My Top Picks of 2016 | Year in Review

I always like to look back at the images I took the year before and share my favorites in one post. I’ve shared a lot of my work on the blog this year – blogging more often was one of my goals and I think it’s safe to say I did that with 78 posts throughout the year – but not all of it.

So this post includes all of my favorite photos from 2016. Some are of people. Some are of things. Some are Instagrams.

But all of them make me happy.

And here’s to an inspiring 2017. ;)

katie - Love, love. Keep it up!

Week 1: Self-Portrait | 2017 Project 52

It’s been so exciting to see more folks join our Flickr group over the last week and see their self-portraits. I know that a lot of people don’t like to get in front of the camera (which is why we’re probably drawn to being behind it), but there were so many great photos! Seeing so many faces, perspectives and techniques in the first seven days was spectacular – you guys mean business! If you haven’t visited the Flickr group yet to see all of the submissions, please do!

For me, self-portraits have been a way to get in front of the camera more and actually take control. I tend to… make some dramatic faces… yeah, and when I look back at the pictures others have shared of me, I don’t like them all. I look goofy. My little bitty tiny teeth look even more little bitty and tiny. My hair’s a hot mess. My face is contorted into one of confusion. Or I have one eyebrow flying high by itself. And I know that it’s all the rage to “love yourself as you are,” but I just hate the idea of those damn goofy photos being plastered around my funeral. So self-portrait equals control.

I’ve practiced self-portraits a lot more over the last year. Gotten better with the focal length and feeling comfortable with it. I’ve even taken to photographing myself when my mood is shit – because life is about more than those happy little pictures we put all over social media. But this is the image I chose for this week:

Settings: f/4.5, 1/320 sec, 35mm, ISO 4000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

My 35mm is by far my favorite lens right now. I had thought about doing a close-up shot, but when I started setting everything up in my bedroom I was wanting a wider shot. So I started there. I really love the directional light I get in my bedroom, which is why I take most of my self-portraits in there, and my quilt is a neutral color (great for white balance) and adds a bit of texture to images as well.

But why did I choose this one? Not because of the perfectly clear view of my “Alfalfa” hair. Haha! But because my face found the light; in several other images I took, I turned away from it for some reason. The wide shot proved to be my favorite as well – I like the environmental setting it provides. And I also liked it best because of my curled toes. On both feet I have my toes curled up tight. It makes me think of my brother, who while he studied would always curl up his toes, deep in thought. I didn’t know I was doing it, so I must have been thinking about the camera a little too much, but I love the idea of being like my big brother.

Week 2: Transitions
due 01.11.17

Change is inevitable and with a new year upon us, let’s look for the things that transition around us. It could be something out in the world – go for a photo-walk and see if you can find transitions in the buildings, plants, places around you. Or it could be ourselves or our family. Are you moving, changing jobs, going back to school… if you’re one for New Year resolutions, what transitions are you hoping to make in 2017? Changes of happiness, gratitude, or health?

Think it over a little bit. Make a list of things that pop into your head. Can you photograph those? There is no wrong answer, so get creative!

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

New Year – New Recommendations | 2017 Has GOT to Be Better

2017 has got to be better than the past year. It just has to be. Honestly, things in my slice of life were pretty good (aside from stomach issues which has been confirmed to be an ulcer). But the world around us? Woof. I’ve never been more welcoming of a New Year. I open my arms to it and am willing to smother it with kisses so it feels super special.

With a New Year comes a new list, but I don’t do resolutions. I think they’re waste of time and energy. People get so worked up about going to gym or becoming a “new you” and I just don’t get it. I also have never really completed a New Year’s resolution… so, there’s that.

Completed a goal? Yes. A resolution? Nope.

So I commit myself to New Year Recommendations. Which are things I’d like to improve upon, goals I’d like to accomplish and even stuff I’d like to keep being awesome at. My list of recommendations are suggestions for self-improvement. And no one else will be sad if I fail miserably. Not even myself.

So for 2017… I want to learn to be more patient and practice gratitude daily. I want to be surrounded by the people who bring me joy and let me share myself completely without judgement. I want to sing along, dance along and find myself embraced in random hugs. I need to learn to let go of things I can’t control… and stop worrying about other people; focus on what good I can do instead. And complain less. Although that one is super tricky. I plan to help my body heal by making healthy choices [and I really should get more exercise into my routine]. I want to have my camera in my hands everyday! And host a kickass Project 52 group! And let my heart lead my photography: be deliberate with my shooting and look past moments to see what’s coming next. I want to travel with my husband, go on an adventure together and enjoy each other’s company from sunrise to sunset. And really, when it comes to him, I want to remember all the times we laugh, hold hands, encourage each other, and find ourselves in comfortable silence.

I declared 2016 as the Year of Me. And I did a pretty stellar job coming back to remind myself of what I wanted for myself throughout the year. I want to practice a lot of the same in 2017. But differently. Like with a purpose in mind, if that makes any sense. So this New Year is really about being more comfortable with myself and enjoy being present. Because I can’t control a lot of what’s out there, that’s one thing 2016 taught me… but I can learn from it and think of how to put more good into the world.

Let’s Get Started! | 2017 Project 52

You guys! It’s time! 2017 Project 52! I’m so freaking excited!

I checked the Flickr group this morning and we have over 50 members! This is a great start and we’ll probably see a few more join us along the way. :)

I just want to remind you as we start that this is a personal journey – this project is for YOU, not strangers on the Internet – so when you start beating yourself up, keep moving forward. There will be some fantastic weeks and there will be some when the struggle is real. That’s part of a challenge that lasts all year. But shoot with intention, look for scenes or moments that speak to you and pull you in… shoot for yourself.

You may be asking what to expect throughout the year. Well, I try to come up with weekly themes that get us thinking about how we can use our cameras creatively. You can expect prompts to help with composition and techniques, some that are “seek and find” to encourage you to explore and then some that are completely open to interpretation by the photographer. These prompts will make us think before we shoot, push us to experiment, and I have a feeling we’ll end up inspiring each other along the way. This is a safe environment to learn in, so please ask questions if you have any!

OK, so are you ready?!?!

Week 1: Self-portrait
due 01.04.17

There are a lot people in our Flickr group who don’t know one another, so let’s introduce ourselves with a self-portrait.

This image is to be created by yourself, not by another person. You can set up the timer on your camera and get in front of it. Find your reflection in your surroundings. Or if you don’t want to share your identity, make it anonymous by hiding part of your face, focusing on another part of your body (like your hands) or creating a silhouette. (I ask that we keep it clean. We have a “safe” rating on Flickr and unsavory images will be removed.)

When you post your image to the group (select our group when uploading to Flickr), feel free to tell us a little about yourself – one of the great things about doing a project with a large number of people is meeting new folks and learning from one another. 

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Kari - Is the Flickr group supposed to be live today? I was able to join but received a message “This group is just getting going, check back later”. Looking forward to giving it a go! 🙂

Brooke - The Flickr Group is live! There just aren’t any photos yet. Once photos are added over the next week, Flickr will probably recognize it as being “active.” Looking forward to seeing your self-portrait soon!

Rachel Corbett - Does safe mean no breastfeeding photos?

Brooke - Things I’m moderating for are nudity and violence. Breastfeeding should be fine though.

Self-Portrait – Butterfly Season - […] the spirit of the new year, I’ve taken on a new challenge. One that will be fun, though. Mrs. Brooke Murphy has proposed another 52 week photo challenge. I am not a great photographer. I can take some […]

Project 52 | December #2016CMP52

If you missed Weeks 44-48 of Project 52, click back to see November’s #2016CMP52 Photos.

And just like that, my 2016 Project 52 is done!

I’ve had some struggles and some wins throughout the year with my photography, but undoubtedly I am better for it all. And it feels good to have pushed myself to pick up my camera each week, try new techniques and walk away with 52 images that describe my year.

If you’ve followed me this past year and would like to join me in 2017 with a brand new Project 52, DO IT! I’m hosting a 2017 Project 52 and have a Flickr group set up. We start this Wednesday with the announcement of Week 1, so get yourself set up and get excited!

But until then, here’s my December wrap-up of #2016CMP52.

Week 49: Sunday Morning


This week was about capturing the mundane, the things we do every Sunday. I kept my camera within arm’s reach throughout the morning, took a few different photos… but this was my favorite.

I mean, well, doggin love. And the BDD has her head resting on Mike’s shoes like a pillow. But the light is what sold me. I really like the light/shadow play and the tones that it produced. It’s a keeper.

Settings: f/4.0, 1/160 sec, 35mm, ISO 6400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 50: Christmas Bokeh


I think Christmas bokeh is beautiful, but I hate creating it myself. I tried a couple different things and ultimately decided to do a little still life. So I grabbed my silver tray, poured up some [expired] milk, stacked my last two [and most delicious] Reese’s Cup Cookies… and then thought Santa deserved something to celebrate. Tiny bottle of vodka? Check. But since we shouldn’t drink and sleigh, a love note was left. ;)

It’s silly, but it provided a great subject so that I could capture the bokeh of our Christmas tree. But it’s too soft. The cookies are out of focus and could pass for lumps of coal. (Far from it though – my Secret Santa made those for me and SHE DID THE BEST JOB EVER!) So while the photo isn’t perfect, I’m OK with it. I struggled a bit creating the bokeh and the focus, but I still laugh when I look at the photo. So silly.

Settings: f/2.8, 1/200 sec, 50mm, ISO 6400
Camera and Lens:Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

Week 51: Intentional Camera Movement // Shutter Painting


True story: I was not happy about this prompt. I understand that we had some techniques that work great for low light, which is perfect for the end of the year when it’s dark when you leave the office. But I felt like it was asking me to photograph Christmas decorations again and I just did not want to do that.

So I didn’t.

I practiced on the Christmas tree and realized I had to get the shutter slower than 1/8 second if I wanted to get anything good. I just had to think of WHAT to photograph. The day I took the photo above (December 20, almost the shortest day of the year), we had sunshine. Lots of it. We hadn’t had it for a while so it was a treat to drive home while the sun was setting, wearing sunglasses. When I got home, I grabbed the camera and started walking around… what to photograph, what to photograph… and I stepped out on the front porch. I found my settings so that I could the slowest shutter speed possible but still be correctly exposed. I started snapping, but I wasn’t loving it. I went back inside.

Maybe 10 minutes later, I stepped back out on the front porch. Holy sunset, Batman! I got to work adjusting my camera settings, focused on the top of the treeline across the way, clicked the shutter button and then dragged my camera lens up. Did it 20 more times. I was done.

This was my favorite out of the set. The sun had dipped just below the horizon giving that wonderful orange and pink color. My intentional camera movement was just moving the camera upwards while the shutter was open, which produced this spooky effect but you can still make out the tree branches. I LOVE this picture. Like, enough to print it large and hang it on my wall. And I wouldn’t have even captured if this wasn’t a prompt. THIS is why I like photography projects – you try new things, go new places and may end up with something that speaks to your heart.

Settings: f/22, 0.3 sec, 35mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

Week 52: All Is Calm

It was a quiet weekend for us. We spread out our holiday family time over two weekends so we wouldn’t feel rushed and could enjoy company and conversation. On Christmas Day, we headed out early for our traditional Waffle House breakfast with Mike’s dad and step-mom. On the way home, Mike wanted to detour to check out the new Lewis and Clark Bridge. There were only a handful of cars on the highway, but driving down into the tunnel and then it opening short stretch of road before the gigantic cable bridge started… it was amazing to see. It’s just so cool that people are able to do this. It blows my mind.

I know that the theme is perfect for Christmas. To depict either the calm before the storm or the aftermath of opening gifts, but this drive with my honey and watching all of these big lines come into view made me feel like I was right where I was supposed to be.

Settings: auto –  f/2.2, 1/280 sec, 31mm, ISO 40
Camera and Lens: Samsung Galaxy s5 

If you’d like to follow me on social media, check out my #2016CMP52 photographs on Instagram and Flickr!
The new 2017 Project 52 starts in just a couple of days! If you’re looking for a personal photography project, this could be the one for you!
Find us on Flickr and start with Week 1’s prompt!