Top Ten Photographs 2022
With the end of 2022 in very close vicinity, it is time to present to you once more what I consider my Top Ten Photographs 2022. I have been selecting my top ten every year since 2014 when photographer par excellence Martin Bailey first nudged me into going through the process.
In previous years, I have described the bittersweet torture of the selection process. Bitter because narrowing the numerous photos of a whole year down to only ten always involves excluding photographs that (for various reasons) are close to my heart; sweet because the end result always fills me with a feeling of pride and achievement.
To make this arduous task a little easier, I have begun to use mottos or titles for my final collection. In the beginning, I looked at my final collection to find some overarching theme, some commonality, that sort of thing. When I couldn’t find one, I picked something that sounded cool. Over time, I started thinking about the motto earlier in the process, like when I was down to about 14 images, and choosing started to become challenging. For example, the title of last year’s collection was “Batch of Squares,” so all non-square images among the last 15 had to go.
As for this year’s motto, I chose “Momentary Lapses of Reason,” a title I “borrowed” from the Pink Floyd album of (almost) the same title. I picked this title because it turned out that most of my last 15 (and all of my final ten) photographs were either taken under technically challenging circumstances (so difficult that it would have justified not taking the picture in the first place) or were the result of questionable creative decisions. Or the photograph itself begs the question of what it actually is the photographer intended to show the viewer. In short, in one way or another, my rationally thinking mind must have been on at least one momentary hiatus during the creative process.
So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Photographs 2022, along with some context for each picture.
This image may not look like a momentary malfunctioning of the mind, but I assure you, it is. For one thing, to take this image, I had to get up at 5 AM in my holidays, sneak out of a creaking bed without waking up my wife, who has both very light sleep and threatened to kill me if I woke her up.
On a lighter note, I decided to use my then brand-new 20mm prime lens on this outing. While there is much to be said for limiting your options as a stimulus for your creative process, it surely didn’t make the process easier. It did, however, force me to photograph in portrait orientation for this shot, which, in my mind, significantly contributes to the photograph being vastly more interesting in terms of composition since all lines in this photograph run horizontally, thus creating an intriguing juxtaposition with the vertical orientation of the frame.
I almost had not taken this photo because I had already taken so many similar photos in the years before. But fortunately, this is not how I operate in the field. Very often, my photos are not so much a result of rational planning and decision-making as they are an emotional response to a sensual stimulus.
I see something, it makes me feel something, and I photograph it. It is as simple as that. If this style of working creates a degree of redundancy in my work, I am OK with that. I shoot for myself first, not for anybody else when I am out there.
What separates this photo from its predecessors is that I took the photo wide open at f/1.8, which resulted in a wonderfully shallow depth of field, thus enhancing the impression of the grass being windswept. In fact, it was, but since wind is otherwise invisible, this technique serves as a device of suggestive storytelling.
Every autumn, I grab my camera bag and walk in the local park or a nearby wood to take intimate landscape photographs of fallen leaves. The presentable images of these outings end up in my ongoing Fall series. Very often, they show close-ups of fallen leaves on the ground or a fallen tree, sometimes alone, sometimes together with others.
This image stands out within the series because it is more of a traditional landscape photograph. However, it is not quite sure what the subject is. So let me explain.
There is this bridge in my local park that spans a little waterway between two neighboring lakes, with rocks, stones, and overhanging trees on the water’s edge. None of the individual elements of the picture are worth a photo on their own. But combined, they are more than the sum of the individual parts to me. The scene evokes an emotional response of intriguing mystery, which I decided to enhance using a low-key processing approach.
Leaves in the Breeze
I am not sure about the name of the plants in the following image, but I do remember being mesmerized by them moving to and fro in the soft breeze with the sunlight shining right through them. As with Fall #50, this photo is more about the emotions it evokes than the optical quality of its visual elements. Most of them are, I am aware of that, out of focus. I know that the photo’s subject cannot be grasped in the short attention span of the modern social media world. In fact, I haven’t bothered posting this image there, as I know people wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. And I knew all of this when I took the photo. So taking it anyway wasn’t the most reasonable thing to do. The result is one of my personal favorites, even within this collection.
I have never counted the exact number of meerkat portraits I have taken over the years, but I can tell you the number is so high that, at one point, I intentionally steered clear of the meerkat enclosures in m local zoos. So, taking another photograph of one of these cute fellows didn’t make any sense. I did it anyway. The result is the technically most flawless meerkat portraits I have ever taken.
White Wolf #2
The following image in this year’s collection is another animal portrait. I have wanted to photograph a white wolf for many years. Unfortunately, with these creatures being very shy and reclusive, I never got the chance to do so, as they usually stayed in the only poorly visible areas of their enclosure. However, on one fateful day in July, one of the wolves ventured to a clearly visible viewpoint very close to the fence with only a quite dirty and thick pane of glass between it and my camera. If you have ever taken a photo through a thick zoo security glass pane, you probably know that it tends to mess with the focus. You won’t get a sharp picture unless you shoot through the glass at a perfect 90° angle. But the opportunity was so rare that, against all reason, I decided to try the photo anyway. I still don’t understand how that could happen, but against all odds, I got a sharp image.
Pit Head Abstraction
I must admit that the next image is, to some degree, the result of an experiment gone well. Indeed, messing with the focal length during a four-second exposure is a bit of a crazy idea and certainly not one you will find lots of advice about in photography guidebooks or click-bait tutorials on the web. The result, however, is what one of my followers on FlickR aptly described as a “graphic scream.”
Speaking about graphic elements, the following photograph is another example of them, albeit in a completely different meaning. I took it at the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, a World Heritage Site a few kilometers from where I live. I go there at least once a year as this place offers new interesting compositions regardless of how often I visit it.
In this case, the giant museum poster on the walls of the old industrial building caught my attention. Not only did I find the juxtaposition of industry and culture interesting in itself, but its central elements are also perfectly framed by the steel construction in front of it. But as for the subject matter of this shot, it remains slightly cryptical. To prove the point, on FlickR, this photo pretty much failed as far as clicks and stars are concerned. Not that it matters.
Cube Berlin #6
Things get even more impalpable in the next photo. I took it at the fantastic Cube Berlin, a fascinating building next to the Berlin central station. As you can see, it is all about triangles. The real world, however, is only there in cropped and distorted reflections. You may find taking a picture of triangles weird. I agree. But I love doing it. I am a declared triangle lover, and I stopped feeling ashamed of it many years ago.
The final image in this year’s collection is part of my ongoing “Deliberately Confusing.” The name says it all. In this series, I lustfully disobey the rules of mainstream photography, hoping to achieve a visual representation of… well, you decide. If you’d like to read what I say about it, read on. I recommend you first get involved with the image and make sense of it yourself.
To me, this image represents everything this location is about. First, there is this enormously impressive glass construction, a visual festival of lines, curves, and semitransparency. Next, there is the clock at the bottom of the frame. I find it very fitting for this place as it is so much about being on time – or not being on time as far as the trains are concerned. Lastly, there is the notion of rush and hectic, aptly represented by the incoming train behind the clock and the glass.
Weird is good
I keep reading and hearing about leaving one’s comfort zone, trying new things, and breaking the rules as crucial elements for creativity. And yet, most of the images I find on the web these days are just more of the same pixel-perfect depictions of things. Maybe it’s just me looking in the wrong places. Or perhaps it’s the equalizing pressure of social media’s algorithms nudging people into not taking risks by rewarding pixel perfection. Whatever may be true, the ten images in this collection are my stab at going against the grain, at taking risks, at trying against all odds. Was I successful? You be the judge! I’d love to read about your assessment in the comments.
For your viewing pleasure, here are my Top Ten Photographs 2022 again, but this time as an animated video slideshow. Enjoy!