Best of 2016

Every year around this time I post a few of my favorite photos from the previous year. And that’s something I strongly believe every photographer needs to do. Go through your photos from the previous year, select the best 10-15, and do something special with them. I’m still a big fan of making prints, as having that physical print in my hands has a special feel. It’s also a good exercise in self editing, and having a little time between when you took a picture helps you see it less emotionally. There have been lots of times when I’ve shot a picture and thought, “Wow, that’s going to be an awesome picture.” Most of the time, though, after a few months, I realize that maybe it’s good, but not as good as I first thought.

The other thing I’ve learned over the years is that my definition of a “best” picture has changed. While I still try to set a high standard for both creative and technical details, I find myself drawn more and more often to photos that have a special feeling, or a good story behind them. And I also find that for the most part, I prefer photos of people. There’s a more personal nature to those, as we humans have a shared bond. With that said, here are my favorites from 2016, with their stories.

Believe it or not, this was taken during a workshop I was teaching for Best Buy employees. I’ve done training for Best Buy for over ten years now, and the company has consistently raised the bar on what they expect their “DI” (Digital Imaging) department employees to know about photography. In fact, some of their stores now have a greatly expanded camera section, with employees dedicated to that area. We train those people. This was during a five-day hands-on session we were doing for a group of about 100 salespeople in Tucson. Best Buy rented Old Tucson Studios for the day, and we ran the employees through about eight different shooting scenarios. For this one, we had Anna and another model dressed as brides and did most of our photography inside a small chapel. But once I saw the outhouse in the yard, I knew we had to do some photos there. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/1250 at f/5.6, EV -0.3, Nikkor 24-120mm lens at 30mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

I take people to Peru about every other year, and have learned that photographers come to Peru for Machu Picchu, but leave loving the people photography. This is a great example of that. Our guide mentioned there was a local market in Urubamba the day we were visiting, so we stopped by for a couple of hours. This also shows a technique I use on a regular basis where I find a location (composition), and wait for a subject to walk into it. I’m returning to Peru again in 2018, so let me know if you’d like to come along. Nikon D750, ISO 125, 1/1000 at f/6.3, EV -0.3, Nikkor 18-35mm lens at 24mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

Near the end of each Peru trip we go to Lake Titicaca and visit a group of people who live there on reed islands. They’re the Uros islanders, and in addition to learning about their fascinating lifestyle, they give us a short ride on one of their large reed boats. Lying down, I was able to use a low angle to achieve a “clean” background of the sky. But mostly what makes this photo work is the light in their faces. Timing was important, as I needed to wait for her to lean back to get that light, as well as their smiles as they laugh at us taking pictures. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/500 at f/11, EV 0.0, 18-35mm Nikkor lens at 29mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

I shot this during another Best Buy training, this time at a resort in Colorado Springs. I was outside talking with some of the students when I saw this boy playing in the pool. The color, and reflections of light through the water, made for a very graphic image. Underexposing made the color darker and richer. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/1600 at f/6.3, EV -0.7, Nikkor 24-120mm lens at 120mm Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

Iceland was every bit as picturesque as people say. I led my first workshop there this past July, and of the many fantastic locations we visited, some of my favorites were the glacial lagoons. This one was off the tourist track, so we had it all to ourselves. I had to lie down and get close with my wide-angle to show the texture of the ice as well as its beautiful surroundings and dramatic sky. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/800 at f/11, EV -0.7, 18-35mm Nikkor lens at 22mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

Our guide in Iceland told us of one place on the coast where we could get close to puffins. We didn’t realize how close he meant until we saw it. And the heavy rain couldn’t dampen our excitement since there was a building we could sit in, staying dry and and shooting out the windows. I’m going back in July of 2018, so if you want to come along, let me know. Nikon D7200, Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/1250 at f/6.3, EV -1.0, Nikkor 70-200mm lens with 2X Nikonteleconverter for 400mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

I do a few assignments every year for a magazine that features couples with their own businesses. This one was down in the Ozarks, and while the car wasn’t something the magazine had requested, the man was so proud of it I just had to make a picture. Once I saw the moon, I knew what I was going to do. Since I was going to use flash, I set the exposure manually for how I wanted the sky and moon to look. Then I set one flash to the left, direct (no modifier to soften it), to light up the chrome and provide sidelight on the faces, and a second light to the right, in a softbox. At that point I just let the Nikon i-TTL flash system do its thing. Nikon D810, Manual mode, ISO 200, 1/250 at f/5.6, EV 0.0, 24-120mm Nikkor lens at 24mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

Last fall I took a few friends on a four-day trip along the California coast south of Santa Cruz. This was in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where a shaft of sunlight lit up the burnt side of an old redwood tree. By underexposing a lot I was able to keep the scene dark except for the highlights off the burn and a bit of green and blue in the background. Nikon D810, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/125 at f/8, EV -2.7, 18-35mm Nikkor lens at 32mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

It’s rare that I have three favorites from he same trip, but this Mentor Series Myanmar trek was pretty exceptional. I arrived a day early for the workshop to make sure any flight delays wouldn’t cause me to miss the start. I then spent part of that free day on the “Circle Train,” which runs around the capitol of Yangon. It stops every few minutes, making it a great way to see the area. There were lots of nice pictures to be had during the trip, but this was my favorite. What makes it special is the rich blue and yellow colors, and how the lone woman is framed in the otherwise dark window. Nikon D7200, Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/200 at f/4, EV -0.3, 70-200mm Nikkor lens at 200mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

It’s common on our foreign workshops to spend a lot of time traveling, as we want to see different parts of the country. That was the case on this morning in Myanmar, with a several hour bus ride scheduled on our way to Bagan. When that happens, though, we try to break the time up with a couple of stops, and passing through a small village we saw a nice local market. Since this wasn’t a regular tourist stop, we were as much an attraction for the locals as they were to us. This woman was using a small flag to keep flies away, and laughed and smiled when I asked permission to take her picture. As I often do, I chose a wide-angle lens so it’s not just a picture of her, but shows a bit of where she is and what she’s doing. Myanmar is the third time I’ve led a workshop to a Buddhist country, and every time the people have been unfailingly polite and friendly. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 1400, 1/250 at f/4.5, EV 0.0, Nikkor 18-35mm lens at 18mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

This young boy was at the Shwe Gu Orphanage, one of many in Myanmar run by Buddhist monks. The boys are given a safe place to eat and sleep, and schooling. But they can leave at any time, and only a few stay on and become monks. This one had just finished eating and was sitting outside waiting for his friends. I was walking by, and froze in my tracks. This scene had the perfect combination of color (yellow and red go well together) and light (soft, with natural vignetting in the corners). Plus, with him looking towards the shadow side, the whites of his eyes really pop out. And, I underexposed, to hold the great tone of his skin. Nikon D750, Aperture Priority, ISO 900, 1/320 at f/4, EV -1.3, 70-200mm Nikkor lens at 200mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

We’ve had an incredibly warm winter in Kansas City, with our only real cold spell coming in mid-December. And the coldest of those days was on a Sunday the Chiefs were playing the Titans. Thanks to below-zero temperatures and a heated field, the beginning of the game featured a lovely ground fog. I spent the first few minutes of the game looking for neat fog pictures instead of game action. Once the sun hit the field, it faded away. Nikon D500, Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/3200 at f/6.3, EV +.3, Nikkor 200-500 mm lens at 260mm. Photo copyright Reed Hoffmann.

(If you like this story, please share it with your friends, and also let them know about the links about photography I post on my business Facebook page. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter, @reedhoffmann)