2019 - RJ Wilner

Photography Year in Review ~ 2019

The year 2019 has come and gone. And has become an annual practice, it's time to review my 'year in photography'.

Historically, I've attempted to select roughly a dozen or so of what I perceived to be my better images from the previous year. Last year, I changed things up a bit and picked a single favorite for each year beginning with the start of  my own personal 'digital era' in 2002. And I'm changing things up again this year. I've decided to give some emphasis to the 'experience' of this year's photographic journey.  While the experience has always been part of the joy I garner from photography, I've generally not given a voice to it. Being my first full year of retirement, there were several that were somewhat 'out of the box' compared to my norm.

And those experiences have led me to include more images than is typically the case for my 'year in review'.   Not all of those included would likely be part of a more typical 'Best Of' post, but hopefully provide some insight into what I found special about the experience. Of course, this has led me to being somewhat more verbose than normal for this annual review as well. :)

If you'd prefer to skip all the word salad and just see the images, check out this link...where they fall in descending chronological order as taken.





Don Robinson State Park in Jefferson County, MO has become one of my favorite local 'go to' locations. Though there are no big waterfalls or craggly mountain facades, it does have quite an assortment of scoliotic trees, a plethora of 'wet weather' falls (drips?), and a wealth of ground cover I find continuously interesting. And it's close enough to home that I can be there in about 20 minutes on a foggy morning or following a snow fall. 

In general, I've been finding a variety of interesting subject matter in the Missouri State Park system, and it's nice to have such options available and not feel the need to always venture out long distances to find subjects of interest. There was a time, I felt I couldn't 'see' worth a hoot when on the home turf and needed to travel to exotic locations to find any sort of 'vision'. While I most definitely enjoy such adventurous excursions, it's nice to have put the 'need' to do so behind me.


In April, I joined a group made up of members of the St Louis Camera Club and paid a visit to the  (now decommissioned) Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, MO that had served as a maximum security facility from 1836-2004.

Talk about 'stepping out of my comfort zone'...both photographically and personally. Walking down what was once 'death row' and having our tour guide (a former warden of the place)  explain how prisoner activities occurred in that part of the facility was an extraordinarily eerie and oppressive feeling. I actually felt a sense of relief when the tour ended and we left.

Photographically, I think I could do a better job of telling a 'story' of the place if I were to return for another visit. I was a bit overwhelmed by the feeling of just being there and contemplating what life must have been like..... not only for the prisoners, but even more so for those charged with administering and maintaining the facility. I can't help but think it would have had a significant impact on one's perspectives on numerous levels.








Also in April, but in a totally different direction than the 'heavy' trip to the prison, I discovered something in Missouri that I'd somehow managed to previously not know was available in this part of the world...bluebells! I found these in St. Francois State Park, but have learned since there are other locales they can be found in Missouri.


Also in the spring, I embarked upon creating a new project involving ferns. I've always had a sub-conscious 'I should do something with ferns' voice nagging at me, and I've finally 'gotrountuit' this year. 

For me, ferns have always evoked a calm, gentle sensibility. And while the ever present gentleness of the curved lines that make up virtually every frond of every fern I've found thus far do convey that feeling, it's also been a voyage of discovery to see what other visual attributes they may exhibit. Occasionally they remind me of a rather aggressive winged insect, sometimes a 'pinwheel toy' from my youth, and even a king cobra with it's flared out hood. It will be interesting to discover what other metaphors are discovered as I add to the series.



Another favorite local destination is the MO Botanical Garden....both the formal planned botanical garden in the city of St. Louis as well as it's associated Shaw Nature Reserve in far west St Louis County. 

The formal botanical garden in the city is always a treat to visit, but the photo ops seem, to me, more plentiful out at Shaw Nature Reserve. It's also a joy to just hike around the various trails available without the crowds found downtown.

This year, I participated in a couple group events at the Nature Reserve. The first was a group of MONEP (Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers) members just gathered to shoot the immense variety of wildflowers in bloom in June.

The second event was a seminar/workshop sponsored by MONEP and featured Jennifer King as the speaker/workshop leader whose background started in design and later transitioned to photography. Her design background made the seminar piece of the event an interesting listen.


In June, I participated in a single day workshop sponsored by the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum here in St. Louis, MO. Our location for the event was the Fox Theatre...one of those small, intimate, very ornate theatres of old. 

Another sort of 'out of the box' event for me that proved very enjoyable even if it's also another genre I'm not particularly well equipped to shoot effectively. A special lens that aids in avoiding the tilted vertical lines that occur with the camera pointed up/down would be ideal. But as shooting interior architecture was another new adventure, I decided to just go with my available lenses and let the lines fall as they may this time around. 

Architecture, both interior and exterior, is a subject I'd like to pursue more fully. So....stay tuned for more of this genre in future years!


Yet another 'out of the box' experience for 2019. I had been running across mentions of a local organization called 'PhotoFlood STL' for some time. It's an ongoing project with the intent of documenting all of St. Louis photographically....neighborhood by neighborhood. 

Each month the organizers define a map of a neighborhood and all those who choose to participate 'flood' the area on the designated date and shoot whatever catches their attention....the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Anyone with a camera and the interest is free to join in the fun. And those who have participated have ranged from novice to professional. 

After each month's 'flood', all those who participated select their best images from the shoot and submit them to a group album. From that group album, the organizers typically select 25-30 images for inclusion in the writeup of the neighborhood that also includes a description of the neighborhood along with some pertinent history.

It's a very interesting project that's been in progress for 4-5 yr and has already covered a large portion of the St. Louis area and a smattering of outlying areas. I participated for the first time in November when we 'flooded' a portion of downtown Alton, Illinois...a northern suburb of STL just across the Mississippi River in IL. And it's from that event the images included here were made.

I look forward to participating in more 'floods' in 2020!





For the first, and possibly last, time in the years I've been accumulating these 'Year in Review' posts, some wildlife images make an appearance. 

To be honest, 'wildlife' photography is not my thing.  I will shoot wildlife if a critter happens to come in my view and pretty much sits and poses for me, but I'm not equipped to do the genre justice. Nor am I prone to venture out into the wild to seek them out...unless a group of true aficionados is available to join and tag along.

The one exception this past year has been hummingbirds. I did spend a fair amount of time trying to make some hay photographing them. But only because....well, I can do that off the deck of my house and have just enough equipment to make the endeavor potentially worthwhile. 


And  then there was the trip to South Dakota...my only extended out of town photo excursion for the year.  I could pretty easily have made images from this trip the entirety of this 'year in review' post. I believe it was  the first time I'd ever set foot in SoDak and what a terrific experience. 

Badlands National Park is quite the alien/lunar/otherworldly place with its sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires. And by daylight, one of least colorful places I can recall having visited. But my goodness how it comes alive at sunrise and/or sunset.  Given that I don't believe I ever ventured greater than 100ft (+ or -) from the car, it was a very Brett Weston 'There's nothing worth photographing more than 100 yards from the car' several days I spent there. And that leaves me the opportunity to return and wander around on the trails amongst and in between the pinnacles. 

Interestingly enough, Badlands N.P. is quite a stark difference from most of the SoDak landscape I observed....which encompasses just oodles and oodles of seemingly endless prairie 'grasslands'. More than once, I caught myself channeling the old Who song...'I Can See For Miles and Miles'. And that prairie runs right up to and to the edge of, and sort of engulfs, Badlands N.P. It was almost as though Mother Nature barfed her guts up while wandering around the grasslands to form the park.

And then the Black Hills area on the far western edge of the state has a somewhat Colorado/Wyomingish 'alpine' vibe to it that I unfortunately didn't have time on this trip to do any significant exploring beyond Custer State Park. But hey..., that adds up to one more reason to pay the place another visit!


Hope you enjoyed this year's review!

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