Best of 2016: My Favorites of the Year / by Todd Henson

Well, 2016 is fast nearing its end, so I thought I’d look back and share some of my favorite things from the year. These include my favorites of the images I’ve created and shared, my favorites of the books of photography, fiction, and non-fiction that I read throughout the year, and my favorites of the movies and documentaries I watched. Maybe there’s something new in this list you might be interested in reading or watching. What are some of your favorites of the year?

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Favorite Images

Photographically, 2016 felt like a slow year for me. Lightroom tells me I created over 4000 images this year, which seems like a large enough number, but in the past I’ve broken 15,000 images in a year. Granted, it’s not the number that’s important. I didn’t get out as often on the weekends this year, which is something I would like to improve on in 2017. I did, however, go on a week long vacation, something I’ve not done in quite some time. My father and I travelled to Maine, spending some time in and around both Portland and Acadia National Park. Maine is such a beautiful state, half of my favorite images of the year were from this trip.

Click on any of the images in the gallery below to view the blog post the images appeared in.


Favorite Books: Photography

I learn a lot from viewing and studying other photographers work, so I enjoy adding photography books to my library. In the beginning most of the photography books I purchased were instructional books, and I do still purchase (or in the case below, win) these. But increasingly I’ve been purchasing larger format monograph books that showcase a single photographer, or in some cases multiple photographers, work. I love to study the photographs, trying to determine what it is I like, or dislike, about them. I think a lot can be gained by immersing yourself in, and learning from, the work of others.

Michael Kenna: Images of the Seventh Day

I love Michael Kenna’s black and white photography. It has such an amazingly moody look to it thanks to his use of fog, snow, smoke, and those great times of day when the light is just right. See my blog post for a full review of Michael Kenna: Images of the Seventh Day.

Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado creates very striking and bold black and white images of subjects it’s easy to become passionate about. In Genesis he seeks out those last remaining wild places, looks for the people of the world still living a more traditional lifestyle. He seeks to show it’s still possible for these places to exist. See my blog post for a full review of Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado.

Food Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Appetizing Images by Corinna Gissemann

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Food Photography through a goodreads giveaway. This isn’t the typical style of photography I practice, but that’s one of the reasons I liked it. It’s fun to sometimes learn and try other types of photography. Corinna Gissemann does a great job introducing food photography, describing some of the useful equipment, how to style and arrange food, lighting, and options for post-processing.


Favorite Books: Fiction

I have always been a fan of reading fiction, from as far back as I can remember. My folks encouraged me to read, and I’m very thankful for that. I’m most often drawn to science fiction and fantasy novels and stories, but I enjoy books in many different genres, and find I start to get bored if I spend too much time reading one author or genre. So I rotate between genres fairly often, and throw in some non-fiction as well. I find I can easily read fiction and non-fiction at the same time, but I can usually only read a single book of fiction at a time.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

City of Blades I won through a giveaway at the site, SF Signal, which is sadly no longer active. This is the first book I’d read by Robert Jackson Bennett, and is the second book in a three book series. I found I did not have to read the first book to enjoy this one. It is a fantasy story about a world where the Divine, gods of this world, have mostly been killed off by the people. But now something has been discovered that could be a further threat to the people, and a retired general, Turyin Mulaghesh, is called back into service to investigate. She is a fascinating character in a novel full of fascinating characters. I have since purchased the first book, City of Stairs, and look forward to reading both that and the third book, City of Miracles, which is due out in May 2017.

Pacific Burn by Barry Lancet

I won Pacific Burn through a giveaway at CriminalElement.com. It is part of a series of thrillers about Jim Brodie, an interesting private investigator who is also a collector and antiques dealer of various Japanese antiques. This is the first book by Barry Lancet I’ve read, but I think I’d enjoy others in the series. In this book Brodie must investigate the murder of someone he has personal ties to. The investigation begins in California, but eventually takes him back to Japan, and on a few occasions, Washington, D.C. I really enjoyed the Japanese cultural and historical references and found the antagonist a fascinating character. This was a fast paced book and a quick read.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

This was a great year for winning giveaways. I won Lagoon through a giveaway at Tor.com. Lagoon is a science fiction story about first contact, which takes place in Lagos, Nigeria. I found this a refreshingly different book, both in setting and in style. As with my other favorite books of fiction this year, Lagoon was the first book I’d read by this author. I enjoyed it enough I later purchased Who Fears Death and Binti. Lagoon is a reasonably short book, and one I had a hard time putting down. I loved the different characters and how they were all pulled together through the unusual circumstances. I found myself occasionally reminded of the works of Neil Gaiman. I look forward to reading more by Nnedi Okorafor.


Favorite Books: Non-fiction

When I was younger I almost never read non-fiction. But as I get older I read more of it each year. As with fiction, I enjoy many different types of non-fiction, from books on writing and other arts, to those on investing, self-improvement, history, and most anything else. One of the books below is an audio book. I don’t read audio books very often. I am more easily distracted when listening to a book. And with fiction, having someone else’s voice reading the book, especially if they try to make it a dramatic reading, is frequently distracting. But non-fiction, for whatever reason, is different for me. So most of the audio books I have read thus far have been non-fiction.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing is not a new book, but I finally got around to reading it this year. Part of the book is memoir, where Stephen King shares a bit of his history, how he began writing, what his earlier life was like. The other part of the book is condensed writing instruction, where King shares what he has learned about the craft and teaches how to produce better work yourself. So really, there are two potential audiences for this book, those who want to learn more about Stephen King, and those who want to learn to improve their writing skills. Great book.

Braving It: A Father, A Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell

I won my copy of Braving It through a goodreads giveaway. Braving It tells the story of James Campbell and his daughter, Aidan, as they journey to Alaska multiple times. He has always been an outdoorsman who loves to travel, and his daughter wanted to one day join him. When she was old enough they went to Alaska. This is a very touching book, showing the changing relationship between farther and teenage daughter as they experience some of the rougher sides of Alaska. For a full review see my blog post on Braving It by James Campbell.

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen

In Kingpin, Kevin Poulsen, a former hacker, tells the story of cybercriminals, people who steal and sell stolen credit card numbers, identities, and other easily exchangeable assets. He describes the rise and fall of individuals in the underground, and the FBI’s continuous pursuit of the criminals and their networks. Fascinating read, or in my case, listen, as I listened to the Audible version. Eric Michael Summerer does a great job at narration.


Favorite Movies

I rarely watch TV shows anymore, but I still really enjoy sitting down to a good movie. And as with books, I enjoy all sorts of movies. Below is a typical mix for me, though I’m surprised there isn’t anything from the speculative genres, such as science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I don’t know if I didn’t watch as much of that this year, or if I just didn’t enjoy what I did watch as much as those below. In any case, I really enjoyed the movies below.

The Fundamentals of Caring

This was a beautiful movie about Ben, a person overcoming his own life altering hardships, who decides to become a caregiver, perhaps as penance. He finds himself working with Trevor, a wheelchair bound teen with muscular dystrophy who is very set in his ways, but who has a great sense of humor. Eventually Ben and Trevor head out on a road trip to help Trevor live a little more. It’s a movie about hurting, healing, and forgiving, and is full of heart and humor.

The Imitation Game

This movie is based on the life of Alan Turing, who helped Britain build a machine to decrypt messages encoded with Germany’s Enigma machine. This helped change the war effort, and also contributed greatly to the advance of modern computers. Benedict Cumberbatch does a great job in the role of Alan Turing.

The Big Short

The Big Short chronicles some of the events surrounding the 2007-2008 collapse of the credit and housing bubble. It’s a really well done movie that adds just enough humor to what is otherwise a serious and troubling look at some of the problems in the financial world at that time. Some of the cast includes Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.

Sweet Bean

Sweet Bean was a very touching Japanese film about a man who works at a doriyaki pastry shop, a young girl who frequents the shop, and an older woman who one day shows up asking for a job. I found this a beautiful movie, seeing the interactions between the three very different characters, learning their backstory, and a little history of that part of Japan. It was a sad movie, in some respects, but very well done, and one that ends with a hopeful air to it. Highly recommended.

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki, a master at his craft and someone I will miss now that he has retired. I have never seen a Miyazaki film I did not enjoy. The Wind Rises tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter plane used in World War II. As with all of Miyazaki’s works, this one has beautiful animation, is full of emotion and subtlety, and leaves you wanting more when it comes to an end. I highly recommend any of Miyazaki’s films.


Favorite Documentaries

As with non-fiction books, I like to add in some documentaries between the movies I watch. I don’t watch many, but over time I have been watching more. I often search through Netflix for any new photography related documentaries, but also occasionally watch documentaries on other topics.

Monk with a Camera

Photographer Nicholas Vreeland was born into a high society world, surrounded by wealth and fashion (he is the grandson of Diana Vreeland). But at some point in his life he had a change of heart and moved to India to train as a Buddhist monk, and eventually became abbott of a monastery. The documentary touches on the conflict he felt as he embraced the lifestyle of Buddhism but was also encouraged to continue to pursue his photography.

Tim Jenison may not be a household name, but those into technology or computer video may recognize some of the products he’s been involved with, such as Video Toaster, TriCaster, and LightWave 3D software. Tim has always been an inventor, and has always had an interest in art. In the documentary he ponders how Johannes Vermeer was able to create such life-like paintings, far more realistic than his contemporaries. Tim was familiar with some of the current theories, but had an epiphany of his own that might explain Vermeer’s work. If true, Vermeer might have been part photographer and part painter. Fascinating documentary.


Well, that about wraps up 2016. I hope you all have something positive to remember from the year, whether something you read, watched, wrote, painted, photographed, someone you met, someplace you visited, or something you felt or experienced. And I hope the New Year brings you more opportunities for positive memories. Here’s to 2017!

Happy New Year, everyone!