photographing the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan.  The photographs are a master course in composition through light and shadow, shape and form. I only recently discovered Kenna and look forward to studying him further in 2021.

Interviewed in Lenswork in 2003, Kenna explained, “Photography, for me, is not about copying the world. I’m not really interested in making an accurate copy of what I see out there. I think one of photography’s strongest elements is its ability to record a part of the world, but also to integrate with the individual photographer’s aesthetic sense.”  I am trying to find my way on the path toward developing my aesthetic sense and am grateful to Jack Curran, Brooks Jensen and Michael Kenna for lighting the way. My aim is not to emulate their photos but to find my own way of expressing what I see and feel when I am out with my camera. That is the journey I am on.

So all this was a a rather long-winded introduction to sharing my favorite photos of 2020. I’ve chosen a baker’s dozen to share with you. I hope you enjoy them.

King Milling, Lowell, Michigan
King Milling, Lowell, Michigan
Bass Lake, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Uprooted, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Maple Leaf, Honey Creek, Ada, Michigan
Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Intentional camera movement photograph of docks on Reeds Lake, East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Reeds on Hall Lake, Yankee Springs, Michigan
Moon setting on the Burfiend Farm, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Sunrise on a frozen Narada Lake, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Giles Road, Cannonsburg, Michigan
Sand Dunes, Silver Lake State Park, Mears, Michigan
Ghost Forest, Silver Lake State Park, Mears, Michigan