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Best of 2015 Photography Portfolio

2016 has been my second year of picking up photography. I've done a Best of Portfolio for last year as well, just never published it, but this year I decided to write a quick blurb about each picture and make my progress over time public.

The Process

I got the idea from the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast. Martin talks about how important it is to develop the skills of narrowing all your photos and great moments of the year down to just the very best 10 pictures. In the end I couldn't get below 12 and figured it's a good number because there are 12 months (my photos are not strictly by month though). There is also a bonus photo which has been my wallpaper for over a year and I still love it - both on my desktop and on my phone. I've divided the 12 best photos up into three panels and will talk very briefly about each photo, starting at the top left, going around clockwise.

12 Best Photos of 2015

Rolling hills: shot in central Otago, NZ, on the Pisa range near sunset. Probably my strongest light-and-shadow photo so far which is why I like it so much. The composition could probably be improved but the light was changing fast and this one was the best of the lot. The moon adds a really nice central accent.
Butterfly: Shot at Singapore airport, again at sunset. Since the butterfly garden is in an airport with buildings on 3 sides of it, this was a very lucky moment and the light was gone just 5 minutes later. There are many butterflies in the garden and they constantly feed on fruit nectar and flowers so one doesn't have to wait long to get a shot with a beautiful insect like that. However, it was the only spot in the gardens at that time that received the golden sunlight onto the nice contrasting white flowers.
Pine tree: This is a shot from the Black Forest in Germany. I was walking through swampy marshlands (on wooden boardwalks) and noticed that the trees had those pollen containers (Biologists please send me the correct terminology) primed and ready to go at the slightest touch. So I shook the twig and took a rapid burst of photographs as the branch swayed back and worth and shook out the cloud of pollen. This photo was the best of the lot where framing, sharpness, and the swirl in the pollen cloud worked out best.
Ominous bridge: This is taken crossing the Top Butler river on the West Coast of NZ. When I took the picture I thought it just looked nice because a swingbridge high over a wild torrent always looks good. But at home I noticed how ominous and dark everything looked and after fiddling with the sliders in Darktable for a while I came up with this photo that (in my opinion) captures the harsh and mysterious conditions when hiking on the rough West Coast really well. Unfortunately, it comes out quite dark on some monitors and so far I haven't decided if I should just up the exposure or work on the darker bits individually which would ruin some of the high contrast look.

Beach: another sunset (must be a theme among photographers) taken in Sumner, Christchurch, NZ. I like there is so much activity on the beach: people walking, surfing, paragliding, birds flying - and you can see the spray from the ocean really well.
Power lines: This one is taken among some wheat fields in Germany while out on a bike ride. That part of Germany consists of continuous rolling hills yet in this photo it's got a neat "Great Plains" look. I also like the colours and the very limited colour palette.
Snowy ridge: Back in NZ in the middle of winter. As the photographer I know exactly what the scene looked like in real life but I think the photograph successfully plays some tricks on the eye in terms of perspective. Because we happened to come down the steep part of this mountain at just the right time, less than an hour before sunset I think, we got this really string shadow line on the ridge. The hiker sort of (but not completely) gives the scene a sense of scale.
Tops hut: Not a particularly hard or lucky photo but it's got all the elements of a picture-perfect NZ backcountry scene: some snow, clouds, a cozy hut, and just a very pleasant to look at mix of colours.

Waterfall: I'm not a huge practitioner of blurred water and waterfall photography but when you are out in the mountains you do spot a lot of pretty looking waterfalls. This one seemed to work best in black & white because it's got a lot of texture but not really any colour that would be missed (the water wasn't glacier blue or anything like that). My only complaint about it is that the rocks on the right are a bit too shiny. I find it quite tricky to balance my circular polarizer effect when doing long-exposure of water because you want to take the glare of rocks but the agitated water actually looks better with the reflections left in.
Sand columns: Another one where it's nearly impossible to get a good sense of scale. These are actually very small pebbles and other debris that prevent the river sand on a bank from getting eroded by rainfall. It's quite a unique photo and perspective which is why I chose it for my Best of collection.
Swirly clouds sunset: Taken from one of the Canterbury (NZ) foothills at sunset while low clouds got blown around our mountain from the West. It was actually a really strong wind but we camped behind a ridge line where we had this great view just above the tree line.
Dragonfly: This was the first trip after buying the Olympus 45 mm prime lens for MFT and I was blown away but its detail and sharpness. This scene might be a little bit busy but it's a neat scene with a clear subject in its environment with some really nice colours and detail. A fairly lucky shot for sure.

Bonus

As promised, here is the link to the wallpaper in high resolution. This is one of my all time favourite photos because I love the perspective, the colours, and even the (yes, gimmicky) diorama effect. I hope someone else will also enjoy it as their wallpaper. If you want to redistribute the wallpaper, please link back to this blog post or to the photo in my gallery or on Flickr.

Please use the comment section below or head over to Google+ or Twitter @tobiaswulff to discuss this article or any of my photography and videography work. My Flickr, 500px and Vimeo pages also provide some space to leave comments and keep up to date with my portfolio. Lastly, if you want to get updates on future blog posts, please subscribe to my RSS feed. I plan to publish a new article every Wednesday.