100 great photos from 2012

Alert reader Lance called my attention to a nice collection of photographs—”Top 100 photos of the year” from 2012, at the Socialphy site.

Note that photos #100 and #54 are views of the Chicago skyline (#100 is particularly striking): a favorite subject of mine. You can see those on the site, but I’ll also post a dozen of my other favorites. If you’re a photography buff, or simply like gorgeous images, though, go see them all.

The Titanic‘s engines underwater:


COPYRIGHT© 2012 RMS TITANIC, INC; Produced by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

A cloud illuminated by lightning:


Photograph by Mike Jones (mrjones131 on Flickr)

An airplane crosses the moon:


Photograph by Chris Thomas

Skydiving into Burning Man:


Photograph via opi8 on Reddit

The Perseids meteor shower:


Photograph by David Kingham on Flickr | Prints Available

Moth trails at night:


Photograph by Steve Irvine for National Geographic

An Olympic full moon:


Photograph by REUTERS/Luke MacGrego (via Reuters Olympics on Facebook)

Mount Rainier casting its shadow on the clouds:


Photograph by Nick Lippert (via Komo News)

A green vine snake (Oxybelis fulgidus, from Central and South America):


Photograph by SUHAAS PREMKUMAR for National Geographic

An amazingly strong ant:


Photograph by Yu Wu for National Geographic – Your Shot

The waterfall island at Igazu Falls:


Photograph by Andrew Murray on Flickr

A pod of sleeping sperm whales:


Photograph by Wild Wonders of Europe [www.wild-wonders.com] via Business & Biodiversity Campaign


  1. Woof
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    “The waterfall island at Igazu Falls” looks like a classic Yes album cover.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Loved the drain that looks like an eye and the powered orange. The elephant meeting the sea lion is cute too as you can tell the elephant enjoys the sea lion. The manatee is cute too mostly because you can see his lips.

    Too bad there wasn’t more information o. How the photos were taken.

  3. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    The ant photo is cool, but I’m not sure about the “amazing” part. I expect you could easily pick up that same pebble with a single strand of human hair and a drop of superglue.

    So what’s impressive, then, is not the tensile strength of the ant’s body (which is considerably thicker than a hair), but the gripping power of its feet.

  4. Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    They really are great pictures!

  5. Casey
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Am I just a spoiled snob? I happen on a collection like this and am frozen in place by my suspicion that most of them have been photoshopped to death. Even if only to coma, all value is shot, for me. So I agree with Diana. MUCH more info is needed.

    • Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure that at least the National Geographic photos aren’t PhotoShopped.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Of course they are “photoshopped”, but I don’t know what you mean by “photoshopped to death” ~ the point of image manipulation is to bring out the features & contrasts that are important to the artist who was there & wants to pass on their visceral experience. We have all missed the Red Mill, but we can be glad that at least Henri has recorded his impressions for us. What an eye he had. I can almost smell the sexual excitement of that place. Can’t you?

      Even if we were living in an earlier era with a “watch the birdie” man allowing photons to interact with chemical film we still end up with “photoshopped” results. Always. From setup to result there’s some nut interpreting.

      How about my favourite imagery? The Hubble is a prime example of “photoshop.” I went on a wicked, fondly remembered Welsh camping holiday 15 years ago & we set up a camp fire, spliffed & drank to the early hours. In absolute darkness [we’d cooked ribs & the fire had long gone] I laid on my back & fell into the Milky Way ~ it just glittered over me on a chilly, cloud-free spring night. Maximum, I saw 15,000 points of light ~ wonderful. The Hubble + processing produces astounding imagery far beyond my ability to see. The furthest light I’ve seen with my unaided eye is 15 million light years [M83 galaxy I think] that’s a fraction of the 13.8 Billion ly distance I could see in theory if I was vested with huge eyes & sensors beyond the human seeing range.

      Just a thought.

      • Casey
        Posted August 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Well, there you go. That is our difference. You see these photographers as “artists”. I see them as Photoshop jockeys with expensive cameras.

        I think a few of these images are more pristine than others, less photoshopped, if you will, but I believe we should have that knowledge up front. I want to know if there is a chance in the world I can see these sights for myself.

        Certainly the heavens are awesome, but to use the Hubble as a demonstration of extreme image manipulation in order to show just HOW awesome they are misses my point. Images from the Hubble are authentic to their last pixel, colored, sometimes, to enable our understanding (and pleasure, surely, but secondarily). Any Hubble image conveyed by NASA contains a clear disclosure of graphic changes and reasons for them. This is all I need.

        Henri Cartier-Bresson has nothing to do with this discussion. He would be dismayed by what passes for great photography now.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          I think you will see most of the images yourself so to speak. I don’t think the photos were doctored in the way you suspect other than the airplanes taking off were obvious composites.

          Where your eye won’t see what is displayed are the astro photos but not because of Photoshop but because our eyes sort of suck as Michael alluded to. So, if I got out and take a picture of the Orion nebula (which I’m hoping to do this winter) my camera will see the colours but I will, when looking through my telescope’s eyepiece, see black and white because of the damn rods & cones.

          The picture of the sun would probably have to be composited (as are a lot of astro photos) but that sun one is magnificent! I used my BlackBerry’s camera to take a picture of the sun through a telescope yesterday that had an OM3 filter on the eyepiece (supposed to be used to bring out the colours of nebulae) so the sun looked green and of course you won’t see the flares, but I was excited to see the sun spots!

          All photos are processed to some extent….no different than film but now we can do it electronically so we may sharpen a bit, crop and change exposure — this is the advantage when you shoot RAW; instead of the camera deciding on some editing for you, you get to finish the editing that you begun when you entered in the ISO, f/stop and shutter speed.

          Hope this makes sense.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Apologies for my strange changes in verb tense….I blame it on a sugar rush I’m having. 🙂

            • Casey
              Posted August 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

              You make perfect sense, despite sugar, but we’re still talking about two different things.

              There’s processing, and then there’s PROCESSING. The things in the sky that you photograph actually exist. You use special instruments on your camera to protect yourself and to catch elements that are not available to our crummy vision. Then you perform other operations on your images to bring them to a state that satisfies your scientific sense of correctness, and/or your aesthetic sense of what is beautiful. It’s the extent to which you use your aesthetic judgment that concerns me. At that point you veer away from what you actually captured on your equipment to an editing mode that may jump the shark. MY shark.

              I think the Perseid shot in this series is way over the shark, even excluding the fanciful day-lighted mountainside. What you saw the night you looked is what most people see. There’s ALWAYS disappointment, because we see photos like this – maximally faked, just short of obviously beyond the pale.

              Perhaps someone can prove me wrong. I promise to be very surprised, but never shamed. Then I can feel as though I should drag myself out to look again, for ever and ever, always hoping for a view like this one. My dreams are full of fantasies too, but at least I am getting some rest at the same time. I choose to sleep until someone can convince me a view like this is possible.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                Yes, the Perseids are composites. here is actually how he put it all together

                The moon with airplane however was not a composite. I could tell this was taken through a scope because of how big the moon is (I have taken a shot of the moon each night over the past 3 nights using a prime 300 mm lens and tonight with a 1.4x tele-extender added; I’ve also taken quite a few moon shots through a telescope). The photographer explains here.

                I also forgot to add that the vine snake looks like it’s laughing about something and the Capilano bridge looks way more stable than when I walked over it (and some jerk was shaking it and I almost lost my footing).

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          Casey, I always feel the same way. Photos are more like art today; I’m always doubting them, probably even some that are undoctored. How do you know what to trust nowadays?

          Nothing looks like those do in real life.

          They’re spectacular for what they are, though.

          • Casey
            Posted August 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

            At least when I’m looking at something that is referred to as “art”, I have no expectations of finding it in nature. It is original, not a copy. It’s a representation of what is in an artist’s mind, which is whole and complete, and in itself offers all the information I need to enjoy it.

            I’m sure this argument is occurring all over the internet at all times. Since the issue has arisen here, I want to take a stand. These competitions, selections, assignments, compilations of “best photos” need to establish some ground rules. Without them we are left to deal with the doubt, confusion and discomfort some of us feel about the state of photography today.

            If there are no ground rules, then that should be stated up front, along with an alert that some or all of the photos may be composites or contain material not originally in the image. Ideally, in a compilation like this, each image will be accompanied by its own statement of authenticity with camera details and a clear description of any alterations. These minimal statements will at least allow us to separate the phantasmagoria from the well-managed photos of reality that I know how to appreciate and trust.

            Thanks for indulging me here.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 19, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

            Well a lot of those pictures look like that out of camera. The water falls are a matter of shutter speed for example. I think part of the issue here is that photography is always art other than when it is reportage which is artful in itself. The camera can see what we don’t and the photographer can make you see what he/she wants you to see.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        “… allowing photons to interact with chemical film we still end up with ‘photoshopped’ results. Always. From setup to result there’s some nut interpreting.”

        Down that path lies the aesthetic equivalent of solipsism.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 19, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

          I was thinking of things like exposure time, special papers & the mysteries of the dark room 🙂

  6. Posted August 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Looks like the vine snake is of the Asian variety – genus Ahaetulla (probably A. nasuta, although I’m not sure). Remarkably similar vine snakes have evolved independently several times in different biogeographic regions – a really great example of convergent evolution. They’ve often even evolved similar threat displays. Some examples (not exhaustive) are Oxybelis from the mainland neotropics, Uromacer from the island of Hispaniola, Thelotornis from Africa, and Ahaetulla from SE Asia.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m also jealous of the Perseid picture. I went out to look at them last week and saw only 3 but I was too sleepy to stay up until the wee hours when you can see them best. However, I did get to see an Iridium satellite flare which I’ve never seen so that was cool.

  8. George
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    The Chicago skyline pictures are nice but a picture (not sure which one but many were taken) one from the Chicago warehouse fire this past January were stunning – fire and ice. Was December 31, 2012 a hard cutoff?

  9. Brendan
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I have used to sleeping pod photo for a desktop for a while now. Very calming.

  10. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    44. FIRST CONTACT is my fave

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      I like it too. I love the lips on the manatee.

    • Woof
      Posted August 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      “Oh the huge manatee!”

      (I guess you had to be there.)

  11. gbjames
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    The Titanic engines look rather like dead daleks.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      You’re right they do! Titanic-ate!

  12. Diane G.
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink


  13. Marella
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I love the glowy octopus, and the seahorse, but they are all fabulous.

  14. artsmyth
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Pfft! Moths! They’re just trying to discredit the most awesomest photographic evidence of a swarm of rods evar!

  15. Patrick Smythe
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    “Iguazu”, not “Igazu”…

  16. lanceleuven
    Posted August 19, 2013 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Whenever I see photos like the one of the waterfall island at Igazu Falls I can’t help but think “Damn it, there are just too many wonderful places on this planet for me to see them all!” 🙂

  17. Dominic
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Oh no!

    The Titanic sank???!

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink


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