Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favourite Photos of 2016

Everybody knows that 2016 sucked.

Music icons died, America lost its soul. Syria fell deeper into war. France and Germany suffered unspeakable horrors in the hands of terrorists. A Russian diplomat was assassinated. In Alberta, Fort McMurray was devastated by a fire that is still affecting many residents.

As we put this crappy year behind us, let us cling to our loved ones and remember the things that truly made us happy in 2016.

I take joy in the family and friends that I have, and of the opportunities that live has shone upon me.

For The Brown Knowser, I look back on a year that, despite my short hiatus, readers continued to visit. I continued to take photos during this break, and when I decided it was time to return, I was only too happy to share my work. I've had a few projects—some formal and some by accident—and when I looked back at my favourites from 2016, I found it hard to pare them down to a select few.

Last year, I shared my favourite 28 photos for 2015; for 2014, I shared 17; the two years before that, 15. In the first year, only 12.

This year, I whittled it down to 24 pictures, which was difficult, considering my extended vacation to Arizona and California, the photo meetups, and my Bate Island Project.

I hope you enjoy this post as I look back on the photos that I shot to make 2016 just a bit more bearable. But I warn you: as with some past year-end posts, some of these photos may be considered unsafe for viewing at work.

Mother Nature was late in sending us snow in Ottawa, but when she eventually brought it, she added bonus, bone-chilling temperatures. Yet, that didn't stop me from taking a detour, one morning, on my way into the office. The temperature was –40°,which encouraged me to capture the Rideau Canal Skateway as quickly as possible.

Just before my family and I packed up and headed for Arizona, I took a walk along a nature trail that is close to home, that I have been aware of for years but had never visited. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a lot of snow when I returned from vacation, so I thought I'd capture it before I left. When I walked along the snow-deep Chapman Mills trail, I promised myself I'd return later in the year.

Arizona was a stark contrast to home. Blazingly hot and dry, it opened my eyes to a whole new world.

That new world came clear as we drove from Phoenix to Page, passing through several landscape changes and seeing some horizons that looked other-worldly. Page gave me a special photo opportunity, through a narrow canyon and above a vast, deep one.

Driving from Page to the Grand Canyon, there was one view that I had to pull over to appreciate. While I captured it, DW kept a lookout behind me, for oncoming traffic.

And, of course, the Grand Canyon itself was unforgettable.

Of course, Southern California was nothing to turn one's nose up at. Our first evening, we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean with the waves slamming the rocky coastline. It was the stuff of which paintings are made.

San Diego was a city that had lots of sights. One just has to look around. And look up.

Back home, spring brought a lot of foggy days. On one drive home, I couldn't resist to stop and capture it.

At home, an orchid was blooming for the third straight year. I used my flat-screen TV as a backdrop to capture it.

I attended more model photo shoots in 2016 than I had in any other year. That's not saying a lot: I only went to four, but that's twice as many as I usually attend. New venues were one draw, new photographic techniques were another. But for a couple of the shoots, working with the models that I have worked with before was the big draw. Knowing each other made us more comfortable around one another, as we knew what to expect.

For one shoot, we used a modern apartment in a new condo in Westboro. It poured rain outside and we used no studio lights: just natural light through rain-soaked windows.

Ottawa has lots of festivals, and this time, the family attended a new one (new to us). The Glow Fest on Bank Street was filled with bright colours and light; some, on people.

The biggest party in Ottawa is on July 1, on Canada Day, and the best place to be is Parliament Hill for the Snowbirds fly-by.

A special place for photographers and adventurers in Ottawa was blocked, this summer, but before the barricades went up, I ventured out on the Prince of Wales Bridge from the Ottawa River Parkway to Lemieux Island, and back. The colours on the iron superstructure, as you venture further out, is spectacular. I'm hoping I can access the bridge from the Québec side: I'm not done with this place.

Warning: the next two shots are NSFW.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to work once more with one of my favourite models, Olivia Preston. We did our shoot in an abandoned factory in Carleton Place, where I discussed the basics of some ideas and then let Olivia do her thing. Most of the talk during the session involved casual conversation, joking around, and laughing.

Sunsets along the Ottawa River are always spectacular. There's not much more I can say.

Another project that I participated in was a levitation shoot, also at the factory in Carleton Place. My first attempt was surprisingly good, involving 10 shots combined into one. I've tried a couple of shots like this since, but this one is by far my favourite.

On a wet autumn morning, I explored the city, looking for a Where In Ottawa photo site, and my search led me to the Rideau Falls. I didn't take my challenge photo here, but I did see the waterfall from a new angle, one in which I could capture the cascading water and the fall colours.

I promised myself that I would return to the Chapman Mills Conservation trail, and as the water levels receded and the warm colours came out, I fulfilled that promise.

I couldn't complete this post without a nod to my year-long project. Over the course of the year, I have stood in the same spot through sunshine, rain, and fog, in mornings, afternoons, and evenings. My favourite capture was on an autumn evening, when it was so dark that I was glad I knew the way by heart: my eyes couldn't see very much.

I like the natural purple hue of the night sky, with the trees in the distance, their fall colours lit by cars that traversed the bridge.

Last week, I lucked into getting into the grounds of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was able to capture the festive lights and the former monastery without the obstruction of gates. Whether I was trespassing or not is a matter of interpretation.

Thank you to all of my readers. You've supported and encouraged me in my blog over the years: it's because of you that I keep my fingers moving on the keyboard, why I am happy to share my thoughts and photos.

Have a happy 2017!

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