A great exercise to do at the end of each year for any photographer is to select your 10 best photos. By doing this annually, you can (hopefully!) see improvement and growth. It is also a fun way to reflect on the year and look ahead to the new one.
One major challenge in selecting the “best” photos for any photographer is the shooter’s bias. The photographer has an emotional connection to the moment, for better or worse, and has a feeling about the photo that an outside observer won’t have. This sometimes causes us to think our photos are better, or perhaps worse, than they are.
In 2018, I had the great fortune to travel to India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, and Bangladesh in addition to spending one last summer in Alaska. It was a good year.
Without further ado, here are my top 10 photos of the year in chronological order.
1. Lovers Under an Umbrella – January 6
These young lovers were taking refuge from prying eyes and the hot sun at Galle Face Green, a busy seaside park in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I converted the photo to black and white because the patterns of the rock wall and umbrella really pop in B&W. I also really like the gestures of the legs and feet, and the mystery of not seeing the faces.
2. Takraw – January 9
Sepak Takraw is a form of kick volleyball native to Southeast Asia. At a park near my house in Bangkok, men gather just about every evening for a game. In this photo, I love the expression on his face, the dynamic angle of his legs and arms, and the timing of the ball on this foot. This photo sums up the ninja-like skill and athleticism of the takraw players.
3. Novice Monk – September 9
I took this photo during a photo walk with a large group of people in Bangkok and I have to admit that another photographer saw this scene first. Just out of view in this photo is a photographer on the ground shooting up at the monk and temple. I stood at eye level and focused on the symmetry of the building and the framing of the boy in the doorway. This photo is a classic Thai travel photo, something that evokes the mystery of Southeast Asia.
4. Malapascua Sunset – October 17
Malapascua Island in the Philippines has a stunning beach with crystal clear water, but I was drawn to the activity of the people and the boats. When I was this boat about to depart, I hurried into the sea to get this silhouette of the boats and captain as he pushed away from shore with a bamboo pole. Although my wallet and shorts were soaked, it was worth it!
5. Tropical Paradise – October 24
This photo is what I call my “desktop background” shot of the year. It looks like one of the those stock images that comes pre-loaded on your computer. At the White Island in the Philippines, I took a few snaps of this lonely umbrella from the shore, and then went for a swim to cool off. Once in the water, I saw this angle, got my camera, and waded into the water to get this shot. Although a simple photo, I put it in my top 10 because there is literally no one in the world who would not want to be under that umbrella right now.
6. Train Market – October 29
The train market in Danyigon, Myanmar, is absolute madness. The train tracks are covered with vendors hawking their items, hordes of shoppers file through the market, and trains come and go, unloading throngs of people. When the train was in the station, I was able to get this complex image of vendors in the foreground and the train passengers in the background. The photo is a little busy, but the atmosphere was pure chaos so I think it accurately illustrates the situation.
7. Woman with Flowers – November 4
At the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, I saw this woman with flowers taking off her sunglasses and I quickly snapped a photo. I got lucky to get the girl and pigeon in the background as a little bonus. I had a lot of good shots from Shwedagon, but I put this in my top 10 due to the simplicity and uniqueness.
8. Chicken Man – November 7
Initially, I didn’t think I got the photo of this man hauling freshly skinned chickens at the San Pya Fish Market in Yangon. On closer look, I like how the worker’s face is mostly hidden except for his eye which matches the rhythm of the chicken eyes. This photo got the strongest reaction and most comments of any photo I posted on social media, which is usually a sign of an interesting photo, and for that reason I put it in my top 10.
9. Colorful Ship Breakers – December 12
This colorful photo does not accurately illustrate the scene. Visiting the ship breakers yard in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is like going to the gates of hell. People work in dangerous conditions without any safety protection for a few dollars a day. However, I found one ship that was being painted bright colors and like a moth to flame I was drawn to it. I took dozens of photos of workers painting the boat, but I liked this one the best for the simplicity, color, and mystery. It isn’t obvious that the man is painting which makes the viewer question what is going on.
10. Brick Factory – December 15
On the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, there is a sea of brick factories that employee thousands of people. Workers form bricks from mud and let them dry in the sun before firing them in massive kilns. Once the bricks are cooked, workers move them by hand to trucks. It is backbreaking work in harsh conditions. I like this photo becuase of the simplicity and symmetry. The arms, smoke stacks, and bricks on the head have a nice rhythm. The stacks of bricks in the foreground give it a sense of place, and the sky is simple and uncluttered. This was one of the last photos I took in 2018, and also one of my favorite.
If you have a similar year end photography or travel post I’d like to check it out – you can drop a link in the comments. Also, if you have a favorite photo in the set I’d like to hear your thoughts. Thank you for following along in 2018 and happy shooting in 2019!
You can follow me on Social Media on Facebook and Instagram. I have photo prints available on my portfolio site.
A fabulous collection Jeff. Well done. I like them all, but I think my two faves are the takraw player (brilliant shot!) and the train market.
I keep meaning to do the same, but never seem to get around to it. I still have so many posts to put together about Japan and China, and we’re off again on Feb 4 for 7 weeks (Paris, Rishikesh, Kyoto).
I’d really like to see your top 10 photos, but I understand. I haven’t written about the Philippines yet and I went there in October! This was fairly easy to do since throughout the year I put my favorite in a folder. I had about 40 shots to choose from in the end. We are planning to go to Japan in June and I have really enjoyed your posts.
OMG how simple! I’ll start a Favourites folder! Thanks re the Japan posts – 2 or 3 more to come plus we’ll be back in/around Kyoto for 2 weeks in March.
I haven’t written about China yet and I was there in May/June 😦 Help!
Your blog is chronological and orderly, I am all over the place, so the only help I can offer is to get a pot of coffee and sequester yourself until you are caught up!
Chuckle. I doubt I’ll ever be caught up, but I’m making a real push to get Japan finished before we leave again. I need to get all the Japan photos off my hard drive and onto storage drives to make room for the next lot of photos.
Wonderful photo collection. Malaspacua sunset and Myanmar shots are fabulous.
Thank you Nasrul!
An amazing set of images Jeff. Your logic behind each choice is spot on. Having a “favorites” folder is a great idea, something I will have to add to my way of doing things. I don’t think I can pick a favorite! I went with a collage theme for my year end post and people really seemed to like it. Happy shooting in 2019. Health and happiness in the New Year!
I really like the collage you did with the shape of the states. You got to see some really incredible places. I always say that the western USA is one of the best travel destinations in the world. I look forward to seeing your top 10 of 2019 now that you will have a favorites folder 🙂
Those photos really deserve to be in the Top 10. I like the combination of sunset, beach, temple, people, landscape, and everything else on the list, and Jeff, you really are one of the best blogger+photographers that I follow. I hope one day we can meet and explore a place together so I can learn how to take better shots by observing you.
Thank you very much, Bama, I appreciate it the kind words. I have been taking photos a long time and I realize that I am a slow learner. It took me about 9 years to become a competent landscape photographer in Alaska and after 3 years in Bangkok I’m starting to learn how to photograph people and cities. We will certainly have to meet up soon. Kristi and I would love it if you showed us around Jakarta, especially if we could visit during a holiday or festival.
Wow Jeff, what a fabulous Top 10! I am not certain I could even pick a favourite as each & every one speaks to me!
Thank you Lynn.
Thank you Kyle.
Beautiful pictures! I love to hear the story behind the pictures and your thoughts on why you selected them!
Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed.
A fantastic review, Jeff. I agree, it’s a valuable exercise to review the year’s work and fun, too. You have an innate ability to capture the moment with your terrific compositions, eye for color and mood. Wishing you a fantastic year ahead full of adventures like these!
Thank you Jane, I appreciate the kind words. Happy shooting in 2019!
Great photos. The woman taking off her sunglasses looks exactly like my teaching colleague. I showed two other colleagues and said, “Who does this look like?” They both immediately said, “Young Jin!” I’m going to show Young Jin tomorrow. Can’t wait to see her reaction when she realizes she has a doppelganger.
Perhaps Young Jin was in Myanmar? I didn’t even take time to compose that shot, I saw it and snapped and got lucky to get it.
I’ll find out tomorrow. 🙂
Your photos are always stunning, Jeff, and so not surprisingly, each one in your top 10 is a highlight. I’d be hard-pressed to say which one I liked best. I’m glad I don’t have to 🙂
Even more interesting is your commentary accompanying each photo and why you chose it.
Thank you Joanne, I am glad you found it interesting! Happy trails in 2019.
I’m glad to hear you made it to Philippines. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I was there. I want to go back.
The Philippines is great – a true tropical paradise with wonderful people. Kristi had a work conference there and each day it started late and was super disorganized in true Filipino fashion. We got to spend about 2 weeks there in total and really loved it.
I’ll be curious to read about your trip. I was only there 1 week so all I saw was Puerto Galera – but the snorkeling and swimming was great.
Jeff, your posts are a joy to read and your photos always stunning. Your favourites are an amazing bunch and I like all of them for different reasons. Chicken Man photo just cracks me up; Takraw is such a dynamic capture; everything about the lovers shot is beautiful; the shipyard photo totally draw me in. And absolutely, I want to be sitting under that umbrella right now!
Caroline, thank you for the kinds words and the feedback. Happy trails in 2019!
Of course I have a round-up article – here it is: https://eiwawar.wordpress.com/2019/01/02/my-voyage-carries-on/ !
Your photographs are a delight to watch, especially as I’m incapable of shooting human beings like that, so well done! I love the sunset pic, the colors are powerful and the silhouette works really well 🙂
Thanks for the feedback and for sharing your link. You have a lot of great images from 2018, but from a different and colder part of the world!
Oh, dear god, the chicken man! (Hands held over eyes.) Sent me right back to the beach umbrella. All lovely, Jeff. Happy New Year to you!
Thanks for your feedback Lexie. Happy New Year to you as well.
Jeff many of these extraordinary photos I recall from posts or Instagram. I would have a very difficult time picking which is best. I must say Chicken Man caused me the most intense reaction. The thought of what it would feel like and smell like carrying those birds leaves me speechless.
At your request, my top posts of 2018. Thank you. https://traveltalesoflife.com/top-10-posts-2018/
The chicken man certainly causes reaction. I am not sure what it smelled like because my nostrils were stained with fish smell! Thanks for sharing your top 10 and I’m glad we got to meet up in Thailand and Alaska last year.
These are amazing!! I can only hope to travel like you once I graduate. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Save your money and go work abroad is the best way to travel after graduation. Good luck and thank you for commenting.
My fave is the Malapascua sunset!
Thank you for the comment!
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