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Personal Bests of 2015 – Get Inspired and Share Yours

A year in review reveals improvements in our work – whether we realized it along the way or not. Even the pros take stock of their accomplishments, what they learned, and how to do better next time. Below are 20 final products from working photographers and why they feel it is among their best work of 2015.

A year in review reveals improvements in our work – whether we realized it along the way or not. Even the pros take stock of their accomplishments, what they learned, and how to do better next time. Below are 20 final products from working photographers and why they feel it is among their best work of 2015. Get inspired and link to your personal best in the comments below!

Alexis CuarezmaAbby Wambach poses for a portrait for the Sports Illustrated World Cup Preview Issue

“This was taken on the third day of shooting portraits of the USWNT for Sports Illustrated. I was shooting Abby Wamback for her individual cover. It was the end of the day and usually these shoots go by quickly. I wanted to photograph a celebration shot of Abby and asked what she usually does in that situation. She said, ‘I’ll be down on my knees and I’m going to celebrate’. I’ve done this many times before with athletes. However, when I got ready to photograph Abby, she yelled as loud as she could for about 10 seconds at the top of her longs! Full out 100% with passion. I could not have asked or even dreamed of a better moment to capture/create in the studio. It’s one of my favorite captured-in-studio unexpected moments. The exploding powder was added later in post as you can’t use it indoors or get that on the athletes.”Alexis Cuarezma, who shot this with a Canon 24-105mm f/4L lens on a Canon 5D Mark II with Profoto lighting. See his work on his site and on Instagram.

Benjamin Von Wong

“Just working on this project has allowed me to greatly increase my understanding of climate change by discovering documentaries like Cowspiracy and how dire of a situation we find ourselves in. Though I do not have a solution for changing the world, it is comforting to know that I can make a difference by putting something different in my mouth. I am proud to say I am now a vegetarian.” – Benjamin Von Wong, who used a Sony a7SSony a7R, Broncolor lighting, and more to capture this series. Read more about this project on his blog.

John Paul Caponigro

John Paul Caponigro

“I like this image for many reasons. Here are 5:

1. It does justice to the beauty of the location.
2. It suggests a different way of seeing and being in nature.
3. It’s quickly recognizable as an authentic and original image made in a heavily photographed location.
4. It returns to long-standing personal themes and gives them a new twist.
5. It’s inspiring.”

John Paul Caponigro, who shot this with a 16-35mm f/2.8L lens on a Canon 5D Mark III. See more of his work over on his site.

David J. Crewe

David J. Crewe 2015

“This was taken at Clay Cook’s studio in Kentucky with a fantastic studio team. This shoot was really my gateway back into fashion and studio work. I ended up with 3-4 looks with this being the final one and my favorite. Building a set and props to define the look was an awesome experience and challenge…and well…the final shot was so worth it.”David J. Crewe, who shot this with an 85mm f/1.4G lens on a Nikon D800. Check out more of his work on his site and on Instagram.

Long Nguyen

“John was my personal tennis racquet stringer. I just knew I wanted to document him the first time we met. I can’t describe what I felt but I knew that someone needed to tell his story. My only regret was not doing it sooner. It was just the tip of the iceberg. But at the end of the day, I am still happy that he let me spend a day with him.” Long Nguyen, who shot this with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, a 17-40mm f/4L, and an 85mm f/1.8 on a Canon 5D Mark III along with a DJI Ronin and Sennheiser mics. Check out more of Long’s work on this website.

Marc Muench

Print Dimensions - 30" x 22.5"

“I’ve always wanted to photograph northern lights in a dramatic landscape. I found such a location in the northern parts of Norway, where the lights were so brilliant and lasted so long, I got tired of photographing them! This became one of my favorites of the year, creatively, because everything was dramatic enough to create an exciting visual of the colorful northern lights in black and white. – Marc Muench, who shot this with a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens on a Nikon D810. See all of Marc’s work, plus workshop schedules on his site.

Allie Miller

Allie Miller

“I loved her gown, her flowers, her pose, the dock lines, and the challenging weather of all clouds, no blue skies, with rain approaching. This was accomplished under 2 minutes: directing, lighting, and such, just before it downpoured on us!” Allie Miller, who took this with a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on a Nikon D800. See all of her work on her site.

Schmoo Theune

Stephanie Schmoo Theune

“2015 marked the 75th anniversary of Victory Day in Russia. The celebrations in Moscow were intense, especially to an outsider from the US: costumes, orange ribbons, military marches piped in all the metro stations. Due to security or budget or logistical reasons there was no way for the crowds to get higher and see the parade of tanks rolling by, so children in particular (as festive as they may have been) were often left out.”Schmoo Theune, who shot this scene with a Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.4 lens on a Leica M240. See more of her work on her site.

Michael Frye

Upper Yosemite Fall illuminated by the rising moon, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

“One of the reasons I like this photograph is because it’s something I thought of many years ago and finally had a chance to make it happen – and it actually turned out better than I expected. A heavy, warm February rainstorm created unusually high water flow in Yosemite Falls. It occurred to me that the moon might be in the right position and phase to make the photograph I had imagined: a rising moon backlighting the waterfall with the stars above. I started up the pitch-dark trail at about 8:30 PM, navigating by the light of my headlamp, and reached my intended destination about two hours later. I still had to wait awhile and used the time to check my focus and camera settings (20 seconds at f/2.8, 6400 ISO) and refine the composition.

When the moonlight finally hit the waterfall, the backlit spray below the stars was an astoundingly beautiful sight. It was windy, which made it very cold, but the wind often grabbed the spray and tossed it around – something I love watching during the day and that looked even more mesmerizing by moonlight. As a bonus, some of the photographs revealed something unexpected: tree shadows falling across the spray at the base of the fall, creating a striped pattern – like sunbeams in fog. I photographed this scene for about 40 minutes but this is actually the first frame after the moonlight hit the bottom of the waterfall. It was a long and tiring hike back down but memories of watching the moonlit waterfall kept me going. It was a magical night.”Michael Frye, who shot this with a 24mm f/1.4 Rokinon lens on a Sony a7R and a Gitzo tripod. Check out more of his work over on his blog.

Renee Robyn

“I created this with an Alien Bees flash and an umbrella outside on my old Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens. I spent a few hours in Photoshop but had lots of fun with it. I forced myself out of my comfort zone a lot this year and shooting an image on location to composite with was waaaaay out there for me. It was a great challenge and I’m glad I did it. A personal highlight this year! Huge love to my sister for being my faithful model and my mom for helping, too!”Renee Robyn, whose fine art print work can be purchased here.

Andy Williams

Andy Williams

“For my personal favorite this year, I have chosen this man and his dog, from Viñales, Cuba. This was shot with a Panasonic GX-7 and an Olympus 25mm (50mm effective focal length) lens. He was so much fun to engage with. It was 7 AM and he was hanging out in the street with his dog and smoking a cigar. I had exactly one frame where the dog was looking right at me because the dog ran off after a squirrel immediately after this shot. What I love about this image is that they are both staring intently at the viewer. This was shot while leading a workshop in Cuba, April 2015.”Andy Williams, whose workshop schedule can be found here.

Nick Wrzesinski

Milky Way over Temple of the Sun

“This is one of my favorite photos of 2015 because it was an amazing experience traveling to the location along with a beautiful site once we were there. The drive to Temple of the Sun is 4×4 access only and we had storms chasing us into the park. If they caught us we would have been stuck in the mud or between flooded creek beds. But we made it to the Temple of the Sun without incident. Once there, it did start to rain and we were skunked for sunset and trapped by a flooded creek bed. We stuck it out, the clouds parted, and we were treated with mostly clear skies to capture the amazing Milky Way on a moonless night. Capitol Reef is an International Dark Sky Park, so it’s perfect for capturing the Milky Way. ” – Nick Wrzesinski, who shot this with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens on a Canon 1D Mark IV. See more of his work on his site and on his Facebook page.

Lauren Allmond

Lauren Allmond

“Simon and Josh got married the day after the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage. The day was full of so much love and support that even a little rain (well, alllllll day rain) couldn’t put a damper on their beautiful celebration. They got married at a beautiful house on the Hudson, but the weather forced us to stay inside for most of their formals. I knew I wanted to produce an image for them that told the story of their day, but also incorporated part of the sweeping landscapes they had fallen in love with. I think this image did just that.” – Lauren Allmond, who shot this with a Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lens on a Nikon D750. See more of her work on her website.

Philip Martin

Philip Martin

“A grandmother waits. 
Her legs are going, on two artificial knees, the way of the travel agent. 
She’s no longer able to drive, or even walk up and down the steeply slanted street, so I take her places. 
I also make pictures of her… It’s the least I can do.”

Philip Martin, whose documentary projects can be explored here.

David Kingham

David Kingham

“This image is my favorite because it represents a style of photography that I’m aiming to achieve that is highly influenced by the Hudson River School of Painters. This photo has a particular influence from Albert Bierdstadt. I would recommend everyone take a step outside of their familiar comfort zone of photographic art and look to find influences in other areas of art.”David Kingham, who shot this with a Fuji XF 10-24mm lens on a Fuji X-T1. Check out more of his work on his website.

Clay Cook

HyperFocal: 0

“I captured this image in the heart of Havana, Cuba with a Cuban model, designers, and a team and it was an incredible experience. I put all the cards on the table, took a few risks, and really worked hard to make it the best possible image that represented the punch-drunk explosion of culture that is Cuba: a blend of the urban energy and colorful vibrance of Havana with the edge of fashion.”Clay Cook, whose fashion and editorial work can be see on his site and on his Facebook page.

Dean J. Tatooles


“One of my favorite images of 2015 is of a camel caravan traversing the desert dunes near M’hamid, Morocco at sunrise. I captured this image using a Nikon D4 and a Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G lens. For me, it was one of those perfect moments when light and subject matter came together at once to make magic.”Dean J. Tatooles. See his safari schedule here.

Jamie A. MacDonald

©2015 Jamie A. MacDonald

“I took 4 friends up north on a ‘guys only’ photography camping weekend. We spent the first night photographing the sunset and then a wicked lightning storm at a pier on Lake Michigan. The next night, the night this was shot, we went to Little Sable Point Lighthouse for the sunset and then returned later to shoot the Milky Way. We were all facing south towards the most dense part of the Milky Way shooting when I decided to put on the 8mm fisheye and try a Milky Way pano. I faced north and started a Live Time exposure on the OM-D and as the image started to develop on the screen I was blown away to see all this color appear! I started to yell to my friends, ‘FACE NORTH! FACE NORTH!’ We ALL got great shots that night. This one is my favorite.” – Jamie A. MacDonald, Olympus Visionary, shot this with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II. See more of his work over on his website.

Ivan Makarov

Ivan Makarov

“This image is my favorite because it shows all of my kids – all four of them – frozen in time and on one of the funniest mornings we had as a family. I don’t remember whose idea it was, but one of the kids wondered if they could still fit into diapers and, the next thing we knew, all four of them put diapers on! Because I got a lot of judging (and borderline angry) comments from other parents when I first posted this, let me inform you that only the very youngest one, Yuri, actually still wears diapers. But they still fit on rest of them and when they put them on we just couldn’t stop laughing for at least 30 minutes. Luckily, I ran into my office and grabbed a camera to take this shot. A great family memory of this chapter in our lives when the kids are still so innocent and fun.”Ivan Makarov, who shot this with a Leica 35mm Summicron lens on a Leica M. See more of his family work on Instagram.

Jay Cassario


“This is one of my favorite shots of 2015, among many, for a few reasons. I took this after a long wedding in Massachusetts, which was about a 5 hour drive from home. Being from New Jersey, it’s tough to get a good star shot from all the light pollution, so last year when I shot at this same venue, I had wanted to get this shot and things didn’t work out. I went back this year for another wedding and I had really wanted to get a shot like this and hoped for clear skies. We had clear skies all day but it also was a full moon. After the wedding ended, around midnight, I asked them to take a walk and explained what I had in mind. We walked out about 300 yards from the venue and because of the moon light we were able to see pretty good but I was worried it would be too bright. I had them stand and look up at the bright stars and when I looked through the viewfinder I realized the moon was actually going to light them perfectly. I faced the bride towards the moon and took a 3 second exposure – just long enough to bring in enough light but not too much to show movement in the stars. I took 2 shots and called it a night, everything finally worked out perfectly! “Jay Cassario, who shot this with a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens on a Nikon D810. His work can be found on his site, his Facebook page, and on Instagram.

Congratulations to all of the photographers in this post as well as to all of you who continue to improve in your own way and at your own pace. May 2016 be abundant with new favorite images for the portfolio or family album. 

Tags: , Last modified: July 7, 2021