2016, The Year in Review

Two Thousand Sixteen has been a pretty significant year for me in many ways, the greatest of which was the birth of our baby boy in November. 

Thomas Wade Duncan

Thomas Wade Duncan

Like I mentioned in my last post, life has been a little upside down. With caring for a newborn baby, it's been difficult (read: almost impossible) to focus on art. I have, at times been able to work on post-processing and editing scans of negatives I made throughout the year after getting back into film photography. Ive also tried to keep my mind occupied with art and photography by reading my various photo books (I'm currently half-way through Vew Finder, a book about Mark Klett and his team's efforts in the Third View Rephotographic Project), and Instagram remains a good source of inspiration to me. The hardest thing to do in my creative pursuits has been getting out to create new work. I haven't minded for the most part, because A, I have a new baby to spend time with, and B, the aforementioned activities have done well in satiating my creative drive.

Another way this year has been significant, is I've been much more focused on creating art than I have for several years. As a result, I've seen a large improvement in my confidence as an artist. That confidence is a product of the time I've invested in creativity this year, as well as having a few very valuable critiques of the direction my work has taken this year. I've submitted to four shows this year, and been rejected by all of them, which was hard to take, but I've learned lessons there as well. 

As a sort of retrospective, I thought I'd share my top 10 favorite and/or what I feel are the most significant in my creative pursuits photographs from 2016: 

10. Cutler Marsh Near Benson Marina, Cache Valley, Utah, 2016

Cutler Marsh Near Benson Marina, Cache Valley, Utah, 2016

The sun had almost set below the mountains to the west of Cache Valley when I slammed on my brakes after seeing these three trees with a post laid in their branches. I rushed out of the car, set up my tripod in the middle of the road, composed the shot and made the exposure before the truck coming my direction got any closer. At the time, I was so hurried to get off the road that I didn't notice the beaver-chewed trunks of the trees. I don't know when that post was placed in the trees, or by whom or why, but I was intrigued and attracted to the geometric shape juxtaposed against the organized chaos of the branches of the trees and their trunks. It was still there when I drove past a few weeks later, but was gone after another few weeks.

9. Bear River, East Pass, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah 2016

Bear River, East Pass, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah, 2016

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is home to some very interesting natural and man-made features. Dikes and other structures provide water depths that the various species of birds require. There are mudflats, wetlands, marshes, open water, and canals. This photograph contains many of those features. I wanted to capture the expanse of the two large open bodies of water separated by another body of water—this one a flowing canal. The bridge was another feature that caught my eye. In fact, it was the first thing that I wanted to capture, but looking through my viewfinder, I knew that the scene I needed to record was much wider than just one frame could contain, so I made three photographs and then stitched them together in Lightroom.

8. Bear River, Benson, Utah 2016

Bear River, Benson, Utah, 2016

I'd driven past this area several times and never really given much pause until this day. I'd just gotten my medium format rangefinder, the Fuji GSW690iii, also known as the "Texas Leica," and I decided to come here to make my first exposures on film in almost eight years. The water in these lower parts of the Bear River is dirty and murky. Longer exposures like this one obscure just how disgusting the water through here can look, a dichotomy that I'm not sure how to reconcile. Maybe it's not so much not knowing how as it is not wanting to. This would be an entirely different photograph had the exposure been shorter. 

7. Wheat Field During Sunset #1

Wheat Field During Sunset #1

One late afternoon in June, I went back out to the Lower Bear River Recreation Area in Benson to photograph, but the wind was blowing so hard out there that it was causing all of my photographs to blur, which made me think to use intentional camera movement to breathe abstract images. This was the first of such images that I've been making this year. I'm not sure if anything big will ever come of them, but it's still a fun visual exercise. Some of these that I've done have the feel of the landscape rushing by as you drive down a freeway, or turn on the spot, changing your point of view. Others have an other worldly feel, as if features in the landscape are phasing in and out of parallel universes. Maybe there really is more to explore with these.

6. Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie, Washington 2016

Snoqualmie Falls, Snoqualmie, Washington 2016

Gina and I went to Seattle for our first anniversary in July, and we went to Snoqualmie on one of the days we were there. We'd heard about Snoqualmie Falls, and seen the feature on our Instagram accounts, so we knew we had to add it to our itinerary, and we're glad we did. For this photograph I wanted to break away from my usual treatment of water, which is to get a longish exposure in order to get that nice cotton candy effect. But the falling water and billowing mist made so many nice patterns and shapes that I wanted to capture. I also wanted to include as much of the surrounding landscape as my lens would allow to provide some greater geological context to the waterfall.  

5. Beach Access, Alki Beach, Washington 2016

Beach Access, Alki Beach, Washington 2016

Alki Beach and Alki Point west of Seattle was another place on our itinerary on our anniversary trip. This staircase seemed sort of a monument, or one of a series of monuments, and sought a composition that would portray it as such, and knew that black and white would further emphasize that feeling. 

4. Stop Sign, Telephone Pole, Benson, Utah 2016

Stop Sign, Telephone Pole, Benson, Utah 2016

On my way back home after photographing at the Benson Marina, I approached this intersection, and, like the first photograph, was drawn to the straight telephone pole standing in the middle of the group of trees. It was a foggy and cold day, and the light all morning was mesmerizing. I parked the car a little ways down the road from the intersection, thinking of just photographing the trees and the pole, but all the elements of the stop sign, the trees, and the gas line post all came together perfectly. I set the tripod and the camera down and composed the photograph and made an exposure. I reviewed the photograph on the LCD screen, and then heard the approaching truck and knew that that was the one missing element in making this photograph even better. I waited, and as the truck entered the frame I tripped the shutter and came away with this resulting image.

3. One Month at Upper Bear River Recreation Area

One Month at Upper Bear River Recreation Area

At the beginning of the year, when I decided to get serious about making art again, I brainstormed quite often for ideas on a new project to keep me engaged. While I deliberated on something that excited me, I knew I had to just keep making images and keep my creative mind active, so I kept returning to Benson. Even if no project came to mind to specifically work on, maybe something would emerge from all the images I ended up making. I kept feeling like I needed to do something on the Bear River, but I didn't know what. The water from the Bear River and the Bear River Watershed is used extensively for many reasons: irrigation and agriculture being perhaps the biggest, as well as hydroelectricity. I thought a project could deal with one of those issues. But then, I remembered the work of James Balog, and his photographs of redwood trees, and I knew I had a direction in which to work. This piece isn't the first one I made working in this collage panorama format, but it is the one that kept me most excited. I returned to this place several times within a month and added the new photographs to the panorama. I've actually made many more trips to this very place, since the initial idea was to include images from all times of year in the single piece, but the more images I tried to add, the more chaotic and unorganized and messy it got. I'm still interested in having collages with all four seasons, but I think I need to start out with a simpler composition.

2. Twenty Minutes During Sunrise

Twenty Minutes During Sunrise

While out at the Benson Marina, I saw this tree, and made a traditional photograph of it and almost walked away, but decided to make a collage of it before I left. I'm glad I did. I began making exposures about eight minutes before the sun rose above the mountains, and ended making them about 12 minutes after. With this particular piece, I discovered that I like these closer images of a single subject, rather than including a wider scene, such as the previous image. I was quite pleased at the result. I like that there is different quality of light in just about every frame within this collage.

1. Eight Minutes at 0 Line Canal

Eight Minutes at 0 Line Canal

One thing that was suggested to me about this project was to have to have a hybrid of the seamless panoramic photograph and the collages I'd been doing. That is to say, have a seamless panoramic photograph composed of images made at different times and/or on different days. This particular one was one of the first collages I made after receiving that feedback. True, it isn't a completely faithful application of that feedback—I'm still trying, after three weeks, to edit a photograph that is faithful to it. It is still one that I'm pretty excited about, and just one more way to explore that idea of the passage of time.