It’s my favorite post of the year!

I know I say that every year, but it’s TRUE (I think I maybe say that every year too. LOL).  Typically when I do these, I sit down and put the whole thing together in one go.  This year – for whatever reason – I’ve broken it up over several days, which has allowed more time for self-reflection.  On the whole, I’d say 2021 was a pretty good year, though it was not without its struggles, to be sure.  Maybe the correct way to say that is, the year had its struggles, but we all came out on the other side okay.  Most of those struggles are in one way or another related to the on-going pandemic, which I think we all thought / hoped would be a memory by now.  Frankly I think some of that expectation is what drove some of my own anxieties throughout the year; or my languishing, as my good friend Steve put it.

2021 was the first time in a long time that Holly and I didn’t leave the country.  In fact, it occurred to me while I’ve been processing the year internally and out loud with my close friends, that I should go back and look when the last time that happened was (and yes, I fully understand this is a “first world problem”).  Since I first left the country in 2002, there have only been two years that I didn’t go somewhere abroad: 2004, because we were newly married, I was back in school, and we were subsequently broke; and 2021 (I managed to sneak in a trip to India in 2020 just before the world shutdown).  My initial, albeit very entitled, reaction to this was to think how crappy it was that I didn’t get to go anywhere.  The correct way to think about this though, really, is wow, I’ve been extremely fortunate!  In 20 years, there have only been 2 years where I didn’t get to go somewhere overseas (again, thanks for the perspective Steve). 

So with that improved attitude, Holly and I did get to explore around a good amount this year.  We visited some family in Mobile, and then went to the beach.  We had the opportunity to go to the beach with my family again this year, which is always so much fun.  Holly and I then got to go to Utah, which you’ll see a couple of pictures from that trip in this post (clearly it was a really good trip!). AND, I got to go to Arizona this year for work, and spent a little time playing around in the desert while I was there.  Life is, of course, made up of more than just trips, and I would say that we got to also spend some quality time with friends and family this year that was so sorely missed in 2020.  We have now spent a full year in our new house, and as such got to experience all four seasons here on our property.  Really, we have a lot to be thankful for, so yeah, on the whole 2021 was a good year.

From a photography perspective, I actually took more pictures in 2021 than I have any other year – ever!  I was actually shocked by that.  I was guessing it was a lower number than last year!  BUT, I got a new camera in 2021 (thanks Holly!) that does some new tricks, like infrared and better astrophotography.  So between those new tricks, and photographing the random animals around the house doing funny things, I ended up shooting quite a bit.  Interestingly, almost half of the 15k images I took this year were captured since September!  Perhaps that’s not too surprising as Holly and I were still in Utah in September, I went to Arizona in October, and then basically as soon as I got home the fall colors were popping here already and lasted for over a month!  There was just a lot of stuff to shoot!  Actually now that I’m thinking about it, 4 of my 5 images came from that same September – November stretch!  Lots of inspiration I suppose!

Well with that, I’ve rambled enough.  Let’s get to the pictures!  Holly and I hope you all have a blessed New Year!

–Dan Thompson

Number of Pictures Taken Annually

2021 Mapped Out

My 5 Favorite Photos from 2021

The Star Voyager

Back in May when I originally posted this, I commented that if this image didn’t make it to my five favorites post, I’d had an amazing year of photography.  Well, I’d say I had a great year, and this image was definitely a part of the reason why!  Later in May, Flickr actually did an interview with me on their blog about the image, which garnered the image over a million views (1,073,000 as of this writing), and across all platforms I shared it on, it received thousands of likes and comments – all of which is awesome of course, but I just personally LOVE this image.  You may note that I’ve changed it a bit since I originally posted it, and I believe this will be one of those images I just keep coming back to and changing to my liking.

As another update, this boat, which is actually named the Donna Kay, is now gone.  The town had tried to remove the abandoned shrimp boat a couple of times and finally just had it demolished (see the news story here). 

The Splendor of Canyonlands

In late Aug, Holly and I took a vacation out in Utah, a trip that actually netted me two of my five favorites this year.  This one, however, has not been published just quite yet.  This image is from Dead Horse Point State Park, looking off into Canyonlands National Park.  I’ll talk more about this in the future when this image appears in Picture of the Week, but we thoroughly enjoyed our trip and found this park in particular to be spectacular.  As the sunsets here, I felt like the features of the canyon were just amplified.  Much like the Grand Canyon, you really have to see this one for yourself.  More to come.

Factory Butte Under the Milky Way

When I did the interview with Flickr about the Star Voyager image above, I commented that the sky in that image represented my best capture to date, but in some ways I actually like this sky better.  I think I like the Star Voyager image better overall (though I’m quite fond of this one too, obviously), but I really like the quality of the sky in this one.  In any case, both images were a ton of fun to setup and shoot, and both images made a lasting impression on me personally.  There will definitely be more where this came from in the coming year!

The Lost Dutchman

I mention above that I shot a lot this year, and one of the things I did that was new was an exploration of infrared.  At the end of the day, I believe that an image has to be good because it’s pleasing to look at – not because of how it was captured – so I point out here that this is infrared only to say that my commitment to that “tool” ended up paying off for me.  I really love the drama (including the lightning bolt!) in the sky and the weird landscape here.  Like the Canyonlands image above, this one has also not been published yet on Picture of the Week, so you’ll be reading more about this one in the near future. 

Upper Lynn Camp Prong Falls in Autumn

I had a number of images that were really painful to eliminate this year in preparation for this post, and this image here was essentially the measuring stick.  When it was all said and done, if I wouldn’t keep the image in question OVER this image, it got dumped.  I really like this image and it’s such a great reflection of what a beautiful fall we had this year (Haha! I got it in one more time! 🙂 ), which I think adds to my personal attachment to it.  The conditions were just perfect on this day, and I’m thankful to have been there to capture it!

The Rest of the Best

My 5 Favorite Photos from Past Years

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