January 27, 2022

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cleveland.com photographer David Petkiewicz’s 21 favorite photos from 2021

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As 2021 comes to a close — or is it still 2020, I can’t tell anymore — it’s time to look back at my favorite photos of the year.

As I’ve said before about the job as a photojournalist, it beats working. And, not that we don’t work hard, we do, it’s just if you love taking photos as much as I do, it’s not work.

2020 was a very unusual year for photojournalists with so many events being canceled, or not being attended by fans, and so many new things to try and cover — like car birthday parades — but 2021 started to look a little more normal.

Here are my 21 favorite photos of 2021. To see more photos from each event, click on the link in the description.

Ice on Lake Erie

Ice formations in Euclid Beach Park. Temperatures along the Lake Erie shoreline in Euclid and Cleveland were just cold enough to bring about some great ice features on Sunday, February 7, 2021.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

As much as I’m not a big fan of cold weather — I grew up in the Southwest — I love to see what Mother Nature can do with it, and nothing beats ice sculptures on the shores of Lake Erie. It happens almost every year, and I always force myself to fight the urge to sit inside and stay warm, and go out and enjoy nature’s art.

Emotion at sporting events

Waynedale vs Garrettsville Garfield

Garrettsville’s Sydney Seeman (3) wipes away a tear as she comes in to replace outgoing senior Grace Mills as time runs out on Garrettsville during fourth quarter action in the girls basketball game against Waynedale on March 3, 2021. Waynedale beat Garrettsville in the Division III playoff game, 65-46.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

One of the best things about covering high school sports is the athletes are so intense and emotional. They aren’t in it for the money, they are in it because they love the sport and give it their all.

Winter wonderland

April 1st snowfall around Cleveland

After getting no measurable snowfall in March, the Cleveland and Akron areas were treated to an April Fool’s Day snow on Thursday, April 1, 2021. A coyote looks around for some food in the snow near the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation. This coyote was part of a pack of 3 or 4 coyotes.

A few times a year when Northeast Ohio gets a heavy snowfall, I head to get photos of the beauty, and the mess, that it creates. This year I was lucky enough to spot a pack of coyotes in the Cleveland Metroparks’ South Chagrin Reservation looking for a meal in the snow.

A little extra effort

Indians vs Yankees, April 25, 2021

Indians first baseman Josh Naylor runs into the screen trying to catch a foul ball during the second inning at Progressive Field on Sunday, April 25, 2021 in the game between the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Indians first baseman Josh Naylor put in a little extra effort on this pop fly attempt against the Yankees. Fans were allowed back to the games in 2021, although it looks like from what they’re wearing it was the weather that left many empty seats, not COVID restrictions. He did not make the out.

NFL Draft comes to town

NFL Draft Experience and fans downtown

Day 2 of the NFL Draft Experience was a much sunnier and warmer day, and fans filled the area during the second session on Friday, April 30, 2021. Fans got to “dress up” as a player with their favorite team, this one came up a little short in the uniform.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

The NFL Draft came to Cleveland this year, and the Draft Experience drew thousands of guests downtown throughout the week. This little girl has a long ways to go to fit into that uniform, but who knows, she might just be the first female NFL player picked in the 2035 Draft.

Lake Erie provides some great sunsets

Stunning sunset in Cleveland

A late evening storm rolled through Cleveland on Wednesday night, May 26, 2021, and left a spectacular sunset behind. Everywhere I looked, there was another great view at Edgewater Park.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Stunning sunset in Cleveland

A late evening storm rolled through Cleveland on Wednesday night, May 26, 2021, and left a spectacular sunset behind. Everywhere I looked, there was another great view at Edgewater Park.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

It’s not often I get two favorite photos of the year from one event, a non-scheduled event no less, but I happened upon a spectacular rain storm approaching Cleveland over Lake Erie, as well as the amazing sunset it left behind. If you check out the gallery from the storm, you can see how quickly things changed in about an hour’s time.

Simple is sometimes the best

The Winchester in Lakewood

Charity Cunningham opened a concert Friday night, May 28, 2021. The Winchester in Lakewood keeps guest safe by using seating where they used to have standing crowds before COVID restrictions.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

I’ve covered a lot of concerts over the years, and although most venues were still closed in the early months of 2021, some smaller venues, like The Winchester in Lakewood, began hosting small, socially-distanced concerts. And considering the lighting and stage setups are nothing like that at Blossom, or Nautica, I came away with one of my favorite concert photos. It’s simple, but very artistic.

There’s nothing like the thrill of victory

Wooster Triway vs LaGrange Keystone Div II Softball Finals

LaGrange Keystone players celebrate the last out as they win the Division II softball state championship over Wooster Triway at Firestone Stadium in Akron on Sunday, June 6, 2021. Keystone won the championship game, 7-3.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

My favorite part of covering high school sports is the emotions of players on the winning team. For many of them, this will be the biggest sporting win of their athletic careers, and they don’t hold back.

The sky’s the limit

Partial solar eclipse over Cleveland

A partial annular solar eclipse could be seen over the skies of Cleveland at sunrise Thursday morning, June 10, 2021. A small crowd gathered at Edgewater Park to view the early morning event.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Although the weather forecast called for partly cloudy morning skies, I wasn’t going to give up on catching the partial solar eclipse that was going to rise over Cleveland on June 10. I’ve always been fascinated by solar eclipses, and even took my kids to the center point of the 2017 total eclipse in Hopkinsville, Ky.

Fireworks over Progressive Field

Fireworks over Progressive Field

Fireworks light the sky over Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland on Friday night, July 2, 2021, after the end of the Indians game. David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Every year around July 4th, the Indians — now Guardians — thrill fans at games with a spectacular fireworks show. I’ve photographed from inside the stadium, and it’s pretty cool, but this year after the July 2 game, I decided to get out as quickly as possible and find a different vantage point for the photos. I ended up a mile or so south of the ballpark where I was able to get some of the Cleveland skyline into the photos with the fireworks. Fireworks are part of the big events that returned in 2021 for families to attend.

Indians legend Rocky Colavito honored with statue in Little Italy

Cleveland Indians' legend Rocky Colavito honored with statue in Little Italy

Ida Pocci, a member of the statue committee, talks with Rocky Colavito before the start of the ceremony. Cleveland Indians’ legend Rocky Colavito was honored with a statue in Little Italy’s Tony Brush Park on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, which also happened to be the slugger’s 88th birthday. Hundreds of people packed the park to see the statue unveiled.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Cleveland Indians legend Rocky Colavito was honored in Little Italy with a statue in August 2021, which was long overdue. Colavito still has many fans who remember his career as an Indian from 1955-59, before being traded to the Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland National Air Show returned in 2021

Cleveland National Air Show 2021 Day 1

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform the finale on Day 1 of the show. The Cleveland National Air Show returned to Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland on Saturday, September 4, 2021 after a COVID break in 2020. David Petkiewicz, cleveland.comDavid Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Cleveland National Air Show 2021 Day 1

A simulated bombing thrills the crowd during the A-10 demonstration. The Cleveland National Air Show returned to Burke Lakefront Airport in downtown Cleveland on Saturday, September 4, 2021 after a COVID break in 2020.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

This is another one of those rare occasions where I came away with two of my favorite photos of the year. It’s easy to get dozens and dozens of great photos at the air show every year, and 2021 was no exception. In the top photo, the clouds helped take a mundane photo of the Thunderbirds flying through the sky and give it some nice background. And in the second photo, I mean, who doesn’t love a massive explosion and fire — which actually caught me by surprise.

Cavs media day

Cavs media day, September 27, 2021

Cavs’ Jarrett Allen takes photos with a disposable camera during Cavaliers Media Day on Monday, September 27, 2021 at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

This is a photo that looks like it belongs to the 1990s. I’m sure Cavs center Jarrett Allen has a smartphone with a camera, but he opted for an inexpensive little point and shoot camera to capture his first media day as a Cavalier. It looks so tiny in his hands too.

Concerts are among my favorite events to cover

Phoebe Bridgers and MUNA at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

Southern California rock band MUNA, featuring Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, opened the show Wednesday night, September 29, 2021 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. MUNA was playing its last show on tour with headliner Phoebe Bridgers.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

In another example of simpler is better photos, this photo of MUNA’s Katie Gavin is about as simple as it gets. It’s the emotion by Gavin that makes this photo. I’m sure she has performed hundreds of shows, but apparently she still feels the music deeply as she performs yet another time. Gavin was performing with Phoebe Bridgers at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.

Sunsets and silhouettes are my favorite

Sunset over PlayHouse Square

The sun sets near Playhouse Square on Monday evening, October 11, 2021. The sunset was almost aligned along Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

As I was leaving the debate between Cleveland mayoral candidates Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley, I walked onto Euclid Avenue and caught a great sunset. I ran up and down Euclid trying to get the best angle and foreground that I could, and you can’t go wrong with that chandelier in a photo.

Cleveland Marathon returns to streets of downtown

2021 Cleveland Marathon

Runners in the 2021 Cleveland Marathon head west on the Shoreway toward Lakewood in downtown Cleveland early Sunday morning, October 24, 2021. The top finisher in the full marathon was Jeremiah Fitzgerald, 25, of Lakewood with a time of 2:25:53, while the top women’s finisher was Ana Maria Villegas, of Miami, Florida in a time of 2:46:33. In the half marathon, the winner was Josh Szink, of Canton, and the top women’s finisher was Jessica Zangmeister, of Chagrin Falls.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

I’ve covered the Cleveland Marathon many times, but I think this was the first time it started before sunrise, which made it extra challenging to photograph. I had to search for places there was a lot of ambient light, or in the case of this photo, opt for a silhouette of the runners crossing the Shoreway on the first loop of the race.

Sometimes the fans are the show

Genesis bring The Last Domino? Tour to RMFH

Genesis, led by lead singer Phil Collins, brought The Last Domino? Tour to a sold-out Rocket Mortgage Field House on November 30, 2021. The band includes two original members of the band, Tony Banks, on keyboard, and Mike Rutherford on guitar and bass. Collins’ son, Nic, plays drums behind his dad on stage. A fan moves to the music during the band’s set.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

Recently at a lot of the concerts I photograph, we have to shoot from near the soundboard due to COVID concerns by the artist. At the Genesis concert in November at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, this one particular fan in front of me was really getting into the music, and combined with the eerie lighting, made for a visually interesting photo.

You can’t win ‘em all

Kirtland vs. Versailles, Division V State Championship game

Kirtland’s Will Bates (28) watches the Versailles players celebrate their win the end of the game in the Division V state championship football game between Kirtland and Versailles at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton on Saturday night, December 4, 2021. Versailles won 20-16 over the Hornets.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

The saying “You can’t win ‘em all” didn’t apply to the Kirtland Hornets football team over the past few years. The team was on a 50-plus game winning streak, and many of their players had never lost in high school. That came to an end when they were upset by Versailles in the Division V state championship game earlier this month.

Browns lose in last-second heartbreaker

Browns vs Raiders, December 20, 2021

Browns DT Jordan Elliott (96) looks up at the scoreboard as the Raiders celebrate their last-second win at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on December 20, 2021. The Browns lost as time expired, 16-14, on a 48-yard Raiders field goal.David Petkiewicz, cleveland.com

I’ve covered a lot of football — pro, college and high school — and I’ve only seen a game or two decided as the clock ran out. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, this happened in the Browns game against the Las Vegas Raiders when the Raiders came from behind and converted a field goal as time expired to win, 16-14. I spent 3-4 hours shooting a game, and it’s what happened in the last three seconds that made this photo.

I hope you enjoyed my favorite photos from 2021. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have any questions about the photos. Happy New Year!