Lifetime images


Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”  Look, I understand Ansel was using a big honkin’ (I believe that was the brand) camera with huge sheets of expensive film (whatever that was) so he probably didn’t pull the shutter unless it was pretty good. We on the other hand have endless free pixels to burn and thus are a bit more liberal in our shooting and create a lot more lousy images. You might think our “hit” or “keeper” ratio would be higher, I’m not sure. I wonder though, is Ansel’s number of 12 significant images per year still valid. I guess it would depend on what you consider significant? I’m of the mind that 12 is still a pretty good number, at least for me. I mean images that rise to the level of significant.

I consider today’s image to be one of my 12 for this year. Something I now refer to as a lifetime image. An image that rises above the ordinary and that might be part of a book of lifetime images at some point.

The image was made in the Mount Cook area of New Zealand at a Glacial Lake. I almost didn’t go to this spot. I was distracted by another scene (coming soon) and leery about climbing down the loose rocks to the lake area. And then someone said, “you really should take a look.” I’m sure glad I decided to give it a look!

I should note that I used a Singh-Ray 5 stop Mor-Slo filter so I could achieve a 10 second exposure to smooth out the water. For you mirrorless shooters, I have purchased a Lee Seven5 filter system for use with square or rectangular filters. I have been hand holding my split grad filters and finally decided to be more careful about it.  With the Seven5 built for smaller mirrorless cameras, I can now use my split grad and a Mor-Slo together to achieve the looks I want in a small portable package. What I love about Singh-Ray is, not only do they make great filters, they will and did make a custom size just for me!  For the Lee system I needed 75mm wide filters and wanted them to be square or almost square. I called Sing-Ray and they happily cut them to size at no extra charge. Remember you can save 10% on Singh-Ray filters by using the code Barclay10 at checkout.

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This entry was posted in B&W, New Zealand and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Howard Grill June 9, 2015 at 8:05 am #

    There is an exquisite balance and tonal range. I can see why it is a lifetinme image. Really superb!

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      Thank you Howard.

  2. Rich Lewis June 9, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    I think a lot about that Ansel Adams phrase and agree with you that times are different. I also love the idea of lifetime images because we tend to assemble a huge quantity of images we love. In addition there are a lot more really good photographers out there doing the same. With all the amazing imagery being produced these days, we need to pick our best. The ones we will always cherish. This one you have is definitely a lifetimer. Every thing cooperated and you made good use of it. By the way, I always wondered what kind of camera Ansel used. Thanks for that information.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      You’re welcome Rich. 🙂

  3. Gary Kohn June 9, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    A beautiful photo, worthy of a spot of honor in your portfolio. What’s interesting about the concept of a lifetime shot is that one you think may fit in that category today may not retain it’s spot years down the road…as our tastes change, or abilities become refined, we may change the way we judge our photos.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 8:21 am #

      A wise comment Gary. I look at some of my work, specifically my processing, from even a few years ago and wince…. So yes, I agree our choices will likely change over time.

  4. Jo June 9, 2015 at 8:29 am #

    Nice! I aspire to have a lifetime photo that is even 1/2 as good. I’m even more impressed that you chose to do this in B&W 🙂 Really lovely image, John. Thanks for sharing.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      You are very kind Jo. Trust me your work is amazing and you are indeed creating lifetime images too.

  5. Steve L June 9, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    I agree…12 “keeper” images per year sounds pretty good to me.
    And this one surely is an appropriate choice for one of yours. Bravo!

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:23 am #

      Thank you Steve.

  6. Mark Stevens June 9, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    Stunning ! I’m curious about what you cropped out and why.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:21 am #

      Thank you Mark. Initially I composed it as a square in the field, however, in post I showed Dan the 2×3 and the square and he preferred the 2×3. Of course I preferred the square, its how I took it!! 🙂 As I thought about it more and sat with the image for awhile, I came to realize the square was just to cramped and it needed more breathing room. But, I did not like the balance of the 2×3. When I tried the 4×5 crop it all came together.

      • Mark Stevens June 9, 2015 at 9:25 am #

        It works perfectly.

        • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:27 am #

          Thank you Mark. Maybe a separate blog post showing the three versions is in order as it might be helpful to see the thought process?

      • David June 9, 2015 at 11:25 am #

        I’d certainly be interested in that post describing the thought process behind the 3 versions, and if you would include why you chose to process as B&W, that would be enlightening as well. Great image!

        • JB June 9, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

          Will do David. Thanks!

  7. Nicki June 9, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    Most definitely a lifetime image, or as I call them-keepers. Love this image, so well balanced, it really draws you in. As far as Ansel goes…I consider 12 still a good number, if anything, a bit generous for the true “lifetime” images.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:21 am #

      Thank you Nicki.

  8. Lea Gallardo June 9, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Really special. Yup, I’d call it a lifetime image. Thank you for the constant education. My
    photography group loved the piece on breaking the rules.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 9:28 am #

      Thank you Lea. Glad you’re enjoying some of what I post.

  9. Scott Oberle June 9, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    Another winner JB. Supurb composition and processing. This is one you won’t get tired of. By the way, I suspect Ansel’s defination of a “significent photograph” was a bit different than mine!

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      Thank you Scott. I suspect you’re right about Ansel’s definition of significant! 🙂

  10. Josh Cripps June 9, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    Nice one, John! The long exposure smoothness of the water definitely makes this one for me.

    • JB June 9, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

      Thanks Josh.

  11. Flint Sparks June 10, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    Just WOW! I need to learn so much more from you about the use of filters. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • JB June 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      Thank you my friend.

  12. Marty golin June 10, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Interesting category, lifetime image, though as commented above, a lifetime image now may not be in 3, 5, 10 years from now. (Love your word choice “wince;” don’t we all?) Is that another lifetime? I suppose photographically/artistically it can be. I tend to think that one cannot be confident that the images that really are THE “lifetime” images can be selected until later in our lifetimes. Many images can be significant/first of a new style/even popular, but it should take years of to go on the list. I’m not sure what to call this pre- list (lifetime-up-till-now?), which is not to diminish it, but to me that’s the process. (I apologize if my point is merely my being too picky with my own associations of the words.)
    However, regardless of what list, this is a wonderful image. Love the composition & the cloud, the placement of the cloud, perfect.

    • JB June 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      We shall discuss this further at lunch tomorrow… 🙂

  13. Rona Schwarz June 11, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    When I opened this image the other day, JB, I immediately gasped and let out an “Ohhhhh….”, it really did take my breath away! To say that this is exquisite is an understatement. It is certainly fitting for a “lifetime” image (no matter how you define it). I am really looking forward to learning from you at our upcoming workshop, especially about filters, even though there will be no water in sight!

    • JB June 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      HEllo Rona. Thank you for the kind words. As long as we have some clouds we will be able to play with filters. 🙂

  14. Jim McDermott June 11, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    Fantastic image, both technically and emotionally, and one to be very proud to have as a “lifetime” image. Will it be in 5 years — it may well challenge you (and others) to do even better.

    And the image is not something you’d get by “looking through someone else’s viewfinder,” remembering one of your earlier challenges.

    • JB June 11, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

      Thank you Jim. Yes, you’re right, I did not look through anyone else’s viewfinder!! 🙂

  15. Stephan Dietrich June 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    Lifetime indeed! An amazing moment you witnessed and captured! This is an amazing image and has an Ansel Adams quality. I recall a discussion of Ansel Adams’ work and question presented of “Which one of his images come to mind when you think of his work? Or, is it his style? His way of printing? They have a distinct look and feel…” Pending on your location and moment, having twelve significant images in any one year is a good crop, accomplishment, achievement and goal to have. Push yourself and create images that reveal your lifetime and style!

    I also recall the saying, “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” ~Imogen Cunningham

    Amazing image JB!

  16. CATHY HOCKEL June 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    I wonder if a lifetime image has any association with the place, people, moment, etc that you will remember when you look at it. I still am emotionally tied to all of my images because of the memory it invokes when I look at it. That is why I don’t think any of my “significant” images would be judged the same by another viewer.

    • JB June 21, 2015 at 7:33 am #

      An interesting comment Cathy. Of course a lifetime image will be different for each person. And if I was not clear, my lifetime images are judged my me for me. While it is nice for others to consider them “significant” it is not part of my criteria for a “lifetime” image. Thanks for chiming in. My best to you and Greg.

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