A Review of 2019 as a Photographer

It’s time once again for a year in review post! As 2019 quickly winds down, and 2020 rolls its way in, it’s helpful for photographers to sit down and reflect a bit on the past year.

As a side note, those of you interested in last year’s reflection can check it out here, though I am changing up the format a bit this year.

The Year in Photography

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Let’s begin our reflection by taking a look at the photography captured throughout the year. Note that if you’re just here looking for my best 9 shots of the year, that will come at the end 😉

Overall, I am reasonably satisfied with the overall productivity I had this year from a photographic standpoint. I captured a number of images that I’m proud of and have gotten the chance to get out on some great photo trips. There was even some opportunity to photograph situations I never imagined I would, like Blackhawk helicopters for search and rescue in the Red River Gorge.

Blackhawk helicopter training with Wolfe County Search and Rescue in the Red River Gorge.
Training with Blackhawk helicopters with Wolfe County Search and Rescue in the Red River Gorge.

Furthermore, I feel that my work has continued to increase in quality, which is always a good thing!

The Year in Business

Sunrise in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.
Sunrise in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

Ah yes, the business side of things. I must be honest here; this is an area that I haven’t put nearly enough time and energy into, especially this past year. Well, at least not until the last few months of the year.

Two big mistakes are that this blog and my YouTube channel have been woefully neglected and underutilized. These are tremendous missed opportunities and an area that will be addressed going forward into the new year!

The state of decay in an abandoned Kentucky high school.
The state of decay in an abandoned Kentucky highschool.

On a positive note, this has been an overall decent year for growing my social media presence, though this has, again, been mostly an effort taken up the later portion of 2019!

The Best 9 Images

Okay, okay, let’s quit rambling on and get to what you’re all probably here to see: my top 9 images from 2019!

9. McCammon Falls

McCammon Falls, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.
McCammon Falls, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

I took this interesting shot toward the beginning of the year. What I really like about it is that the image certainly has an interesting, unique perspective. When I first noticed this curved, moss-covered tree, I couldn’t help but include it as part of the foreground!

I like the unique framing for this falls because it’s so common to see shots of it. It’s certainly no secret these days!

8. Nickle & Dime Falls

Nickle & Dime Falls, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.
Nickle & Dime Falls, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Nickle & Dime Falls is one of the many waterfalls located in the Beaver Creek Wilderness in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. This area of the national forest is rugged, with few roads and no trails. As such, travel through the area certainly takes a bit of effort!

On this particular morning, it was pouring rain, which made for beautiful waterfalls, but miserable travel! This was actually shot on the way to a completely different end goal, but my hiking partner and I turned back before that goal due to rising waters and miserable conditions.

Despite technically failing on the goal I set out to accomplish, I still walked away with a shot I’m happy with.

7. Lower Falls

Lower Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio.
Lower Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio.

Have you noticed yet that I have a thing for waterfalls?!

Generally speaking, I have a great deal of disdain for visiting Ohio’s Hocking Hills. It’s such a popular destination that it’s often more like a human zoo than a nice, natural environment. With that being said, however, the area has some beautiful geology and some wonderful waterfalls!

I must say this is a really attractive waterfall!

6. Hanson’s Sunrise

Hansons Point, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Hansons Point, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

Can you believe it? It’s an image that isn’t of a waterfall!

I took this image during sunrise on a backpacking trip to Red River Gorge with some great friends. I also put together a video of this trip, for those interested in that.

It was somewhat begrudgingly that I rolled out of my hammock and made the short walk from our campsite down to the point.

When I got there, I found a composition and set up the camera, hoping for some epic sunrise conditions. Sadly, conditions weren’t exactly epic, so I improvised by doing a self-portrait. I think the result turned out pretty great!

5. Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio.
Hidden Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio.

Okay, so it’s probably no surprise at this point that it’s another waterfall. Spoiler alert, there’ll be another waterfall on this list after this one!

On this particular, my friend Bill Fultz and I were lamenting at the fact that there were clear, bright-blue skies when the forecast had called for overcast (our favorite conditions for shooting waterfalls). We had worried that we had made the 2+ hour drive up to Hocking Hills for no reason.

Upon passing by this little beauty, however, we realized that there would probably be the opportunity to get a sunburst over the falls. Sure enough, things worked out for a pretty great image!

4. Bear Rocks Sunrise

Bear Rocks, Dolly Sods, West Virginia.
Bear Rocks, Dolly Sods, West Virginia.

This was shot during yet another backpacking trip with friends. I also did a video on this trip 😉

During this trip, I drove down before my friends so I could try to capture the sunrise from Bear Rocks, located in the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.

I got to the trailhead at about 11 p.m. and got a few hours of sleep in my car. I woke up before the sun and made the short walk from my car out to Bear Rocks. I was overjoyed to get a fairly decent sunrise!

3. West Prong

West Prong, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.
West Prong, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

I absolutely adore the Great Smoky Mountains and typically try to make it down that way a couple of times every year. This past year was no exception!

On this particular day, it was clear skies and harsh light, so I was striking out all over the place photo-wise.

That is until I drove by this little road-side beauty and noticed the potential for a sunburst (have I ever mentioned that I’m a sucker for a good sunburst?). I made the small, easy scramble down to the falls and started shooting.

The lighting for this shot posed some challenges. As such, this is actually several exposures blended together. The water consists of several exposures and the sunburst is yet another exposure.

2. Sky Bridge

Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Sky Bridge, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

I spend a lot of time in the Red River Gorge. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for me to go down there for a few days with very little plan in mind.

This trip was one of those times. I woke up this morning to find that the rains were just starting to subside. The place was an absolute ghost town, so I decided it would be as good a time as any to go visit one of the most popular spots in the place: Sky Bridge.

I’m glad I made that decision!

Chimney Rock Milky Way

The Milky Way from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
The Milky Way from Chimney Rock, Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

That brings us to number one on this list, which is no contest for me. I captured this image late one night (or early one morning, depending on your perspective) with my good friend Josh Lowe.

This is, without question, my best Milky Way image to date, though I’m not really happy with the foreground.

The foreground for this shot is a single frame, whereas the sky is 15 images stacked. The editing for this image took more hours in Photoshop than I’d care to admit, but I think the results are worth it!

Going Forward Into 2020

Well, there you have it! That’s my review of 2019 as a photographer as well as my best 9 shots from the year. It has been a great year of progress, but there’s still plenty of room to grow going forward!

Beyond continuing to produce my art, I plan to focus a lot more on video as well as the business side of things during the upcoming year. As such, you should be expecting to see more posts here on this blog as well as more content for my YouTube channel.

Here’s to another great year!