Well folks, we made it through another year. Thanks to everyone thats still following me, and a warm welcome to any newbies. It's that time when I take a little look back at the last 12 months and pick out the shots that have meant the most to me. That doesn't mean they're my most popular or critically acclaimed (no award winners amongst this lot), they're just a bit special to me.
I knew this year was going to be a busy one. With all the political uncertainty surrounding Brexit I had a feeling work (the day job) could become even less predictable than usual, and therefore harder. I had 2 houses to decorate top to bottom and sell, then another to find and buy. On top of this my father was ill and undergoing regular treatment. As we round off the year I am happy to say the houses were done up and sold, my day job is still good and my father is now feeling back to his old self and just undergoing maintenance treatment. I am already looking forward to next year...
All of the above meant that trips with the camera were less frequent (which had been predicted), so it was more important to make them count. I decided to focus the majority of my efforts on the Lake District so that I might be able to put together a Calendar for the end of the year.
1 - The Lake House
Winter was a very wet and windy affair in the Lake District. All hopes of snowy landscape shots were quickly dashed and thoughts went out to all those affected by some of the worst flooding in memory. Despite the obvious devastation the national park urged the public to visit (a dip in tourism would have been a double blow to the local economy) so I did my bit and hoped that photographs showing that despite everything seen on the news, Cumbria was very much still open for business, would encourage folk to make an unplanned trip, or keep to existing plans. I quickly learned in 2016 that preconceived ideas of what I was going to shoot were a waste of time.
2 - Sunset Surfer
A hazy week in Cornwall. Unseasonably warm and cloudless which forced a different approach and for a change I decided to include people in a couple of my photographs. I always seem to end up on the beach at Gwithian when I visit. The scattering of rock pools, the island lighthouse and its westward aspect make it perfect for a sunset location. On this occasion, with very little going on above the horizon I decided to focus on the patterns in the sand. The inclusion of the surfer was a last minute decision, but in hindsight it made what would have been a fairly boring image, somewhat more interesting.
3 - Wastwater Panorama
In March I was lucky enough to be picked to help a magazine out with a landscape feature in the Lake District. It was a great experience but unfortunately the best weather came the morning after the magazine crew had returned down south. I had stayed on an extra night as I thought driving home when so tired would have been foolish. This gave me the perfect opportunity to visit a new part of the park that had been on the wish list for a while. The snow was unexpected but welcome, despite making the journey 'interesting' and the after-shoot hike back to the car even more so. This photo formed the basis of 2 blogs, and the single frame version made it into this years Landscape Photographer of the Year book.
4 - Castlerigg Stone Circle 2016 was definitely the year I became addicted to stitched panorama's. An image made up of a sequence of photographs taken and then stitched together on the computer. I had stopped using my ultra-wide lens (as it seemed to make the mountains appear small and insignificant, which the most definitely are not) but I was still struggling to get the drama of the landscape into a single frame. The stitched pano seemed the perfect answer. Shortlisted in this years LPOTY competition, but alas didn't make the final cut.
5 - Good Morning Neighbours
I started wild-camping in 2016, something I had fancied trying for a while. Theres a very special feeling once the tent is set up and your dinner is cooking on the portable stove. Everything seems to stop, and you finally get to appreciate whats around you, with the added bonus of exclusivity. This photograph was taken during the hike back to the car after my inaugural camp near the summit of St.Sunday Crag near Ullswater. I'm not sure the sheep were used to folk walking this way down the path at 7:30am. I thought this shot was perfect for the cover of my 2017 Calendar, and so thats exactly what it became. Thanks to everyone that bought a copy this year. We smashed last years total.
6 - Sunrise at the Old Man of Coniston
After possibly the worst nights sleep had so far in the tent (that will teach me to pitch on a slope), I awoke to fabulous conditions looking down towards Coniston, which was enjoying a little localised cloud inversion. Although it is a relatively low fell, I was still 5 miles from where the car was parked up so felt truly remote and wild. The initial idea of camping was to get me to less frequently photographed locations to avoid the easy to shoot clichés (I save those for when my legs cant manage any more climbs). You could think of it as a lot of effort for relatively little return (one or two images maybe), but I have found these trips ironically become less about photography and more about the experience.
7 - 3rd Time Lucky
Having visited Kelly Hall Tarn twice before I knew exactly what to expect. Everyone has their own ideas what light/conditions suit a location best, and I had already decided that a good sky, with strong side light late in the day, and not too much wind (so that I would get some sort of reflection) would be just perfect here. So as the autumn afternoon drew on and the clouds built up around the mountains and fells, I headed back to the tarn for another go. This time I got everything, it must have been my lucky day.
8 - My Lucky Day
The kind of shoot I'm not that keen on anymore, standing around, waiting. But on this occasion I had a feeling that I was in the perfect spot for something special. I already knew that the trees still had enough autumn foliage to make a decent impression, and with the bonus of a heavy dumping of snow overnight, I felt the contrast of the seasons would look really nice. When I arrived to see the lake so calm I knew it was just a matter of waiting for the mist around the fells to clear and the light to hit the trees, so I stood there and put up with the odd shower. It was during one of these showers that the magic happened. One of those moments you instantly know you have been very fortunate indeed (and hope you managed to get everything in focus).
9 - The end of Autumn
I remember this time last year saying that there are a just handful of photographers that do woodlands justice with their cameras. They create images of simple beauty amongst the chaos of the trees. I've grown to love these shoots, you hardly stand still, constantly exploring for something special. I still struggle to find compositions that aren't cluttered or scruffy but its something I'm working on, and for now I am quite pleased with the progress I have made in 2016. Theres still a long way to go, but maybe one day....
10 - A Frosty End
I generally like my latest work best. I'm fickle with most of my images. This was taken just a couple of days ago.
Something local, but when the conditions are as good as this you don't need the help of a national park to make a nice shot. I treated myself to a new camera in September, a Fuji X-T2. Its smaller and lighter than my beloved Canon DSLR (and about half the price incidentally), something I knew would help with the wild camping trips. I haven't quite managed to put my finger on why yet, but I feel that its changing how I shoot. The tripod is being used less often which I feel frees me up to search for compositions faster. I'm using the viewfinder more thaa the 'Live View' on the back of the camera and taking my time before pressing the shutter, making sure the frame is balanced and pleasing, meaning I crop less in Post Production. I haven't yet used filters with the camera, but haven't found this to be a problem.
The above photo is an example of a shot that where I took longer to set up (up a little, across a little, down a little. You get the idea), but it would have abeen a shame to have wasted such perfect conditions with a shoddy or rushed composition.
So whats next....
Hopefully more of the same. I'm relatively happy with the progress I have made over the last 12 months. I have managed to get shots into more magazines than ever, had a couple of articles published, had an image selected to be a cover and won a couple of awards. I'm still waiting for the results of Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and have all fingers and toes crossed. I'm already planning trips to Dorset, Scotland, and of course the Lake District, but Id like to go somewhere new. Maybe Wales, maybe Yorkshire who knows.
But its not all about me. The list of photographers I follow has grown during 2016. I'm looking forward to meeting some of them this coming year. It's always nice to put a face to the images, share ideas and chat with likeminded individuals.
But most of all Im looking forward to more wild camps. These, along with the new camera have been highpoints of the year.
Thanks for sticking with me so far. I hope you have enjoyed this little retrospective. Have a wonderful New Year and I hope that 2017 brings you everything you wish for.