Ok, I’ll jump on the bandwagon with the annual “year in review” stuff.  Following are my ten favorite images I shot in 2009, followed by some photographic resolutions (or “goals” if you hate resolutions!):

No. 1 - Sunflower Fields Forever

Sunflowers are one of my very favorite things – both to just enjoy and to photograph. Sunflowers just make me feel happy for some reason! When I got a chance to shoot this field in Washington Co., Kansas and capture them seemingly going into infinity, I was thrilled. I had envisioned this shot in my head, and pulling it off was a great feeling.

No. 2 - Falls at Chase Co. Fishing Lake

This image resonates with me because the day I shot it, I was totally alone, with nothing but the rushing water for company.  The falls were so beautiful that day, and the sound of the water was very calming to me.  I had no one urging me to hurry up, so I took all the time I needed to capture this waterfall. Next to sunflowers, falling water is my other favorite thing to photograph.

No. 3 - Indian Blanket Flower

During my childhood, I lived less than two hours away from the Gyp Hills in southern Kansas but never got to see them. I took a trip down there this year in late May shortly after my dad had unexpected heart surgery. To my delight, he and my mom came with me on this short day trip, and we all enjoyed the beauty of the Gyp Hills together.  We happened to hit when the indian blanket flowers were blooming in profusion. They were simply gorgeous! I couldn’t resist climbing right out in the middle of them in a roadside ditch to find the “perfect” bloom.  My mom helped hold the bloom at just the right angle to steady it in the wind while I was shooting.  I love this shot because of the composition and the bold colors.

No. 4 - What Lies Beneath

Fall is my favorite time of the year. There are so many different colors bursting from just about everywhere. I went to Wildcat Park just west of Manhattan and found my way to the creekbed. After exploring around, I found this scene with the submerged leaf spotlighted in the sun. I liked how the sunbeam made the sycamore leaf glow with life.

No. 5 - Sunset Tower

During our annual trek to Moab, Utah in June, I shot this at Arches National Park in the Windows area. I liked the leading line in the foreground and the warm light on the sandstone.

No. 6 - Shades of Fall

I tagged along with my husband in October when he participated in the Berryman Epic Mountain Bike Race near St. Louis. It was a great trip! We went to a winery, toured a cool cave and saw stunning foliage. I was drawn to this scene because of the vibrant colors, especially in the understory trees.

No. 7 - Moonlight Path

While in Moab, I was able to spend an afternoon in the nearby La Sal Mountains. This was on the Moonlight Meadows Trail. Hiking through the aspen groves was awesome!  I always feel so at peace in the mountains, and this photo helps me to remember that feeling.

No. 8 - Prairie Glow

I have a deep love for the Flint Hills of Kansas, and I especially love it when the ranchers burn off the pastures in the early spring. The smell of the burning grasses is a sign of renewal and that at long last winter is finally over. My husband and I jumped in our truck one evening and drove around looking for smoke, and hit the jackpot. I made several great fire images that evening, and this was my favorite because of the contrasting warm/cool color tones.

No. 9 - Lone Tree Hill

I treasure solitude. Rambling around in the Flint Hills by myself, enjoying the expansive open spaces, is my idea of a perfect day. I love this viewpoint on the Skyline-Mill Creek Scenic Drive in Wabaunsee Co., and liked how the dark, stark tree contrasted with the lush, new green grass.

No. 10 - Lilly Pad Room-Onondaga Cave

Technically, this one was hard to pull off due to extremely limited lighting, space confinements, time constraints, and not even being able to use a tripod. The cave was great, especially this little room, and this shot came out pretty well despite the difficult situations involved in shooting. This image is also one of my favorites because it was selected for an Editor’s Pick weekly award on NPN!

2009 was a pretty darn good year for me photographically.  I started off the year by winning a couple of second place ribbons for my floral images at the Kansas Lawn, Flower & Garden Show photo contest in February.  Also in February, I had the wonderful experience of going on an all-day photo shoot in the Flint Hills and meeting several people from the Central States Nature Photographers chapter, including Wayne Rhodus and Scott Bean. I had such a blast that day hanging out with fellow photogs and doing what I love best!

In March, I attended a weekend-long photography seminar sponsored by the Rocky Mountain School of Photography and learned a LOT. I wouldn’t hesitate to enroll in another weekend event.

Things were kind of quiet until mid-July, when things really exploded! After working on it for several months, I finally finished my very first photography book and had printed copies in hand. I was very excited!  I was also notified in July that my photograph of the waterfall at Chase Co. Fishing Lake had been selected as second place winner in the Kansas Banker’s Association “Scenes of Kansas” calendar contest, and that they also wanted to use a second image of a prairie fire.  One of my sunflower photos garnered a first-place, blue ribbon finish at the Shawnee Co. Fair Open Class Photography contest. Then came the best news of all – I was contacted by Kansas! magazine and was advised they wanted to publish one of my photos in their 2009 fall edition.  My first published photo! I was thrilled to say the least.

In October, I had the privilege of hanging out with Wayne Rhodus and Scott Bean again for a half-day photo shoot in the Flint Hills.  Scott took us to some amazing areas around Manhattan – I had never seen so much vibrant sumac!   It was a really fun time.  Later that month, Kansas! magazine again contacted me wanting to use one of my photos in their 2009 winter edition. At the end of October, I won my very first weekly “Editor’s Pick” Award from NPN in the Earth, Sea & Sky category, which I consider to be quite a coup in light of the consistently awesome images that are posted there. Winning the EP for my Onondaga Cave photo meant much more to me than any wins I’ve had at the Garden Show or county fair.

Winning an EP and published not once, but twice, in one year!  I’m ecstatic!  The events of this year have given me a little more confidence in my abilities, and I will continue to enter contests and send off submissions.

I know everyone hates New Year’s resolutions, but I do have a few photographic resolutions (or you can call them “goals” instead):

1. Work on my technique so my photos are sharper. This will include learning to use hyperfocal distance on a consistent basis.

2. Take the time to sit down with some instructional manuals and really learn Lightroom and Photoshop. I use LR as the first step in my post-processing workflow and I have the basics down, but I need to refine my skills.  I dabble in PS and find it an extremely powerful tool, but I need to start from the beginning and learn as much as I can, especially as to using layers and masks.

3. Finish going through all my digital images and deleting the dogs. I started this last year and got only about halfway through.

4. Continue to actively find markets for my images.

5.  Shoot more flowers this year. I concentrated so much on landscapes last year, I didn’t make much time for my petaled friends. I miss them!

I welcome any comments you may have! Happy New Year!