Tonje Lilleås

Why these are my top five summer images of 2019

This summer has been amazingly productive. In this post I want to highlight my top five summer images of 2019. However I don’t want to just brag about the summer images I’ve created. I also want to share some of the thought process that went into making them and share a few tips and tricks along the way.

You want to see more summer images? Check out “When the Nordic sun sets” or #24hoursofnorth.

The art of selecting images

You might ask how it’s possible to select five summer images after what has been a very productive summer? First of all; having a productive summer does not mean that every image I’ve captured this summer are keepers. I’m very aware that making a keeper is something rare. In general I’d say that if I’ve produced twelve keepers over the year, I have to be very satisfied.

So how do I go about picking my keepers? After a shoot I often have several images that I like. I might feel a bit high on the shoot for a while after, so I try not to look through my images immediately after the shoot if I don’t have to. So much of the emotions I felt whilst shooting linger in me for some time, and I often feel that they cloud my judgement. When I do look through my images however, I always select the ones that evoke some of the same feelings in me again for post production. That’s the first filter.

I then work through my post production workflow on the selected images. That way I make sure that I get the best out of each image before I judge them again. If I find that an image has an unintended flaw, for instance if the focus is not the way I intended it to be, it’s trashed. The rest remains in my selection. That’s my second filter.

Kill your darlings

Lastly I look at all the images in a series. If there are similar images I simply choose the one that speaks the most to me. Or put in another way, I choose the one that evokes the feelings I had when I shot it the most. Even if there are two very similar images, I have to choose my favorite. And there always is that one little thing that makes me choose one image over another. It might be a slight improvement in light or composition or expression of a subject. It’s not always easy to say. This is my third filter.

My fourth filter is where I truly kill my darlings. However good an image is, if it’s not my style I won’t post it or print it or show it in any way any more. It’s not about being consistent for likes or anything. It’s about being true to myself and what I find represents me as a photographer. Now let’s get on to the images!

1. The red car

I was hiking with a group of photographers during a photography course I attended this summer. We were told to focus on landscapes, something that would ordinarily be an easy task for me, but this particular day I felt a bit uninspired. The weather wasn’t all that exciting, the light was kind of harsh and dull all at once and I just could not find a composition that got my engine running.

I discovered some patterns and colors in the landscape below me, and thought that this would have been a nice drone shot. However I didn’t have a drone, and making an interesting image with the equipment I had in front of me made for a challenge that got me excited. I worked on my composition for a while, testing both vertical and horizontal compositions. I soon figured I wanted to include the road to play on the manmade versus wild landscape that was in front of me. But the image needed something more. First a camper van stopped and made a point of interest in a vertical composition. I really liked the image and was sure I had nailed it. Then I spotted a red sports car in the distance. I new it would contrast the greens and yellows of the landscapes perfectly, so I framed up my horizontal composition and waited for it to get in position. After post production there was no doubt which one of the two images that were my favorite. Another darling was killed.

Take-aways: Get the image with the equipment you’ve got, don’t let yourself be limited by hardware. Contrast is not just a slider in post production, play with the different types of contrast when composing your image.

2. Come sit with me

I was actually out to get a few images of the sunset just because it was a week since last I had my camera out with good light. I was working on a composition that focused on the beach by the lake as this couple caught my eye. At first I thought “they’re going to walk straight into my composition and ruin the image.” Then I understood that if I just changed my plans a bit I would be able to capture a beautiful moment. And that’s mainly what my photography is about; capturing raw moments. Sometimes I plan as much as I possibly can to get an image, and sometimes it’s all about knowing when to change your plans and go with what life hands you. I changed my composition, waited for the couple to sit down and captured true couple goals. A feelgood image that really screams Nordic Summer to me.

Take-aways: Be ready for life to hand you opportunities of capturing true moments. Know your camera and equipment well enough to be able to change plans and get that shot.

3. Cabin by the lake

I’ve walked by the subject of this next image so many times and thought “I’d love to get the perfect image of this place”. Or actually “how I would love to escape here every now and again”. Even so I haven’t photographed this place before. So on an early summers night I decided that this sunset would be the one where I tried to capture the feeling I always get when passing this cabin by the lake. Having waited almost five years since I first passed this cabin by the lake, it almost felt intimidating to finally give it a go and shoot this place.

I spent more than an hour trying out different compositions. In the end I had two keepers that I really liked and would be happy to post. However the one that stuck with me as one of my favorites, was the one that reminded me the most of how I saw the cabin the first time I passed it. I’m sure I will go back and shoot it again in different seasons, but I can’t think of what screams Nordic Summer more than that lovely cabin by the lake.

Take-aways: Don’t be afraid to let a location grow on you if you’re not sure how to shoot it. There’s always more to explore in a location, and the explorations might give you the inspiration you need to come back and capture that image.

4. The hidden gem

This image isn’t necessarily my best summer image of this year, but it is one of my favorites nonetheless. You see it’s an image of a place that I would not have gotten to see or photograph had it not been for the people I went there with. I was so fortunate to get to visit this hidden gem, and the photographer who showed it to us kindly asked that we would not reveal its location. This is one of the places that would easily become overcrowded with photographing tourists if not protected. And we’ve seen so many of the most popular locations around Norway crumble from all the people wanting to capture an advanced selfie before moving on to the next. Protecting the nature we love to capture is adamant. Being able to shoot this location really reminded me of that.

Take-aways: Some hidden gems should stay a secret. You don’t always have to shoot the popular locations, and you should help protect the nature you love to shoot.

5. The family portrait

When I was a kid I loved waking up to the sound of the sheep grassing on the fields outside my bedroom window. It was a sure sign that summer was here. Watching the lambs jump around in the most playful way always brought me joy. Happy summer memories.

I visited a farm and got to spend a few hours observing the sheep, trying to capture an image that could evoke some of the feelings of childhood for me. The sheep were a bit skeptical at first, but as I sat there just observing them they stopped caring about me. I watched this mother and two lambs for a while and decided I wanted to try and get a family portrait. As the sheep was so skeptical to my camera, I knew I would probably only get one chance of capturing them facing me before they turned and ran out of my composition. I was sure they would all turn and look at me at the sound of the shutter going off. That was my chance of getting my family portrait. They turned, and it was all about capturing the moment before they ran off.

Take-aways: Work with what you know about your subject. If you know your subject well, the likeliness of getting what you want is far greater.

That’s my top five summer images of 2019. Mainly because they all give me that Nordic Summer vibe that I know so well and love to be a part of year after year. I hope you liked the summer images in this post, and if you did please leave a like and a comment and consider subscribing to my newsletter. I wish you the very best of days!



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