SILVER LININGS

Year-end reviews are useful but I’ve resisted doing one, perhaps out of laziness or avoidance, or because I prefer to look ahead and not analyze too much. But after reading a post by Alex Kunz, I began to think differently about reviewing my photographic year. I realized there is something to be learned from asking, “Where did I go with my camera in 2020, if not literally, then metaphorically?”

Last January I was busy planning a trip to Vietnam that was scheduled for three weeks in March. Then came the news of a dangerous new virus and the realization that travel plans had to be reconsidered. The first US case of the COVID-19 corona virus appeared on January 21 at a skilled nursing facility just 75 miles south of my home. We conferred with doctors and friends and decided to cancel the trip. It was a big disappointment but it cleared the decks for other things.

Soon, hospitalizations and deaths were making news. Then there was the daily litany of school closings, lost jobs and opportunities, and cancelled events. By March the governor of Washington had issued a stay-at-home order, the border with Canada was closed and in Seattle, a woman volunteered to be the very first person to receive Kaiser-Permanente’s experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile, we were enjoying a lush, rainy spring. The green machine was in gear! Abundant flowers, insects, birds and even heavy crops of seed cones, all contributed to a breathtaking spring. I felt grateful to be retired and free of the concerns that so many people were dealing with – kids at home, lost income, sickness. In fact, the biggest impact for me at the time was the closing of my favorite destination, Deception Pass State Park. I felt that loss acutely but most county and city parks remained open, leaving me with plenty of choices. I became obsessed with searching for wildflowers in all the green places near home. Frequent forays led to discoveries of species I’d never seen before and a better understanding of familiar flowers. The previous year I was in Europe in April and took a road trip in May, which meant that I missed the parade of spring wildflowers. Before that I lived in a different habitat without many of the specialized plants that grow here on Fidalgo Island. I didn’t really know my own back yard. The cancellation of our trip and subsequent pandemic restrictions held a silver lining: the opportunity to study and take pleasure in the progression of the seasons right at home. I made the best of it!

Besides fully immersing myself in the local flora, two other photographic projects occupied my time last year: a series of photographs of a square pane of glass placed in various locations outdoors and a series of abstractions, made primarily in Lightroom. Working on the abstractions honed my ability to condense images down to simpler shapes, colors and textures. Concentrating on the forms within the rectangle, playing freely with exposure values, compositions and colors – all of that sharpened my ability to recognize what I’m looking for when I’m outdoors with the camera. I believe the process of abstracting images improved my photography. I’ll be returning to that project, as well as the glass pane project. Another project that involved writing more than photography was a memoir I began posting in March, ‘”An Unstill Life with Flowers.” More installments are in the works.

I added a few new tools to the Olympus kit this year: a smaller camera body for the Vietnam trip and two lenses: a 12mm f2 prime and a 12-42mm f3.5-5.6 ultra-compact zoom. The second camera body (an OM-D EM-5) is somewhat different from my normal camera and certain things drive me crazy, like the awkward placement of the on-off button. I’ll never be one of those people with two cameras hanging from their neck and a weighty backpack full of extra gear – but it’s good to have a second camera body that accepts the lenses I already have.

The wide zoom lens was meant for travel and I haven’t used it much yet. I’m excited about the 12mm prime lens (a 24mm equivalent). The one lens I own with an equally wide view is very heavy so it doesn’t get much use. For years now, I’ve tended to favor one particular lens, a 60mm f2.8 prime, over the others. Shooting with that lens so often has affected the way I see the landscape. Exchanging the 60mm field of view for a 12mm angle makes a big difference and forces me to stop and reconsider what I can do. That’s a good thing!

My aesthetic horizons expand each year from traveling and visiting museums and galleries. This year, with travel out of the question and museums closed, I found inspiration online, on your blogs, in email conversations, and from online workshops. This community has a lot to give! Over the course of last year, feeling inspired and free to roam the immediate environment, I went out with my camera well over 200 times. Like I said, the pandemic brought opportunities. Here are some of the results.

*

1. One of the earliest wildflowers is the Swamp lantern (Lysichiton americanus).

2. White fawn lilies (Erythronium oregonum) were plentiful last year in the biggest and wildest of our city parks.

3. Three months later, beautiful little Western tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum) graced the same park.

4. The simple curves and parallel veins of a Clasping twisted stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius) captivated me.
5. When the state parks reopened I went to Larrabee State Park to photograph the sandstone rock formations.

6. One day on neighboring Whidbey Island we came across this driftwood shelter on a beach.

7. Fog at Lighthouse Point, Deception Pass State Park.
8. A Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) balances on Bullwhip kelp at Lighthouse Point.

9. The square pane of glass.

10. Another take on the square of glass.

11. An abstract that began as a photo of leaves on the ground.

12. Leaves afloat.

13. Bagley Lakes view, Mount Baker.

14. Picture Show Falls, Boulder Creek.

15. Five Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) on Cranberry lake, Deception Pass State Park.

16. Fog on Heart Lake.
17. Fog again, this time at Washington Park.

18. An abstraction that began as reflections on water.

19. Your photographer, reflecting on life.

***


71 comments

  1. The Lysichiton americanus is just enormously bright πŸ™‚

    The tiger lilies : superb!

    The simple curves and parallel veins : I myself often photographed it. πŸ™‚

    the sandstone rock formations : An otherworld-experience!

    driftwood shelter on a beach. : We all need shelter from time to time πŸ™‚

    Fog: like a Dinsosaurus approaching

    Great blue heron : You one shoed it to us, still a wonderful graphic experience.

    The square pane of glass. : Great idea.

    Another take on the square of glass. : More graphical πŸ™‚

    An abstract that began as a photo of leaves on the ground. : Reminds me of one of the starting pictures Neil Jordan: Running numbersβ€œ

    Leaves afloat. : Magic!

    Bagley Lakes : Surreal πŸ™‚

    Picture Show Falls, : Sooo lovely!

    Five Trumpeter swans : No one of them hiding

    Fog on Heart Lake : Plain magic

    Fog again, this time at Washington Park : Waves lit by the sun

    An abstraction : Smoke

    Your photographer, reflecting on life. : Same I do πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you succumbed to a year-end review, Lynn. Many of these photographs I remember fondly; some I can’t recall at all. Number 1, of the swamp lantern, is absolutely stunning; oh, the lighting. How could I have missed that one??? I love the dark beauty of #3. Even though you identify the subject in #4, the photo remains quite mysterious, and wonderful. The flowing look in that composition and the coloring are captivating. I also like the lack of a sense of scale. I find myself exploring the various sections of the photograph over and over. Your #6 has a monumentality to it; I almost expect to see an architect’s name cited. I think your rather low pov helps that feeling. In #8, where someone else would have zeroed in on the heron, you’ve treated the Bullwhip kelp with identical care, as it should be, imho. Your floating leaves (#12) gather dignity from the dark background as well as from the super-sharp focus. The photo is almost Rebrandtian. The vast sweep of landscape in #13 is beautifully composed with an implied elegant S-curve. You carry us right through from the conifer in the extreme foreground to the distant mountains. Thank you, my photographer, for your reflections on life. Uh, btw, I had to look up “imho” to be sure I was using it to mean “in my humble opinion” and came across this interesting little article: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/05/the-h-in-imho-does-not-mean-humble-or-honest/559514/.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Succumbed – that’s funny! There’s a reason you can’t remember all of these – they haven’t all been posted before. Some just didn’t fit into posts, some spoke to me only recently. The first one, for example, was one of three or four that all worked – it was a beautiful scene. Another one was posted in the spring but this is as good. I’m really glad you selected #4 to talk about – it’s a favorite. I just love those plants and was so happy to express what they say to me if you know what I mean (and you do!). The “monumentality” you see in the simple driftwood shelter is what I was trying to show. And such a nice thing to say about the leaves – one of the photos I haven’t posted and didn’t really “see” at first. Thanks for the Atlantic piece – and many thanks for being here, Linda. Have a good weekend!

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  3. Wow!!! What incredible photos!!!!!! You sure have a great eye!!!!!! Thank you so much for the story behind what “forced”/inspired your art and the gorgeous photos you captured! I love your experimenting with the panes of glass, the reflection of your camera, and the unique perspectives you reveal. A real treat for the eye! And the last photo of the photographer, a perfect ending. Beautiful work!!! ❀

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  4. I am struggling with reviews too, but it can be really interesting and we forget so much so fast, so I am really glad you did this and show all my favorite pictures once again πŸ™‚ Especially the Swamp lantern, I love it!!! But I agree Linda Grashoff: some of the pictures seem to be new here on your blog – or did I forget about them? # 5 und 12, and the last two are new too, right? # 5 is so amazing, incredible and so mystic! I love #12, which is so poetic. I am not sure about #18, if you posted it, but I love it too this kind of abstraction. It looks as if something is written over the water. 19 is fun – I like your new hairstyle πŸ˜‰ The tender wildflowers are such beauties. As I said: my favorite pictures. Thank you!

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    • You’re right – some of these have not been posted before. I looked over what I did this year again and found some photos that I wanted to include here. I will have to come back and finish this reply later, sorry! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, we forget so much, and looking back was a really good thing to do. I must do it more often. #5 was made in the spring. There were others from that day that I liked too so I showed them in a post. When I reviewed those photos I thought this one was stronger. Joe did, too – I asked him. πŸ˜‰ You said “mystic” and someone else said mysterious. Isn’t it nice that something as solid as a rock can look mysterious and mystical?
      #12 is from November and didn’t fit the posts I was doing then, I guess. #16 is new. The last one was made on a windy day (glad you like that style!) And again, I posted other photos from that day but not that one. You’re right to wonder about #18 because I did post it before but I changed the color a little this time. You are sharp!! The loose style of Japanese calligraphy was the inspiration for that one. Maybe people who write in that style imagine they are writing on water. πŸ˜‰ Thank you, Almuth!

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  5. So that’s where my additional website traffic was coming from, today. πŸ™‚ I’m really happy that you went and did this write-up – it’s really nice (and much more extensive than mine). The selection of images from your photographic year is beautiful and I remember most of the images. One that I did NOT remember seeing before is #17 and it is an absolute stunner. Monochrome is PERFECT for it – as is the entire scene the way you framed it. I’d print that one, and big. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry I didn’t warn you that I was linking to your post – I’ve been running around today and just got to my email. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your encouragement, which is always appreciated! Some of these have not been posted before, mainly because they didn’t fit into whatever I was posting about. Some are other versions of images I posted and on re-evaluating I decided I liked one better than the other. I think #17 falls into that category. I worked quite a bit on that – toning and framing – so it’s very nice to see your enthusiasm. Maybe I WILL print it! πŸ™‚

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  6. What a wonderful collection! I’m a fan of annual Best Of posts, if only because they’re fun a remind me of great images I’ve seen over the past year. Your style strikes me as one that will thrive even with limitations, and I’d say this set demonstrates that principle. I really like abstract # 18 and the bullwhip kelp, but my absolute favorite is the Larabee sandstone, which is downright cosmic. Always a pleasure!

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    • I’m so glad you left this comment – I should have your latest post in my email but I don’t see it and this prompted me to look. I’ve always thought that limitations breed ideas and creativity. It’s interesting to see what catches your eye…that sandstone is a joy to photograph. Go there the next time you’re over this way! Thanks so much, Jackson.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Speaking of things getting darker, I noticed that the photos themselves were darker overall this year. Maybe that reflects the times but I think I have figured out how to enjoy the darkness, at least in images. I do hope we can travel a little this year! But whatever happens, I won’t stop posting. Thanks, Harrie, I appreciate your thoughts. πŸ™‚

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  7. Your response to Linda G’s comment, above, really struck a resonant chord with me, when you said that some of your images had only recently spoken to you. This is an eloquent reminder to revisit past work and to allow hidden treasures to surface. Here’s to a rewardingly-productive New Year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The ground is constantly shifting, isn’t it? We change our minds, we notice things we didn’t see before, etc. It was a good exercise. Thanks for your comment, and yes, here’s to a productive year, in our own lives if not in the political arena. πŸ˜‰

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  8. Happy annual reminiscences to you.
    The aptly named swamp lantern does seem to glow. The tiger lilies in #3 also look like little lanterns.
    Latin buccinator, which means ‘trumpeter,’ is based on the word for cattle (compare French boeuf and the first parts of bucolic and bovine), because early trumpets were made from the horns of those animals.
    That’s a mysterious-looking view of rocks in #5.
    There’s barely any blue in that great blue heron; maybe the Avian Guild will disbar it or disblue it.
    I remember the cleverly named Picture Show Falls and the wallpapery nature of #11.
    It’s easier to find fog on Heart Lake than a heart on Fog Lake.
    That’s a happily enigmatic self-portrait at the end, and an apt entrΓ©e into 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Steve…..I agree, those tiger lilies are just like little lanterns. I was surprised at how delicate they were, and how close to a pretty popular path they were, without being destroyed by anyone. That’s interesting about buccinator…the Trumpeter swans’ calls are very, well, trumpet-like. No doubt about it. They’re feeding happily in the potato fields these days. And the heron – I always have thought “Great Blue heron” was a stretch. On that day, and on most days around here, there is really hardly any blue to be seen in their feathers.
      Your remark about the self-portrait is brilliant – what a windy week it has already been! (Actually the wind died down around here but I think it’s still blowing hard in the halls of our government). Have a good weekend, Steve!

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  9. The Larrabee State Park sandstone rock formations make for a stunning, almost abstract image. That’s one photo I wouldn’t mind having framed on my lounge room wall πŸ™‚

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  10. Interesting perspective and some lovely photos. I’ve always been fascinated by abstractions. Something real that’s framed in a new way that ‘sees’ it differently. The sandstone image reminded me of gaseous formations in space until I read what it was. I find the image of picture show falls especially magical.
    I’m glad you were able to find so many wonderful things to explore close to home. – Sheri

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  11. Excellent images, Lynn, all of them – and I really do mean that! And you’ve never said a truer thing – being retired during this pandemic really does make life a lot simpler; my heart goes out to all those who have to juggle childcare and work – and the more so to those who are not able to work from home.

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  12. This reflection on your photo year 2020 is not only exciting and beautiful to look at, it’s downright contagious, because it convincingly shows how much clarity looking at the path so far can also bring about where you want to go in the future. How good that you have decided to do this.
    When I now look at your pictures, I can only confirm what you yourself say: I made the best of it!
    The fact that you take wonderful landscape and plant photos is starting to become almost self-evident (not really, you always surprise). That’s why, in fact, the experiments on abstraction have remained particularly in my memory. It’s always good to play, but when you let us watch YOU play, it’s really special.
    I won’t say anything about the individual photos this time, they are all great, it feels inappropriate to highlight any one in particular.
    I’m looking forward to your journey through this new year.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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    • You’re right, Ule, looking back over the year gives me a better sense of what I’m doing and where I might go. I think it’s important not to get stuck doing one thing. Yes, you need to practice over and over again to improve and get good at something, but trying something different has the benefit of inserting new ideas into familiar practices. What you learn experimenting with a new technique carries over to your more familiar techniques.
      When I was an art student, there was no place at all for plant or landscape images, whether photographic or painterly. Mostly that was OK with me because I loved the NY art scene of the 60s and 70s – there was so much excitement, so many stimulating ideas. But it did bother me that I could not see a way to activate this important part of myself artistically. The part that is deeply attached to nature was there but it was quiet. In the last 10 years or so I have swung the other way as I concentrated on nature photography. Now I miss the thoughtful approach of the best minimalism, conceptualism, and abstraction. That’s why I did the abstractions and the square glass photos. I needed to be in that space. In both cases, nature played a role so I think the different threads are beginning to weave together.

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      • A liberating and fruitful development, Lynn.
        Sometimes it seems to me that when we are younger we tend to believe that only one side, one position, is right and possible. Only with increasing maturity and the freedom of old age do we see the network of paths of integration, of “both … and”

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  13. As the proverb says “there are evils that come for good”. Obviously, nobody wanted this pandemic, but it really provided new opportunities and possibilities for the most creative.
    Despite the circumstances, it was for you a year of evolution and with time for new experiences and looks. And this set of images reflects this very well, as it is of great beauty.
    I especially highlight photos 5, 8 and 16. The movement and the graphics of image 8 are really magnificent.
    Congratulations for this year of work / leisure and that 2021 proves to be a year of continuation and always of evolution! With a lot of health!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dulce, once again, I appreciate your thoughtful and generous comment. I like the way you put it – “this year of work/leisure.” I am at my leisure in the sense that I can do what I want but I work very hard at it. πŸ™‚
      #8 – the heron standing on a piece of kelp in the water – that was a gift. I was sitting on the shoreline, just relaxing and watching, and the heron came to look for fish and decided to stand there, on the kelp that was moving with the current of the water. I am blessed to witness many moments like that.
      Yes, always evolution! Thank you again, my friend! Take care!

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  14. Hi Lynn, What a treat to read your review. Many of these images are memorable from seeing them the first time. Your overview of your gear use and inspirations encapsulates what I already know- that you are always pushing and striving creatively. I am always drawn to your intimate nature shots like your Tiger and Fawn Lillies and your more abstract images like Larabee rock formations. Your landscapes are stunning- the waterfall, the foggy landscapes, Bagley and Great Blue Heron are well seen and beautifully composed. Your creativity shines in your editing on your glass series and leaves. And your self-portrait is a perfect end. πŸ™‚ Here’s to a better year ahead and one that is filled with many more creative moments and someday, that trip to Vietnam.

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    • Gee, Jane, that is a seriously positive review!! πŸ˜‰ Thank you very much; your sensitivity is appreciated. I feel like you are always paying attention and of course, that means a lot. I know you’re very busy but it seems that you don’t rush through posts, you give yourself to the process.
      There’s no question that we want – we need! – a better year politically and in other ways. But if next year is as fruitful as this year was I will be satisfied! That and decent health, plus at least a little travel – can we at least ask for those things?
      Who knows, maybe I’ll get back to LA…there are so many places I’d like to go…(Vietnam has actually dropped down the list now). Or maybe someday you and I will meet halfway, wouldn’t that be cool? (It looks like the midway point is close to Mt. Shasta!) Thank you!

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  15. I’ve so enjoyed your photographic journey this year Lynn. Seeing Fidalgo, Deception, and area through your lens has surprised and delighted me. I’ve hardly been out with my camera all year – just a few outings here and there. Mostly I’ve been trying to catch up on the backlog of stories and photographs from earlier travels.
    I think I have to say that images 13-17 are standouts for me in this collection so I guess I’m in a landscape kinda mood today, not to mention captured by the beauty of these shots.
    Alison

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    • Your catch-up is proving to be a very good path to take. You’re getting a lot done! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the view of this area, which is near enough to be similar yet far enough away to be different. Keep that landscape mood going – I think there are more landscapes, especially moody ones, where those came from. They’ll be coming to a post near you soon! πŸ˜‰ Thank you and have a great week.

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  16. Though travel is certainly fun, I’ve always had this feeling that really the best way to see and show in depth is near home because you can explore it so many different ways. I think you just proved that above.

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  17. Belated best wishes for the new year, Lynn. I enjoyed both the summing up and look forward, it’s great to see both the pictures and some glimpses of your mindscape. Fantastic photos of course, every one of the plant portraits, glass pane experiments, landscapes, and abstracts deserves to be framed & on a gallery wall. I’ll only comment on one (what?? me, being succinct?? who is this, really?) Well, ok, two. #14 – – I occasionally caught myself during the past year, following a number of photoblogs, with the sour thought, that perhaps I’d seen enough pictures of waterfalls, to be going on with –tropical showers, Nordic cataracts, mountain cascades, foaming rapids, mossy trickles, etc. Probably more a function of negativity seeping in from the news, and tiredness. But your photo instantly restored my good nature, it’s just magical and lovely. And #12, where a handful of dead leaves becomes a handsome composition, and a tranquil and respectful “momento mori” it’s a wonderful gift, how you convey not just the interest or visual beauty of things, but also their value and place in the world, an appreciation of even a humble fallen leaf.
    So, looking forward so much to seeing your explorations and artistry this year, cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert, it was a pleasure to read your comment. If I restored your mood a little and your faith in the possibility of one more waterfall photo not being one too many, then you restored my mood too, and my faith in the value of what I’m doing. I plug away at it and would probably do so even if no one ever commented or there was no blog. But comments like yours make all the difference. You saw so much in the “handful of dead leaves” – that Made me feel good. You have a gift for taking off and expanding on what you see. You might like to know that I’ve been telling myself to make some prints for ages and am finally getting that done. There’s a business here in town that does fine art printing – two older guys who you’d enjoy – they’re a little bit Monty Pythonesque. Anyway, later this week I’ll pick up a print of that waterfall.
      I hope you have a good year, full of interesting things and people. Take care and keep creating!

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  18. Happy New Year, Lynn. We can all hope for better things and among them I hope for you to get that trip to Vietnam under way. That 12mm lens needs some exercise. πŸ™‚
    Wow, those Swamp Lanterns are special. They glow and must stop you in your tracks. I love the Sandstone formation and was happy to see the Great Blue again. You gathered a fine bunch of images and for a change I do have a clear, well it is a bit cloudy, favorite. πŸ˜€ I like your windblown do. πŸ™‚ As I’ve mentioned before I like your creativity and the ideas you come up with for projects like the window pane theme. Not only do you come up with great ideas but then you collect some outstanding images to fill the project.
    For us photographers last year wasn’t too bad if we are the type who prefer solitude in our pursuits.You had a very good year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we’re going to head in another direction when we finally get to travel, but thanks for your good wishes. πŸ™‚
      The Swamp lantern (or we could call it Western skunk cabbage!) does pick up the afternoon sun nicely – I was lucky to be there at the perfect time. And yes, the restrictions have not held most photographers back like they have some other people, in fact, they forced us to be more creative. I wouldn’t have realized how good a year it was without putting some energy into reviewing it. Hopefully I will make this a habit. πŸ˜‰
      I’ve been meaning to get some prints made for years and finally began that process this week. There’s a good place in town run my two guys who seem to really take their time with fine art prints. The sandstone formation is one of the ones I decided to get printed. Thank you, Steve!

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  19. A fine collection of beautifully composed images The first picture is quite magical.
    A rewarding aspect of a review is that it encourages us to recall and relive the original experience.

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  20. You had a great year Lynn. It’s interesting to see your picks. You know, you can look back and look forward too! As you know I am a fan of the yearly retrospective and have been doing so for 18 years. Yes, it lets you see the year as a whole, what you’ve done, and perhaps what you want to do more of or differently in the future. I put a small sampling on my blog but my website has 60 favorites for the year so it also serves a a great archive and back up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I chose the week I put this post together and what I would choose a month from now would probably differ a little but that’s OK. Thanks for your encouragement, Denise, I appreciate it. It was a really good thing to do – it gave me a sense of accomplishment, it helped me think more concretely about what I’m doing and the review itself seems to imply a continuity, a forward motion, which sort of anchors me. Yes, looking back AND forward. πŸ™‚

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      • What you say about what you would choose now vs. later is very true. I have said the same thing when I have judged photography exhibits. What I chose to receive awards may differ on a different day.

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