So its that time of year again when we all reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the next. Some of us have big plans for 2016, others are happy with how things are going so have no plans at all. Personally I have really enjoyed 2015. I have got to visit some wonderful places, met some amazing people and learned a lot. This is a short selection of shots from the last year that have all been at one time favourites of mine. They're not my 'Top 10' as such (my latest work is always my favourite, and that wouldn't be very interesting as a blog), more of a review of some of the key moments of 2015.
A Trip Down Under
I have been to Australia 4 times now to visit really good friends that live just outside Perth. Its an amazing place, with amazing weather. In Jan/Feb I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks with them, and despite it being the height of summer there I did manage to get out with the camera lots. My favourite shot from the trip was undoubtibly this long exposure of the Boat House on the Swan River just outside of Perth CBD. Its a phenomenally popular spot, but for good reason.
Then down to Cornwall
The county of Cornwall is one rich with photographic opportunities. I love it down there, especially out of season when the roads and beaches are quiet, and the car parking is free (in a lot of cases). In March we (me and the dog) spent a week on the Lizard Peninsular, exploring new locations. It was fantastic, but unfortunately the weather wasn't. It was a week of flat skies ranging from flat dark grey, through to flat mid grey and finally hazy/flat bluey grey. I came back with hardly anything useable, but I did find some great locations for another time. This beach is due another visit, hopefully in the not too distant future.
Roach End Barn
I think that for as long as I live in the Midlands, the Peak District will be my most popular playground with the camera. I have visited this National Park dozens of times in 2015 and still haven't scratched the surface of it. One of the easiest places for me to get to is The Roaches, just outside the town of Leek. In March/April the sun sets at a time that allows me to finish work, walk the dog, then dash up the M6 to get some shots in before it goes dark. I was particularly lucky with the sky on my first trip to Roach End Barn. A place I went back to more than once this year.
Calm, Still, and Colder than it looks
Another National Park I visited a lot this year was the Lake District. A very different landscape to the Peak District with new challenges. Whereas with the Peak District the position of the Sun is important, in the Lakes it can be critical. Sunrise may be at 7am, but if its rising behind a mountain you will still be in shade at 8:30am and have missed the best of the light. I made 4 trips to the Lakes in 2015 and it wasn't until the last one that I think I got it right. This shot at Blea Tarn was one such occasion where I had to wait a full hour after sunrise to get light on the trees on the left of the frame. Fortunately this shot doesn't suffer from the lack of a colourful sky and the reflections make it. Its still one of my favourites now.
Roseberry & Cows
In May we made a last minute decision to spend 5 nights in the Yorkshire Moors National Park. There was no time for planning. It was booked on the Saturday and we were off on the Monday morning. On the first evening after the long drive up the M1, I left Ellen and Eddie in the cottage to chill out and made my way up to Roseberry Topping. Its a place I had seen lots in magazines so knew it would be a popular spot. After a nice chat with a bunch of local photographers I headed up to the top of the hill to make the most of the light. Just after I set up a herd of Cows appeared to perfectly balance the image. Moments like that are rare and special and you try to make the most of them. This image was shortlisted in the 2015 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.
Back to those Roaches
Another afterwork, after dog walk dash up to the Peak District in June. Blessed with good light and a decent sky, this 3 shot stitched panorama makes the most of the dramatic landscape and the view down to Tittesworth Reservoir. It was just after this point that I made contact 'The Gallery - Leek' who now sell my framed work and a good job they do to. Their current record for this shot is 3 hours from display in the window to sale.
Mount Doom, possibly?
After three visits to Cumbria where 90% of my shots were taken Lakeside, I decided that I needed to put in a little more effort and find some height. Now I'm not great with heights. My confidence in my own balance is lacking, so don't expect to be seeing shots from razor sharp mountain edges or sheer drops of a 1000feet in 2016, its not going to happen. I will pick my challenges within my limits and do my best. At the end of the day, I do this for enjoyment, not to become a statistic. This shoot was amazing. I only really went up the fell to scout the location for a future sunrise shot, but Im glad I had my camera with me. As the fading light kissed the side of the rocks, and illuminated the valley below I knew I had just taken possibly my favourite shot of 2015.
Magazines, Facebook, Twitter and every other outlet for landscape photography are full of woodland shots in the autumn. However I have found it a lot trickier than it looks. Yes the colours speak for themselves, and if you get a bit of mist to add atmosphere you're over halfway there. But here good composition becomes more important than ever. I follow several photographers that are experts in this field. They take spectacular shots that 90% of people (myself included) would simply walk passed, not even noticing the opportunity. Getting a nice woodland scene that doesn't look cluttered, or chaotic is a skill and art. I will spend more time next year exploring the woods, trying to improve this area of my photography, but for now, this is my best effort from 2015, which is a marked improvement to my efforts from 2014.
Keeping things Simple
We (photographers) spend so much time looking for a new angle, a different approach, a fancy processing technique that sometimes we miss the obvious. This scene comprises a Cottage with some trees beside it, some lovely rich Autumn grasses in front of it, A mountain behind it and a moody sky above. Now I'm sure that if you asked a child to paint such a scene you would get a similar result to what we have here. It works! Its simple, its easy on the eye, it doesn't take a great deal of thought to work it out. Thinking about it now, I almost feel compelled to print it out of stick it to the fridge door.
Shine a Light
I had been looking forward to my trip to Skye for 18 months, but as the time came to make the journey north, so did the arrival of the first of the terrible winter storms we have seen these last 6 weeks. In short the forecast was dreadful. After 2 washout days in Glencoe we made the journey to the Hotel on the island and went through the possible locations we would try to visit during out 5 days there. Out of all the locations discussed, the Old Man of Storr was the one I was desperate to go to in good light. The next morning we set off to the foot of the mountain in weather not even a duck would go out in. We parked up and the rain eased off. In the dark we decided to make the walk to the Storr (approx 1 hour) and see what happened. Upon arrival the Storr and the Old man below were shrouded in heavy cloud, and they continued to be so for at least an hour. Then, just as we were about to give up, the clouds began to break and all of our efforts were rewarded. Its not everyday you get epic light at such an iconic location. Somebody was smiling on me this morning.
I love photography now more than ever. Not just taking the photographs, but talking to photographers, reading about techniques and locations, viewing others work, buying or just browsing new gear, all of it. There is an abundance of talent that makes my social media pages a pleasure to view every single day. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 12 months.
Next year will be very different. I see it being very busy and this will mean I will probably take less photographs. I have managed to get my head around this, its not a bad thing. I will go out less, but for longer at a time which will hopefully mean the quality of the images will improve as I won't feel rushed, or pressured. I have a list of places I want to visit as long as both my arms, as well as favourites I don't feel I have yet done justice to.
If you have got this far, thank you for your efforts, I hope I didn't go on too long. If you're new to my page welcome. If your a regular, then I cannot thank you enough for your encouragement and engagement. Either way, can I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year, and all the best for 2016.