World Photography Day… It’s like our Christmas morning or Super Bowl Sunday. While we are always celebrating the art and practice of photography, today is a chance to really set our focus (see what we did there? 📸) on the driving force behind our business and our creative community at large.
Photography brings people together. It often challenges us to think differently, critically and creatively about the world around us. Photography can take us around the globe, back in time, and even far out into the depths of the universe. As the great Ansel Adams once said, “Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”
Today is a perfect day to share the photos you’re most proud of, and the stories behind them. In honor of this special occasion, take a moment to admire the photos we’ve gathered below and then share your own! Follow these photographers and be sure to tag @photoshelter on Twitter or Instagram to show off your work for the world to see.
These two images were taken within a 10 year interval.
The first with snow monkeys was taken in 2010 and was literally one of my first images. The reason why I’m still proud of it was not the technical knowledge or any particular technique, but the simple fact of being patient and curious. It was taken at the end of my second day freezing next to the monkeys enjoying their hot tubs in Japan. I’m also proud that after that image became somewhat popular, it gave me the courage to change my life forever and become a photographer.
The second image is my last image taken a few weeks ago. The reason why I’m proud of it is that over 10 years I’ve learned all the technical approaches I need not only to document the world around me, but to express more complex concepts and create my own visual world. As a Ukrainian who does not live in Ukraine, that’s the most impactful contribution I can think of – continuing to inspire the world to unite to fight with what could become a global tragedy.
Photos that I have the most difficulty capturing are the ones I love the most, so this image is one I’m really proud of. I first started playing around photographing pitchers warming up in the bullpen a few years ago while shooting at a slow shutter. It’s taken me a really long time to find a shutter speed that works for me and a lot of experimenting. This image was shot at 1/8th of a second, which has worked for me the most when trying to capture a solid panning photo. When looking through my roll, I always look for images where despite being photographed at such a slow shutter, the athlete still looks human-like. This photo works because you can still see the distinctive shapes of his arms and legs, and even his hand holding the baseball.
This image of peonies is a favorite and one of my most licensed photos. I love shooting botanicals. They reflect so much of the inherent beauty around us that we often fail to appreciate. Photography can show us so much about the natural world, and the simplest subject can be the most gorgeous to the camera’s eye.
My first major story for Sports Illustrated, and it brought me home to one of the most powerful reasons I have always loved being a photographer. It was a story about Indiana High School basketball. In Indiana, high school hoops is basically the number one passion. I spent three weeks roaming, often by myself, through the backroads and small towns of the Hoosier State, seeking out pictures of kids who played for the love of the game. It was pictorially successful and SI gave the story the most pages it had ever given an editorial story up till that point in their history of publishing. It also brought me back to my own youth as a passionate high school wannabe basketball player.
I have always been a Nikon shooter. This pic was made with a 300mm f2.8, which at that point, in 1985, was a “holy grail” lens – one had to have it if you were a serious pro. Manual focus of course, shot on Kodachrome. Probably an F3. Nowadays, I shoot Nikon Z 9. I’m all mirrorless at this point. Post production tool is Capture One. Cards are Angelbird, which are unbelievably fast.
An image that I’m especially proud of from this past year is the cover of a Christmas cookbook that will be published this coming October.
It was a warm day here in Phoenix when we captured this image, so between the roaring fire in the background and the toasty outside temps, we had to work fast before the buttercream frosting of the cake started to melt. That’s one of my favorite parts of food photography, making images that tell a certain story, but the true behind the scenes is often a literal hot mess.
This is a very recent capture from my personal work. I’m particularly proud of this shot because of what it represents when it comes to the relationship I have with Claire as a subject, an athlete, and a friend.
Claire has become one of my best friends after countless sessions in pursuit of waves. There are few athletes in our region—male or female— who manage a hang ten and to watch her progress over the years to now regularly achieving this maneuver in the often small inconsistent swells that New England has to offer is a feat in and of itself.
After so many sessions in the water together, we’ve reached a level of trust and understanding that I can anticipate her actions and put myself in position, while she can solely focus on her own execution knowing I’ll be where I need to be without becoming a dangerously distracting obstacle… This shows me just how far she and I have come in our own efforts, as well as a team. I may have other surf photos that have more exciting light, higher energy, or better waves… but it takes a certain level of collaborative effort and trust to execute this kind of precision, both for myself and for the athlete. Not to mention the personal reward that comes with being able to capture athletic achievement for such a good friend.
During the COVID Lockdown in 2021, I spent most of the winter working with wolves in Yellowstone National Park. This image of the Wapiti pack happened unexpectedly. I was standing on a ridge photographing them at a very, very long distance when a wolf up on the mountain behind me let out a howl. The Wapiti pack was resting. They raised their heads, got up, took a long stretch then started moving down the valley towards me in single file. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and happened only because another wolf behind me called out. Those things just don’t happen very often.
This is from The Danish Championship Week in Aalborg Denmark where they moved the athletics long jump competition from the stadium to the docks which was the center of activities. It added a very different entertaining element to the contest.
This is an image I took in Havana, Cuba in 2015 that became the cover of my first book, Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin. When I started putting the book together in 2018 there was no doubt in my mind that this would be my cover. I still remember walking down the street, turning a corner and seeing these kids playing ball with that old car behind them, and the excitement I felt shooting at that moment. The picture tells the story: no need for a caption.
These two images are taken on the first and last days of my recent trip to Iceland. On the first day I drove all the way up to the end of the road in the Westfjords, and after dinner drove to a viewpoint looking to the north-east. It was taken just before midnight, and the sea and sky were such a beautiful colour and it was so tranquil and utterly blissful.
The second photo was taken on my last day on the Reykjanes Peninsula, not far from the airport. It was a horrible day – rainy, windy and cold, but the sea was beautiful, with strange turquoise visible in the waves as they crashed near the shore. This is a hand-held 0.4 second exposure, which makes it look far calmer than it was!
I met Dennis and his newly adopted dog Bruce Little at an outdoor Beatles jam session in the early months of the pandemic. Every afternoon, I would walk around my neighborhood, sometimes finding bands playing on front porches so neighbors could gather at a safe distance. Like the music, Dennis and Bruce Little reminded me there is joy even in difficult times.
In May, I got a call from ESPN with an assignment for full access photographing the most winning team in sports, the Oklahoma Sooners and their star Jocelyn Alo, the best home run hitter in the history of the NCAA. During the final series of the regular season Jocelyn hits a go-ahead grand slam and the team goes on to win the College World Series.
Fifty years ago I spotted Mrs. A.O. Shintaffer sitting on her front porch. It took me three trips around the block to work up the courage to ask to photograph her — and then she refused. Until her great-granddaughter showed up. Cradling the baby she was proud to let me take her picture. For me it was the first time I really understood how I could make a photograph a direct statement, not just a representation. And I understood that I was Mrs. Shintaffer’s conduit to the world, the channel through which she speaks of her pride and purpose, her gift of life.
Over forty years later on the Isle of Muck in Scotland I took the same picture. But this time it was Lawrence MacEwen, the Laird of Muck, atop his island in the Hebrides, proud and defiant, living his life by an unwavering inner compass, making his life meaningful. But in most photographic terms it is the same picture, straight on, vitally connected, letting the subject speak of their being, surrounded by the context of their living. (And when he died recently I was pleased that this image graced so many of the tributes paid to him in British publications.)
Such moments don’t come everyday in photography but in those moments I feel a great responsibility, to make the image worthy of the gift I am being given.