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

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Holiday Season

With Christmas Day only a few hours away, my post features images of holidays past. The opening photo brings back memories of a previous Christmas Day. We were with family and friends at their home in rural North Dakota. The sun peeking through the trees and reflecting off the blanket of snow made it seem warmer than it was. But we were surrounded by the warmth of the love of our friends and our family who will be connected with us only by Zoom this holiday season. Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Precious Moments

This week Amy encourages us to consider and share precious moments that may have occurred before or after the pandemic. She writes, “We invite you to share your own precious moments captured while traveling, during the holidays, and/or while spending time with your family and friends.” You can read her entire challenge post here. My challenge-response contains a couple of my personal images that are in my own precious memories. I start with an image that is from December 2016, our daughter Carrie and grandson Owen settled down for a short read before bedtime.

Coincidentally, my second image share is six years earlier to the day, December 22, 2010. It’s grandson Owen’s first Christmas, his mom, Carrie, on the left. Aunt Nichole looks on as Uncle Josh and Owen compare mouth sizes.

On the island of Tabaueran (British name: Fanning Island), locals perform for a cruise ship audience while a young dancer holds his brother as he waits backstage for his turn to perform.

At a group meeting of enthusiasts who fly model aircraft by control wire rather than radio, a mother introduces her son to the hobby. Obviously, the two are enjoying this precious moment.

Thanks to Amy for this week’s challenge! It gave me an opportunity to review my personal photos and I even reprocessed some images that I will share with my family at an appropriate point in the future.

John Steiner


Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Letter A

This week, Patti Moed asks us to start at the beginning of the alphabet and find subjects that begin with the letter A, or signs that contain the letter A, or objects that look like the letter A, or images that reflect non-visual cues like “alone”, or “afraid.” You can view her entire challenge post here.

I start with an image of two African Antelope. Well, this could be picked apart by saying those antelope are Oryx, but then I would counter with the fact that these are specimens in a section of a museum featuring African Animals. Ha! Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – You Pick It

This week’s photo challenge is my choice. Tina’s comment on the subject is simply, “This week it’s all up to you – you get to choose your subject and to share whatever it is about it that you find interesting.” You can read her entire challenge post and view her impressionistic images here.

Since working with my first images as black-and-white prints in high school photography class (over 50 years ago now,) I have appreciated monochrome photography. For my challenge-response, I choose black-and-white photography. I hope you enjoy a few of my favorite monochrome images.

My opening photo features a view of the White Tank Mountains near our home in Buckeye, Arizona. It was one of three images of mine that was selected to be mounted and displayed in the White Tank Mountain Nature Center as the outcome of a black-and-white photo contest sponsored by the park conservators. Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Now and Then

First and foremost, publication day for this post is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Even in our current state of political divisiveness and a raging pandemic, we have plenty enough to be thankful for. All year long, but especially during this season, I am grateful for wonderful readers who make my day with every post! Happy Thanksgiving.

This week, both Amy and Ann-Christine provided me with a double-challenge. To be fair, the host of this week’s challenge is Amy. She asks us to focus on our own impressions of our changing times. She writes, “For our challenge this week we’d like you to tell us about your perspective on now vs then – it could be before and after the pandemic or any other changes you have experienced.” You can read her entire challenge post here. Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – In the Neighborhood

This week, Ann-Christine asks us to feature images from our neighborhood, leaving the term with enough ambiguity for me to decide how large our neighborhood is. I’ve elected to choose items and places within 10-minutes of our home. The opening image, for example, is the depot clock in front of the former passenger depot in downtown Fargo. Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The Sun will come out Tomorrow

This week, Ana of Anvica’s Gallery guest hosts the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. Given the ongoing concerns with Covid-19, the uncertainties of modern life, and the ongoing political strife in our country, that song from “Orphan Annie” is a message of hope and that a better day is coming. You can read her entire challenge post here. Continue reading

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Focus on the Subject

This week, Patti Moed challenges us to show some techniques for ensuring the viewer finds and focuses their eyes on the subject in your photos. She writes, “In this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121: Focus on the Subject, we invite you show us an image that uses leading lines, patterns, color, contrast, selective focus, freezing the action, doorways or arches, or the eyes of humans or animals to draw our attention to the subject.” You can read her entire challenge post here. Continue reading