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This time of the year, news sites all over the world scour their archives to put together amazing Photos of the Year features.

In the case of the major national and international publications, the features involve the best of spot news from around the world and often highlight the stories and projects their photographers worked on throughout the year. For some amazing examples, check out the New York Times’ year in photos, the Los Angeles Times’ year in photos and USA Today’s decade in photos, to name just a few. There’s also a great list that compiles many of these features at the National Press Photographers Association’s “The Visual Student” blog.

Below, I’m sharing my 10 favorite VOSD photos of the year, be it a portrait, an art shot featured on my blog or just a picture of someone’s feet.

Now, to the list:

1.) Forgiveness: My favorite image of the year came while I was on assignment with Adrian Florido covering a story about San Diego’s rapidly developing Tent City.

While shooting pictures on 17th Street and Island Avenue — a hotspot for the homeless to pitch tents — I saw police cars race up the street and corner a man. A woman nearby told the police that the man had pulled a switchblade on her and he was arrested. As the scene played out, I noticed the massive image of Jesus Christ on the back of the man’s shirt, complete with a crown of thorns around his head. I started to shoot tighter and tighter, until finally the only thing in the frame was a man’s cuffed hands, the police officer’s gun and the eyes of Jesus Christ pointed toward the officer’s face, as if begging for forgiveness. My work photographing homeless San Diegans has been by far the most challenging and most rewarding thing I’ve done all year.

2.) Mary Lewis’ Feet: Lewis is the chief financial officer of the city of San Diego. At a press conference in April, when Mayor Jerry Sanders introduced cuts he would make to the city budget, Lewis took the podium in front of a group of men. Bored of taking photos of Sanders (I think I’ve photographed him more than my own family), I was looking for interesting feature or detail shots to round out the story. I looked to the floor and there was an amazing juxtaposition of Lewis’ heels in front of a row of men’s shoes.

3.) The Miracle Man: In December 2004, Noe Chavez Garcia was lured from his home, taken down to Tijuana, shot seven times (including one shot where his attackers put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger) and survived to tell the story. Fast forward to October 2009: VOSD reporter Keegan Kyle was putting together a story about the so-called “Miracle Man.” I headed out to Vista one day and spend about 20 minutes with Garcia making what I felt was a compelling portrait. Then, just as we were preparing to run the story, my computer crashed. Every time I turned it on, crazy scripts ran across the screen. I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to back the file up, so I feared it might be gone forever. Just minutes after we put the story online, a repairman got my computer up and running and we got the image online. I spent the next few days working out a better plan for backing up my files.

4.) Bob Sinclair: This assignment was almost too easy. Sinclair is the owner of the Wonder Bread building in downtown San Diego. The facility is under consideration as a site for a new Chargers stadium. Reporter Liam Dillon and I took a tour of the building with Sinclair. It was a photographers dream. The building has beautifully high ceilings, rich, colorful, textural walls and Sinclair himself is remarkably photogenic. I shot this frame as Sinclair gave reporter Liam Dillon and me a tour of the building. No posing. No lighting. Just Sinclair and an old bakery.

5.) Wesley Mock: The image I made of a legally blind homeless man panhandling on the boardwalk on the eve of Veterans’ Day sparked more feedback from readers than any other image this year. Mock was more than obliging to have me make his picture. I sat for about an hour with him, talking about his time in Vietnam and his life in San Diego.

6.) Carol Wallace: I can’t take all the credit for this image of Convention Center Corp. CEO Carol Wallace. VP of Public Affairs Steven Johnson directed me to the location, saying he had always wanted to make a portrait in this area. When I saw the concentric circles, I immediately knew just how I wanted to shoot the image. A few days after taking this photo, I met up with a group of photographers who all wanted to know how many times I had to go up and down the escalator to get the photo. Therein lies the key to this picture: The escalator was undergoing maintenance, so Wallace was able to stand in the exact position I needed, while I prayed that they didn’t turn the escalator back on.

7.)Latasha: When Latasha Jackson needs to get to a medical appointment, she has to take a series of buses on a disjointed transit network to get just a short distance. I spent a morning with Jackson, who has cerebral palsy, and put together this audio slideshow about the patience required for Jackson to get from point A to point B. Later that same day, I photographed a CEO-type who was trying to rush me off of the assignment. I told him Latasha’s story, and said “now there’s a woman with patience.” The photo subject gave me a few extra minutes after that.

8.) Shawne Merriman: What can I say? Merriman hasn’t exactly had the best season of his career (although that hasn’t stopped him from being in the limelight). But I’d be remiss to not include this picture. It just gets such a strong reaction from viewers. This was taken before a preseason game as Merriman came barreling out of the tunnel.

9.) Tijuana River Valley Trash: The trash that flows into the Tijuana River Valley during heavy rains is by far one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my young career. When reporter Rob Davis told me in January that we were going to go photograph the pileup, I never could have imagined the magnitude of the litter. Even with these images, I think it’s hard to grasp without seeing it with your own eyes and smelling it with your own nose. I returned to the border this month to document the trash as it flowed across from Tijuana.

10.) Elias : Elias Garcia is a walking testament to why I need to learn to speak better Spanish. A former bracero worker, Garcia had met with reporter Adrian Florido for a story about ex-bracero’s receiving reparations. I went out to make a portrait of Garcia, nervous about how my lack of Spanish-language skills would impact the shoot. Right now, I can order a beer, ask someone if I can take their picture and tell them that I don’t understand what they’re saying. That didn’t exactly cut it when I tried to pose Garcia for a portrait. So, I got Adrian on the phone and he explained to Garcia what I wanted him to do. Garcia kindly obliged and I ended up making this portrait, one of my favorites of the year.

— SAM HODGSON

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