My top ten shots from 2012

2012 was certainly a great year for me and photography as I both learned many new things and tried some very different approaches to image creation. In years past I was aggressively pursuing HDR imagery but this year I leaned more to just creating a focal point, be it with color, detail, or light and balancing the world between processing and purity. So with that said here are my top ten favorite shots of 2012:

#1- King of the Hill

King of the Hill

This shot of the stunning Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport was shot at the 2012 Festival of Speed in St Petersburg. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Veyron, it is currently the absolute pinnacle of Supercar design being the fastest most technologically advanced production car you can buy (for those with 1.3 million in the bank anyway) but it is bit hard to photograph up close without it looking like a big round pill and there is usually too many people around it to shoot it from a distance at a car show. 
Though I had seen some great photos of the Veyron before I had shot this, I had yet to walk away with a shot that I felt captured the Veyron's persona. On March 30th however, in the hour before the "Festival of Speed's Jetport Reception" was opened to the public, I had the space to snag this epic side profile of the silver Veyron Grand Sport.

The second I saw the image above flash on the LCD screen I knew I had taken my very best Bugatti photo to date. All the time before I had searched for a front angle or rear angle shot and had always been disappointed. Perhaps it is how the party lights hug the lines of this exotic, or that stunning sky that gives the image that vast feeling. At any rate it was an instant favorite to me.

#2 - Miami Stickball
Miami Stickball

This image I felt was more than just a picture but a moment trapped in time. The second the ball came off the stick I just felt a great image about to happen. I love the look of anticipation in the outfield and the visible body strain on the batter; you can nearly hear the sounds just by staring at this image.

I had heard about how serious the Latin culture in particular takes the game of Stickball but like many things until you witness it in person there is no real way to convey the vibe. I had shot for about an hour so the teams were getting use to me being there. I finally got daring enough to kneel down behind just behind the batter and snap this shot.

#3 - Simplicity

This was short notice photo shoot of a small group of performers. Pictured here is a contortionist named Gabby who redefined the concept of a portrait pose for me; no longer was it about the expression but rather the form overall. Perhaps it's the uniqueness of this shot that inspires me or the fact that something so beautiful came from the most basic of photography setups: a white wall in a friends living room, a bed sheet and good uniform lighting.

#4 - Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4
Braille Battery LP700-4 promo

Ok having an awesome Lamborghini on tap for a shot is always a good thing but having the new Lamborghini Aventador next to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico is a dream come true. The Braille sponsored Aventador was actually waiting for a transport when I stumbled upon it. The handler was snapping some pictures with an i-phone when I was returning from another shoot to load gear in my car. Seeing the opportunity I introduced myself and showed off some shots from my portfolio. The handler was impressed enough to let me shoot both this wonderful Aventador and a Gallardo. The Braille group liked the final shot so much they made a limited run of large posters of it, one of which hangs on my photo studio wall, another was acually sent to Lamborghini. The entire set of pictures are quite cool, you can see them here: Aventador shoot

#5 - Vizcaya

Taken at the historic home of James Deering in Miami this photo of my girlfriend Bernicia captured something that I felt offered the viewer a hint of fashion and exotic charm. In this image the purple/orange color pallet and the soft natural light all came together in a very romantic way. 

The shoot was completely unintended, Bernicia and I had simply found the place via a flyer at a tourist stop. Bernicia had bought the dress the day before and had it in the trunk of my car. Once we saw how beautiful the location was I said "You should change and we should shoot here, I mean when are we going to get this chance again?"

#6 - Trees on the Wakulla River
Trees on the Wakulla River

Taken on the same river that the classic Hollywood film "Creature from the Black Lagoon" was shot on, this unworldly yet beautiful place was a choice spot for this beautiful image. I was on a slow riverboat when these trees appeared around the bend, the scenery was so spectacular in real life that I almost let this magic moment pass as I was just in awe.

#7 - May 15th 8:33 pm
May 15th 8:33 pm

Shot for - "A day in the world"

Twilight at Lake Apopka. The long exposure brought out all the beautiful colors in the clouds. The lake level is very low as there has not been much rain this season. Although the scene looks pretty the smell there was pretty bad as the lake is contaminated from pollution.

None of the shots I shot for the project were selected for the book "A day in the world"... that was disappointing because being a part of a time capsule book has long been on my bucket list since "A day in the life of America" inspired me back in 1986. However my shots were featured on the web page.

#8 - Old lands
Old lands

Once in a while as a photographer you discover a new way of doing something that radically influences what you do from that point forward.

Early in the year this image and another that I love called Deadwood were shot in Gemini Springs Florida. It wasn't necessarily what was shot here that made the shot special it was how it was brought to life. You see before this particular set of images were made I did a lot of this type of imagery with High Dynamic Range software like Photomatix or HDR Efex but often those programs crushed the depth of field in bringing out the details. This year however Adobe brought out Lightroom 4 and the biggest enhancement was that of shadow and highlight control that offered up much of the same dynamic range of HDR in a significantly simplified process. The results with Lightroom 4 are more realistic looking than typical HDR processing and with less digital noise as well.

This set of images also got me into experimenting with localized color shift and pallet building to bring viewers attention to specific elements in the images especially in the case of Deadwood that allowed me to separate a tree in the foreground from the green belt behind it in a unique way using shades of green and yellow.

#9 - Under my umbrella
Under my umbrella

You know those photographers that think using post processing disqualifies you from being a "real photographer"? This is the type of shot they hate with the fury of a thousand burning suns. Shot for a big cat rescue and showcase group, I didn't have a safe way to put our lovely model and a black panther in the same setting. The cat was completely computer generated in DAZ3D and built into the image using 3d positional lighting and a work over in Corel PSPX5 to build the correct shadows. I am learning more about combining the real world with 3D composites as it's done so amazingly well in today's modern cinema.

The light in the umbrella was a wired Vivitar 285HV (the Strobist best friend) tucked into the top firing down. The flash wire of course removed in post. The $75 Vivitar was the only light used to make the shot.

#10 - Scuderia Girl
Scuderia Girl

This photo of model Karen Christine Garvin made my favorite list out of the pure boldness of the project. Karen is actually only wearing a sports bra and a boyshorts but the F1 driving suit was hand airbrushed on her skin by Orlando artist Kyle Vest.

Kyle and I had been talking about the concept of the race suit and exotic cars for a while and we decided the 2012 Concours d'elegance in up-class Winter Park Florida would be a great stage to try it out. Due to the nature of the upscale crowd we turned many heads but due to the size of our group and equipment one of the shows team members inquired if we were somehow tied to Ferrari or a dealership. We certainly took center stage for a moment.


And there you have it, the list for 2012.

So what is next for the man from the Savage Land? Well as stated recently I have acquired a Mamiya/Leaf medium format film camera so there will certainly be a new chapter written as I explore this new set of tools. If anyone has ever seen me shoot they may sense that the procedures in working with medium format won't be too out of the norm for me. I am known for being a very methodical photographer, going after one great shot rather than picking the best out of 15-20 shot rapidly.

Of course my love for the automobile keep me chasing the great cars and settings to best bring forward the machines persona.

I think I have grown a lot this year as an artist but everyday I see others whose work inspires me and keeps me chasing that ultimate shot. I assure you however this time next year there will be another 10 that will raise the bar for me somehow.

Have a happy new year!

- Jesse James

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