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The Top 30 Shots of 2011

Posted on January 2, 2012

When I look up in the corner of my laptop while writing this and see the date saying “2012”, it seems a bit surreal for a multitude of reasons, the main one being that I remember SO MANY THINGS about 2011 that it seems impossible for the year to be over. And I remember so many things about last year because I took so many photos. The year is engrained into my head via shots from wherever I went, whatever I did, whoever I did it with. And that is awesome.

After getting my camera in early January, I began taking a ton of photos around Yorba Linda while my mom and dad were still in and out of the hospital in Seattle. I had all these photos organized into folders by date and activity on my hard drive, and I was the only one who had access to them. And it was kind of like, “Alright, this is cool. Now what.” So on January 11th, after a Kings vs Maple Leafs game in LA with some friends, I registered the domain name scottstedman.com and started a simple site for the “Photo of the Day”, half expecting it to die within a few days and wondering if I would ever bring it 365 days around.

354 days later, I’m close to the end of the first full cycle of this. My camera’s shutter has opened nearly 80,000 times, I have an arsenal of different lenses, and the site has 1,856 photos on it. Through this I’ve gotten hired to film and photograph two weddings, with another two on the way, photograph an engagement, secured an internship with a renowned film composer, landed on the frontpage of Business Insider.com, and caught my friends doing inane things for the entire year. I’ve never felt such immense satisfaction from seeing the fruits of a project I worked hard on.

And then there’s the stuff I didn’t photograph. I went to two funerals, watched a machine breathe for my dad, and then him subsequently endure three surgeries, and helped them move out of the state for a new job in Washington. It’s been a chaotic but immensely enriching year. The coolest part of all of this is that I have the photos to prove it. The thing that continually strikes me as odd is that, at any time, I can say a random date out of the year, find it in the photos, and know exactly what I was doing on that particular date.

There have been a LOT of crappy photos, I admit. As much as I would love for all 1,856 photos to be god damn incredible, I’m not that awesome. But there have been a few really great ones. On that note, in faithful Cracked.com list fashion, I present my 30 favorite photos of the year.

30) This was the first official “Photo of the Day”. I took a lot of pictures like this throughout the year (camera on the dashboard with a long shutter), but this first of its kind was still my favorite.

29) Amber Germaine’s birthday. This is an example of the type of photo that I say something stupid like “Everyone get your finger as close to the lens as you can.” And they’re all like “This photo is going to be stupid.”

28) I never noticed how green Jake’s eyes were until I actually put a light on him and got some portraits. I’m glad I did. These are portfolio worthy, for such a lazy attempt. (This was one of the many “Shit, it’s 11:55PM, I need a photo. Hey you, come here. Sit in front of this blinding light while I take a photo” moments.)

27) The one style of photography I was never able to do throughout the year was macro photography, because none of my lenses could focus close enough. Until Sam brought a set of macro extension tubes back to school. Stole the tubes from Sam for a day, got everyone to sit in front of the camera (once again, in front of a blinding light…. for that, I apologize to everybody) and get photos like these.

26) It’s typically difficult to photograph people “being themselves”, because they get awkward and withdrawn in front of a camera in fear of doing something moronic. When you live your entire life that way, you get people like Jack Dimillo.

25) At the end of freshman year, my obsession with longboarding led me to apply for a job at The Movement, the skate shop near campus. One of the jobs I took over was “PR” for the skating sessions the company played host to, called “LFC”. With the help of my manager, we organized an epic downhill sliding competition in San Clemente and skated the entire day. The greatest thing about the culture of this sport is that everyone is unbelievably happy (due in part to the fact that they’re stoned 85% of the time), so the atmosphere and happiness of the day is infectious. Nobody went home dejected or let down.

24) Signing the lease for our apartment in May.

23) When Sam landed the job of director of photography on a Chapman AP (advanced production), he called Casey and I to help out on set. To date, it remains the most fun I’ve had on a film set. Once we had bonded with the crew and everyone knew our personalities, there was no holding back on the chaos that ensued. Plus, I got the composing job for the film and wrote what is now one of my favorite scores for it.

22) In my earlier experiments with HDR, I dragged everyone out into the hallway, stole one of Sam’s lenses, and had everyone pose for some epicness and then got in on the action myself. And come on, look at that photo. It’s like a movie poster for an action comedy.

21) July was a boring month, photo-wise because I was doing so much awesome stuff that I never remembered to bring my camera with me. This remains one of my favorite HDR shots ever, because it combines like three of my favorite things into one epic crepuscular-ray-filled shot.

20) I can take all the artsy shots of water and waves and coffee I want, but at the end of the day it’s photos like these that I smile at the most when I go back and look through them.

19) Amber at Glow 2.0. Being awesome, with glow-glasses. I really really want to set up a shot like this for 2012 where I can control more of the environment, because, while this shot gets a spot here because of its inherent adorable factor, I could potentially make it look a thousand times more awesome with some better lighting and a stable tripod. Amber, consider this challenge SET.

18) One of our many “bonding” nights; first time we all went to the rock-wall and went crazy for a few hours. But the real winner in this shot: Josh Sorosky, pre-shaved head. With a noose. I mean, honestly, self-explanatory.

17) While the other shots I’ve listed so far are some of my favorite HDR’s, this is by far and away the favorite HDR of the year. The colors are spot on, and Jacob’s eyes look absolutely insane. Which isn’t hard to do, but still.

16) In tribute to Sam’s never-ending love for anamorphism (which isn’t a word; but I digress), here is Sam being epic and anamorphic.

15) I wish I had a camera set up in our room at 6AM before our alarms all went off to wake us up to go on this hike. As soon as the alarms went off (And all at the exact same time, given that they were all on iPhones and all synced atomically to the same time), we all just started pissing and moaning about how stupid it was to get up this early, and all fumbling angrily for the snooze button.

Having said that though, this hike turned out to be one of the highlights of the year for me. I didn’t take a ton of photos, but the ones I did take are fantastically epic, with the sun shining through the cloud layer that we practically hiked up through.

14) The beginnings of the river trip. If we had all known that Jacob was destined for the emergency room less than twenty four hours after this shot was taken….. well, we probably would have kept going anyways. And honestly, when he fell we all consecutively said “He’s probably fine, just a little banged up. He was wearing that massive orange helmet.” And then Jacob said something to the effect of “My eyeballs feel really warm…” and we collectively agreed that he might be better in the ER for everyone’s sake. I also feel it’s noteworthy that, 6 hours after he entered the ER, he left and went to a carnival with us.

13) A massive thanks to Sam for taking the best photo of me of pretty much the entire year. I had wanted a cool photo in my awesome wetsuit doing something epic in the water for a while. So thanks for that.

12) Much of the year was punctuated by traveling for me. I flew up to Seattle at least 10 times, drove past Los Angeles a number of times, and out to the river at least four times. This shot came about as I was running up to the airplane with my camera in hand; it was 6AM, just as the sun was about to rise over the terminal, and I stepped back for a second to frame and take this HDR. Definitely hit the right mood.

11) Jacob and Nathan being awesome. This was actually the first time I really experimented with a faster shutter speed, hence the ability to see every grain of sand in mid-throw.

10) And into the top 10. Oakley was born on December 31st, 2000. He is now 11 years old, and thinking about that is an incredible realization, that I’ve had this dog for more than half my life span. He’s definitely slowed down in the last year, but he’s still a puppy at heart. He just sleeps a lot more.

9) I went back and forth over buying an underwater bag for my camera for a long time. They’re absurdly expensive and I felt like I wouldn’t use a niche item enough to justify it. I finally took the plunge and bought one, and then the first few times I used it I got mediocre shots because I was unsure of its fallibility in the water and I was scared to get close enough to waves. When I finally took it to The Wedge after a few days of practicing in smaller waves, I got this shot. Since then, I have never regretted the purchase once. This shot alone made it worth it. The crazy part of the underwater bag is dealing with the larger surf to get good shots. That’s roughly a 6 foot wave, which isn’t so bad when shooting from the shoulder of the wave, but it gets insane when I’m photographing from the impact zone and every shot means I have to get put through the washing machine just to get something worthwhile.

8) Roughly 8% of my total website traffic comes from a single person in Berkeley, CA. Kevin and I had been talking for most of October/November about when we would be able to get down to Newport and do some photography. Finally got it done.

7) I had seen this concept done on Stumbleupon a couple of times (making a massive splash and photographing with a fast shutter speed) but never really got something I was truly happy with. Then I got this idea after coming home from a different photoshoot; I set everything up, mounted the lens, and did five run-throughs which all turned out absolutely AWESOME. Until I absolutely shattered the coffee mug I was using because I was dropping a D-cell battery in it repeatedly. Once again, Amber, I thoroughly apologize for this. I still feel bad. At least your mug’s last act in life was to make an awesome photo.

6) This gets the number 6 spot just because it’s practically symbolic of the type of BS we routinely pull every single time we went to Chick-Fil-A to say hi to someone or to get food.

5) Seattle is not known for it’s beautiful weather, but they have lots of clouds and clouds look pretty incredible in HDR. This probably remains the most intense sunset I’ve seen all year.

4) The second river trip was a week of madness and epic adventure, and surprisingly devoid of hospital visits. On the first night that everyone was at the house all together, we went out to the dock and sat and watched the stars for a while while the river drifted by like glass. Really one of the most serene and happy moments in recent memory.

3) I went back and forth between a number of photos that would get this spot. They were all of Casey and Jacob doing something stupid and they’re all more or less interchangeable. But this one stands out as being particularly stupid and therefore it gets the #3 spot. My entire relationship with these people can be explained with this photograph, clothing and all. If anyone ever asks me, “Hey, how are Casey and Jacob? I mean, like, what are they like?”, I will simply stop, pull out my phone, and show them this picture.

2) I’ve known since early high school that I wanted to be a film composer. I’ve played piano my entire life and written music my entire life, and I love writing sweeping orchestral stuff. So for me to land an internship with Mark Isham, composer of the film score for The Warrior, Crash, Dolphin Tale, and The Mechanic, within my first year of college, was utterly surreal. Two weeks into the internship, I went with Mr. Isham to the scoring stage at Warner Bros and watched him record a score with a 96 piece orchestra. I got the chance to talk with the director of the film, Scott Hicks, and a legend in the film scoring industry, Conrad Pope.  It was the most life-changing event of the year for me, the moment when I changed my mind from “I think I want to do this for the rest of my life,” to “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

1) Watching my family move away from home and my dad go through three different surgeries in less than six months in Washington while I was stuck in California working on 19 credits led to its fair share of emotional times. This is one of the few photos of my entire family completely together in 2011, and it’s going to be framed and printed out in poster sized canvas for me to hang at the next apartment I’ll be living at. This photo also has the benefit of being the first photo of me in snow, ever. Expecting much more of that for 2012.

If doing this project for an entire year has taught me anything, it’s that the best times in life fly by so god damn fast it’s terrifying. The year and a half I’ve spent in college so far has been the most fun I’ve ever had with many of the best people I’ve ever known. High school taught me to be a cynical ass to judgmental people competing for attention in a world dominated by popularity. College, so far, has taught me exactly the opposite. And the photos are just college personified into a way for everyone else in my life to see what I’ve been experiencing, or in most cases, to relive the memories they shared with me on a daily basis. The photo of the day shall continue through 2014. At the end of this entire experiment, I will have roughly my entire college experience categorized by date, time, and year. Everything I have ever created and ever will create will be on this website.

I don’t want to get too introspective at this point because I plan on saving my “thoughts” for the end of the year in photos for January 11th, when the first yearly cycle ends. So I’ll save it until then. For the time being, hope you enjoyed this list. I’m planning on putting together a year of photos book. Look out for that, it’ll be in the store soon. Until the 11th :)


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