Every year, a neat nine-square grid takes over Instagram as folks post their #bestnine of the year, the nine photos they posted that received the most likes. Mine is nice: a mix of places I went, things I did, and people I spent time with.
That said, I’ve also noticed a new trend this year, which is photographers posting their own “best nine” of photos that aren’t necessarily the ones that received the most likes, but the ones that the photographers themselves are most proud of. Photography is something I really worked hard on this year, and something on which I feel I really made improvements and progress. With the help of my trusty Olympus mirrorless camera, I captured moments throughout my time in New Zealand, and so I wanted to share my own “best nine.” Some of these photos I posted on my Instagram, and some I didn’t. Some received a lot of likes, and some very few. They’re not necessarily my favourites of the year when it comes to memory—every photo with my partner or my friends or my family is a thousand times more my favourite than even the most beautiful mountain or lake—but in my opinion they’re my best work from 2018, and I’m proud to share them.
This photo is about the process. I went out hoping to take a decent astrophoto when I realised there was a thunderstorm in the far distance. Taking long exposures meant it was incredibly difficult to capture a lightning strike, but I got lucky and was thrilled with the result. My goal for 2019 is to get cleaner, crisper night photos, which I’m hoping will be helped by the fact that I’ve added a lower f-stop lens to my gear.
I love natural frames. Looking through the trees at the coast in the distance created the perfect window to see this rainbow. Our four-day hike along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track saw mixed weather throughout, ranging from blazing sun to lashing rain. It meant there were rainbows all along the way, but this was my favourite photo I took of them.
The only thing I love as much as a good sunset is a good sunrise, and this was my favourite photo of either I took during the year. I love the way the sun reflects off the ripples in the water, and it was totally worth climbing haphazardly across wet, seaweedy rocks in the dark to place the sun just at the place where the cliffs met the ocean. My goal for 2019 is definitely to find and shoot some beautiful Aussie sunrises and sunsets.
My biggest 2019 goal is to work on portraiture. I got a lovely 25mm f1.8 lens recently that I haven’t played around with too much yet, but I’m really looking forward to practising (if anyone wants to be a model, lmk). In the meantime, I only shot a few portraits this year but this one was definitely my favourite. I like the light, the reflections in the mirror, and of course the subject. I also think it works really well in black and white, giving it a cool noir feel.
I just find this one very aesthetically pleasing. The rule of thirds, the light to dark gradient, the contrast; it all works for me. I feel like each aspect of the image stands out equally. None of it’s perfect, but I can see where I could improve next time. Also looking at this photo reminds me of what a fun time I had climbing around on those boulders, so looking at it brings back good memories as well. Good views plus good feelings create a perfect picture.
Another natural frame, the famous Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel Peninsula. The day after my family arrived in New Zealand, we all got up at 5am and walked 45 minutes from our accommodation to this beautiful place to watch the sunrise. Because it was the off-season, there was only one other group there, and I could set up my tripod right where I wanted to get the perfect framing. I took heaps of photos as the sun rose, and the soft colours of this one were my favourite.
We visited Aoraki on a super bright and sunny day, which made the mountains look amazing in real life and really hard to capture in photos. So many of my pictures are just super washed out, with the snow blending into the sky. I messed with my settings a billion times and finally got this one that differentiated the blues and whites so you can actually see how majestic Mount Cook looks against the sky. I also really like the way the stream runs through the image and out the corner of the picture.
I didn’t use my camera as much as I would’ve liked on the Milford Track due to the weather—I didn’t want it to end up in a water-damaged grave like a certain boyfriend’s cell phone—but whenever the rain died down to a mist I whipped it out to try to catch a few raindrops in photos. I love this one because Milford Track felt like some sort of otherworldly fairyland to me, and I feel like I’ve captured that atmosphere in the delicate ferns and crystalline water in the image.
I have the tendency to gravitate toward wide landscape shots, and I don’t mess that much with focus (my f-stop often remains on 20 or 22 because I want everything in focus), but I’ve been having fun playing with different focal points recently and I love how this photo of lupins at the edge of Lake Wanaka turned out. I’m also pleased with the vibrance of the colours, especially since you can see from the clouds in the background that it wasn’t the nicest day.
All photos taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 mkII and edited with Lightroom.