While the past two years of photo shoots—and magazine production in general—have been made complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 brought operations back to normal. That was certainly the case for Peter Yang’s shoot with Glen Powell, one of the stars of Top Gun: Maverick. The profile of Powell was originally set to run in 2020, but as the film’s release kept getting delayed, so did the story. Both finally saw the light of day this year, and the movie might have single-handedly been responsible for getting folks back into theaters.

Outstanding portraits like Powell’s were a major theme this year, says Texas Monthly photo editor Claire Hogan. There was “a lot of emotion” in the human subjects, Hogan says, whether it’s the sassy smirk from Beyoncé’s stylist Ty Hunter or the youthful exuberance of Elsik High School’s soccer team. Even the nonhuman models stood out: take the wide-eyed great horned owl perched next to birder Tiffany Kersten, shot by Zachary Scott; or the great smash of corralled cattle by Christopher Lee.

Lee is one of the more recent contributors to Texas Monthly who brought eye-catching details and concepts to its pages this year. Hogan noted the “fun, innovative effects and vantage points” that photographers employed, “even better communicating the stories than the visuals we’d dreamed up in our heads.” Of course, that requires a little sacrifice and on-the-spot thinking. For example, when Jeff Wilson shot the hordes of kayakers on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, he hadn’t planned on getting in the water, as evidenced by his drone photograph. But even without a swimsuit, he eventually waded into the human soup with writer Lauren Larson and was even offered a beer by a passing paddleboarder for his efforts.

All in a day’s work of getting the shot for Texas Monthly.