2017 Best Nine: Nature, Landscape, Travel Photography

2017 Best Nine photographs from California

2017 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

There a site that can analyze your Instagram feed and arrange the nine most popular ones into a new image for you to share. Scroll to the bottom here to create yours:

Drop by my #2017BestNine on Instagram and leave a comment to let me know when you’ve uploaded yours, and I’ll go check yours out!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BdU4kyqjrJv/?taken-by=jeffsullivanphotography

The site will also let you create your #2016BestNine if you haven’t already done so:
Best Nine of 2016?

Last year I also created my #2015BestNine, as shown here:
Best Nine of 2015?

Another option you have is to include statistics on your account for the year:

2017 Best Nine photographs from California

2017 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

It says roughly 40,000 “views”, but they seem to actually be likes. If the views-to-likes ratio is similar on Instagram to what I see on Flickr, the views would be roughly 10X more, or 400,000.

I had a few more “views” (or likes) in 2016, but had to upload more photos to get them:

2016 Best Nine photographs from California

2016 BestNine photographs by Jeff Sullivan Photography.

Overall my audience growth is pretty slow on Instagram, and I still have a lot more views on Flickr, the photos get views for longer, and the strong keyword tagging and search features means that the photos get found occasionally for commercial licensing. Obviously Instagram’s parent company Facebook has tremendous resources to invest in Instagram, and with nearly 600 photos there already, I remain optimistic that I’ll see more of an uptick in activity on my photos on Instagram in 2018!

My most popular photo on Flickr, with 1,538,443 likes, 21,292 favs, 1023 comments:
Water Cuts Rock

My most popular photo on Instagram?  886 likes, 33 comments:


The stats themselves don’t mean much, obviously I’m focusing on my photography not social media or I’d have more Instagram activity.  If I produce compelling work, the rest will eventually take care of itself.  But with little times to spend on social media and photo sharing sites, it’s useful to pay attention to where what little time I do have is best spent. So I’ll continue to pay attention to where my photography seems to get the best reception.

Other ways to look back at my new 2017 images and fresh edits of older ones?  I collected my favorites in a post on this blog:
Top 10 Travel Photos 2017

I selected those from over 100 that I nominated during the year as I was taking them, stored in a 2017 Favorites album on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157676554197004

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Recent Artwork Uploaded for Printing and Gifts

Prints, mugs, T-shirts, and more, available for a limited time only, all with a money-back guarantee from Fine Art America:
Photography Prints

Sell Art Online

Sell Art Online

Sell Art Online

Sell Art Online

Art Prints

Photography Prints

Photography Prints

See more of my current print and gift offerings at:
https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jeff-sullivan.html

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Why Do Your Fall Images Look Better This Year?

Yellow aspen in the Eastern Sierra

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors

I often receive supportive feedback on my photography, as well as questions on how I get my results.  Since I’m “in this for the photography” I tend to prioritize photography over writing.  So my answers to questions provide a great opportunity to address common questions in a blog post.  This time, I’ll just have it all be the blog post, illustrated with photos that I’ve post-processed in the past month, fall 2017…

Yosemite Daylight Long Exposure Composite

On 9 Nov 17, 5.52PM PST ———- said:
Jeff:
I see a dramatic change in your fall images….much improved, even though the old ones were great to start with. What software are you using to develop your images? It looks like you are using focus stacking for the landscapes as well. Is this so?
Nice job, ————

Hi ———-,

I’ll answer in two parts, first regarding post-processing.

I honestly don’t know if I can narrow it down to one or two factors and answer the question completely, but here goes…Everyone’s looking for ways to improve their photography, and the questions often assume that a new camera or post-processing software must be the key.  To be sure, cameras and applications do evolve, so there are benefits to new versions, but there’s a lot to be said for the influence of experience and personal stylistic choices.

Spring in the FallIt would be really easy to simply provide “the answer” and point to one new product that will provide the magic bullet.  You find that all over the Internet with people paid to promote products, and they often do not follow FTC guidelines to properly identify their social media and blog “reviews” of their sponsors’ products as paid ads.  I’m unencumbered by product/manufacturer relationships, so I can take a more comprehensive and less biased approach.

I do find Adobe Lightroom 5 and lately 6 to be meter than older versions of the software, and I do often re-process results as recent as two years ago and get better results.  But here’s the catch: I also notice that I’m using a different approach and settings than I did even as recently as two years ago.  So I can’t really attribute the improvements to solely or even mainly to newer Lightroom software.

Fall Colors in the Virgin River NarrowsI’ve been using Photomatix from HDRsoft for many years, and I remember as early as 2009 I was occasionally layering my best edit of the original photo on top of the HDR result to make the result more realistic.  Unfortunately that required exporting the files to Photoshop for the layering.  I prefer the photography side of the process over the computer/graphics arts options, so I often just settled for an average of the three exposures in Photomatix, and touched that up on Lightroom instead.  The new version Photomatix 6 that I started using in beta last spring includes the layering of any of the original files on the HDR output, and enables blending using a slider from 0 to 100%.  So in addition to being to select from more preset HDR results, it’s little extra effort to blend in the best straight photographic result that you were able to produce in Lightroom.

That would certainly account for many of the files that I post-processed in Photomatix, but I try to tag all of them with HDR and Photomatix, so you can see for yourself that it’s not a huge percentage of my overall fall results.

Yosemite Fall DogwoodsSo what’s left is some combination of experience and what I choose to do with it.  I think that I’ve become more demanding with my results, which forces me to take a more critical look at them.  I often say that I prefer to spend five minutes or less post-processing a photo on my computer, but to get better results, at a minimum it is necessary to take the lead of Ansel Adams and at least invest some time in dodging and burning.

Stylistically, while I always preferred to produce more or less realistic images, sometimes digital cameras simply didn’t have the dynamic range to capture an entire natural scene well, so I’ve decided to accept the compromise of visibly manipulated results.  As cameras get better in subtle ways and I continue to master my skill with the various techniques and tools available, including the software tools, I can shift my focus to stylistic choices instead of fighting the tools to get an acceptable result.

Fall CalmI recall that I decided to get a little more assertive with contrast and blacks about a year ago.  At some point earlier this year I decided to produce some more colorful results, although I still don’t want the first impression people get to be “manipulated”.  I may not always succeed, but I’m exploring a wider range of results, and reining myself in when I can detect that the photo is crossing some invisible line.  I guess that you could boil it down to developing my own effects, range and style, mainly within the bounds of what Lightroom can do, but occasionally using Photomatix if/when the dynamic range of the scene warrants it.

The next logical question is what am I doing in Lightroom.  The short answer is that what I like about landscapes is the photography “pursuit of light” side in the field, experiencing the moment itself, so as mentioned, I tend to keep my adjustments under five minutes or so per photo on the computer, whenever possible.  I push as much quality as I can back to the capture side of the process, and automate some of the post-processing, so I can get back outside.  The fine details of how I achieve that, from image capture through post-processing, are probably best left for interactive post-processing demos during my workshops, since sharing my process and some of my favorite locations is exactly how I continue to pursue photography.

Yosemite's El Capitan in the Fall by Jeff Sullivan on 500px.com

 

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Eastern Sierra Fall Colors Peaking Now in Mono County

Eastern Sierra landscape photography

Mono County fall colors are peaking now!

If you’ve been waiting to head to the Eastern Sierra for fall colors, wait no longer!  These photos were all taken yesterday afternoon.  The spectacular color could last through the weekend, but maybe not: the forecast warns that Thursday could bring stormy weather that might knock a few leaves down before the weekend.

West Walker River in October

West Walker River October 15

Topaz Lake Cottonwood Trees

Topaz Lake October 15

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