Photo technique secrets behind my ten most interesting photos of 2012

Flickr determines the most interesting images by a combination of views, comments, and favs. Here are my ten most interesting photos from 2012. Along with each photo I give one photo technique that helps make the image interesting.

Christmas stained glass

Nostalgia with bright colors

#1. Christmas stained glass

My most interesting photo of 2012 is one of my last images of 2012. During Christmas I shot some Makit & Bakit ornaments at my parents house. This shot has several elements going for it:

  • The bright contrast
  • The nostaglia
  • Fun cartoon drawings

But mostly I think it’s just the dramatic lighting… well, with the bright colors. When I initially was creating this image, I wanted to tone down the yellow temperature, but the colors lost their vibrance, so I kept it yellow.

This photo currently sits at #193 on Explore for December 27, 2012, meaning out of every single photo posted to flickr on that day, it’s the the 193rd most popular on the site. Pretty cool considering I have only three other photos with a higher ranking. The highest ranking this photo got was #164.

Sun setting on the Lincoln Square arches


#2. Sun setting on the Lincoln Square arches

Sunset shots are always popular. This is a classic setting of my neighborhood with the Lincoln Square archway and Germantown architecture in the background. This is a scene I see everyday when I walk home. Although, the sun is not always setting. I especially like how a glare is seen on the “U” in “Square.”

Wrigley Building between blooming trees

Compositional frames

#3. Wrigley Building between blooming trees

Fantastic fog, interacting with classic architecture, wonderful framing device with the beautiful blooming trees, excellent gray tonality. This photo has a lot of nice things happening. Makes sense that it would pull in at #3 for 2012. I personally would rather this be my number one photo. It’s better than the previous two.

Having a swing with the snow

Snow as backdrop

#4. Having a swing with the snow

I’m very pleased that one of my artworks made it into the top four images of 2012. This wire guy on a string is part of an ongoing public art series called Get into the swing of.” At a particular location outside, I’ll sit down and bend a roll of wire into a figure and then find some available material nearby to create the bench of the swing. Along with some string, I’ll tie the guy up and give him a little swing to enjoy the surrounding area. This particular swinging figure was installed at my favorite local park, Winnemac Park in July 2011. Everytime I visit the park I check to see if he’s still there. Even in January 2012, he was still swinging with snow covering the landscape. What a trooper!

I especially like how the snow is covering the string so it tells the story that he was there even before the snow laid down. The little branch leaning over serves as a nice compositional element to highlight the figure. The snow also acts as a wonderful backdrop. Normally when I photograph this figure, there’s lots of conflicting vegetation in the background that makes it a bit hard to see the figure. Here the snow makes him really sing. The horizon line in the background is also really elegant. Truly a fav of mine!

A truly extra bonus is that I took this photo the day I met my girlfriend. I went out for a run before we had our first date later that night.

You are meant for amazing things

Written messages

#5. You are meant for amazing things

While walking down the stairs from my train station, this delightful message greeted me and my fellow commuters. The evening hour made for nice dramatic lighting. The end of the stairs represents the end of the day. The message, “You are meant for amazing things” is a nice recap on the day. It makes you look forward to the next day.

The message is also very nicely framed on that concrete slab. Whomever wrote this message did a nice composition job fitting the words into the space and giving a variety of type treatments to the different words. It’s like that concrete slab is a canvas onto which the author created their composition. The stairs and handrails also do a great job in the layout to point to the central message. The bricks in the background provide a nice texture to complement the other textures in this photo with the rusty metal stairs, the shiny metal handrails, the smooth concrete, and toothy chalk.

Butterfly on my walk

Color on white

#6. Butterfly on my walk

As flickr user MewDeep pointed out, “That fence has a lot of personality.” Indeed it does. The caked-on white paint speaks to the age of the fence. This butterfly must have liked this fence a lot too, because it decided to spend some time posing on it. His wonderful colors pop out all the more because of the white background.

The Filterstorm iPhone app came in handy for this shot, because as with anything that is dark on top of a white background, the tones will be off in the exposure. I locally dodged the butterfly to bring out the details in his plumage. The stark sunshine also helped to bring out his details. Just look at how harsh his shadow is from the sun.

I use my iPad mostly for taking notes on articles

Tech twist

#7. I use my iPad mostly for taking notes on articles

This photo had some initial buzz on flickr when I first posted it. The top rating it got was as high as #159 for August 29, 2012. Pretty impressive that an image created for a blog post would be the 159th most popular image on flickr. I think it was popular because I took a popular tech device, the iPad, and showed a use that many people didn’t realize you could do: writing notes on top of articles.

On my publishing blog I wrote about how I geek out with my iPad using it more to take notes on pdfs than other exciting things like playing video games or learning recipes in the kitchen. I truly like writing marginalia on my ipad. It saves so much paper and makes filing my articles so easy! Read more about geeking out with iPads at my blog post, Are you an egghead iPad user like me?

Inside Marilyn Monroe

Detailed coverage, inside and out

#8. Inside Marilyn Monroe

Oh Marilyn, Marilyn. So proudly did she stand for a year in the popular Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue. Thousands of tourists stood next to her snapping photos. Then one day she got dismantled. Before people were able to look up her skirt, but now they were able to look up inside her!

These are all screenshots from a video I took giving you an private look inside Marilyn Monroe! Check her out at Secret look inside the Marilyn Monroe statue in Chicago. I literally crawl inside her in the video!

This particular photo collage works, because it shows so many unknown aspects of the Marilyn Monroe statue that hundreds of thousands of people were familiar with. All these different views are packed into one photo.

Jewelers Building

Simplicity in layout

#9. Jewelers Building

A good ol’ dramatic shot of a classic building. It’s amazing what an iPhone can capture. The duotone also helps heighten the drama, along with the focused square cropping. All the noise on the street level is eliminated. View the original, unaltered photo.

Jewelers building before the duotone

While this photo is nice, it’s much better with the street level cut out. When the building is cropped, you get more of a sense of the building itself. With the sidewalk, the building becomes way too skewed and distorted. Crop your architecture photos closer, so people can get a sense of the building itself.

The plants on Michigan Avenue are monstrous

Drawing monsters on photos

#10. The plants on Michigan Avenue are monstrous

So fun that one of my drawing-on-photos made the top ten list. The setting sun helps to add to the life of the original photo. I walk by this planter quite frequently (almost every day) either going to lunch or on my way home. This particular day the plants struck me with how the light was sitting on the plants making them seem like a big huge monster. The overflowing and rising sweetpotato vines made this whole installation quite monstrous.

Photographing this beast from a lower angle helped to give it a more ominous feel. I took several shots with various people walking by trying to strike the right cord of having people in the shot for scale, but to not have the people distract from the featured creature. The two people in the background give good context, but they don’t overwhelm. In fact, it’s funny how they are so oblivious to the supernatural personality sitting right in front of them!

I went through a couple revisions of the monster finally settling on this one. His robustness matches the heft of the round planter. The position of his horns are nice, because it makes reinforce the lower perspective of the photo. His mouth is so wide open, you want to jump inside. The dimensionality of his arms help to reinforce his rotund body.

The pink flowers add a nice touch to this big guy.

Wait! Are these ten not enough? There’s 40 more! #11 – #50. To view all top 50 images, please check out: The 50 most interesting photos of 2012.

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Sarah Renee
11 years ago

Yay! I think “Wrigley Building between Blooming Trees” is my pick for #1; “Having a Swing with the Snow” is a sentimental contender/close runner-up, though…;).

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