Autumn colors the hillsides at Fords Pond, 21 October 2012.

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2012 is over, over a week past us now, and we’re back online here. Which means it’s time to begin the retrospective, take a look back across this last trip around the sun, and try to figure out just what the hell went on.

It was a good year, overall. It saw a lot of change for me, photographically speaking. The majority was good change, progress forward in several areas. So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts, looking back:

  • Looking at it by the numbers, 2012 was a good year for photography. I looked up some data on my backup drive: in 2012 I have 128 shoot folders and almost 60 GB of memory. In 2011 there were only 102 shoot folders, and just under 40 GB of memory. So that’s a pretty big increase, especially considering that for the second half of 2012 I shot with the E-M5, which produces smaller files than my 7D did. Not that I put too much stock in this – after all, it isn’t the number of photos of the GBs used that matters, but the quality and impact of the photos produced.
  • The biggest change of the year was easily my switch to the Olympus m4:3 system and a brand new kit built up around the Olympus OM-D E-M5. There was learning curve and even a little struggling; I had to change some of my methodology. m4:3 completely lacks fast zoom lenses (save for Panasonic’s new f/2.8 zooms), forcing me to switch to prime lenses in order to maintain the speed and quality I require. On the other hand, my entire kit is a fraction of the size and weight of the Canon gear, and performs equally well (or even better) in the majority of situations. I’m thrilled to be shooting m4:3 and don’t miss my Canons – although I do wish the m4:3 lens selection was better. (But I also have faith that, as each year passes, it will continue to improve.)

Image credit: Olympus USA

  • My wildlife photography was off. While the birding season was a huge success in terms of new species seen, captured in images, and added to my life list, it was really something of a failure from a photographic standpoint. I have very, very few birding images from this past summer that I feel are worthy of bragging about. This was the one downside of my equipment change; the Canon rig was a beast to haul around, but it got the photos. The Panasonic 100-300mm lens I replaced it with was a dog – maybe just my copy, as I’ve heard good things from other owners, but either way, I missed out on some great opportunities because of this. It’s the one downside of my system change. I’ve since replaced the 100-300 with it’s Olympus counterpart, based on numerous reports that it is a superior lens, despite the fact that it’s grossly overpriced. But I know in my heart that it still isn’t the Canon 300L f/4. (But again, sooner or later m4:3 will have a fast super-telephoto of its own.)

Osprey in flight at Wildwood Beach on the evening of 13 April 2012.

 

  • My landscape/nature photography feels revitalized. A couple of years ago I essentially stopped shooting landscapes, for the simple reason that I was tired of them. I’d shot and shot and shot, many of the same locations, for years, and felt like I’d worked them to death without a lot of stunning results. So I took a break. And now find myself easing back into it, with a new outlook and different focus. And I’m enjoying it. Less emphasis on jamming everything into a wide-angle shot, and a greater focus on detail, composition, and meaning. (I’ve been especially thrilled with my black & white forest project.)
  • In a related vein, I love – LOVE – shooting panoramas. They’ve been my favorite part of my work lately, and I’m very pleased with how some of them have turned out. It’s a format that seems to resonate with me and I find myself using it more often and in new ways. (The only downside being that there are limited print-sizes available in this format.)

 

Autumn colors show in the hillsides around Lackawanna Lake in a panorama taken on the evening of 20 September 2012.

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  • At the same time, in contrast to my previous statements, I feel that my photography overall is suffering from a lack of inspiration at the moment. Or perhaps a lack of passion. In the past I’d put photography above all else, would grab the cameras and go out anytime I had the chance, even if it was to the same place week after week, just so shoot. Now I find that I may not pick up the camera during the week, and if the weather is lousy over the weekend, maybe not then either. I don’t especially like this – I feel like I’m being lazy, and that my skills will slip as a result. But my motivation to go out and make images needs a jump-start.  In part this is because other aspects of my life have vastly improved since spring. Elements that, for the past two years had been making me increasingly miserable, were finally excised. My situation improved dramatically and I’m far more happy and satisfied overall. Which is, I think, the source of my current laziness. Whereas photography was an escape from my misery, a chance to focus on something meaningful in my life, it no longer fills that same role. It’s a bit twisted, and I need to straighten it all out in the coming months.
  • From a business standpoint, this year was as hum-drum as the past couple. I had a handful of bookings and gigs, of of which went well and I enjoyed. It was good work; I enjoyed it and the clients were happy. But it was intermittent at best. I don’t focus on the business side of things nearly as much as I should; I don’t promote myself, don’t chase assignments, and don’t follow through on plans to improve my business. Again, as I’ve found greater happiness and satisfaction in other areas, I’ve slacked in this one. That’s the honest truth and I’m not afraid to say it here. I’m not proud of it; I need to pick up my game, if I’m going to keep playing.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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