Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Favorites of 2020

For the first Lens-Artists Challenge of 2021, Tina Schell asks us to share favorite images or favorite experiences in the last year. You can read her entire challenge post here. For a year of spending much time at home, I realize that I have quite a backlog of images, mostly due to a long trip in the great northwest where we safely visited many of our national parks and other venues that are out in the fresh air. One of my favorite images for the year features a bridge and a train, both favorite subjects of mine. The image was captured with my Mavic Air drone. It features the Highline Bridge, a long trestle bridge that carries trains high over the Sheyenne River Valley at Valley City, North Dakota.

On our trip across the northern tier of states from North Dakota to Washington, our stop at Glacier National Park didn’t leave me with many beautiful mountain images as the smoke from those western wildfires permeated the park on the day of our visit. This view of Saint Mary Lake allowed me to get a bit creative in blue-toning those smoky mountains in the background. I appreciated very much one reader’s comment, “Could be the cover of a fairy tale or a fantasy novel.”


In the spring of 2020, we discovered a new (to us) park in Fargo, Orchard Glen. Situated along the Red River, it is a wonderful place to enjoy a summer day. In the fall, the fruit orchard is available for community residents to pick for only the cost of the time it takes to do the picking. No commercial enterprises are allowed, only residents are allowed to pick from the several varieties of fruit trees for personal use.

During our recent western states trip, we purposely picked scenic byways rather than Interstates for our travels. On our way through Wyoming, after leaving the Grand Tetons, we were on our way to Devils Tower. Since it’s a long drive, we picked the shortest route recommended by Google’s Maps program. We were amazed to discover that the road is also a scenic byway, the Wind River region. It was a total surprise to see the beautiful scenery along the way.

Coldwater Lake is brand new in geologic time. It was created in 1980 when Mount Saint Helens erupted and volcanic mud blocked a section of Coldwater Creek. As runoff from the mountains continued to flow down the creek, the area behind the blockage created a dam that eventually filled until the water could flow over the blockage. Coldwater Lake is one of several new lakes created by the eruption.

Diablo Lake is a man-made lake on the Skagit River in Washington. The Diablo Dam, one of three hydro-electric dams on the river, helps to provide the electricity needed to power Seattle and suburbs. That green color is caused by glacial action grinding rocks into a fine powder. The powder is greenish and especially on sunny days, that unusual color for a lake gave this panoramic image a unique look.

While I am sharing favorite images in Washington, the Reflection Lakes provide a nice foreground reflection of Mount Ranier. We found it interesting that the closer we got to those western wildfires, the less we were bothered by atmospheric haze. I think the prevailing winds carried the smoke southeast of our route. We did skip Crater Lake in Oregon as that park was in the vicinity of Oregon’s largest fires.

One of North Dakota’s major agricultural products is generated by the sunflower. In the fall of 2020, there are plenty of sunflower fields to choose from. On a late afternoon, we stopped by a nearby field to gather some images of the field. I liked the result of this sunflower portrait so much, I had it printed on metal to hang in our living room.

In the spring of 2020, I acquired a new cell phone. Regular readers know of my weekly Cellpic Sunday where I share an image captured with a cellular phone. One of the features of the Samsung S20U is its advanced camera features, and it’s one of the reasons I purchased the Ultra version with its capability to deliver 108 Megapixel images and excellent low-light handling. I don’t do much with still-life images but I wanted to challenge the camera’s low-light abilities so I created this scene. I mounted the camera on a tripod and lit the scene with two LED candles (very low light similar to votive candles.) This image was captured with a 1-second exposure at f/1.8, 1000 ISO. Other than cropping the image to a square format and reducing its pixel count for publication, the image is straight out of the camera.

In the spring, the Arizona desert comes to life, especially when the previous months were a bit wetter than normal. My favorite feature of this image is the delicate structure and color of the petals on this cactus blossom. This photo, like the sunflower, ended up on a metal print. I was really pleased with how the metal translates from a computer screen to a printed format.

Thanks again to Tina and the Lens-artists team for providing a platform to share our work. I am looking forward to meeting another year’s worth of challenges.

John Steiner


23 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Favorites of 2020

  1. A beautiful set of images John – how fortunate that you took the “road less traveled”! See what a blessing the pandemic was 😀?! Seriously thought, I loved reflection lake and was amazed at the quality of the image your new phone made. That’s a beautiful still-life. The sunflower also gets my vote. (BTW you for got to use our tag this week). Best wishes to you for the new year – which HAS to be better than the last although it’s beginning hasn’t raised my confidence I’m afraid.

  2. I understand that they are all among the year’s favourites. If I had to pick the top of the top, I might go to the Wyoming road, for the invitation to the voyage it suggests.

  3. A marvelous series, John! Love the sunflower maybe most but, the Glacier National park…and…all of them are just perfect. I am amazed at the still life – colour, light, quality all over. I have a Samsung (old one) myself and bought it for the camera. But this one is just fantastic. And you read Läckberg?

    • Thank you much for the nice comments. I can see, with the quality of new cellphone cameras, it is no wonder that camera companies are having trouble selling point and shoot cameras.
      I grabbed two books for the shot, one mine, one of my wife’s. We both like mysteries, but she is the reader of The Lost Boy. When she finishes reading it, I will have to ask how she likes it.

  4. A fabulous collection, John. I love that sunflower image, too. Are you happy with the print on a metallic surface? I always wonder about the difference in printing on varied surfaces.

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