It’s my favorite post of the year!  I know I say that every year, but it truly is.  I love the process of picking my favorites and reviewing my images from the past year.

As I write this, I’m dealing with a wonderful stomach bug.  I’ve managed to get a stomach bug on all but one of my international trips this year (Chile spared me, go figure), and I had just gotten over my Beijing, “why did you eat that salad” stomach bug, when hello Dolly! here comes another one.  Good times!  You’ll forgive me if this note is shorter than previous years.

Thinking through 2019, Holly and I have shared some amazing experiences together.  Perhaps highest on our list is that we’ve now finalized our house plans, and if everything goes correctly, we’ll start building in the spring.  We’re super excited about that.  Holly and I also crossed Africa off our bucket list this year, with a trip to South Africa.  We’ve now only got Antarctica left to check off all the continents, and major life goal.  As with everyone, we’ve also shared our fair share of struggles.  Between sickness in the family, and just the general stress of life, 2019 has had it’s moments.  One big stresser for 2019 was the company I work for being acquired by another company, and the announcement coming out while I was at the airport to go to Asia for two weeks.  Talk about feeling like you’re on an island!  In the end I think this will be a good thing, but like all change, it has been nerve wracking.  At the end of the day though, I still have a job, Holly and I still have each other, and we’re both healthy (present speed bump not withstanding).  That’s really all I can ask for, and I guess even that is abundance.

Thinking of 2019 from an artistic point of view, a couple of things stand out to me.  First and foremost, my favorite 5 is dominated again this year by images from the United States.  On the one hand this makes me a bit sad, because my pictures are effectively my souvenirs from our travels, and that says to me that I didn’t capture as good of images as I have in years past.  It could also mean that I’m simply liking the subjects here in the States better, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.  I do have some nice images that just barely missed my cut off, and will no doubt get printed regardless.  The other thing that stands out to me is that every single one of my 5 favorites was taken with my new 14-24mm lens.  I absolutely LOVE that lens, and it shows here.  I’ve commented in the past that my eye is drawn to the big scenes, and that lens just helps me get a bigger scene!

2019 by the numbers, I took 14,683 pictures throughout the year and of those I liked 261, and LOVED 49.  My “likes” were up this year, but my “loves” were down over 2018.  I was actually out shooting this morning with my good friend Steve and we were discussing our favorites from the year.  If I’m honest, I’m a little less inspired by the images I captured this year (with the exception of my stream scenes) than in years past and I plan to have some time of introspection to figure that out.  Maybe by the time my “5 Favorite Images of the Decade” post comes out (be on the look out for that!), I’ll have it sorted out.

Well anyway, without further ado, I give you my favorite pictures from 2019!  Holly and I would like to wish you and your family a blessed 2020. Have a Happy New Year and New Decade!  Will the 2020’s be “roaring” like the 1920’s?  Can’t wait to find out.

–Dan Thompson

My 5 Favorite Photos from 2019

Cactus Under the Stars

In 2019 I was blessed to see the Milky Way in the night sky over 3 different continents (North America, South America, and Africa).  That seems pretty incredible just saying it.  This particular image was taken in Arizona on a weekend outing while I had work to do in Phoenix (here’s a link to the post).  At the time I took this picture, this was the clearest, least light polluted sky I’d ever seen.  It was absolutely jaw dropping!  As amazing as it was, however, the night skies over Chile were even better.  BUT, as the name of this post states, this isn’t about “bests”, it’s about my favorites, and this picture of the cactus under the night sky is my favorite night image from 2019, and now one of my 5 favorite images of the year.

Side Streets of Valparaiso

Valparaiso was a major bucket list destination for me in 2019, and despite the bit of danger there (not to mention the current political unrest happening there), I honestly can’t wait to go back.  Holly and I are working to build a new house next year and that has come with some sacrifices this year, and so to save money Holly didn’t go with me to Chile.  Every second I was in Valparaiso, I was wishing she could be there because the destination was just so fantastic.  Maybe another time!

Rhododendron in Bloom By the Stream

Last year I had this to say of my stream scenes – “In 2018 I really committed to them (and to getting wet!) and I feel like it really paid off.  I’m positive you’ll see more images like this in the future!”  I was right!  This year’s 5 favorites includes not one, but two stream scene images, and if you follow along with this blog at all you’ve seen plenty of streams this year!  Hopefully you’re not getting tired of them (I know I’m not! 🙂 ).  This particular image resonates with me, really for two reasons.  First, as I described in my post, this was some how the first time I’d ever seen the rhododendrons bloom up in the Smokies… or at least that I recall.  Second, and more importantly to me, is that I made this discovery while on assignment for Smokies Life Magazine to photograph Tim Line for the cover.  Tim is a very special person, and I count meeting him one of the highlights of this year, and that makes this image all the more significant to me.

Fire in the Valley

Sneak peek!  This image has actually not appeared in Picture of the Week yet, so you’ll have to overlook the spoiler.  I got side tracked here at the end of the year with all the images I took in the fall (I wanted to post them all at least close to the fall), so my blog has gotten a little out of order from when I actually took the images.  No matter!  It’s here now.  This image I captured while exploring around in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, just outside Las Vegas.  This is another place I’d wanted to visit for a while and finally made happen in 2019, and it did not disappoint – though I only got to spend an afternoon there really.  As the sun was setting I was frantically looking for a scene to take pictures of, and I stumbled on this (not literally) fin of rock that was catching the light just right.  The fin itself was maybe 8 or so inches tall, but thanks to the funky warping that the 14mm lens does up close, it looks substantial!  More on this one in a few weeks!

Up Sam’s Creek

The way I arrange my 5 favorite images here in this post is simply by capture date, but as it turns out this year, I’ve saved the best for last.  This is my absolute favorite from 2019, AND it’s on my list of images I’m working through to determine my favorites of the decade!  You’ll have to wait a little while longer for that, but suffice it to say I love this image.  The picture itself elicits an emotional response from me, which you can read about here in the original post, but more than that I just like the image for the image itself.  I love the yin and yang balance of the giant mossy rock and the water flowing over the submerged rock (I now call this formation the “hamburger”… because, well, I think it looks like a hamburger with the bun tilted off the top).  I like the colors of the leaves combined with the greens of the rhododendron bushes and the moss.  I love the curly roots on the tree on the right.  I could go on, but I’ll let you look at it and decide for yourself.

The Rest of the Best

My 5 Favorite Photos from Past Years

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