I fully intended for this post to be about the 10 best photos I have ever taken but, due to my chronic indecisiveness, I couldn’t narrow it down that far. And besides, as Ansel Adams said: twelve signifcant photos in any one year is a good crop. So – here are 12 of the best photos I have taken this past year or so.
1. The Space Needle – Seattle, Washington
Of course you have already seen this one – it’s right there in the title – but I absolutely love this photo and I think it makes a nice change to see all of it rather than just a slice. I loved Seattle, even though the weather for the first few days of my trip was grey, cloudy and awful. But on the third day, something pretty incredible happened. We got to the top of the Space Needle, stepped outside and the sky just instantly cleared as though it had been waiting for us to get there. It was perfect: the first time I saw Mount Rainier was during one of the most beautiful, golden sunsets I had ever experienced and the whole city just glowed. I took over a hundred photos that night, but this has to be my favourite
2. Lake Michigan – Chicago, Illinois
I love that both of these photos show the same thing (a cityscape from up high) and yet they just feel so different. This one was taking from the Hancock tower in Chicago on an incredibly hot September day and I like how it shows that line where city and nature meet. I took this photo after biking for miles along the shorefront so it was so nice to be able to see exactly where I had been – almost like tracing my route along a map.
3. The Palace of Culture and Science – Warsaw, Poland
Usually I love taking photos that are really warm and bright and sunny, so this is something really different for me. It was taken on a damp and cold October day and even though it looks so drab it was a lovely memory: it was the first time in nearly 18 months that my whole family had been together! I kind of like that there’s a real contradiction between the photograph and my feelings associated with it.
4. The Grand Canyon – Arizona
To save money, we took 3 flights back from our trip to Seattle and Vancouver and it was one hell of a journey. Halfway through our first flight from Vancouver to Phoenix (and half asleep) I heard the pilot say ‘and on our left is the Grand Canyon!‘ I could barely believe my eyes when I looked out – I had always thought of the Grand Canyon as just a big hole in the ground (which technically it is) but I was blown away by the sheer size of it and I am just in awe that a river managed to change the landscape like that.
5. The River Thames – London, England
I hadn’t even been living in London for a month when I took this photo. I was heading south across the bridge with a friend, and I forced her to stop and take photos of this amazing sunset. You can see so much in this photo – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard and the Walkie Talkie – and I remember just standing there and thinking my God, I can’t believe I actually get to live here.
6. Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart – Stuttgart, Germany
As you might have guessed from my previous post about books I LOVE to read, so I was over the moon when my German friend took me to visit the Stuttgart library. I loved how clean and symmetrical it looks, and I always think this photo looks more like an architectural mock-up rather than a real place. If you ever find yourself in Stuttgart – I definitely recommend you take a visit.
7. Puget Sound – Seattle, Washington
I could argue for hours that the Pacific North West is the most photogenic place on this planet: it’s genuinely hard to take a bad photo anywhere between Portland and Vancouver to be honest! Every day I was there, I watched the sun set behind the mountains and over the Sound, and every day it was a different kind of beautiful. I don’t know if I could ever get bored of Seattle sunsets.
8. The Hippie Swing – San Francisco, California
Alright, technically this one shouldn’t count as it was actually taken by my best friend – but I definitely think it deserves an honourable mention (not least because I made her bike nearly 18 miles in 35 degree heat to visit the hippie swing, and she has never quite forgiven me for it). San Francisco was the first stop on my big American roadtrip, and because of that it has a really special place in my heart. I never thought I would get to do so many of the amazing things I did, including biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, so to take a step back and see how far I had travelled (both metaphorically and very literally) was definitely worth the effort of biking up one of the steepest hills I have ever seen.
9. Manhattanhenge – New York
It was nothing more than pure luck that Manhattanhenge took place while I was showing my parents round New York. It only happens twice a year: the sun lines up perfectly with the East-West grid of Manhattan streets and sets directly between the skyscrapers. The streets were absolutely packed, and it was hard to get a good photograph without running the risk of getting flattened by passing cabs, but it was a really amazing thing to experience.
10. McWay Falls – Big Sur, California
Once again there was some real luck involved in this one – only a few days before it was taken, a huge chunk of Carmel Valley had been on fire and we were one of the first cars to be allowed back down Route 1 and into Big Sur national park. The whole drive down the California coast was amazing, but McWay falls was something else entirely. Even the mist and smoke couldn’t hide the fact that this place is absolutely phenomenal.
11. Skagit Valley Tulip Festival – Mount Vernon, Washington
When my friend said ‘hey, do you want to drive nearly two hours to go to a tulip festival?’ I did kind of look at her as though she had two heads, but I had to eat my words after I saw the tulip fields at Skagit Valley. They stretched for miles – every single colour you could imagine – and looked more like an old Dutch oil painting than a field an hour south of the Canadian border.
12. Vernal Falls – Yosemite National Park, California
One final photo, and one final stroke of good luck and even better timing. Vernal Falls is a glacier waterfall, so in the spring when the ice starts to melt the waterfall is so powerful you can’t even get close. By mid-August (when this photo was taken) the glacier is all but melted, meaning that for a very short period of time you can climb down to the waterfall and swim in the pool before it dries up for the winter. The walk up was killer and in the Californian heat I was so close to giving up and turning back. Then, right when I thought I couldn’t go any further, we turned a corner and there it was. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything more beautiful than that ice-cold water completely covered by rainbows. We climbed down the rocks, stripped down to our swimsuits and jumped into the freezing pool feeling like we could do just about anything.
Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still – Dorothea Lange
If you could take one photograph anywhere, where would it be? Let me know in the comments!