Behind the Megapixels: The Story Behind 5 of My Favorite Photos of 2015


With photography, you need skill, patience, lots determination – and a bit of luck – to get a good shot.

Since I lack skill and patience, I rely a lot on luck to get my shots. Below is a look at five of my favorite shots of last year and a little story about how I got them.

After office hours
Cuban man with rooster in Trinidad

I had become frustrated with Cuba. There are a lot of people who come up to you, strike up a friendly conversation, and then after a minute ask for money. I was having a difficult time making genuine connections.

I decided to pre-emptively attack. I went for an evening walk with my camera and I decided to shout buenos tardes and smile at everyone before they could talk to me. I went on a friendliness offensive, and it worked – no one hassled me. They probably thought I was insane.

During my walk, I saw this man sitting in front of his house and I had to ask for a photo. He said okay, and I snapped a photo. I then moved over about 3 feet to get a better background and he adjusted the rooster so it was looking at me. I fired off a couple of shots, thanked him and went on.

I was sort of amazed at my luck. Not only did I see this guy, but he let me take a photo and he posed his rooster! The next day in the park, I saw him there posing for photos and charging tourists, and it all made sense. I guess I was lucky to catch him at his house, off duty, and get a freebie.

GET AWAY cute dog!

Sunset with fireweed.

This photo almost didn’t happen. I was on the Gustavus beach at sunset when the sun broke through the clouds and sent this incredible light across the landscape. I knew I only had a few minutes before it was gone. As I hurried towards this patch of fireweed, a small dog ran up to me, wanting to play. The owner called after him, but he refused to stop following me as I ran towards the light. Finally, the owner shouted ahead to me, asking me to wait so she could come get him. This was extremely annoying. Although the dog was cute, I knew I was loosing the shot.

Liberated from the dog, I set up my tripod and got off about five shots before the sun went behind the mountains and the magic was lost. All the photos after the sun went down were flat by comparison. The rays of light perfectly illuminated the flowers. This was probably my prettiest photo of the year.

Braving 2nd degree burns for my art


Guanajuato is an extremely festive place. On this night, a random Thursday, there were mariachis in the park, street parties known as callejoneadas, and fire dancers parading down the cobblestone streets. When we first saw this performance, we were stuck behind the drummers so I squeezed my way past the onlookers and dodged fireballs to get ahead of the procession.

I got several good photos (and a lot more blurry snaps), but this one is my favorite because of the girl in yellow, framed by the two fire dancers.

Guns and Roses, Dude

Guns and roses

I saw this photogenic man duck into the newsstand and I knew that when he emerged, I could get a candid shot. To my surprise and delight, he emerged with a cigarette in his mouth. It was a simple case of being in the right place at the right time and anticipating the shot. And being a stalker. That helped too.

Drawing the ire of 500 Mexicans for the perfect shot

globos of Zozocolco

I had been on the plaza near the front row and I was getting some interesting shots that way, but I wanted to get an overview of the fiesta. There were bleachers that offered a great vantage, but they were packed full of people. Even though I knew I’d have to navigate a sea of humans, I decided to go up the steps.

I worked my way to the top and tried to be as nice as possible, but I still had to squeeze past sweaty humans and I think I stepped on one child and knocked over at least one elderly man. I was one of the only gringoes at the fiesta and I didn’t want to annoy anyone. I failed.

After the balloon took flight, I aimed my camera at the people around me which may have been more interesting, especially if you don’t know the context.



So, there you have it, the story behind the megapixels. To see my 50 favorite photos of 2015, click here.

Do you have a story about your famous photos of last year? I’d like to hear it in the comments.


32 Comments on “Behind the Megapixels: The Story Behind 5 of My Favorite Photos of 2015

  1. Great images. No one is that lucky without a fair amount of skill and patience. I love the back stories, they give even more depth to the images.

  2. Excellent photos! Can’t pick a favorite…they’re all wonderful! Love the 1st one, the 2nd is gorgeous, the girl in the yellow was the first thing, in addition to the fire that I noticed for the 3rd, and the guy with the cigarette is street photography at its finest!

  3. I like your stalker back stories. It’s always interesting to find out what were the obstacles you had to overcome.

    • Sometimes photos fall into our laps, and other times we have to work for them. I am sure you have some interesting stories behind all your wildlife photos. Perhaps you will share someday?

  4. Jeff, the dude with the rooster on his head is definitely my favourite. He just makes me laugh! Love the back stories on how you got the shot & the challenges presented in getting them.

  5. Jeff there is a lot more than luck at play here. I love the rooster photo and your strategy about being on the friendly offensive. i do that a lot! Just ask Dave.
    As to stories of photos from last year I think one of my best was when we did the Via Ferrata. I told the guide I wanted some superb shots of the three wire suspension bridge. So he took me to a spot and left me to snap away. I reassured him I was completely comfortable in the mountains. When I had my images I turned around and thought now how do I actually get back without tumbling down a cliff! I did get my wits about me but I twas thinking “The things i do for a photo”. 🙂

    • That is a great story Sue. Sometimes when I see documentaries like the Human Planet or Planet Earth, what I find most fascinating is the segment about how they got the shots. Sometimes you have to put yourself in an extreme place to capture an extreme photo.

  6. Really great selection. And, I loved reading the story behind each one. Of these five, I think it’s a tie for me with the photos of the man and his rooster, the man and the newsstand, and the hot air ballon.

      • You are so welcome, dude! Thank you for pursuing your passion and sharing with us.

        My phone did something wonky when I tried looking through your 50 best, but I did see the one of the sled dogs…nice!

  7. These are all fabulous photos Jeff, all of them. And I loved reading the stories behind them. I must say, because of my time in the Yukon, that the one with the fireweed stole my heart. Gorgeous! The depth of field is wonderful.
    Do you mean famous photos or favourite photos? I wish I could say I’ve taken even one famous photo lol. As for my favourite photos of 2015, I haven’t finished even looking at them all yet. As usual the blog is a bit over 4 months behind – only up to late August 🙂 though I’m mighty pleased with the third photo of a jumping crocodile in this post:
    How I got the shot: I first asked where was the best place on the boat for photography. Then I made sure I was right at the front of the line so could get on the boat first and get the best spot. Then I made sure I had my camera on all the right settings and waited for the action. Fun! I like to get to places/events early s I can be right at the front. I’m pushy that way I guess 🙂

    • The jumping croc is one of my favorites of yours. That is a unique and almost terrifying image. It makes me fear for your safety!

      Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great shots but I cannot imagine selecting only 5 out of a whole year, am impressed at your selective editing ability! My favorite is your Mexican plaza image.

  9. I like your stories behind each photo, my favourite has to be the first one with the man and his rooster on top of his head. I love photography and would love to learn how to take better pictures, I keep watching tutorials online but my skills are still very poor. Your photos are great.

    • Thanks Gilda. One thing you might look into is a photo lesson next time you travel. A lot of photographers do 1 day workshops on photography. That could be a big help.

  10. I enjoyed this post, Jeff….fun to read the back stories. I love the image with the fire eaters, excellent shot!

    • The fire dancers were a cool sight. There were so many things going on that evening it would have been easy to overlook them. I am not sure why they were doing what they were doing. They weren’t looking for money, seemingly just doing it for fun.

  11. I was AWOL apparently when you posted this…I missed it. Love the rooster dude!! I depend totally on luck for photos…but you seem way luckier.

    • I don’t know, you seem pretty lucky too. I think the more photos you take, the more observant and thus luckier you become.

Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: