The Year’s Best: Bee photographers select their favorite images from 2013

December 30, 2013 

I was so moved and inspired by Mark Speckman, a coach who once worked in Livingston and Merced. He was born with no hands and used hand hooks until at the age of 15, when he convinced his parents that he could get along without them. He gave a speech at The Turlock Prayer breakfast that was so filled with humor, inspiration and grace. The man has no limits, and I think he’s awesome. Definitely my best assignment of 2013. – Joan Barnett Lee

Big Bear firefighter Jon Curtis keeps an eye on a slop-over fire Aug. 24. The Rim fire broke out Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest and quickly became one of the largest in California history. My fingers were crossed for an opportunity to cover it. That call came this day, when the Rim fire had ballooned out of control, burning more than 130,000 acres of National Forest and Yosemite National Park land. – Elias Funez

I picked this photo for the pure joy of 10-year-old Rylie Dimas as she meets and hugs Colin Kaepernick, a graduate of Pitman High School in Turlock, at the San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s golf tournament to benefit Camp Taylor. Rylie’s grandmother wrote a letter thanking me for capturing the joy of her granddaughter, joy she shared when she saw the photo. – Ed Crisostomo

I selected this image of George Souliotes overcome with emotion after spending more than a decade in prison. Souliotes was reunited with his family after they waited for two days at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center to see the 72-year-old man reach freedom. He finally saw the sun again as a free man after his legal team helped to overturn his conviction on murder and arson charges. It was such an emotional experience to be a witness to that. – Debbie Noda

My favorite football shot was one I took this year when Modesto Junior College played Butte College on Oct. 15. I like this shot because of how crisp and clear Anthony Cota (25) is. This was also my first MJC football assignment while working for the Modesto Bee. College football is my favorite sport to shoot. – John Westberg

The photograph of Pete Elliott admiring his new Christmas tree was an inspiring moment and to me represents a greater feeling of community and sense of purpose. During my short time in Modesto as a staff photographer at The Bee, I have seen people around the area giving back and lifting up those who are struggling with difficult circumstances. The image of Elliott, who is permanently disabled by ALS, is just one instance of this generosity, a heartwarming story of his former co-workers helping him cope with his physical limitations by making his home wheelchair-accessible. In the picture, Elliott stands with a walker; his smile tells of his affection and appreciation for all who have helped him. – Andy Alfaro

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