The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

This week’s Lens Artist Challenge is led by Sarah of Travel With Me (link here) and she’s chosen a most prodigious challenge – three favorite photos.

How does one pick three favorite photos out of thousands? Okay, let’s be honest, how does one pick three favorites out of maybe a half a dozen. Most of my thousands are outright rejects. Then you winnow out the ones that are good but don’t qualify as favorites and what are you left with?.

I had just about decided to select three photos of four of my most favorite people – my grandchildren. Not because they’re really technically awesome photos but because I think my grandchildren are awesome. Call it, taking the easy way out.

And then I read Sarah’s loose, but certainly not mandatory guidelines which includes, “Choose three from different genres please, but those genres are up to you: macro, wildlife, street, landscape, architecture. Anything goes, but each must be an image you are proud of. Tell us a bit about each of your three photos please. Where you took it and when. Why you are pleased with it and have chosen it for this challenge.”

Well, that makes it all the more challenging.

Transamerica Pyramid
The photo below is of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. I shot this in color, looking straight up into a bright blue sky.

What I like about the photo is that it represents three relatively new phases in my photographic journey.

The first: I’ve largely stayed away from architectural photography, preferring landscape and nature. I went out one Sunday with the express purpose of shooting architecture.

The second: Up until that Sunday, most of my architectural photos have been straight on shots; traditional, and, I think, bland. I chose the pyramid because it provides a myriad of angles, shadows and geometrics. An opportunity to stray from the ordinary.

The third: Black and white; something I’ve only of late been dabbling with. I’d shot the photo in color and after viewing the image as shot I was underwhelmed. In Lightroom, I converted the image to black and white. Not only was I more pleased, I also saw some opportunities to go a bit abstract. I played with the geometry to elongate the building and then went to work in the black and white mixer, where I took the blue down to -100 which blackened the once blue sky. I wanted more contrast so I enhanced the orange and yellow. People have asked me what this is a photo of. In most cases that means failure but in this case I’ve managed to “fool” the viewer.

Why am I pleased with this? It opened up some new challenges in photography.

The wave at Cambria, California.
During a period in late summer of 2020, when COVID gave us a slight break, Cora and I took a short trip down the California Coast to the Morro Bay area.

One afternoon we went out for a walk and when I saw the waves breaking on the rocks I decided to mount my camera on a tripod and use a slow shutter speed with a cable release. I’d done that for waterfalls and rivers but never waves.

After seeing the results, I was hooked on oceanscapes. When we got home I realized what an opportunity I’d found. I went to the local beaches, which, because of COVID were largely deserted, and took hundreds of photos.

Why am I pleased? The wave photos at Cambria reintroduced me to the ocean as both a place to find both peace and photo opportunities.

The Washington Monument
This photo is 90% good fortune

I just happened to see the photo in my head while in the right place at the right time.


In 2012, Cora and I went to Washington DC and stayed at the venerable Willard Hotel which is just across the street from the White House and a block or so from the mall where all of the monuments are located.

I woke up early on the first morning there and decided to get out early and take a run around and through the mall and look at the monuments before the crowds showed up.

I stopped next to the reflecting pool and saw the image, only in reverse. I was on the Washington Monument end of the reflecting pool and I saw the image evolving, literally second by second as the sun was rising. But the image I saw was forming at the other end of the pool.

From where I stood it was pretty much a nothing photo but I knew that if I got to the other end there was an opportunity for a really special shot. The sun and the light don’t take time out for the photographer to line up a shot. Time was of the essence. If the sun cleared the horizon, the shot would be gone. And so I sprinted. That pool is not short. When I got to the other end, I had to catch my breath before taking the shot.

I shot it with my cell phone.

At the time I had an editing program called Photoshop Elements which is a downsized and very limited version of Photoshop.

This image has always been a favorite so it was natural that I include it. I found the original and loaded it into Lightroom to  came out far better than when I worked with it in PS Elements.

24 thoughts on “LENS-ARTISTS CHALLENGE – Three Favorite Images

  1. Those are prize shots, Paul! Both the composition and editing. That wave–such a contrast between the solid rock and the gone-in-a-moment wave.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Audrey.
      That photo opened up a whole gift box worth of photo opportunities.

    2. eden baylee says:

      Hi Paul,

      The Transamerica Pyramid is a great shot for its mystery. It could be anything without your explanation. The wave at that instant of connection – sublime.


      1. Paul says:

        Hello Eden,
        I keep going back to the pyramid for more ideas. Unfortunately the last time I visited they were doing some construction or renovation around the ground floor and it was all barricaded.
        Thanks for reading and commenting

  2. They are all fantastic, Paul. The second one is absolutely stunning! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you John.
      Yes, that photo really got me excited about photographing the ocean. I’ve only lived in the Bay Area, near the ocean for 63 years. Better late than never?

  3. alison41 says:

    Your Washington pi is spectacular.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Alison.
      Much appreciated.

  4. That second photo is pretty funky.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you. Funky is what you often get when you slow down the shutter speed.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.


  5. Toonsarah says:

    Fantastic choices, and thanks for the detailed explanation about how you took them, processed them and chose to include them. I’m not going to pick a favourite, they’re too good to choose between!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Sarah, and thank you for the challenge. It wasn’t an easy one. But isn’t that why they call it a challenge?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow. GREAT selections. Stunning!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  7. These are outstanding and I cannot pick a favorite. If pressed though, I’d go with the splash since the beach is my favorite subject. Thank you for explaining that you captured this in a long exposure I am sure most of the effect was achieved in post processing? I also like the first image a lot and have one similar that I took in Miami. Wish I’d thought of it for this challenge. Obviously, I needed to reread Sarah’s instructions! Great job and thanks for visiting my post.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Suzanne,
      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting with such kind words.
      The wave shot: Most of the silky effect was achieved with the slow shutter speed. What I did learn is that the shutter speed can be too slow, in which case the wave turns out far too bright. In post-processing I worked with texture and clarity and white balance and not much else. When I used the dehaze I found that the sensor was a tad dirty so I had to clean out a couple of spots. That was about it.
      Thank you again

  8. Tina Schell says:

    Beautiful choices Paul but the prizewinner has to be the Washington Monument shot. Amazing that you caught it with your phone! And kudos for running to the other end to catch it!!

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Tina.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I think that every photographer at whatever level of proficiency, and dedication to the art, always has at least one image that they look back on and say, “Yes!” For me that image is one of those.
      Just wish I’d had my Canon and not my Android.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you always send us amazing photos, but these ones, wow. Admire your running ability – and what it ended up in, but the wave is my favourite!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.

  10. stacey says:

    These are all so cool, and the one with the waves and the rocks… those stones/rocks/smooth boulders are AMAZING……..

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Stacey, Thank you for the kind words. My apologies for the late response.

  11. Scott Blake says:

    Great choices but must have been tough to pick since you have such a great eye. Of the three you selected, I like the Washington Monument one the best. One of my favorites that you’ve shared was the one from your road trip showing the long and winding road (Iowa?).

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Scott. That monument shot was shithouse luck. I took countless long and winding road shots from Arizona to West Virginia.

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