Countdown: the best photos of 2022
It’s time again for my annual review with the most beautiful photos of 2022. Since 2016 I’ve been compiling these top 10s with the best photos of the year. The best photos I’ve taken myself, that is. Or at least the photos with the most interesting stories to tell.
Also this year I cannot escape the long and painful selection process. The longlist contains about 200 photos, of which 190 must be abandoned within sight of the harbour. Anyway, with the deadline, New Year’s Eve, approaching rapidly, I present here my photographic annual overview for 2022.
10 – Rear View Mirror
It was a beautiful sunny day, mid-November with travel companion I. on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland in the province of Zeeland. After a ten-kilometre walk past meadows, flowering field borders and newly created nature, we returned to Zierikzee. Autumn was at its best in that well-preserved town. In short, the photographic targets had already been amply achieved when we drove back to the mainland at about four o’clock.
Shortly after our departure from Zierikzee, however, it turned out that the best was yet to come. Cirrus clouds, spectacularly illuminated by the setting sun, turned yellow, orange, red, purple. The sunset of the year! A marvel above the vast Zeelandic landscapes and waters.
But try to photograph something so beautiful from a moving car. Or, when you are on a main road, try to find a nice place to stop in order to capture the spectacle. It was fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
This shot of I.’s rearview mirror is the only acceptable image of that ephemeral beauty. But it symbolizes the legendary photos that could have been taken that evening, if I had stayed a little longer in Zierikzee.
9 – Blaak Symmetry
Many of my southbound train journeys start at Rotterdam Blaak. This underground station dates from 1993 and was designed by Dutch Railways architect Harry Reijnders. It was an eye-opener for me at the time: apparently it was possible to turn an underground public transport hub into something beautiful, or at least something interesting. And although the use of color looks a bit nineties, I still think it’s a successful design.
I therefore regularly get the urge to take pictures of it, especially of the underground part. And because I have the strange habit of always arriving on the platform ten minutes early, I have plenty of time for that. But it is not easy to capture the interaction of shapes, colours, transparency and reflections in an image.
In this photo I think it turned out pretty well. Down with the Rule of Thirds; this picture is absolutely symmetrical. Although the symmetry is broken in subtle ways. The color difference between the concrete surfaces. The armrest on the bench. Advertising posters with varying colors. The little pole with sign at the bottom left. And last but not least the placement of the mirror on the back wall. Finally, the movement of a passing intercity train brings a touch of dynamism.
Still, when I look critically, I also see things that could be improved. For example, I should have zoomed out just a little further, in order to fully capture the circle shape and the wave in the ceiling. And maybe a person on the bench, waiting for the train, would complete the picture. Anyway, I visit Blaak station often enough, so maybe there will be a version 2.0.
8 – Becoming Food
During my many hikes I often take pictures of fields with crops. Somehow I think it’s very photogenic, those rows of plants that are in the porcess of becoming our food. This photo was taken just outside Margraten, during the expedition to the Limburg hills with travel companion A. In the crop images subcategory, it is my favorite this year because of the graceful curve of the furrows.
But what crop is this actually? Asparagus, I would think, because of its location in the province of Limburg. The Facebook panel, to which I often submit such questions, initially also thought in that direction. But pretty soon the mood switched in favor of the potato. After all, potatoes also grow in these kinds of ridges.
In any case, the soil is loess. That’s the special type of soil that we learned about in primary school, and which can mainly be found in Southern Limburg. A remnant of the ice ages, with a distinctive yellow-red color. And yes, the latter can clearly be observed in this photo.
7 – Salmon Pink
After The Staircase in 2016, my esteemed ex-colleagues from MVRDV took care of no less than two climbable constructions made of scaffolding pipes in the center of Rotterdam this year. One was the Rooftopwalk, from Beursplein, via the roof of the WTC and a bridge over Coolsingelboulevard to the roof of the Bijenkorf store and down again at towards Lijnbaan shopping street. The other was the Podium on the roof of the New Institute, accessible via a stairway to heaven.
The purpose of the constructions was to show the general public how our roofs can be used better and more intensively. But a nice side effect is that one can view the city from viewpoints that are normally not accessible. When can you take a photo from a point high above Coolsingel boulevard? Yes, anything is possible with a drone these days. But the use of drones in urban areas has, fortunately, been restricted.
My favorite photo from the two events takes it a step further. This photo can no longer be taken with a drone. After all, the now dismantled salmon pink Podium can be seen on it. The photographer, yours truly, is standing just a little right of center. And the city, distorted in the reflecting facade of the Depot building, turns it into a fun puzzle: which buildings do we see?
6 – Happy New Year
On New Year’s Day I made a hike with travel companion R. through the border area of the provinces of Overijssel and Drenthe, near Balkbrug. No catering stop was available because of the lockdown, but that didn’t spoil the fun. The variety of forests, fields and waters made up for it.
2022 was one of the sunniest years in history, but there were no indications of that on January 1. It was overcast all day. That did not make the landscape any less beautiful, but it certainly made it less inviting to take pictures.
And then the sun suddenly found a hole in the clouds. This row of trees was beautifully illuminated from the side. Together with the slightly undulating land, the lines of the furrows on the field and the still threatening sky, this created a magical atmosphere. My favorite landscape photo was taken very early in the year.
5 – I Pictured a Rainbow
Het Perfecte Plaatje (The Perfect Picture) is a TV show in which Dutch celebreties try to improve their photography skills, with the support of professionals in the field. It is, of course, a program not to be missed for me as a photographer. And the fact that the final took place in Iceland this year only made it more interesting. The black beach at Vik, the geysir, the crater lake Kerið, the colored roofs of Reykjavik, the northern lights: it was a festival of good memories that lasted two episodes.
This place, at Skogafos, the waterfall of Skogar, also played a role in that final. I’m standing here in about the same spot as Geraldine Kemper when she took her self-portrait under the mighty waterfall.
No, that gentleman with the tripod and the rain suit is not me. It is an unknown photographer that I liked to use as an extra. Although I normally try to avoid people in photograph, I thought in this case it would add something, a person in an active role with the main subject, the rainbow.
Later in the year rainbows would once again play a role in my work, but that’s another story.
4 – Fearless Wallflower
There are many shades of green. Here, at the hiking trail along the river Aa in the center of Münster, Germany, we are witnessing a clash between nature and civilization. A fearless wallflower has taken up residence in the joints of an old brick wall. Recently, a street artist has worked on the wall, covering most of the leaves with green and white paint. The graffiti green has a completely different hue than the leaves that escaped the dye bath in the lee of their peers. And for the time being, the plant seems to be holding up bravely in the new situation.
This image of course has something to say about our relationship with nature in the Anthropocene. I just don’t know exactly what. But that too can be explained metaphorically: the problems with climate and biodiversity are so complex that no one knows exactly what. I would describe my own attitude as: concerned but optimistic. It will all work out right, but not without struggle.
Anyway: in this year of unprecedented heat waves, forest fires and floods, laborious UN conferences, nitrogen conflicts, tedious energy transitions, paintball sessions with wolves and other manifestations of the aforementioned clash, I think this is an appropriate, top 10 worthy picture.
Funny: I took this photo from exactly the same place as the number 10 from the list and yet I was somewhere else. I was in the passenger seat next to travel companion I. But instead of Zeeland we drove on a highway near Utrecht.
It was an experiment that will probably lead to a complete blog post in the new year. I Just put the camera on the dashboard and took pictures with a long exposure.
Those kinds of photos are of course difficult to plan. At a speed of one hundred kilometers per hour, it is impossible to predict which elements will appear in the next ten seconds or so.
As a result, most of these photos are somewhat disappointing. But sometimes a nice composition comes out. Like this one, where the wide variety of colors is particularly striking. The red of the taillights, the yellowish light of the lamps in the median, the green of the side border, the blue of the signposts, the gray and white of the road. On the right we just see a traffic sign, on the left other carss are visible as vague shapes.
The jury also has a point of criticism: the dark, almost black surface at the bottom of the photo, the edge of the dashboard. That’s a missed opportunity; the problem can be solved by placing the camera a little higher next time. Well, that’s something for that aforementioned future blog post.
2 – The Goals
There are plans to refurbish Schouwburgplein, Rotterdam’s Theatre Square. I would argue in favor of keeping at least part of the steel pavement. For nostalgic reasons, but also for photographic motives. Because nothing reflects as beautifully as those steel plates with their grid of perforations. Especially after a rain shower.
This photo also confirms why the De Doelen concert and conference center ended up so high in my Reconstruction Top 10. What a beautiful facade it is, especially with this lighting. And how nice it is that people can come together again to play chess, to jam or to do one of the other activities described on the canvas above the entrance.
Some more details: the construction on the right is waiting for a Christmas tree, the red light stripes provide the much-needed dynamics and the two staircases inside bring a touch of symmetry. And of course I completely agree with the projected slogan “no violence against women”.
1 – King’s Day at Mosquito Lake
During my spring expedition to Iceland with travel companion A. I took about 700 photos. For those who want to watch them all in three minutes, I have put them together in this video. In fact, I could fill this entire top 10 with Iceland photos, but then it would become a different kind of blog post.
I want to limit it to two photos, the rainbow of number 5 and this image. A nice representative for all those 700 photos because there is so much to see on it. And because it has all those other photos backing it, it’s rightfully number one in this list of best photos of 2022.
The photo was taken on April 27, King’s Day in the homeland, from the rim of Hverfjall crater. Behind us, off screen of course, is a lunar landscape where NASA had astronauts practice in the 1960s. In front of us we see Lake Myvatn, which is about 150 meters lower.
In the foreground we see a landscape with rocks, shrubs, succulents and moss. Behind it, along the shores of the lake, is a wide strip of grassland, but in this early spring it is not yet green, but yellow-brown. A few farms and barns and a winding asphalt road give some scale to the whole.
The lake itself is still partly covered with ice, but the front part is open water. Because it is completely windless, the threatening cloudy sky and the bizarrely shaped islands are reflected in this. On the other side of the ice sheet, the wild and almost empty landscape gradually slopes upwards to a snow field that is partly shrouded in clouds.
By the way, the name Myvatn means Mosquito Lake. But mosquitoes fortunately there were not yet in April.