Highlights from an Exciting 2022 at Photography Life

Tips & Techniques

Another year is wrapping up, and it was a big one! Our team at Photography Life grew by four talented writers during 2022. Meanwhile, the photography world kept chugging along with new technological developments, especially in artificial intelligence. Here’s how I see the “best of 2022” from my position as the Editor of Photography Life.

To be specific, today’s article is a collection of highlights from the past twelve months at Photography Life. I’ll start with some of the most memorable articles that our writers published this year. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me, or simply catching up on anything you missed the first time.

My Favorite Articles from Our Team

When I was brainstorming for this article, I started gathering every post that stood out to me from our talented team of writers and photographers at Photography Life. But the list grew too long! So instead, I’ll stick to one article per writer, written this year, and share why I liked it so much.

Libor Vaicenbacher – The Bright Side of the Disaster

A lot of photography is really psychology. Are you approaching the subject with the right mindset? Or did you allow mishaps and failures to cloud your creative vision? This great article from Libor reminds us that photographic disasters – such as breaking your lens – can be a catalyst for creativity, if you don’t let it bring you down.

Nasim Mansurov – The Many Types of Photographers

I consider this my favorite April Fool’s article on the internet, and it’s barely even a joke! From fanboys to chronic complainers, photographers (especially online photographers) have plenty of amusing character traits. I think Nasim nailed it with this article naming 44 of the most noteworthy. How many of them apply to you?

Jason Polak – Choosing the Best Lens for Wildlife Photography

This article was useful, well-researched, detailed, and surprisingly funny! Jason did a great job explaining the various types of wildlife lenses and whether they make sense for a given photographer. In one of the most expensive genres of photography, a guide like this will save people a lot of money and guide them to the right choice for their style of wildlife photography.

Alex Coleman – How to Photograph Cityscapes

A classic tutorial, executed brilliantly. Alex is an amazing cityscape and architectural photographer, and it shows with the useful tips in this ground-up tutorial for beginning cityscape photographers. It’s a must-bookmark article if your 2023 plans include traveling to a new city.

Meg Faehl – What’s In My Camera Bag?

Meg is the reason why our team wrote a series of “What’s In My Camera Bag” articles this year in the first place! When she pitched the idea, I was excited to show our readers how different types of professional photographers set up their gear differently. There’s no single “best” camera kit, no matter what the online chatter may say. No wonder those articles were popular, and probably far overdue. Thank you, Meg.

The other articles in that series are here: my gear, Alex’s, Libor’s, and Nicholas’s.

Nicholas Hess – Introduction to the Niche Hobby of Herp Photography

This article sums up Nicholas’s approach to wildlife photography, and it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to try photographing amphibians and reptiles.

Nicholas’s photos are some of the most beautiful, unique images of wildlife that I’ve ever seen. He gets better results with a basic camera, macro lens, and homemade flash diffuser than many people manage with far more expensive kits. It shows that knowing your trade is more important than anything else.

The Best Photo I Got

I’ve already gone through the story of how I took the following photo, which I call The Rapids of the Yellowstone River.

The Rapids of the Yellowstone River
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S @ 210mm, ISO 64, 1/500, f/6.3

I always enjoy playing with scale and perspective as a landscape photographer. In this scene, I can imagine the rapids to be layers of clouds instead of a chaotic wash of water. Next year, one of my goals is to search for more complex, intricate landscape scenes like this one.

The Best Photo I Missed

Not everything can work out in photography. During the same trip as the photo above, I visited my favorite place in Grand Teton National Park for Milky Way photography, with disappointing results.

Actually, that explanation tones down the situation. The longer story is that I went to sleep early and set a painful alarm to chime at midnight. When it did, I drove more than an hour to reach the Milky Way spot that I like so much. Then came the trickiest part of the whole endeavor: setting up the unusual camera I had with me.

Milky Way photography can be a challenge under the best of circumstances – focusing on the stars, setting your camera, and so on. It was especially tough this time, since I was attempting to use my 20-pound 12×20 ultra-large format film camera instead of something digital.

I’ve done ultra-large format star photography once before, which I wrote about earlier this year. In short, my goal was to take a variation of this photo…

Stars Over Zion
11×14 camera; 450mm Nikkor Q @ f/11, 2.5 hours, Ilford HP5+ 400, no filters, no movements

…but this time with my favorite nighttime landscape at the bottom.

It took a while, but I managed to focus on a bright star even with the 12×20 camera’s dim ground glass. I used my wide-angle 355mm lens (not a typo!) and set it to the maximum aperture of f/9. I composed as best as I could, and I left the shutter open for about two hours.

Ultimately, it didn’t turn out. The negative was extremely thin; only a few of the brightest star trails show up at all. There’s no salvageable image from the hours of effort that I put into the shot, and I can’t deny how frustrating that is.

I have a few ideas about what caused the issue, but I still lament that photo more than any other that I missed in 2022. Thankfully, I live about a day’s drive from Grand Teton National Park, so I can attempt the photo again eventually. But there’s no telling when – or if – I’ll get the negative I have in mind.

My Favorite Photos from Our Team

Other Photography Life writers captured and published some amazing photos in 2022. Here are some of my favorites that you’ve seen on the site this year.

Libor Vaicenbacher

Golden-tailed Sapphire
NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S @ 400mm, ISO 3200, 1/1000, f/4.5

What a stunning photo of the Golden-Tailed Sapphire hummingbird! Libor took this photo for our Nikon Z9 review. Perfect light, timing, and composition.

Meg Faehl

Meg Faehl Landscape Photo

I loved this beautiful, dynamic landscape photo that Meg took to illustrate her article on Lightroom’s HSL tool. Landscape photographers sometimes think of their subjects as static and constant – but the moving water, clouds, and even trees in this image demonstrate the importance of timing, even in photography’s “slowest genre.”

Alex Coleman

NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 18mm, ISO 800, 1/8, f/4.0

A brilliant cityscape from Alex, with perfect blue-hour light, glowing city lights, and, of course, the moon. But what I really love about this photo are the people at the bottom. Did you see them at first? They blend in seamlessly with the neon colors, but they’re there – perhaps reminding us that cities are about more than just the buildings and lights.

Jason Polak

Nikon D500 + 500PF @ 500mm, ISO 450, 1/4000, f/5.6

Jason’s timing with this photo is impeccable. This Western Wood Peewee stands frozen in a graceful pose, yet the statuesque quality is an illusion. Look no further than the 1/4000 shutter speed – and the wingtips that still show motion blur – to see what’s really happening here.

Nicholas Hess

fluorescent bones of an arboreal salamander biofluorescence in amphibians bluelight photography
DC-G9 @ 60mm, ISO 160, 10 seconds, f/11.0

Among all of Nicholas’s remarkable photos of amphibians and reptiles (and occasionally other subjects), this one sticks with me the most. It’s a photo of the bones of a salamander biofluorescing under a blue light. The whole thing is stunning to contemplate, and the ridiculous 10-second exposure of a wildlife subject underscores how difficult of a photo this is to take.

The Best Photo Equipment I Bought

Well, I should mention camera gear eventually. What was my favorite gear of the year? A new camera or lens? Some sort of tripod or photo accessory?

Of all the equipment that I tested, my favorite was probably the obvious answer of the Nikon Z9 – although I liked the Sony A1 almost as much. But both of those are products from 2021, not 2022, even though I tested them this year.

The Nikon Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S is probably my favorite 2022 product, with arguably Nikon’s best-ever balance of focal length, maximum aperture, and price for a telephoto lens. It’s not a perfect lens, but it would get my vote for this section… if I bought it. But as a landscape photographer, I couldn’t justify it, try though I might.

Nikon Z 800mm f6.3 Landscape Sample Mountain Clouds
NIKON Z 7 + NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S @ 800mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/6.3

Actually, I didn’t buy much photography gear this year. A lot of what I did buy was just to replenish darkroom paper and printing supplies. But that was enough to find a favorite piece of camera gear that I should have gotten sooner.

It’s embarrassingly cheap and simple: a basic, $25 portfolio display (basically a notebook) to hold small prints. What I realized is that I show so many of my photos online, when I should be showing people prints instead.

There are better portfolio displays than the one I got on the cheap (this one if you care, but I’m sure there are fancier ones out there). In any case, compared to showing pictures on my phone, I’m glad to have a physical binder of 8×12″ prints. I carry it along whenever I’m carrying a laptop bag or backpack. People really seem to appreciate the prints more than a digital image, and it’s a novel thing to bring out.

Maybe it goes to show that the most important part about photography is the photo, not the camera gear you used to take the photo. As a New Year’s resolution, I recommend getting more of your photos printed!

The Most Important New Lesson I Learned

I’m tempted to say that the biggest thing I learned in 2022 is that any autofocus system can be made to work well for wildlife photography. But I should probably talk about something else, because I just wrote an article about this already.

I’m also tempted to say that I learned how to test lenses properly, thanks to hours of help from Nasim teaching me a fraction of what he knows. That, however, is more business related than photography related (although I’m really happy that y’all apparently like our lens reviews).

After thinking about this question for a bit, it dawned on me that my biggest learning experience of the year was during October in Yosemite, where I spent a couple of weeks staying and camping in the park for landscape photography.

I adore Yosemite, but the conditions weren’t what I had hoped. I saw very little fall color or clouds during my trip. For the first several days, I tried to fight the landscape. I searched for grand scenics that would look good under a crimson sky, and when that failed, I hiked for miles in search of decent fall colors.

After a while, it dawned on me that I needed to work with the landscape in front of me, not the landscape in my hopes and dreams. Maybe that sounds like an obvious revelation to you, but it immediately led to better photos for me. I focused on scenes that didn’t need fall colors or clouds, and the second half of the trip was much more successful. There were good photos to be found in Yosemite; they just weren’t the type that I expected to find.

8x10 Yosemite High Country Black and White Landscape
Chamonix 8×10, Fuji 210mm f/5.6, Ilford HP5+ 400, 20 seconds, f/64, red and polarizing filters, rear tilt, fall

That does it for 2022. Thank you for spending time with Photography Life this year. I’ll do everything I can to make 2023 an amazing year for the website and for our community of photographers.

And most of all, to you and your family, Happy New Year!

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