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50 Nifty Reasons to Love Photography in 2016

Today nearly everyone has a camera in their pocket. Photography is one of the most democratic forms of expression. It can be precious, but need not be. It can be shared instantaneously with a dozen friends or followers. Or a few thousand. Or with millions of people instantaneously through platforms like Instagram.

This year, we saw iconic photos, more selfies than you could shake a stick at, and video portraits. We questioned the portrayal of felons, watched giants fall, and tried to make sense of live violence. But as in years past, all the photos and the stories behind them represented the gamut of human emotion and experience.

For all these reasons, I love photography. Let me show you why.

1. The view’s still good from above

2016 might have been the year we hit peak drone, and at some point you would think that we would tire of yet another overhead shot. But Michael B. Rasmussen’s aerials of Denmark in Autumn reminds us that while the drone is just a tool, the eye and patience of the photographer make the image.

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2. “It’s like Princess Leia against the Stormtroopers”

TIME called it one of the 10 best photos of the year. We agree. Photographer Jonathan Bachman said, “Whatever the photographic merits of the image may be, I am most proud that it sparked an international conversation about police brutality and race relations in America. I believe that when there is conversation, no matter what side you are on, progress is being made and we begin to better understand one another. And to me, the ability to stimulate dialogue is one of the hallmarks of great photography.”

Photo by Jonathan Bachman
Photo by Jonathan Bachman

3. Even cats know window light makes them look good

Virtually every student of photography knows that diffuse window light makes for great portraits. Dutch pet photographer Felicity Berkleef photographs a lot of cats, but we’re partial to the photos of her cats in front of her window on rainy days.

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4. Put it on photopilot

For passengers, long flights can be a great way to binge watch a few movies while staving off boredom. But pilots don’t have personal entertainment systems. Pilot Christiaan van Heijst doesn’t mind because the view out of the cockpit is pretty good. We also like Pilot Santiago Borja’s photo of a lightning storm over the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by Santiago Borja
Photo by Santiago Borja

5. Oh when the fog, comes rollin’ in

More than a handful of photographers have hiked up to Mount Tamalpais in Marin County to capture the scenic view. But the persistence of Lorenzo Montezelomo paid off one moonlit evening when the fog rolled over the gentle slopes for this incredible 3-minute exposure.

Photo by Lorenzo Montezemolo
Photo by Lorenzo Montezemolo

6. AI tells you where photo was taken & who you are

We are in the early days of Artificial Intelligence, but if the first examples are any indication, we’re in for an interesting ride. Services like Apple Photos have employed automatic keywords and facial recognition for a while, but Google’s new AI can already outperform humans in identifying a location without GPS data. And researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University created software that can identify faces even when they are highly pixelated.

google-gps

7. Grammer lesson

Computational photography has been slowly infiltrating the imaging domain from Lytro’s light field cameras to the iPhone 7 Plus “Portrait Mode.” Photogrammetry – the science of taking measurements from photographs (or during the process of capture) – helped stunned scientists visualize 40 shipwrecks in the Black Sea dating back to the 13th or 14th century.

Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP
Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

8. But not everything is digital

Technology has accelerated the adoption of photography from a curious niche to a daily activity for the masses. But for the analog-inclined, there’s great news. Film photography has been making a startling comeback and alternative processes like developing with coffee have elevated the heart rates of photographers. We love how Giles Clement creates 16×20 ambrotypes, and then photographs his subjects holding their transparent, larger-than-life visage.

Photo by Giles Clemet
Photo by Giles Clemet

9. A stolen gnome returns bearing photos

We don’t condone theft of garden gnomes, but if you’re gonna do it, you might as well return it with a gift. Bev York, a woman in British Columbia, found her stolen gnome returned to her garden with a photo book of its international adventures.

Photo by Bev York
Photo by Bev York

10. Authentic family albums

Family photos can be awkward but for the most part they illustrate idealized moments: a birthday, a graduation, a wedding, etc. Sophie Howarth and Stephen McLaren reached out to their network of photographer friends to edit “Family Photography Now” a more authentic look at the travails and triumphs of family life with work from photographers like Timothy Archibald, Christopher Capoziello, and Motoyuki Daifu.

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11. Space loops

Animated GIFs, boomerangs and looped Vine videos can be a bit gimmicky. But Armand Dijck used images taken by astronauts on the ISS to stitch together eye-popping 4K cinemagraphs.

12. 8 years and 2 million photos later

Americans have polarized views on politics, but the work of White House photographer Pete Souza has been indisputably awesome for the past 8 years. From the quietest to the most intense of moments, Souza has captured the life of the Presidency in an admirable and enviable way.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

13. Maybe the trees aren’t crooked

From our anthropocentric perch, trees can sometimes seem crooked. But Daniel Temkin wants you to see the world from the trees’ point of view.

Photo by Daniel Temkin
Photo by Daniel Temkin

14. Instant camerafication

The surprising success of Fuji’s Instax cameras has led to the development of not one, but two more instant photography cameras this year. Impossible Project’s I-1 features an LED ring flash, and even Leica got into the game with the Sofort.

instant

15. It was just personal

Rob Whitworth starting playing around with his signature hyperlapse technique – dubbed “flow motion” – in 2011 while in Vietnam. From there, he continued creating and refining his stunning flow motion shorts as a series of personal projects, which caught the eye of a television producer. That producer, Fredi Devas, happened to be working on the BBC’s Planet Earth II. This week, in the series’ final episode, a new Whitworth 3-minute flow motion segment will be seen by up to 600 million people worldwide.

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