My Favorite Photos of 2013 and The Stories Behind Them

Posted on Dec 20, 2013 in photography

2013 has been a great year. I learned a lot from photography by taking photos of people, places and things that were important to me . I traveled to many places, met hundreds of people and saw things that I would have never seen had I not picked up the camera and made it my hobby.

I wanted to assemble my favorite pictures of 2013.  I imagined that they would be from all the fabulous places and amazing things that I saw but something funny happened as I browsed through my shots, selecting my favorites.  I realized my favorite photos, the best photos that meant the most to me were the things right here at home.  The things and people closest to me.

2013 was a year of love and new life and discovery that kindness with a camera was the truest and most rewarding form of photography.  If I could clearly capture something and make an emotional or spiritual connection with the moment at hand, I felt I was capturing a picture in its truest form.  My favorite photos were almost all quite accidental – just being at the right place, at the right time.    I guess it helps that I always keep my camera close everywhere I go.

These are my favorite photos from 2013 and the stories behind them.

“Helping with First Steps” –  Michael Helps James Walk

A picture taken through the reflection of a mirror.  After a trying first year marked by premature birth of their adopted boys,  last minute legal haggling and abusive hospitals the Fendley’s adoptive boys Frankie and James looked like they were in for a rough life.  After pouring every ounce of love into them to help them through that year this is James taking his first steps helped by his father.


 “You Will Never Guess Who I Am” – A Human and Funny Side to Aunt Ann

Aunt Ann lived on the streets of New York for 50 years.  She was one of the infamous bag ladies of New York and when we were young we rarely saw her but only heard stories of her.  She would come to visit but would always leave quickly as she was anxious to return to her homeless lifestyle.  Over 50 years you have to be a survivor to live on the cold streets of New York. I could never imagine the ingenuity she must have had to live this way for so long. This year an aging Aunt Ann moved back to San Diego.  This photo painted a human and quirky side to Aunt Ann that no one in our family had ever seen.  She plopped this big hat on and made a smiley face.  Deep inside Aunt Ann was a funny, quirky person just there if you looked.  That’s what surprised me.


“Finger Pistols” – Kathy and her Son Ryan Share a Funny Experience

The Nash household is a very creative place.  One Sunday afternoon we had a chance to visit them on our way up north.  As I usually do, I took out the camera and Kathy went into action pulling out costumes and creating scenes for me to shoots.  She does it so remarkably well that I ended up with some of the funniest and quirkiest pictures I took of the year.  In this shot, Kathy points  a finger pistol at a very hungover Ryan.  He had just returned from a Bachelor party in Las Vegas and found himself in cowboy clothes taking pictures with his mom.


“The Final Moment” – An Emotional Bridget watches as Judge signs the final adoption decree

The story of the adoption of Frankie and James is an inspirational one.  Against all odds and seemingly against hurdles that anyone else would have shied away from – Bridget fought for and eventually succeeded in adopting two boys that were born premature and destined for a tough life with homeless parents.    It was her and Michael’s absolute refusal to accept anything but what was right for the boys that made this moment all the sweeter.  In this picture, an emotional Bridget watches the judges final stroke of the pen realizing the boys were officially hers forever.


“Wide Eyed Wonder” – Baby Camille Soaks in the World with Dad

Just days old she was asleep most of the time.  In this rare moment she opened her eyes perhaps to look right into the camera – something she seems to do every time since that I have taken pictures of her.  Danny and Camille were blessed with little Baby Camille this year.  In this photo her father, Danny, holds her tiny head in the palm of her hand.  Who knows what is running through her mind.  She will perhaps live for a hundred or more years and these were her first days.


“The Most Awesome” – Shirtless Geno Improvises

It was your typical Saturday night when we went over to visit Danny, Camille and Geno.  I just happened to bring over a black backdrop and we decided to take some pictures.  To make the flash really work and look the best we had to turn off all of the lights.  Every few seconds I would take a picture without really knowing what I was going to catch.  Geno went through various poses and we had no idea what they were going to be.  When I got home, I found this little Gem which I call, “The Most Awesome” and it is one of my favorite pictures of the year since it really showed Geno’s creativity and unique style.


“Cuervo and His Woman Friend” – Two Nomads Wander the Southwest on Their Mules

I was driving down  a very dusty single lane road to Slab City USA, a derelict of a small town, lying slap dab in the middle of the California desert when I had to do a double take.  There off to the side of the road where two, what appeared to be hippies, slowly riding their mules.  There was an older man wearing very short pants hiked all the way up to his hips and a lady wearing a Grateful Dead Tie Dye. I stopped the car and immediately turned around. I was quite nervous to turn around and talk to them.  They must have thought I was so strange.  I asked to take some pictures and they let me.  It turns out, I had met a man named Cuervo and he was traveling with his woman “friend”.  I read up more about him on the internet when I got home.  He has apparently traveled all over the Southwest (Including Mexico) with these two mules.  Now thats old school.


“Thankful” – An Elderly Vietnamese Stops Brushing her Hair to Thank Me

I made a habit of getting up at Sunrise while I was in Vietnam to go for walks and take photographs.  I had passed by this same old house every morning and watched an elderly woman brush her hair.  It was her morning ritual.  She had long hair and she would brush it over and over again with her yellow comb.  One day I decided to take a picture of her brushing her hair.    As I took her picture, she stopped, put down her yellow comb clasped her hands as if she was praying, bowed her head and thanked me for taking her picture.  She would never see it but she was thankful I had taken it.  I always felt like it was me who should be thanking her.


“Poof” – Parkour, Flour and Lights at Night

I love taking night pictures.  While reading about Parkour and how photographers were using Flour to accentuate the beauty of Parkour I decided to try it myself.  So I recruited Charlie and his friend and we went out night shooting in a local park.  The boys were covered in flour but by the end of the night we had taken some amazing shots.  Like this one I call Poof.  I liked it for the beautiful way that the flour contoured around his movements.  It was a flash in time and one of my favorite photos from 2013.


“Ollie and Me” Darla and Oliver take a moment to rest after jumping on the bed

Darla just loves Ollie.  When ever she goes to “Dan Diego”.  She can’t wait to see her best friend “AhYi” (Ollie).  I managed to catch this shot of her and Oliver after they were exhausted from jumping on the bed.  It was a rare quiet moment that captured the sweetness of their friendship.

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“Technicolor Wedding”  Carrying Tu in Vibrant Vietnamese Color

When you get married in Vietnam, particularly a small town, it is big deal.  A very big deal.  I wasn’t able to count the number of guest or even the number of ceremonies we had for our wedding there but suffice it to say thousands of guest attended and many, many thousand more people in the small town of Vinh Long watched our wedding.  This picture was from perhaps one of my favorite moments.  It was a bright sunny morning and we were in traditional Ao Dai’s on our way to visit her families house by Rickshaw.  Thousands of people lined the streets as we made our way in what was a very color parade.  This was not only a favorite photo from 2013 but a favorite moment captured as well.


“Lemons”  Isabella Sitting in Lemons Not Feeling so Well

We’ve all had those days where were not feeling so good.  Nothing seems right and you just can’t put your finger on it other than that you just don’t feel right.  Well we went over to make a video of Isabella dancing.  Our timing was not very good because she was sick.  But she woke up, put on a ballerina outfit and proceeded to dance for us.  Every so often she would just sit down and cry because she wasn’t feeling good.  Like at this moment.  There were lemons all over the floor.  Isabella looked so cute, even when she felt so bad.


 “Catch Me!”  Halsey runs from Dad

We don’t get to see Halsey that much because she lives in New York.  But when she does come out its always a cuteness extravaganza and very special to us.  Erin had just finished putting on this princess/ballerina outfit on Halsey.  Halsey could not have been more thrilled to be looking so much like a princess.  This photo was also one of my favorite from 2013 because it shows a giddy Halsey running as fast as her little legs will take her.  You can see her dad running after her in the background.


 “You’re Fine.  You’re Fine” Darla consoles a worried Jude

That’s just what she say’s to Jude when he cries, “You’ll be fine… You’ll be fine”.  We had just put Jude down on Darla’s lap to take a picture of them together when he started to cry.  He was worried, although there was probably not much to worry about – just food and poops and maybe when to burp.  This was a sweet moment of a sister consoling her little brother in the only way she knew how.  It was a favorite of mine because it was a promise of what is to come as both of them grow older


“Young Blue Eyes” Little John in Overalls

Sometimes good light just happens and sometimes it all comes together.  Sarah had just finished Dutch Boy Cutting Little John’s hair giving him these adorable bangs.  The room was filled with a nice soft white light and he was wearing cute overalls with no shirt.  I liked how all the cuteness came together for this shot, another of my favorites.


 California Livin – A Bird, A Boy, Surf and Shore

Landscape photography is a big part of my photographic routine.  I will spend hours just walking around the beach looking for interesting moments to photograph.  On this particular day I headed up to San Clemente to take a walk along what must be some of the most beautiful beach in California.  While walking down the pier I noticed that surfers were catching waves that carried them right below us.  Taking out my wide angle lens, I captured a moment where a Seagull and Surfing boy seemed in perfect unison heading into shore.  To me, this was what the California lifestyle is all about.

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Giants in the Mist – A Visit to Sequoia and Promise to a Friend

I was explaining my new found photography hobby my friend when he told me he had been searching months for a photo of Sequoia’s to put on his wall.  While I had never even seen a Sequoia tree in my life, Ian, my friend,  was convinced that the tree’s held the secret to the beauty of creation and our individual seemingly small place in this world.  I figured I had to go.  Not only to see what he was talking about but to somehow try to create the photo that he was trying to find.  It was a project. It was a reason to go to visit a beautiful place.

For weeks I procrastinated. I checked the weather convincing myself that I needed to go on a brilliant sunny and cloudless day.  The weather was fickle and plans postponed.  Finally, I found myself in Los Angeles on another project and decided I just needed to go.  I didn’t even check the weather.  Be damned with the plans. I was going to go regardless and just see and photograph what I could.

The weather was terrible on the drive up.  I cursed myself as I drove up through Visalia through the pouring rain and then dense fog.  There was zero visibility.  I had driven hundreds of miles and wasn’t going to get a single good shot.  Or that was what I thought at least.

I fumbled with my camera at first. My fingers were cold but it wasn’t because of that.  I fumbled because the scene that was unfolding in front of me seemed so temporary.  The dense fog was lifting briefly and the sun was beginning to burst through,and as it did, it was lighting up the most immense tree I had ever seen.  I felt I needed to get the picture before it went away.  I fumbled than I snapped the picture praying that I had the camera settings correct.  The fog did return almost immediately. I’m glad I got the shot.  It wasn’t the last however but the first of many awe inspiring moments to come during the day.

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“BatDad” – Dad on the Internet with Mike Tyson Tattoo

My dad is extremely photogenic.  And quite an individual I must say. I could not believe it but one night he let us put a Mike Tyson Tattoo on his face and he agreed to wear this BatMan cape – the rest is history.  Sometimes you have to make a good photo happen, and I feel like we did that here.


Thank you for reading my stories about my favorite photos.  It was a great year for photography and I am so grateful to my friends, family and everyone that has inspired me to go and take pictures, or even give me there time to let me take pictures of them.  There is so much beauty in the world to capture.  It happens all around us, everyday.