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Dec 30, 2018
As 2018 comes to an end, most of us tend to look back on the years memorable moments, both good and bad. If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you have hopefully noticed that I have done a year-end countdown of my most popular prints. I put that list together using a convoluted formula that includes sales, web visits, and social media impressions. So, that has been a popularity contest countdown. This one will just be MY favorites. As with most artists, picking favorites is often like picking a favorite kid. It's not easy, you all know you have a favorite kid.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at my favorite photographs from 2018. You can click on any of the images to learn more about that print.
This first one is from my May trip to Walt Disney World. This was my first year having an annual pass to Walt Disney World, so I was able to go multiple times. This particular photo was shot during my 2nd time ever seeing Happily Ever After. It's such a crazy show to photograph. Heck, it's a crazy show to watch. Do you watch the fireworks? The projections on Cinderella's Castle? The most difficult part to photograph of any fireworks show is the finale. There are so many fireworks bursting in the air that it is very very easy to blow out the image. As an example, it took me five years to finally figure out how to capture the finale of their Christmas Wishes fireworks finale. This was just my 2nd time with this show, and the finale is just mind-boggling. SO many explosions happening. But I believe I nailed it with this one. I took two photos during the finale of this show and the 2nd one didn't work out at all. But this one, I'm not sure I could have done any better.
One of my main photography goals this year was to capture more colorful post-sunset photographs. Or pre-sunrise. Either one. I did manage to get a few but man, are they ever elusive. You just never know when the sky is going to display colors that you just can't look away from. One of the evenings that worked out was a night that I went to a new location for me. The location is just a parking ramp just to the east of downtown Minneapolis. This ramp has a fantastic view of the cities skyline and should be a popular place for me going forward with its ability to have beautiful sunsets behind it.
This next one is so new, I haven't even posted it on my website yet. Well, I did put it in a galley that is exclusive to my newsletter readers. I give them sneak peeks into my newest work, so if you want to enjoy some of those perks, make sure to sign up for my newsletter. This photo is from my December trip to Walt Disney World. Christmas time at Walt Disney World is a vast playground for a photographer like me. The colors and feelings and ambiance and music and... well, all of it is just something I will never get sick of. They have really stepped up the Christmas season at Hollywood Studios. One of their new things is a projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel, or the Tower of Terror, whichever name you think works best. I was very happy that I caught this particular segment of the projections as it is not on the tower for long, and I was not quite finished setting up my camera and tripod. But I caught it, and I love the look of the palm trees, the Christmas spirit, the Mickey head, and all of it is juxtaposed with the normal frightening appearance of the Tower of Terror building.
I found myself being more of a morning person this year. I have spent my life being a night owl, but as I have entered my 50's, my body's clock has shifted and I find myself waking up with the sunrise, or even before it. So I started taking advantage of it and going out to capture photos of the early morning dawn colors. It didn't always work out as you never can tell when the sky will colorize itself for you. But on this particular morning, it all looked perfect. It was March 18th. The Mississippi River was very helpful in being a perfect mirror for me. The sky gave me some absolutely beautiful colors. But it sure was odd seeing the Grain Belt sign lit up in all green. I should have known though, as it was March 18th. The previous night was when Americans all pretend they are Irish and drink green beer.
This next one was an adventure in patience. That patience did make me miss a better more colorful sky, but it didn't take away from a spectacular scene. There is one spot to capture this photograph from. You can fit maybe 2 people into this spot and that's it. There's a bench with an umbrella to the right of you, and light post to the left that then has a bunch of tropical bushes in the way. So you HAVE to be in that one little spot. As I arrived at the spot, there was a family there taking photos. Well, the dad was taking photos. The mother and daughter were "have you taken enough photos yet". He was using what looked like an early model webcam and had it attached to a tripod that he was using as a selfie stick. I patiently waited behind them for five minutes or so. He would take pictures of the scene, pictures of various combinations of the family, and between each one, he would study it. It's a spectacular view and I wasn't going to rush anyone that was enjoying it, but holy cow did he ever take his sweet time there. I ended up leaving and took photos at two other locations in Hollywood Studios. As I made my way back they were finally leaving. The colorful pink clouds had left as well. So I missed out on them, but this scene with their Christmas Tree, the Chinese Theater, the boat themed restaurant, and all of the lit up Christmas decor in Echo Lake, it's just really difficult to get a bad photo of it.
One of the key signatures of my photographic style is color. I tend to have an abundance of color in my photos. The one above is a prime example of that. This next one goes against the grain, but it's a few steps above a photo I have always wanted to get. The night owl in me has known for many years that the decorative lights on the Minneapolis Skyline turn off at midnight. I have always admired the darkened look of the city, and have photographed it a few times, but without much success. This particular weekend was one in which they shut down the major freeway that runs through this photo. They did so to remove a bridge as part of a MAJOR reconstruction of the freeway. Many of my photographer friends flocked to the pedestrian bridge that has captured millions of photos of this view to capture it without any traffic. I waited until Sunday night and waited until Midnight as not only did I want the empty freeway, but I wanted the skyline to go mostly dark. So I arrived a handful of minutes before midnight. I did take some photos before the lights went out, but my main goal was to get one with them off. I was very surreal standing on that bridge at that time. There was a younger couple sitting on the opposite side of the bridge from where I was, and I could hear their conversation. Normally, all you can hear from this bridge is the freeway. Tonight all you could hear was silence. But I love the abandoned look in this photo. It is something that you don't see and will never see again as that pedestrian bridge is now removed, and everything will be different when it is replaced.
This next photograph was made possible by my growth as a photographer. As good as I am at capturing night time still shots, I have been inept at taking night time photos with action in them. It has been a very frustrating journey of trial and error to get to a point where I can capture a night time scene with moving parts in it. This photo was shot during the Boo To You parade that they have during their Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. It had been at least seven years since I had last seen this parade, and the particular float that I captured here is one that I don't ever remember seeing before. But I love the look of the gravestones in the foreground and Cinderella's Castle in the background. A mix of one of the saddest places you can be (a gravesite), and what has to be the happiest castle on the planet.
This next photo was just luck on my part. When I went out to take some photos of the Boom Island Lighthouse, I had no idea there was a full moon. But as I was pulling into the parking lot, there it was, the full moon rising right above the river. I can't even begin to tell you how excited that made me. Yes, I am that much of a photography geek. I quickly parked, paid for the parking, and then ran up the stairs to get up on the nearby bridge where I knew I could get the Minneapolis Skyline, the Mississippi River, the Boom Island Lighthouse, and the full moon all in one photo. Now, to be honest, this is a combination of two photographs. I had to take one to get the skyline and lighthouse lit up correctly, and another to capture the moon correctly. Have you ever tried to use your phone to capture a beautiful full moon? It always looks like a messy white blog, doesn't it? Well, the same thing happens when using a real camera unless you set the camera to capture the moon. But because the moon is so bright, the rest of the moon photo is very dark. I went out that evening with plans to photograph a downtown lighthouse and ended up capturing this beautiful photo. I did go take photos of the lighthouse afterward. But this was the prized photo of that night.
My next photograph is another one from the Happily Ever After fireworks show at Disney's Magic Kingdom. In fact, I shot this one the same night that I shot the one of the finale up above. One of the things that I quickly learned about photographing this fireworks show is that I need to focus my attention on Cinderella's Castle. When Wishes was their nighttime show, I focused my attention on the fireworks and tried to not get too many bursts in one spot. But with this show, I try to focus on the projections on the castle and I'll try and time my photos to change when the scene on the castle changes. That is how I captured this one with all of the characters on the castle. How many Disney Characters can you spot?
My next photo happened because of a series of fortunate events. I went out to capture what I was hoping would be some colorful clouds above Minneapolis as the sun set. I was over on the west side of the city and the colors just never happened. In fact, the clouds all just vanished. I jumped back in my car and started driving towards downtown, not quite sure where I wanted to go yet. On my way, I settled on going to the Saint Anthony Main area. This turned out to be a brilliant decision as I got three of my favorite Minneapolis photographs from it. The Mississippi River was beautifully calm and had some great reflections in it. And the sky was crazy. It was changing so fast. The first photo that I took had a brilliant pink sky and no clouds. A minute later, all of these new clouds rolled in and they were capturing the lights from the city, which is shown in this photo below. A minute later, the sky was gone, it was just clouds. By the time I walked to my car, it started raining. Mother Nature was in a rage that night. But the reflections and color in this one won me over.
On the last day of my May trip to Walt Disney World, it was HOT down there. It wasn't even noon yet and I spent more time trying to find shade than enjoying the park. It was THAT hot. I did find a great spot to get out of the heat for a bit. I went to the Tomorrowland Terrace, where they have the fireworks dessert parties, and went to the upper dining area and took a seat next to the window. From there I had a great view of Cinderella's Castle and could look down the sidewalk towards the Ice Cream Parlour. It was nice being able to take in those views, listen to the music playing, and do some people watching. After a handful of minutes, I looked over towards Cinderella's Castle, and couldn't believe the clouds that had appeared behind it. It was breathtaking. I had to move over a few tables to get this view, and in the process sneak past a couple of other people who were getting out of the sun to get to this spot. But man, can you even believe how perfect those clouds are?
When I went out to photograph the Minneapolis Aquatennial Fireworks, I picked a spot that I had no idea of if I could see the fireworks or not. I made an educated guess, and in the last handful of minutes I was worried a bit. I was the only photographer there. Normally, if it's a good spot I'll have plenty of other photographers around me. But then the fireworks started and wow, it was indeed a fantastic spot! The only issue is the battery in my camera died about half-way through the show. Because of that, I may have missed some shots that are better than this one. Next year, I am going back to this spot for sure!
In all of my trips to Disney World, I had never had a good opportunity to photograph any of the Star Wars stuff that is going on there now. During my trip in May that all changed with this photo. I had just arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios and as I walked into the park, a group of Stormtroopers marched by and headed down Hollywood Blvd towards the Chinese Theater. I asked one of the Disney castmembers if the Stormtroopers would be walking back towards us, and when she said yes, I took up a spot right at the end of the street and waited for their performance to end. It was a great decision as when they marched back towards me, I had a completely unobstructed view of them. It started raining shortly after taking this photo, so it was the only one that I took that day.
My final Minneapolis photo in my favorites is a very recent photograph. I just took this one two weeks ago during the Minneapolis Holidazzle Festival. In a similar way to the Aquatennial fireworks photograph up above, I had no idea if this photo would work. I spent some time looking at a map of the area, and I had thought that the fireworks would shoot off too far to the right for this photo to work. My plan was to just get to Loring Park and just find a spot somewhere. But to get there, I ended up walking right past the Cherry sculpture. As I was there, it looked like maybe it could work. So I walked to the bridge, crossed it, and checked out the view to see where they had the fireworks set up. I couldn't quite see them but decided that I was there, and I may as well go for it. So I went back to the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture and waited for the fireworks to start. Once again, I was the only photographer there which caused doubts to creep into my mind. I sure am glad that I stuck it out as this spot was perfect.
My last photograph is also my most bittersweet photograph. This is another one from my May trip to Disney World. On this day, it had rained all day again. I personally don't mind the rain, and it was a comfortable rain to walk around in, but I had my gear with me which I couldn't get wet. As the evening approached, I took a ride on the wedway people mover. While on that ride I noticed that the sun was starting to poke out from behind the clouds on the horizon. When the ride ended, I quickly made my way to the spot that is great for taking photos of Cinderella's Castle and the sunset. I have done this numerous times in the past. This time things were different though. Not one person asked me to take their photo with the castle and sunset behind them. I usually get a handful of people asking me to take theirs. So, as I was taking my photos I looked at those around me to see what was going on. Every single person was facing the opposite direction and had their phones out taking pictures. Why is everyone taking photos looking that way with this beautiful sunset happening? I turned around and saw the most colorful, vibrant double rainbow I have ever seen in my life. I have taken plenty of photographs of the sunsets behind Cinderella's Castle. I had never taken a photograph with a double rainbow, castle or no castle. Man, that would have been a spectacular photograph if I was on the other side of the castle. Since rainbows don't last very long, I knew if I tried walking over to the other side that it would most likely be gone. This did end up being my favorite photograph that I have ever taken of Cinderella's Castle, and I will always have the memories of that double rainbow.
I hope you enjoyed these photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them. You can click on any of them photos to see print options for them, and if you have any questions about the prints, please feel free to ask! Thank you for following me on the photographic journey that I am on.
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