Decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers is an ancient custom. We’ve done this in the United States since before the Civil War.
Decoration Day was officially established soon after the Civil War ended and observed on May 30 because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Memorial Day became a national holiday in 1971 and moved to the last Monday in May.
A gray, cold day – It’s hard see the end of these graves, and more difficult to imagine the suffering. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.
Happy Holidays! Once again the season has snuck up on us. I hope that all of you, your families, and your friends have a joyful and happy season!
Photographer Jim Goldstein has an annual tradition of organizing a “best photos of the year” listing. I’m very glad he started this, since it’s a good reminder for each of us to take time to review results and contemplate how to improve our photography. And also to put together an annual “Favorite photos of the year” post.
2012 was another good year for me photographically. The 2012 folder on my hard drive takes up about 284 GB of space – almost double 2011. There are 80 folders, and each one represents a separate “photo-op”, with a total of over 6200 photos, so it does look like I’m trying! I had a lot of opportunity to make good images this year, and I’m pleased with the results I achieved. But it doesn’t seem like my ability and skills have grown as much this year as in the past. Perhaps I’ve plateaued. Maybe I don’t know what I don’t know about getting better. Maybe I’m just getting more picky and critical. Regardless, I think I need to make a stronger effort in 2013.
I’m still using the following system to rate my photos. The numbers in parentheses are the counts for 2012.
1 star – The photo is interesting (174)
2 stars – The photo is worth showing to others (396)
3 stars – The photo is the best of (or one of the best of ) any given photo shoot (68)
4 stars – My favorite photo of a year (1)
5 stars – My favorite photo ever (still none, I’m not finished making photos yet!)
The rest of the photos don’t have stars and are seconds or not so good versions. I usually keep them, but they probably won’t get any more attention. This system seems to work for me and I’ve reviewed my 2012 photos and selected my favorites. This is a hard process for any photographer. It’s difficult to separate my opinion about a photograph from any emotional connections that I might have with the scene or situation. But making this effort is important and part of the learning process. Still, at the end of the day, I don’t claim to be objective about my photography. These photos are the ones that I like best, so feel free to disagree – but I hope you’ll enjoy looking at the ones I’ve picked.
You can click on each of these to go to Flickr and see a larger version. Or you can click on this link to go to the complete set on Flickr.
I have 1 miscellaneous subject, 1 mammal, 1 bird, 3 people photos, 7 landscapes, 3 sunrises, 0 sunsets, 6 color, 4 Black and White, and 4 Infra-Red photos. Definitely a trend away from wildlife and toward landscapes and infra-red. Here we go…
My number 1 favorite photo of 2012:
Many cypress trees, Blue Cypress Lake, near Vero Beach, Florida, June.
I have a thing for Cypress trees anyway and when I made my first and only visit to Blue Cypress Lake this year, the natural beauty of this place overwhelmed me. I’m planning to return early next year when I can also see many nesting Ospreys and other birds. See this post for more info.
My number 2 favorite photo of 2012:
Pre-dawn Jetty, Jetty Park, Cocoa, Florida, October.
When I saw this scene, I really liked the way the light on the walk drew my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon. So I straddled the rail with my tripod and made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 3 favorite photo of 2012:
Keb’ Mo’ in concert, Plaza Theatre, Orlando, Florida, February.
I like The Plaza and they often bring in acts that I like too. We were lucky to get seats up front and when the spotlights lit up the smoke, I made this photo. See this post for more info.
My number 4 favorite photo of 2012:
Water Dragon Sunrise, on board the Carnival Paridise in the Gulf of Mexico, April.
I stalked this sunrise for about 45 minutes before this scene developed. I’m happy I waited for it – sometimes patience pays off! See this post for more info.
My number 5 favorite photo of 2012:
Submarine sunrise: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaving Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn, October.
This was a bonus photo when the sub turned south after leaving the inlet and posed for us under the rising sun. See this post for more info.
My number 6 favorite photo of 2012:
Cocoa Sunrise, North of the Hubert Humphrey Causeway in Cocoa, Florida, August.
This is an infra-red, fish-eye photo (an “IRFE”). It’s a really good combination to shake up your photography and inspire some creativity.
My number 7 favorite photo of 2012:
Play time at Union Station, Cincinnati, Ohio, December 2011
This photo missed the deadline for last year’s favorites – so I included it here. I usually wait for people to clear out when I’m trying to make a photo. This time I went ahead and made it while these two girls played around the fountain. Since this is a stitched panorama, they show up multiple times, which I think adds to the image. See this post for more info.
My number 8 favorite photo of 2012:
Cruising White Pelican, Black Point Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida, December.
White Pelicans are winter migrants to our area, so we don’t get to see them very often. This one cruised right in and posed in the middle of my viewfinder. I couldn’t have arranged it better! See this post for more info.
My number 9 favorite photo of 2012:
On the beach, Venice Beach, Florida, September.
We were wandering around exploring the area near the Venice Pier. Since it was close to mid-day, I didn’t expect the light to be good, but I took my IR camera in case something came up. I think the IR characteristics add a lot of interest to the photo. And it makes a great example of how “playing around” can lead to good things. See this post for more info.
My number 10 favorite photo of 2012:
Late night?, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, May.
This photo was difficult to make since the lighting was challenging and I had to photograph the Gorilla through glass. But it’s a great pose and expression and I was able to clean the image up considerably in post processing. He looks like I’ve felt a few times. See this post for more info.
And here is one last photo that I care a lot about:
The “Senator” – a 3500 year old Bald Cypress tree, Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida.
I made this image in September of 2011, so it doesn’t officially qualify for a 2012 favorite. The reason I put it in this post is because in January of 2012, the tree caught fire, burned and collapsed. The fire was at first thought to have been caused by lightning, but later was determined to have been started by a woman inside the hollow tree so she could see the illegal drugs she was using. Now no one else will ever make a photo of this, so it became a lot more important to me in 2012. What a crazy, sad event. For more info see this post and this post.
If you’d like to see my favorite photos from earlier years, you can click on these links: 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The sky was pretty cloudy when I first went out, but by the time we arrived it was starting to clear up. There was still enough color left to get a few good photos. In this one, I like the way the light on the walk draws my eye to the bottom left and then the rail and the jetty lead to the sun rays coming up from below the horizon.
A little later, I noticed this boat speeding around the inlet, sometimes with flashing lights and a siren and wondered what was going on.
The Coast Guard patrols: This small Coast Guard patrol boat was very active.
I should have realized what was happening before I saw this next boat coming out of the inlet:
On the way out: Close up of a ballistic missile submarine leaving Port Canaveral, Florida. The presence of bow planes instead of sail planes show that this is a British boat, the HMS Vigilant.
This was pretty exciting for me. Many years ago, after college, I was in the Navy and served aboard a sub like this one. Just before I got out, I was stationed at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit at Cape Canaveral. After submarines go through refit, the Navy sends them down to NOTU for a missile test. They load a special dummy warhead missile and then test fire it down range from the Atlantic off the Cape. The tall mast behind the sail is added to transmit instrumentation data during launch while the sub is submerged.
We watched the boat turn south after leaving the inlet, and rushed to set up our cameras for a photo as it sailed under the sun.
Submarine sunrise: This is a unique Florida sunrise scene: The British Trident ballistic missile submarine HMS Vigilant leaves Port Canaveral, Florida just after dawn.
We hung around for a while after this to photograph shorebirds including Brown Pelicans, Gulls, Black Skimmers, Terns, and others. But the highlight of the trip for me was the sub. As a former submariner, it brought back a lot of memories and I really enjoyed the show. Quite a bonus for getting up early!
10/31/12 update: The HMS Vigilant successfully launched a Trident II D5 missile on 23 October. Read more here (sorry, no longer available).
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about you. I apologize for the irregular posting, but I’ve been busy with little time for photography or blogging over the last week or two.
Lynn and I visited Mike and Sara for Thanksgiving and Mary joined us, so we had a very nice family holiday. Wisconsin was different from Florida. The day we left it was sunny with a high in the 80s. In Wisconsin, it was overcast with a temperature in the 40s, and because it’s so much farther north, the sun set at 4:15pm – making the days shorter than at home.
One thing that was hard to ignore was all the geese – they were everywhere, and you could frequently hear them honking even while inside. This surprised me, since I thought they all migrated south for the winter. When I researched this, it turns out that many do stay in Wisconsin year round. I wonder what they eat and how they stay warm when the snow gets heavy?
Fox River shoreline near Kaukona, Wisconsin; Canada Geese in the distance
Mike drove us over to Manitowic on Lake Michigan where we went through the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. It was interesting to learn that the shipyard here made submarines during WW II. They moved to the Gulf via the Mississippi River.
Shipbuilding scene, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum; Manitowic, Wisconsin
There’s a WW II diesel boat that you can tour.
The USS Cobia, SS 245, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum; Manitowic, Wisconsin
The “Christmas Tree” aboard the submarine USS Cobia: the red and green lights on this panel show the status of hull openings
On the way home, I convinced Mike to stop and let me make a photo of this scene.