"Best of 2020"

December 31, 2020
Lak Manawa State Park, Iowa

Well… here we are. About to close another year, and regardless of how eager we may be to put 2020 behind us, it’s one that won’t soon be forgotten. It’s been a year of unprecedented challenges and lessons, with ample instances of both ugliness and beauty. It was a year that we saw people at their best and at their worst; a year that we faced isolation, had great cause for introspection, and watched in many cases as the world around us ground to a halt. It was a year that proved, if nothing else, how fabricated the rules and norms of our society actually are, what truly matters, and even how flexible the once seemingly inflexible can be. As we eagerly turn the page to another year, at a time of reflection like no other, perhaps that should be our take away. Instead of shouting good riddance, maybe first we consider the truths revealed and lessons learned these past twelve months, and honor all that we've endured by carrying those forward.

In a photographic sense, 2020 was not my best year by any means. Travel was limited, the art show scene was decimated, and I spent much of the year lost in a pretty dark haze. While I realize some of this was beyond my control, in hindsight I do regret not better handling what was. I wasted a lot of time this year, and shot very little. And it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Even when trying to be responsible and self-isolate for COVID concerns, there were so many times when a simple early morning walk on a vacant nearby trail with camera in hand would have done my spirit good. I just struggled really bad with everything this year, and in that allowed myself to grow apathetic, and too often content with being the victim of circumstance. So that’s one of those things that I really want to focus on and do a better job of moving into 2021. No matter what the future presents I need to better take charge of my own situation- in both a personal and professional sense- and work hard not to let any more time slip away.

That said, 2020 wasn’t a total wash. Looking back there were a handful of things that I think I can be proud of and sort of hang my hat on. For example, I was accepted into 19 juried art shows in eight different states this year. While almost all of these were cancelled due to COVID, the two that I was able to participate in were in two of my favorite places- my hometown of Tipton, Iowa, and my longtime adopted home of Whitefish, Montana- so that made these shows extra meaningful. I'm very grateful for both of those opportunities.

I worked to improve my online presence this year, finally launching my new website late this fall. I also started an email newsletter (the first issue went out January 3, 2020) in hopes of finding an alternative platform to social media where I could both share my photography and get myself writing again. My initial goal with the newsletter was to send out an issue for every two-week period for the entire year, and I’ll be releasing Issue 26 today (New Years Eve.) The newsletter continues to evolve and take shape, but I’m happy to have stuck with it this far.

I also embarked on a self-designed, self-supported multi-media project this year, which began in September with a 650 mile bike ride across Iowa. The goal is to get a true understanding of diversity and equality in my home state. I’ve visited with dozens of people from all walks of life through a series of interviews that is ongoing, and am in the process of lining up several more. Once these interviews are complete (I’m now looking at February) I plan to share these stories through a series of blog posts and videos in the hope of opening eyes and advocating for greater equality. (If you’re interested in following along with this project, the best way to get updates is by signing up for my newsletter. I’ll include a link at the bottom of his page.)

And finally, though I didn’t get out to shoot nearly as much as I should have, in the times that I did get my camera out I captured a few images that I think might be worth sharing. So without further ado, in chronological order, here are ten of my favorite photos from the past year.

Frozen droplets on prairie grass, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, West Branch, Iowa

Winter wonderland, Rock Creek Timber, Cedar County, Iowa

Snowy trail, Rock Creek Timber, Cedar County, Iowa

Grass in the wind, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Trees along Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

Deep in the woods, Ross Creek Giant Cedars, Montana

Wildflower bouquet, Flathead National Forest, Montana

Sunrise, Lake Manawa State Park, Iowa

Nighttime on the High Trestle Trail, Madrid, Iowa

Pioneer Village, Cedar County Historical Society Museum, Tipton, Iowa

I can't yet say where the New Year will lead, but I'm hopeful to get back to doing shows, shooting a lot more, continuing with projects I've started, and making strides with my photography again. As I pick up the pieces I carry the lessons of 2020 with gratitude, and am determined to grow from here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and followed my work, in 2020 and always. And for those who haven't signed up yet, my email newsletter really is the best way to keep tabs on what I have going on. I work hard not to make it spammy or gimmicky, and it's by no means a marketing ploy- just an honest look at my journey as a writer and nature photographer... sent out every other week or so.

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Happy New Year everybody, and all the best in health and happiness to you and yours with this blessing of a new year to come.

Posted in Photography, Travel.