Have you taken some time to look back through the pictures you took in 2014? Which ones were your favorite? Why?

Looking back over a year of photographs is good practice at the beginning of a year. Of course it’s always fun to relive walking through the beautiful places you had the privilege of exploring the previous year, but it’s also an excellent exercise in learning through retrospect . . . if, and only if, you ask yourself the question “why” as you browse. Why do I like a certain shot? Why is it better than a similar shot? Why do I not like a certain shot that I thought I liked when I first took it? Why did your top 25 make it to . . . well, to the top 25?

Pretty soon you’ll start to see some common threads. Tack sharpness? vibrant color? shallow depth of field? elements positioned on thirds? Those are the clues to what you were learning last year. Perhaps subconsciously. Perhaps purposely. Whatever the reason, they stand out to you because you probably wouldn’t have noticed them before.

Congratulations; you’re taking steps forward! But don’t stop there. Keep looking deeper. Keep asking deeper. Why wasn’t such and such a shot not pleasing to my eye? Why do my pictures still not look like so-and-so-favorite-photographer’s pictures? How could I have made my top 25 pictures even better? Perhaps you’ll start seeing some common threads here too. Now start a list of things that you wish you could change about your pictures. These are the seeds of the things you’ll probably be learning this year!

Here are my top 25 from 2014. I am planning on writing up the reasons why I like these shots in a special report later this year, but more on that later. For now, enjoy the inspiration and leave a comment at the end with a link to your own favorite shots from 2014!

1. Cowee Mountains Overlook
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

1302_Blue Ridge Parkway (near MP431)--_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 180 mm, 0.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

 

2. Hillside Shadows
Wild Rose Campground, Death Valley National Park, California

3800_Death Valley National Park-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200 mm, 1-40 sec at f - 16, ISO 100

 

3. Unlocking West Virginia
Second falls on Shades Run, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

2211_Blackwater Falls SP-West Virginia-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 2.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

 

4. Konza Gold
Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas

Prairie Gold

 

5. Quebec Hospitality
A home in February near Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

9571_Kent Falls State Park-Connecticut-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 37 mm, 30.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

 

6. Watching the Sunset
Coast Dairies State Park, California

3198_Coast Dairies State Park-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 165 mm, 1-400 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

 

7. Window of Light
South Fork Eagle River Valley, Chugatch State Park, Alaska

0195_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 78 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

 

8. Dusk Over the Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

3786_Death Valley National Park-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 400

 

9. Hay Bale Sunrise
Country back-road near Topeka, Kansas 

2671_near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-6 sec at f - 22, ISO 100

 

10. Walking Among Giants
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, California

Walking Among Giants

 

11. Blue Ridge Mystery
Devils Courthouse Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

1085_Blue Ridge Parkway (near MP422)-North Carolina-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 105 mm, 226.0 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

 

12. Appalachian Ethics
Country back-road near Clarksburg, West Virginia

1914_--_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 78 mm, 1-8 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

 

13. Rainbow Falls
Devils Postpile National Monument, California

8180_Devil's Postpile National Monument-California-USA_Canon EOS 40D, 26 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 22, ISO 100

 

14. The Old Stone Church
Near Maple Hill, Kansas 

2413_Maple Hill-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-20 sec at f - 16, ISO 200

 

15. Moon Sets Soon
Country back-road near Clarksburg, West Virginia

9057_Kent Falls State Park-Connecticut-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1.6 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 800

 

16. Door to Solitude
Saint Benedict Abbey, Magog, Quebec, Canada9631_Kent Falls State Park-Connecticut-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 800

 

17. Welcome to Alaska
South Fork Eagle River, Chugatch State Park, Alaska

0423_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

 

18. Autumn Impression
Country back-road near Clarksburg, West Virginia

1775_Salem-West Virginia-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 31 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 50

 

19. Sun Streams
Mammoth Crest above Crystal Lake, California

2_Mammoth Lakes-California-USA_Canon EOS 40D, 24 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

 

20. Colorful Effects
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Autumn Hastens On

 

21. Contemplating A Crossing
Jim Lake, Palmer, Alaska

0169_Palmer-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 800

 

22. The Real San Diego Coastline
Torry Pines State Park, California

3619_San Diego-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 0.6 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

 

23. The Point at Lindy Point
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

2039_Blackwater Falls SP-West Virginia-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 3.2 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

 

24. Just Another Creek
Stony Brook, Harriman State Park, New York 

3441_Harriman SP-New York-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 2.0 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

 

25. In Awesome Wonder
Hatcher Pass, Willow, Alaska

Threading the Pass

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