Something I must do every new year is look back. It’s part of the job.

I go through the previous year’s images and make sure every one has been saved, backed up and backed up again. What I do on a daily basis is the visual history of this community and I take it seriously.

I’m utterly hooked on documentaries. I love learning new stuff and when I see old footage or grainy black and white photos on the screen, I lean in.

As I watch, it is never lost on me that the old photos in the documentaries where shot by men and women just like me who were documenting the life around them. The future version of documentarian Ken Burns just might be using the shots I took in 2019 in his 2099 film about Walla Walla wine.

I need to be sure my images are preserved. But that’s not what this column is about.

This annual Look Back is also a good time for me to evaluate what I’ve shot. In retrospect, I’m able to see where I got lazy or sloppy or distracted in my shooting. I can also see where I came through with flying colors.

Since I shoot many of the same things year after year, I can motivate myself to improve. Soon, snow will fall and I didn’t do well shooting last winter’s weather. I can do better.

I see that I got into a rut shooting basketball in 2019 — same angles, same positions, same lenses. I can do better.

Same with portraits. A rut. I can do better.

Personally, I’ve gotten very lazy about documenting family activities. I look back with some sadness at the lack of strong, creative shots of the Lehman clan. Like the shoeless cobbler’s kids, the photographer’s family is nearly photoless!

Try looking back at what you shot in 2019 and see where you can do better.

Maybe it was too many posed shots at that child’s birthday party and in 2020 you’ll shoot more candids. Same with vacation shots.

Maybe it’s too much reliance on quickie cell phone snaps and not enough getting out with your DSLR. (I write this with a smile as I look at my brand new iPhone 11 Pro lying next to the laptop. I think I’ll be shooting a lot more cell phone photos in 2020 — column to come.)

Whatever you see as you look back, use it looking forward. Better photography is in your future!