Favourite Images for 2020

This article shares my favourite images for 2020 along with some commentary about individual photographs.

2020 was an incredibly strange year. With varying degrees of COVID-19 restrictions in place since early in the year, it made photography difficult for all of us. Creating ongoing content was a challenge for me personally as I often could not get out to capture any new photographs. I had to regularly dig through my photographic archives to source material that I could use in new articles.

Here are my favourite images for 2020, based on when they were published in articles, not necessarily when they were originally captured. There are 12 photographs in this article, and are displayed chronologically from January through to December 2020.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/5, 1/320, ISO-3200, subject distance 245 mm, handheld focus stacking used, out-of-camera jpeg adjusted in post

January was a difficult month from which to choose. There were a lot of my favourite images from 2020 published in this particular month. I chose the butterfly image above as it was one of my early attempts at in-camera focus stacking with my E-M1X.

It was also one of those rare occasions when two butterflies were in close enough proximity to make this photograph possible. I haven’t been to the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory since February, so there may be a bit of nostalgia in this choice.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/3.2, 1/125, ISO-5000, subject distance 630 mm

While there was a wide array of photographs in February that I could have considered for my list of favourite images for 2020… there was a clear winner. Our new, little granddaughter… on her second day of life… holding my wife’s index finger. It makes my heart melt every time I view this image.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres

I’ve captured thousands of Pro Capture H images since buying my first OM-D E-M1X in July 2019. This female cardinal taking flight is one of my all-time favourites. It was published in March. I love this image for a number of reasons. I find the body position and the intensity of the female cardinal to be quite arresting.

From a technique standpoint I can still vividly remember how I briefly studied this bird’s body and head position. Then anticipated that when it took flight it would do so at an upward angle. I positioned the perched bird in the bottom right hand corner of the frame. The cardinal rewarded me with this Pro Capture H photograph after it took flight. This is exactly the image I had in my mind.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 46 mm, efov 124.2 mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO-3200, extension tube used

I selected this photograph published in April as one of my favourite images for 2020. It serves to remind me that no matter what circumstances we may face, and what is happening around us, we can always find beauty. It may be delicate and fleeting… but it exists all around us if we take the time to look for it.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 4.2 metres

This photograph from May is one of my favourite images of 2020 as it demonstrates the incredible impact that technology is having on the photographic community. To be able to see an image in your mind, then quickly capture it using some of the most advanced technology available, boggles my mind. It also makes my creative juices flow as I think about what is now possible for each of us when we take advantage of industry-leading photographic technology.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/5, 1/1250, ISO-160

My choice from June may seem a bit odd as it is an old photograph that only got published that month. I selected this image as one of my favourites of 2020 as it demonstrates that composition has been, and always will be, critically important. We need to think about eye flow, leading lines, balance, subject focus,  corner exits, geometric shaping, and other factors when we compose a photograph. Even if our subject is just a child’s slide at a playground.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/1250, ISO-400, subject distance 860 mm

My choice of a July photograph as one of my favourite images for 2020, is all about trusting what we see, not necessarily what we read. There are all kinds of misinformation and falsehoods published regularly in online photography chat forums, and on some photography websites.

Assumptions about what is possible with a camera based on its sensor size abound. One of the most common is that a photographer can’t achieve shallow depth-of-field with a smaller sensor camera. This is simply false.

There is no such thing as a perfect camera. Each comes with its own challenges and advantages. The key is for each of us to buy the gear that best suits our needs. Then, learn to use it to its best effect. There are always ways to leverage the strength of a particular camera, and also ways to mitigate areas where it may be challenged.

French Polynesia, Kodak DX6490, 6 mm, efov 38 mm, f/5.6, 1/750, ISO-80

My favourite photograph published in August was actually captured in 2006 in French Polynesia using the tiny sensor Kodak DX6490. I love this image because of the memories that it sustains. It also confirms that sensor size has really nothing to do with the story that a photograph can tell. It’s all about content, composition, and lighting.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 75-300 mm f/4.8-6.7 @ 215 mm, efov 430 mm, f/6.7, 1/1600, ISO-640

My September choice for my favourite images of 2020 is this photograph of a gull in-flight. I love the body, wing and tail feather positions in this photograph. The lighting and details draw me into this image.

The other thing that appeals to me is the ‘rule breaking’ aspect of it. Many people have preconceived notions about what an image of particular subject matter ‘should’ contain.

For example, I’ve heard for years that a bird-in-flight photograph must show the entire bird without clipping wings, tail or body. For many years I’ve known the opposite can be true. Clipping part of a bird-in-flight can add drama, intimacy, interest, and in some cases a feeling of power to a photograph.

As photographers we should do whatever feels right to us with our images. Limiting our creative expression based on some silly notions to which other people subscribe, is lunacy.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/13, -1 step, 1/1600, ISO-5000

My favourite images for 2020 includes this photograph of a wounded swallowtail butterfly in flight. It was published in October. This photograph speaks volumes to me about ‘life its own self’. And, the importance of making the most of each day we are given. Regardless of where we may find ourselves, and the challenges we may face… today is all we have. Tomorrow is nothing more than a promissory note. Making the most of each and every day… is to make the most of our lives.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/1600, ISO-400, subject distance 18.6 metres, cropped to 4519 on the width

I selected this November photograph as one of my favourite images for 2020 because of the feeling of anticipation and timing that it communicates. Each and every image that we create as photographers is a unique moment in time that can never be exactly replicated by someone else. Celebrating these unique moments is to live our craft as photographers.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/10, ISO-2000, subject distance 1.6 metres

My choice of a December photograph to complete my favourite images for 2020 is about the importance of details. Often the smallest details, like the tip of the berry in this image being in focus, can make or break a photograph. When we strive to get it right in camera we are walking on the pathway of professional creation.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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8 thoughts on “Favourite Images for 2020”

  1. Hi Tom, I like your images, not only because they are “well done”, but also for their philosophy and the way you look at things. Can’t avoid going through this new shut down but def. could take benefit of it to re-focus and, like caterpillars, hopefully emerge with new inspiration. Keep mind and eyes wide open and thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Vic,

      We are also experiencing another round of shut-downs. The latest one started the day after Christmas and is scheduled to go for at least 28 days. Life is a relative experience and I find that it’s good to remind myself of that on a regular basis. As long as I’m on this side of the grass… it’s the best day I have!


  2. Thanks for this selection Tom. Interesting photos all and I think I have seen them all when previously published. It gives me inspiration to look through my photos for the year and come up with 12 to share with my family. I hope you have a Happy New Year and even better shooting in 2021.

    1. Thanks Joel… I’m glad that the article gave you some inspiration to develop your own selection to share with others!

      We are at the start of a 4 week shut down of all ‘non-essential’ businesses/work in Southern Ontario… so I won’t be going out of the house, except to buy groceries, for a while. With any luck I’ll get a few unusual birds visiting our backyard.


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