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Best Of 2020: Our Most Meaningful Photos Of The Year, Part 3

Today, we’re continuing our look back at 2020 on AlphaUniverse.com with a group of images from Sony Artisans Of Imagery David McLain, Eli Reed, Cristina Mittermeier, Brian Smith, Ira Block, Ben Moon, Don Smith, Garrette Baird, James & Schulze, Nancy Borowick, Nino Rakichevich, Mike Colón, and Katrin Eismann. We asked the Sony Artisans of Imagery and the Alpha Imaging Collective to share their most meaningful image of the year and we're counting down to 2021with the photo and the story behind each one.

Astro and landscapes, profound moments of sadness and of hope, a portrait made in minutes and more in today’s look back at the best photos of 2020.

David McLain


Photo by David McLain. Sony α9. Sony 24-105mm f/4 G. 1/125-sec., f/4, ISO 640

“I just started a collaboration with Maine artist Charlie Hewitt who makes these incredible Hopeful signs I have always admired. Starting on New Years, we'll be traveling around our state 'tagging' different places with a portable Hopeful sign. This is the first image from the series, meant to offer a simple message that despite an otherwise bleak year, more hopeful days are ahead.”

“We all know 2020 was grim all the way around. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about getting through hard times from my work on an ongoing project I’ve been shooting that explores how people heal. It turns out how you choose to react to a bad situation affects your ability to get through it. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, sums it up best: ‘Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to chose one’s own way.’ Charlie Hewitt’s sign embodies the importance of choosing hopefulness in the darkest days and I wanted to photograph it in a way that helps spread a message that brighter days for all of us are ahead.”

Eli Reed


Photo by Eli Reed. Sony α9 II. Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/1250-sec., f/6.3, ISO 2000

“I made this image during the funeral of George Floyd in his hometown of Houston, Texas. The death of Mr. Floyd occurred when he was choked to death by a Minnesota police officer who ignored his pleading to stop as he begged for his mother as he died. There was an intense United States and internationally strong response to his death.”

“It was an emotionally difficult situation for everyone and I needed to make images that captured the pain of those who came to honor George Floyd and those who believe in justice for all.”

Cristina Mittermeier


Photo by Cristina Mittermeier. Sony α7R III. Sony 12-24mm f/4 G. 1/40-sec., f/13, ISO 160

"'Alone Together - French Polynesia'. I spent a magical afternoon free diving with Titouan Bernicot, founder of The Coral Gardeners, in his beautiful home island of Mo'orea. Being a much more proficient (and younger) free diver, I marveled at his ease in the water. In this image, he shares a moment with a playful pink whiptail stingray in the gentle currents of Mo'orea. Born on a pearl farm in the middle of the Pacific, Titouan seems just as comfortable in the warm shallows as his gilled friend. Throughout my work as a photographer, I have found myself drawn to the connections we share with the natural world and the interconnectedness of all things. I use my lens to tell the stories of the people I have met and how they relate to the wild places they come from. I try to draw attention to the under-appreciated organisms which form the basis of our ecosystems and reveal the beauty in the animals we are conditioned to fear. In this way, I hope to inspire people to be better."

"I find this image both hopeful and sad, both intimate and somehow reflective of a shared space we all share and rely on - our oceans. This image was actually taken in 2019, but during extended periods at home because of COVID, I didn't discover it until spring of this year, and I am so glad I did! This photo reminds me of why I do the work that I do. Our existence on the planet is directly connected to every other species we share it with, and we must take that responsibility seriously. What we do, matters. How we connect, matters. That we take time to see outside of ourselves, matters."

Brian Smith


Photo by Brian Smith. Sony α7R IV. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/4.5, ISO 100

“This year because of COVID-19, all the live photography trade shows were canceled. I missed the opportunity to connect with Sony shooters so I was happy to at least do so virtually when I joined my fellow Sony Artisans Scott Robert Lim, Sara France & Chris Orwig in the Sony Shootout at Portrait Masters Live where we each had 30 minutes to photograph the same model. (You can see Scott Robert Lim's photo from the session HERE.) ”

“My favorite part about being a Sony Artisan is connecting with other Sony photographers and my fellow Sony Artisans. I'm looking forward to the day we can do that again, but until that's possible - virtual events can at least remind us of that possibility.”

Ira Block


Photo by Ira Block. Sony Xperia 1 II.

“I was at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in New York in June and started shooting it with my Sony α9 and 24-105mm lens that i usually carry. As the march progressed, I saw this flag being carried and I wanted to get a low angle shot so that the wording on the flag was readable. My 24mm was not wide enough and it was the only lens I had with me. Fortunately, I was carrying my Xperia 1 II. It has a 16mm lens and I held it at a low angle. Although I could not see my precise framing, I got lucky when the wind picked up and lifted the flag so that everything was readable.”

“This was a year filled with uncertainty, anger and upheaval. It was also a year of reckoning. When i was in college i photographed many protests and demonstrations using much different technology than today. This one image tells a story and captures an historic moment in our nation's social evolution.”

Ben Moon


Photo by Ben Moon. Sony α7R IV. Sony 24-105mm f/4 G. 1/160-sec., f/5.6, ISO 800

"After a 50-year east windstorm ignited wildfires  to the north, the west and the south of where I live near this surf break, our entire community was on edge. The internet and power had been out for a couple days, and cell service was spotty. I had checked the latest evacuation reports and from all I could gather, we were safe for the moment. I decided to go for a surf to escape the anxiety of the dire situation and apocalyptic skies for a moment. Before I paddled out to join the familiar faces of local surfers in the lineup, I snapped this image of my friend Cathy cross-stepping to the nose on her longboard."

"2020 was defined by uncertainty and making the most uncomfortable situations. In the midst of choking smoke and ash from nearby wildfires and the anxiety of a pandemic a few found a moment of solace in surfing waves and sitting on the ocean's edge. The haystack rock in the background has weathered thousands of years of storms, and riding waves in its stoic presence have given me immense comfort over the years."

Don Smith


Photo by Don Smith. Sony α7S. Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. 10-secs., f/2.8, ISO 12800

“I captured this image at 10:21 p.m. at the famed Bixby Bridge on a rare fogless night along the Big Sur Coast this past summer. Using software I was able to determine when the Milky Way would align with the bridge.”

“This is the most meaningful image I made in 2020 because it took a lot of planning and cooperation with the weather. It was nice to be on location with just my friend and no one else. The headlight was from a car coming around the corner northbound on Highway 1 and the beam was enhanced because of mist coming off the Pacific Ocean and the red was from tail lights from a car that just went past me and reflected nicely on Bixby Bridge.”

Garrette Baird


Photo by Garrette Baird. Sony α7S III. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master.

“While filming a documentary of legendary photographer Eli Reed we came upon this group of gentlemen deep in the heart of Houston. Sitting out front chatting about the election they were solving the worlds problems one anecdote at a time. While I was there to shoot video I couldn't help but capture this image of Eli, Colby, and the locals.” (See more about the documentary HERE and watch it below.)

“Shooting the Eli Reed documentary has opened up parts of the country that I never imagined to visit and in doing so has expanded my way of thinking. It's oh so easy to judge, so easy to make a snap decision based solely on a glance as we quickly walk by. As we spent time with these gentlemen and navigated through the, ‘Who are you and what's with all the cameras?’ part of the conversation they eventually opened up laughing and smiling for the better part of an hour until we eventually had to say farewell. I smiled as I walked back to the car with a charged feeling of making a human connection with complete strangers that I might have otherwise quickly judged and moved on. I hope to find other ways to contribute and enact a positive change in this world, but as I go forward this image will always be a reminder that for an ever so brief moment I did indeed help make things better.”

James x Schulze


Photo by James x Schulze. Sony α7R III. Sony 50mm f/1.4.

“The moment the father of the bride and his daughter met on the dance floor for their dance. He could not walk and had been sick for a long time but this moment where they met on the dance floor was pure magic.”

“The entire story around this photo makes it meaningful.. How he had been sick for so long and made this trip for his daughter's wedding. He had his dance with his girl. And a few months later he passed. So powerful.”

Nancy Borowick 


Photo by Nancy Borowick. Sony α9 II. Sony 35mm f/1.4. 1/100-sec., f/3.2, ISO 400

“When my family headed to Hawaii for vacation in February of 2020, we couldn’t have imagined two weeks would turn into two months. Levi was 4-months-old, we were new parents, and wanted to take a little trip and a day before we were set to fly back to NYC, the pandemic exploded across our great city. We decided to extend our stay in sunny, warm Hawaii and live a new reality for a while. Quarantining in our rental home, even the smallest moments felt amplified and as a new mom, I cherished the quiet stillness of a baby when they nap.”

“This image is meaningful to me because it reminds me of a time that was both terrifying and beautiful. We were lucky to be safe from Covid-19, to have our health, and a support network, but there was so much uncertainty in this time. Our reality became the four walls of a house that was not our home with a baby who was a very new member of our family and this intimate time together forced us, me, to really get to know him, and myself as a mother. It taught me to appreciate even the most stressful of times and it wasn’t until this time that I really allowed myself to lean into my new identity. There was a lot of compromise, and acceptance, to be learned, but those feelings soon blossomed into a deep love and appreciation I had not yet felt with my son. I started to see the magic of beautiful light in a new way and picked up my camera again.”

Nino Rakichevich


Photo by Nino Rakichevich. Sony α7R IV. Sony 35mm f/1.4.

“This is a portrait of my 16-year-old neighbor, Noah Redclay. To say that 2020 was an unusual year would be understatement. Usually I travel a lot for my photography business, but there’s been no travel this year. In the meantime, I’m fortunate to have interesting neighbors to photograph.”

“This is my favorite photo of 2020 because it reminds me that often you don’t have to go far for great photos. They might be right in front of you and all you have to do is look!”

Mike Colón


Photo by Mike Colón. Sony α7R IV. Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/100-sec., f/16, ISO 100

"This was a special trip with my youngest two kids to Yosemite. Despite the closures due to COVID-19, we were able to find an airbnb right outside of the park. We got up before dawn and drove into the valley. We saw a bear that morning and a few deer. We stopped often to get out and enjoy nature in the crisp air of the morning. I found a turnout with this view of El Capitan and hopped across some rocks to the middle of the river (Merced) to take this photograph just after sunrise. I shot it handheld with my 12-24mm GM."

"With all of the lockdowns, most of my wedding and fashion business had been put on hold.  This photograph is a reminder to me that even when my world feels upside down, I can find peace and beauty if I get out and look for it.  I will always remember the feeling of joy and contentment I had the moment I shot this.  El Capitan been on my bucket list of climbs for a couple of years now.  It's a monster and scares me to think about climbing it.  I took my twins up the first pitch that day to get a taste and we vowed to climb the whole thing together someday."

Katrin Eismann


Photo by Katrin Eismann. Sony α7R IV. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/5.6, ISO 250

“This year I mentored Sony Alpha Female Martine Severin and over the course of the summer we had a visual exchange that addressed creativity, visual thinking, Black Lives Matter, and of course COVID. Each week one of us would send the other an image with a few prompts to respond to. This is my final image from our conversation. I am strong, I am beautiful, I am resilient, and I am still standing.”

“This image is meaningful to me, as the collaboration with Martine inspired me to be creative within the constraints of home isolation. This project also allowed me to work together with my husband, a talented photographer in his own right, who was often the shutter button for yet another Katrin idea!”


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