December 19, 2019

AAR 2019

I thought I’d take a different approach to my annual year in review post. I thought I’d conduct an After Action Review (AAR). If you aren’t familiar with it, An After action review (AAR) is a structured review or debriefing process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better by the participants and those responsible for the project or event (that would be me). It is a retrospective tool designed to improve process and outcomes. At work we conduct AARs regularly after each software release in an effort to improve the process going forward. 

Annisquam Light, Gloucester, MA

So if you are interested in reading about my successes and failures this year, please read on. If you are just here for the photographs, feel free to scroll through. Either way, thanks for stopping by!

Burntcoat Head on the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada

What was supposed to happen?

Not necessarily in order:

  • Produce and publish weekly (FB, IG and Blog) a new black and white image.
  • Go on NXNW trip (at least)
  • Photograph family more
  • Print more of my images
  • Blog more
Hay Bales, Prince Edward Island

What actually happened?

  1. Weekly BW: I had good intentions. In the first few weeks of the year I set aside some time for me and my camera. I’d stop somewhere on the way home from work, go for a short photo walk after getting home, or block out an hour or two on the weekend. But I couldn’t — or didn’t — sustain it. Five or six weeks into the New Year I started to get lazy and let it slip away.
  2. NXNW (at least): The annual NXNW trip is the photography highlight of the year. Barring an unforseen tragedy, I was already committed to the trip, so it was a foregone conclusion that I would make it. This year destination was Nova Scotia / Prince Edward Island and, because fellow NXNW member Steven Perlmutter and I lived closest to the Nova Scotia, it was on us to plan the trip. It was the highlight of the year. And there was more. I also broke away to the Pittsburgh area for some Urbex shooting with friends, Brook Ward and Mike Criswell.
  3. Photograph family more: If by “family” you limit the scope to our two grandsons, then I can check the box on this. Whenever they visit, or we visit them, they are my main focus (pun intended).
  4. Print more of my images: This one is a complete fail. I promised myself this past summer, that by Christmas I would have a book (blurb or similar) printed up of some of my favorite images from the year. Also, that I would have prints of the grandkids made up for my wife Jean and me, as well as my son and his wife. We are less than a week from Christmas and neither are done. Late Christmas gifts coming.
  5. Blog More: I blogged less. In fact, this is my first blog post since early September.
A Haircut for Connor
Brennan and Thom

What did we learn?

By “we” I mean “I”… What did I learn.

Some of my failures were self-inflicted. They were the lack of planning on my part. There is no excuse for not printing images. Time just got away from me. Same for Blog posts. No excuse. It was a lack of motivation and time management. Completely self inflicted. The standout failure is the weekly BW image. I had good intentions going into it, but deep down, I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

Sunset from the Kankamagus Highway, NH

Overall I’m happy with my successes, but there is room for improvement. Specifically, more family photos are always a good idea!

The Oculus and One World trade with reflections
The Oculus

Who needs to know?

Communication is a key part of the AAR process. It speaks to both credit and accountability. Things you did well, you need to keep doing. Things that you need to change, well… you need to change. In both cases communicating the takeaways to stakeholders is the way to go

In this case, the key stakeholder is me. But since I am making it public, you are also a stakeholder.

Abandoned Nurses’ Quarters, Brownsville, PA
Chester, Abandoned Nurses’ Quarters, Brownsville, PA

Going Forward

So with 2019 in the books, what is next?

Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Pittsburgh, PA

2020 will bring more of the same, and some things different.

I won’t try to commit to a weekly goal of any kind, but I will commit printing my images. In fact, I will double up on that — I have to back-fill 2019 images as well as print 2020’s images.

New London Light, Prince Edward Island
Kinsman Falls, Franconia, NH

I have some travel planned, including a trip to New Orleans for a wedding. We plan to extend that by a few days for purely photographic reasons.

I HOPE to make the 2020 NXNW trip (destination undetermined), but a second wedding may put that in jeopardy.

Something different? Well, I have been working on a new project that I hope will extend into 2020 and beyond. But I can’t talk about it until after Christmas.

So until then, here is a photo of Brennan eating an apple:


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  1. One thing is consistent from year to year Bob, the quality of your images is always fantastic! And you’re getting pretty damn good at the family picture thing – the images you’ve shared here of your grand kids are simply wonderful! Hope to see and shoot with you again soon, and hopefully be able to take a run when we do! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my friend!

  2. Once again, you knocked this year out of the park (photographically speaking). I strive to catch up and promise to steal way more of your compositions on next year’s NxNW trip 🙂

  3. Always enjoy looking at your awesome photography work Rob. Enjoyed your blog also! Have a Merry Christmas! Love, your cousin Colleen ♥️

  4. Great review Bob, well done, looking forward to next year! Great images, Happy New Year. I will not admit to stealing your compositions Like Dave, I try to do it incognito