When 2021 began, for many of us, it felt like a relief — a chance to let out the inescapable pressure that had been building in 2020 since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That feeling didn’t last long with the arrival of Uri, the deadly winter storm that left millions of people across Texas without power with frigid temperatures and record snowfalls in some locales.

We saw the rise of the delta variant, a new iteration of the coronavirus that was more easily transmitted just as schools across Bexar County were beginning to open.

A bit of relief was felt in early November when children 5 and older were eligible to receive vaccinations against COVID-19.

Now we brace for omicron, which appears to be an even more contagious version of this virus.

In December, the University of Texas at San Antonio football team became Conference USA champions for the first time in the school’s history and nearly went undefeated for the season.

This year was especially important for the photo team at the San Antonio Report, with the hiring of two photojournalists: Nick Wagner and Bria Woods.

Wagner, an expert shooter with a deep passion for storytelling, hit the ground running and has continually impressed our readers with his work.

Woods, a young and inspiring photographer, instantly connects with her subjects and has amazing drive and ambition behind the lens.

I’m genuinely excited to continue telling San Antonio’s stories as we head into 2022.

Mohammad Bilal and his wife, Humaira, were one of the last people who escaped Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control of the capital city of Kabul and just before the U.S. military completed its total withdrawal from the war-torn country. The couple lived on military bases in Qatar, Germany and New Mexico before being resettled in San Antonio this fall. They posed for a portrait in their small one-bedroom apartment they just moved into last week.
Bilal and his wife, Humaira, were among the last people who escaped Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control of the capital city of Kabul and just before the U.S. military completed its total withdrawal from the war-torn country. They posed for a portrait in their new apartment in early December. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

How do you capture modesty in a photo? During their interview, Bilal politely asked me to not make any photos that revealed Humaira’s face. I obliged and immediately started to think of how I could make a portrait without completely obscuring Humaira. Their story is one of togetherness and love, even amid the Taliban’s takeover, so I really wanted to keep them close for the photo. Having Humaira place her hand on Bilal’s shoulder provided the kind of connection I strive to capture while still respecting Bilal’s and Humaira’s culture.

Nick Wagner
Thousands of protesters march through downtown in protest of Senate Bill 8, Texas’ new restrictive abortion law, on Saturday.
Thousands of protesters march through downtown in October in protest of Senate Bill 8, Texas’ new restrictive abortion law. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Tina Guzman, a nurse at University Hospital, assists Carlos De Hoyos, a COVID-19 patient who is recovering from the virus.
Tina Guzman, a nurse at University Hospital, assists Carlos De Hoyos, a COVID-19 patient who was struggling with the virus in January. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
The lights of the Alamodome and the Tower of the Americas were turned off in an effort to conserve energy as hundreds of thousands of people in San Antonio were without power earlier in the week.
The exterior lights of the Alamodome and the Tower of the Americas were turned off to conserve energy as hundreds of thousands of people in San Antonio went without power following the winter storm in February. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
Pedro Camacho Sr. gestures the sign of the cross as his granddaughter, Olivia Andrade, 8, watches after praying for her uncle, Pedro Camacho Jr., at San Fernando Cemetery II on Tuesday. All Souls Day, also known as the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the dead and is observed mainly by Roman Catholics on November 2.
Pedro Camacho Sr. makes the sign of the cross as his granddaughter Olivia Andrade, 8, watches after praying for her uncle, Pedro Camacho Jr., at San Fernando Cemetery II in November. All Souls Day, also known as the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the dead and is observed mainly by Roman Catholics on Nov. 2. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Maria Valdez sits in the parking lot outside of Councilwoman Castillo's (D5) field office with her granddaughter Bea Gonzales, awaiting further assistance with her utility payments.
Maria Valdez sits in the parking lot outside of Councilwoman Castillo’s (D5) field office in July with her granddaughter Bea Gonzales, awaiting further assistance with her utility payments. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
UTSA tight end Oscar Cardenas scores the winning touchdown in the last three seconds of a close game against University of Alabama-Birmingham at the Alamodome Saturday. With a 34-31 win, the Roadrunners nabbed the Conference USA West championship.
At the Alamodome in November, University of Texas at San Antonio tight end Oscar Cardenas pulls in a pass from Frank Harris to score the winning touchdown with three seconds remaining against the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

“With seven seconds left on the clock, I could feel the entire stadium of more than 35,000 people hold their breath in anticipation. When UTSA’s Frank Harris passed the ball, the crowd exhaled sharply. When Oscar Cardenas landed the catch, I squeezed the shutter as the crowd reached a deafening pitch. It was a celebration to remember.”

Bria Woods
Brenna Howell treks through the snow in Timberwood Park after February’s winter storm. Howell was coming back from her daughter’s nearby home, where she had checked on her pets. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
Twelve-year-old Karen Martinez clings to her mother Blanca Balnco's arm while getting the Pfizer vaccine administered by UIW Nursing student, Jacob Zuniga. UIW partnered with the City of San Antonio DHS to reach families who still haven't been vaccinated. Blanco has a three year old in Head Start and said that's how she found out about the clinic held at Second Baptist Church on the Eastside.
Karen Martinez, 12, clings to the arm of her mother, Blanca Blanco, while University of the Incarnate Word nursing student Jacob Zuniga administers a COVID-19 vaccination. UIW partnered with the City of San Antonio to reach families who still haven’t been vaccinated in June. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
A boy walks through the processional during the diya ceremony featuring different states in India Saturday.
A boy walks through the diya ceremony processional featuring different states in India during Diwali SA in November. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
UTSA quarterback Cam Peters (18) celebrates after UTSA defeated Western Kentucky 49-41 in the Conference USA college football championship game on Friday.
UTSA quarterback Cam Peters (18) celebrates with teammates and fans after UTSA defeated Western Kentucky 49-41 in the Conference USA college football championship game in December. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Reflected on a basketball backboard, Wake Forest forward Christina Morra (23) drives to the hoop against Oklahoma State forward Taylen Collins (14) during a college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament at St. Mary’s University on Sunday in San Antonio.
Reflected on a St. Mary’s University basketball backboard, Wake Forest forward Christina Morra (23) drives to the hoop against Oklahoma State forward Taylen Collins (14) during the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament in March. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Fiesta Charro royalty walk during the Fiesta Fiesta parade at Hemisfair in June. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Tourism has increased in recent months despite the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
People cross a street near <i>The Torch of Friendship</i> sculpture in downtown San Antonio after an April rainstorm. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
City Councilwoman Teri Castillo (D5) raises a fist after being sworn in to office in June. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
A VIA Metropolitan Transit bus waits at the Centro Plaza transit center.
A VIA Metropolitan Transit bus waits for passengers at the Centro Plaza transit center in May. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
FixSAPD leaders (from left) Josey Garcia, James Dykman and Ananda Tomas prepare boxes for more than 20,000 signed petitions that led to a police reform measure on the May ballot. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
This gray fox and its family have made a home and become part of the ecosystem in downtown’s Hemisfair.
A gray fox and its family made a home and became part of the ecosystem in downtown’s Hemisfair in July. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report
Gov. Greg Abbott is flanked by Texas Rangers during a press conference outside the Freeman Coliseum where he announced an investigation into reports that an undisclosed number of unaccompanied migrant youths have been abused or neglected at the facility.
Texas Rangers flank Gov. Greg Abbott during an April press conference outside the Freeman Coliseum, where Abbott announced an investigation into reports that unaccompanied migrant youths had been abused or neglected at the facility. Briefed on the investigation, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff later called the allegations “completely false.” Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
Tim Barrientez, a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant of 21 years carries the Flag of the United States Marine Corps on Wednesday to honor the 246th birthday of the service branch.
Tim Barrientez, a retired master sergeant, carries the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps in November on the service branch’s 246th birthday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
UTSA football players (from right) Myles Benning, Frank Harris, and Leroy Watson walk into the Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence (RACE) for the first time on Wednesday August 4th, 2021.
UTSA football players (from right) Myles Benning, Frank Harris and Leroy Watson walk into the Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence for the first time when the facility opened in August. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
A graduate lifts her arms in celebration in May after receiving her doctorate from Our Lady of the Lake University. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report
Christina known as 'mama bear under the bridge' embraces the family of William Hawkins who was shot and killed at the Downtown Food Store near Highway 281 and McCullough Avenue.
Christina, known to her friends as “Mama Bear under the Bridge,” embraces Rogelio Altamirano, a friend of William Hawkins, who was shot and killed at a downtown convenience store in October. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
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Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.