bestpics header

This website is mostly about words–usually, but not always, mine, although others like Robert Horvat, Peter Henderson and Harry Markov have also contributed. But pictures and artwork are a major part of this site too, and it’s an aspect that I rarely draw attention to. Almost every article on this site has a graphical header to go with it. They create the mosaic of images you see whooshing past on the front page, and I spend a good deal of time choosing and editing them or even building them from scratch. In this post, one of my end-of-the-year wrap-ups, I thought I would showcase my favorite images that have appeared on my blog during 2014, because I’m proud of many of them.

First, I thought I might give you a few words about how I do images here. Some header images come “ready made,” that is, I don’t have to do anything to get them in shape to post them. “Historical photo,” “Earth” or “Planet Wine” posts fall into this category. But many subjects I write about don’t have specific images, which I have to create. My main building blocks for header images come from two main sources. The first is a wonderful site called Morguefile, which has thousands of public domain, copyright-free photos to use for any purpose, for free, and without signing up for an account. The vast majority of custom built headers on this site begin with something from Morguefile. My second source is Wikimedia Commons, which also has a large amount of public domain images. When public domain isn’t possible, I will usually use images with some sort of free attribution license, like Creative Commons or GNU. For copyrighted images I make sure I’m on strong fair use grounds.

While I love and miss my very old (2002) copy of Adobe Photoshop, it simply doesn’t work on my newer computer anymore, so my photo editor is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is a free open-source alternative to Photoshop. It’s often maddening to work with and has its limitations, but it gets the job done. I’ve become pretty good at it, especially during this year, and some of my graphics have become more elaborate as time goes on. I like to think I’m always improving.

Now, without further ado, what follows are my favorite images from the past year, in three categories: images I created, photos I actually took, and images that I had nothing to do with creating but which I think are unique and interesting. The rights to these various images and their component pieces are multivaried. While clicking the image itself will bring up a larger version, if  you’re interested in credits, rights etc., click the link to the original article in which it appeared.

Images I Created

norway drought

The year climate change came to Norway: The great drought of 1947.

iceland cooking

“Waffels” for dinner, rum for breakfast: eating and boozing in Iceland in 1809!

monticello darkdays

Dark days at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s environmental misfortunes.

you only come to dinner twice

Mashup Storypitch: “You Only Come To Dinner Twice.”

bush dream

The Decider speaks: my (fictional) conversation with George W. Bush.

harding death

Scandals, burnt letters and bad crab meat: the death of President Harding.

medieval scholars and wine

It started with a bad glass of wine: the St. Scholastica Day riots.

montgomery obit header

The End of an Adventure: R.A. Montgomery is dead at 78.


Family, food and wine: Happy Thanksgiving!

vof atlas header

A labor of love (and hate): Writing “The Valley of Forever.”

multicultural christmas

A holiday hiatus: Wishing the best to you and yours on Christmas, Hanukkah etc.

Photos I Took


The University of Oregon #GTFF3544 strike explained: It’s really about quality of education.

hanseatic ledgers

Stockfish empire: The Hanseatic League in Bergen. [Part I]




Boston, one last time around: A final batch of photos from my trip.

Wacken 2014 A 107


Wacken 2014 B 100

Wacken 2014 A 010

“Where The Wind Withers Memory”: A photo farewell to Wacken Open Air.

huntington 3

huntington 6

Leaving the Huntington: a few pictures from my trip.

Images I Did Not Create Or Edit

plotz 1

The Last Wacken, Chapter V: Megadeth, Avantasia, and (almost) the End of an Era. (by Olaf Plotz)

somewhere over the rainbow by john forrest

42 Historical Objects, No. 42: “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a painting about climate change. (by John Forrest)

worlds fair 1964 2 unisphere

Moses’s great boondoggle, continued: the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair [Part II]. (photographer unknown)

ZombieRebellion by Sean Munger

Zombie Rebellion (by Scott Carpenter)


“Chimborazo”: the stunning environmental romanticism of Frederic Edwin Church. (by Frederic Edwin Church)

afghanistan war

Unconquerable Afghanistan: The murky history of America’s longest war. (by WO2 Fiona Stapley/MOD)

star trek

Activate sensors, Mr. Spock: the real-life search for planet Vulcan. (by JD Hancock)

puddles header

Victory! The University of Oregon #GTFF3544 strike is over, but the battle over quality education is just beginning. (photographer unknown)

drought by alosh bennett

Drop what you’re doing right now and pay attention to the latest report on climate change: It’s not pretty. (by Alosh Bennett)

old bergen

Historic photo: Bergen (Norway) waterfront fish market, 1890s. Compare what it looks like today! (photographer unknown)

I hope you found my blog as fun and interesting to read and look at as it was to write. Happy 2015!