OP – The Blog

December 29th, 2012

Twelve Significant Photographs a Year: 2012

Posted By Ian Plant

(© Ian Plant) Ansel Adams once famously said “twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” I don’t know how many days Ansel spent in the field in a given year, but I do know this: the pace of nature photography has become much more hectic than in his days of 8×10 view cameras and glass plates. Forget every year—it seems these days we’re expected to make twelve significant photographs every trip.

"Sunrise Surprise" by Ian Plant

Every now and then, however, it is a good idea to slow down and to take stock of where things are and where they are heading. There’s no better time than the end of a year to take a deep breath, and to critically assess the direction your creative eye is taking you. So before charging headlong into 2013, pause for a moment to review the photographs you made in 2012.

Letting Ansel be our guide, challenge yourself to pick your twelve favorites from 2012. Picking just twelve can be more challenging than you think. Even if you had a really good year, finding twelve of your images that really inspire you may prove difficult. We all have an initial rush of excitement when we first view a stunning new image on our camera’s LCD screen, or after it has been brought to life on the computer. But after you have stared at an image for several months, does it still move you the same way it did when you first saw it? Many images have short term wow factor, but few have sufficient depth to stand the test of time. If you find that you are picking mostly from your recent work, take a break and wait a few weeks before starting again. Let some of the “honeymoon” period wear off, and study your recent work critically before including it in your top twelve.

Now that you’ve picked your twelve favorite images, take a moment to explore what they say about you as an artist. Have you taken images for yourself? Or have you taken photographs that will sell well or give you acclaim on the Internet? Has your vision progressed from the previous year, or have you been in an artistic rut? Are you seeing more of the nuance and subtlety of nature, or have you been chasing epic moments? Are each of your photos different, or is a style emerging? There are no right or wrong answers, but honestly asking these questions is the key to artistic growth.

To be honest, I find the process of picking my twelve best images to be a difficult one. Great photographs don’t just fall from the sky—they require patience, hard work, and dedication. Even with significant time spent in the field, few images rise to the highest level. The process of building a quality portfolio is a long and arduous one, and there are no shortcuts along the way. It may take years for your work to speak with authority, but once it does, no one will ever fail to see your vision. Even then, you can never expect to complete your progression as an artist—it is a lifelong journey, rather than a destination.

So, maybe in the end, twelve significant photographs every year really isn’t such a bad number. The most important thing is that they are significant to you, are a product of your own vision, and represent your progression as an artist. As we enter the New Year, reflect on the lessons learned from the past, and strive to do even better than before.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the day when I can have a conversation with Ansel about his awkward number choice. Ten (instead of twelve) has the benefit of being a round number, and much easier to obtain!

Now that I’ve officially wrapped up my shooting for the year, I can share my twelve favorites from 2012. Here they are, in no particular order . . .

1. “Reaching for Light”—Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, Belize

"Reaching for Light" by Ian Plant

2. “Lenga Dance”—Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina

"Lenga Dance" by Ian Plant

3. “The Devil’s Eye”—Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Lake Superior, Wisconsin, USA

"The Devil's Eye" by Ian Plant

4. “Ancient Portal”—Scotland, United Kingdom

"Ancient Portal" by Ian Plant

5. “The Beast”—Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

"The Beast" by Ian Plant

6. “Visual Flow”—Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA

"Visual Flow" by Ian Plant

7. “Eventide”—Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

"Eventide" by Ian Plant

8. “Snorkeling”—Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, Belize

Snorkeling

9. “Eilean Leòdhais”—Scotland, United Kingdom

"Eilean Leòdhais" by Ian Plant

10. “Into the West Away”—Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona, USA

"Into the West Away" by Ian Plant

11. “Sunset Slumber”—Tambopata National Reserve, Peru

"Sunset Slumber" by Ian Plant

12. “Aurora’s Blush”—Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

"Aurora's Blush" by Ian Plant

To see more of my images from 2012, visit my Recent Work gallery (although soon I will purge the gallery, move the best stuff into my permanent galleries, and then start fresh for the new year). Good luck to everyone in 2013!

Tags:

 

Please leave a comment

  1. Mark Says:

    Beautiful shots Ian. Picking just 12 for the year, as you know, can be quite daunting with the thousands that one takes in this digital world.
    I really thought the advice of the “Honeymoon Period” was helpful. Plus, it is enjoyable to reflect back on a past visit.
    Love your work. If I ever make out to the East I would love to do a workshop with you.
    Mark and Emily

  2. Ian Plant Says:

    Thanks Mark! BTW, no need to wait to head out East, I do workshops all over the world.

  3. Joseph Rossbach Says:

    Beautiful work Man!

  4. How Can We Organize Ourselves And Our Writing For 2013? | Quirky Warrior Woman Writer Kimberly A. Cook Says:

    [...] To refill my photography cup, I decided to get a subscription to “Outdoor Photographer” this year. Stumbled upon photographer Ian Plant’s blog and his fabulous top twelve photos of 2012. These are gorgeous. http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/blog/ian-plant/2012/12/twelve-significant-photographs-a-year-2012… [...]

  5. Jeff Beck Says:

    Beautiful work, Ian. Your photographs and words always inspire me. Brooks Jensen has quoted Ansel as saying, even an extraordinary year results in just 10 good images. Brooks goes on to say, “when you are young you’ll think he was a pessimist, and when you’re older you’ll think he was an optimist”. I like the idea of twelve images though, which apparently Ansel also said, because it corresponds to the twelve months of the year and allows you to show two more images. Please have a look at my top 12 images from 2012 at http://www.jeffbeckphoto.com/blog. Cheers!

Leave a Comment

We welcome constructive comments and discussion. To keep the conversation polite, we will remove comments that we feel are disruptive, including abusive language and personal attacks against a contributor or another commenter. Repeated offenses may result in a permanent restriction from commenting.