Best of 2015 in May 2016?! Heck yes.
One of my favourite parts of the holiday season is looking through fellow photographers’ best shots from the past year and since Jill and I launched Ghost Bear, it’s been tremendously fun reflecting on our own work and sharing our favourite images. It’s a great way of remembering the highlights and providing ourselves with a marker on our photographic journeys – both in terms of skill development and adventures undertaken. It’s just that, for me, the holidays came and went…and before I knew it, May was upon me.
It was a year of incredible highs and dismal lows.
Jill and I got married, which is about as high as one can get in life (marrying the one you love), and we also were able to photograph long sought after creatures, like pine martens, which is about as good as it gets for a wildlife photographer. We were even able to spend time with some of our favourite animals: Curious, Scarface and Raspberry – who produced her first set of cubs.
We took fewer photographs in the summer of 2015 than during any of our previous years, but over the course of the year, we more than made up for those empty memory cards. I’d like to think we both improved as photographers, snapping some our favourite shots yet. However, I’m still haunted by missed opportunities – including some very poor decisions that led to passing on what would have been shots of a lifetime. Every year, as a photographer, you win some and you lose some. In 2015, I lost just a few too many times for my liking, especially given the amount of human error involved (or in other words, it was more than just the bad luck).
2015 was also the year that brought tragedy to Yellowstone. A hiker lost his life and along with his death came that of the grizzly that killed him – orphaning her two cubs. The tragedy was compounded when Yellowstone refused to rehabilitate the bears and, instead, condemned them to a life in a zoo. Our accidental fight to save the bears became unnecessarily personal in some quarters, drained our resources and took up much of our summer, sapping our ability and energy to build Ghost Bear to the degree we would have liked. Though the campaign failed, it was a remarkable success in terms of engagement, momentum and awareness – and we’re hopeful it is a foundation that can aid efforts to keep grizzlies from being hunted in the Lower 48 as the bruins prepare for delisting from the endangered species list (in spite of the fact they’re still endangered).
Last year also demonstrated, to me at least, that we have a long road ahead of us, as a society, to improve our public discourse. From online ‘shamings’ to assumption-driven personal attacks, both sides of all debates need to do a better job of fostering empathy for opposing sides and working harder to find common ground. Indeed, it’s the only hope if we’re to create truly balanced and sustainable solutions for our world. While we’ve strived to be part of that solution, we acknowledge we also made mistakes and pledge that we’ll continue to learn, share and educate based on not only our successes, but also our failures. After all, Ghost Bear is about inspiring more nature lovers so that we can create new advocates in order to achieve a better balance between people and nature.
But enough philosophical reflecting and on to the image reflecting. Here are our top 25 images from 2015:
25. Kestrel Nest, Yellowstone
24. Weasel, Kananaskis
23. Bull Elk, Jasper
22. Valley Girl, Yellowstone
21. Alligator, Florida
20. Great Grey Owl, Wyoming
19. Bison, Grasslands
18. Weasel, Yellowstone
17. Kananaskis Sunset
16. Grizzly Cub Snow, Yellowstone
15. Jasper Sunset
14. Pika, Kananaskis
13. Grizzly Sunset, Yellowstone
12. Great Grey Owl Fledgling, Wyoming
11. Jasper Sunset
10. Raspberry, Yellowstone
9. Fox kit, Ontario
8. Grizzly fight, Yellowstone
7. Raspberry and cub Snow, Yellowstone
6. Pine Marten, Ontario
5. Fox vixen and kit, Ontario
4. Scarface, Yellowstone
3. Great Grey Owl, Wyoming
2. Fox kits, Ontario
1. Pine Marten, Ontario
Are these actually the best shots we took? Do you agree with the order? I’ll let you be the judge. For us, it was about moments and animal friends and journeys completed, as much as anything. Either way, we hope you enjoyed the showcase and with only seven or so months to go, it won’t be long until we reveal our best of 2016. And this time I actually might get it published on time!
Founder of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, Simon Jackson is a storyteller, connector and movement builder committed to improving our pubic discourse and shaping a better balance between the needs of people and nature. His GhostBearPhotography.com column appears on the first Saturday of every month.