It’s my favorite post of the year!

Wow… 2020, right?  What can be said… what needs to be said.  Frankly, I’m not even sure.  2020 has been a challenging year, and those challenges are no doubt going to follow us into 2021.  Even as we’ve been talking about “the new normal” for months now (feels like years), I still can’t help but think that I don’t want a new normal.  Even tonight as I was building out my travel map for the year, which I love doing by the way because I love maps, I couldn’t help but mourn a little more the losses of 2020.  Even with all the struggles and challenges, I am choosing joy over sorrow, so lets focus on that for a little while.  In 2020, Holly and I built and moved into our dream house on the property we bought a number of years ago.  As much as I missed being on the road this year, the reality is if I had been gone as much as normal, the house building process would have been a lot more stressful.  That’s a blessing.  We broke ground on the house just as the lockdowns were beginning, which admittedly felt very questionable at the time, but we pressed onward.  As it turned out, all of our builder’s other clients decided to wait, which meant our house got his complete and undivided attention, AND it kept him and his contractors working.  That is a blessing.  Our builder was smart enough to order a bunch of our materials early, for fear of shortages (shortages that played out in a big way), and that kept the house moving, and shielded us from a bunch of the crazy price swings.  That’s a blessing.  I could go on and on about the little things that happened throughout the build process that were blessings.  We really were fortunate, and now that we’ve gotten settled, we have been absolutely enjoying ourselves here, and we look forward to spending the rest of our days here. What’s more, our first Christmas in the new house was a white Christmas (pretty darn rare here in East Tennessee), and Holly and I, along with a couple of our friends got to enjoy sledding in the snow behind our new house, which I am definitely counting as a blessing!  My dad survived a heart attack this year.  Blessing.  My mom fell and broke her wrist (on her birthday no less), but has now just been released by her doctor and physical therapist.  Blessing.  Those in our family who have gotten COVID, have all recovered.  Blessing.  2020 may not have been what I had hoped or planned, it may have been SUPER stressful / tiring / trying / boring / maddening / heartbreaking, and many other words, at times, but it was also full of peace, joy, happiness, and innumerable blessings.

From an artistic point of view, 2020 was an interesting year.  Most obviously, I didn’t travel hardly at all this year, which in turn meant almost all of my photos were taken here locally.  In fact, for the first time ever, all five of my favorites were taken within an hour and a half of my house – one is even from my own backyard, literally!  Funny enough, even the pictures I did take out of town haven’t made it to Picture of the Week yet, save a trio of images from our family vacation.  It’s not that I don’t like those images, I was just so happy and excited with what I was getting here in our area that I just never got around to them.  Heck, I haven’t even gotten around to publishing all of my 5 favorites yet!  That’s a definite change.  I have admitted elsewhere on my blog that I have often thought of the images I take here in my area as just being practice for when I travel – those are the images that mean the most to me and that I typically like best.  Being forced to stay home and focus locally definitely changed that attitude!  You can even see this play out in my writing.  I started off sharing images I’d taken here locally and referring to them as what I’d been working on during the “COVID days”; thinking in the back of my mind that I’d eventually be traveling again and shooting other things.  By August I had abandoned that language and was just sharing what I’d been shooting – no caveat or disclaimers needed.

2020 by the numbers – I took 10,672 pictures throughout the year and of those I liked 298, and LOVED 89.  Both my “likes” and “loves” were up this year over 2018 and 2019, even though the number of pictures I took was the lowest since 2013 (!!!). I’m not sure what that says exactly, but it sure seems as though I was enjoying what I was shooting and the end result!  I also branched out a bit this year.  I used a flash quite a bit this year (one of the images in my 5 favorites features this work) and I finally fell into a grove with my 300mm lens.  None of the 300mm lens shots made it into my 5 favorites, but they’re all in the images I loved from the year.  I also used my 24 – 105mm lens a lot more, and 2 of the 5 this year were taken with that lens.  I think this says I’m mixing things up a bit, which hopefully translates into a more diverse body of work.

Oh, and one more thing. Picture of the Week turned 10 years old this year, and I totally overlooked it! So 2020!  My first photography blog ever was posted on Oct 9, 2010, and the process has inspired me to keep shooting and sharing for the past 10 years.  How neat is that?  With all that said, let’s get on with it.  Holly and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and we wish you a blessed 2021!

–Dan Thompson

Number of Pictures Taken Annually

2020 Mapped Out

My 5 Favorite Photos from 2020

Double Falls in Autumn Glory

I got a shot of these falls last autumn when I was really on my stream scene kick, and that image almost made it into my 5 favorite images last year, but there was something about the composition that I thought I could do better.  I went back to the falls a few times this year and then managed to catch them in peak fall colors and got the composition sorted to my liking this time!

A Clingmans Dome Sunrise

The first of two of my 5 favorite images that hasn’t been published (it’s coming out on Sunday) yet, I captured this image in the early fall, and loved all the flowers in the foreground.  More on this one soon! 🙂

Late Fall Mood in the Yard

I decided to start a little project this year, which I’m calling my color sabbatical, where I’m taking only black and white images from December through March (with a few small exceptions).  In the run up to that I decided to play around some with black and white and ended up with this image, which I love!  I took it on a foggy morning here in my own yard, and loved the mood.  This is the second of the two images that haven’t been published yet.  You’ll see it again in 2021! 

LeQuire Cemetery Under the Stars

Though we didn’t have just a whole lot of clear sky nights when the moon was right this year, I did get the opportunity to photograph the Milky Way this year and came away with several images that I really like.  To that point, I also learned some new post processing skills, which I’m looking forward to continuing to develop this coming year!

Classic Camaro in Downtown Knoxville

I don’t use flash much at all, but this year I decided to work with it some, specifically when shooting cars.  I just love Knoxville’s downtown, with it’s iconic Tennessee Theatre sign, so when the lockdowns started I took advantage of the streets being completely empty, and did a photo shoot with my car.  My nephew Andrew helped me out with this one!

The Rest of the Best

My 5 Favorite Photos from Past Years

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