2016 Episode 2 – A Year of Downs and Ups

To counterbalance my earlier blog of Ups and Downs which was very much an exercise in self indulgence and back-slapping (I’m a contortionist, didn’t you know?), I’ve also put together a list of images by other photographers that made me stop and take notice in 2016. Why Downs and Ups? These images both depress me for how good they are and inspire me in equal measure.

These are images that stick in my mind and are typically more than just a point and shoot exercise that I see so much of every day, you know, great light and not much else. Alternatively they may be ICM images that have really captured my imagination or even just the most beautiful of abstracts. Either way, they stand out, at least to me. For the most part, I wish I had taken them, or at least was capable of taking them.

So, in no particular order:


Roj Whitelock – ‘Force of Nature’

WexMondays is a curious beast. It’s a competition which I don’t really agree with. Some see it as a bit of fun, and it is, but it is also a promotion exercise for the retailer. I understand that, there is nothing wrong with it. Doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. As such I don’t go out of my way to promote it and that includes liking and re-tweeting entries week in week out. Of course, that also means I see plenty of images on my Twitter feed that I think are great, but my own (ethical or moral?) position means I can’t engage on them. When something really stands out to me, like this image by Roj or the next by Tony, then I’ll contact the photographer directly and privately to provide some feedback or simply gush at how great I think their image is. I was amazed Roj’s delicate but simple image of a shell and an incoming wave catching the golden light didn’t win the week it was entered. Outrageous.

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www.rojwhitelock.co.uk


 

Tony Sellen – ‘Equaliser’

Tony joined me on one of my workshops back in November, I guess just to experience a new type of shooting environment because he already clearly knew what he was doing with his camera. Known mostly for long exposure black and white photography, this image epitomises Tony’s style. It blew me away when he posted it late in December. Almost ruined my Christmas, I was that jealous.

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www.londonfineartphotography.co.uk


 

‘Overlooking Castle Crag’ – Joe White

Joe is very much ‘one to watch’ in 2017 in my very honest opinion. This image of a tree in the wind overlooking Castle Crag is not Joe’s usual style. It was his panorama’s that first caught my eye and are amongst the best out there. However, it was this image from the Lake District that really stopped me in my tracks. Beautiful light, fabulous composition of what is a very complex scene and some  good processing (though I do think the top is maybe a little bit overcooked), combine to deliver a breathtaking shot.

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Joe’s Flickr


 

‘Forgotten’ – Karl Mortimer

Ok, hands up, I’ve got to know Karl very well over the last year and we have met up several times for trips to North Yorkshire, the Lake District and Snowdonia, amongst others. It’s therefore no surprise that I’ve also become quite familiar with his work over that time. Karl isn’t your typical conventional landscape photographer, at least he is trying very hard not to be (he can turn out a conventional landscape as well as anyone if he needs to).  I think by his own admission, he continues to try to learn from the very best there is, having joined workshops with David Ward, Joe Cornish, Eddie Ephraums, Paul Wakefield and John Blakemore in the last 12 months alone. However, that learning process is helping him to develop into his own photographer, one that doesn’t follow the rules, so to speak. Which is all very interesting considering this image, taken on a ‘colour’ workshop, won Judge’s Choice (Jasmine Teer) in this years Landscape Photographer of the Year.

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www.karlmortimer.com


 

ICM over Loch Morlich – Doug Chinnery

Doug is full of surprises. If he’s not pushing out incredibly vivid still life, he’s writing articles about clouds, shooting abstracts with a smartphone, or in this case, creating beautifully evocative ICM images of my favourite subject. He may not readily shoot mountains from their peaks but here it doesn’t matter. ICM Mountain photography is something I’ve thought about dabbling with for a very long time, and if I do, I don’t think I’ll be sharing any unless it is of a similar standard to this. Sublime.

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www.dougchinnery.com


 

‘The Spokesman’ – Mark Littlejohn

Mark needs very little, if no introduction. Over the last 12 months he’s really become ‘tree man’ if he isn’t taking photos of his two lovable rogues, Barney and Red (Boxer puppies). After the sudden loss of his long term four legged pal, Harvey, earlier in the year and the arrival of the new pups, I think the change that this forced on Mark though very sad at it’s root (no pun intended) was a good one in terms of him being able to concentrate, albeit passively at times, on a single subject. I’m looking forward in 2017 to his pledge to head into the hills more, but for me, in a year when I took a bit of a ribbing about trees on Twitter, the fact that 5 out of these 10 images include trees, says something about how evocative a subject matter they can be. It is this image though, that really stands out in my mind in a conventional landscape sense (well, conventional as far as the subject matter anyway). The hoare frost is to die for.

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markljphotography.co.uk


 

Vestrahorn – David Ward

2016 included a critical turning point for me. For quite a while in 2014 and 2015 I was unhappy with the type of images I was making, essentially grand vistas. Don’t get me wrong, I love a grand vista like most folks do, however they tend to lack a vital element. For want of a better term, they lack ‘connection with the landscape’. This is something that I don’t think anyone, anywhere, has mastered as well as David Ward. I’ve been a great admirer of David’s work for several years and although I had already started the transition process to shooting almost exclusively in portrait, it was on seeing this image, from David back at the start of the year, that solidified that determination. Vestrahorn is fast becoming the most photographed mountain (if you can call it that) in Iceland, but by and large, all images tend to be very similar. This was the first time I’d seen an interpretation in this manner. I’ve not seen anything better since.

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www.into-the-light.com


 

Untitled Image – Claire Zaffin

Claire Zaffin (McConnell and/or Norman, depending on the day and which country she is currently ‘activated’ in…) is a relative newcomer to photography and although she prefers to shoot ‘street’, she can turn her hand to a fine landscape. As with any photographer who is learning the craft, myself included, she still has things to learn, but this image, that was shortlisted in Outdoor Photographer of the Year, really grabbed me like few others did during the year. I don’t know if it’s the subtle combination of Landscape and Wildlife genres that I love or something else, but what I do know is that it’s an image that instantly springs to mind whenever I see her name appear on my Facebook or Twitter feed.

P.S. She’s not really a spy, she got married on the last day of the year. Congratulations again 😉

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www.greeneyedlens.com


 

‘Where New Worlds Are Born’ (Ephemeral Pools) – Matt Botwood

Many photographers can shoot a cohesive project. Few photographers can shoot a cohesive project that consistently delivers the goods. Fewer photographers still, can shoot a cohesive project that consistently delivers the goods and constantly evolves at the same time. There is only one photographer I know that can do all of the above and still blow my mind (and my quite warped imagination) with images like this. Matt Botwood.

It would be unfair for me to isolate a single image from Matt’s Ephemeral Pools project, or even a series of images from that project. However, life isn’t fair, so I will. Sometime around Autumn, Matt pushed out a small series of images from the project that for all intents and purposes could have been photos of celestial bodies on the other side of our Milky-Way. Mind. Instantly. Blown. Reminder, this is an image taken in Wales.

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www.mattbotwood.com


 

‘Westwick Woods’ – Matthew Dartford

You’ve seen Predator, right? Remember Blain, that “Sexual Tyrannosaur” played by Jesse Venturer…the dude with the big Gatling Gun that can flatten a forest in under a minute? Well, that isn’t Matt, sadly. However, place a camera in Matt’s hands and he uses it like Blain does his big gun. It’s incredible to witness, a real ‘duck and cover’ event. I imagine if you placed Matt on Jokulsarlon beach with the 100 or so other photographers who are bound to also be shooting there, it’d look like the D-Day landing scene in Saving Private Ryan, only Matt in his machine gun nest, sorry, standing behind his tripod, would win. Carnage.

However, there is method in his madness, together with more than an ounce of sheer photographic talent. Matt is yet to really settle into any type of ‘Photographer Mould’. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades in terms of style too. But, boy oh boy, he can produce some gorgeous imagery, including this one, which remains a firm favourite of mine almost 12 months after I first saw it.

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Matt’s Flickr


So, there you go. Ten very different photographs from ten very different photographers.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to post this without mentioning other photographers who didn’t quite make the list but whose work I have admired over the last year, any one of which is capable of making me stop and look on in astonishment and wonder. I’ve enjoyed images from the likes of Lee Acaster, Neil Burnell, Lizzie Shepherd, Richard Thomas, Russ Barnes, Darren Ciolli-Leach, Jon Gibbs, Carolyne Barber, Scott Robertson, Richard Fox, Andrew Yu, Colin Bell, Pete Hyde, Rachael Talibart, Nick Livesey, Alex Nail, Dylan Nardini, David Queenan, and Chaitanye Deshpande to name but a few.

I look forward to seeing what this year brings from everyone. Have a great 2017 folks!

 

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2016 Episode 1 – A Year of Ups and Downs

Few could fail to have noticed that 2016 was a somewhat turbulent year. If for nothing else, then the year will be remembered as the year the UK voted for Brexit and the US voted for Donald, or Hillary, depending on whether you think the President should be the one who receives the most Public votes or not. It has also been a year when the Grim Reaper seems to have upped his game and taken many talented individuals, some expected and some not. Whether you find them notable or not depends on a number of factors, but for me, household names that I grew up listening to or watching, suddenly meeting their maker has reminded me of my own mortality, the shortness of life and a need to do something worthwhile in the time I have.

At home it’s become quite apparent that photography has taken over somewhat. If I’m not working (in my regular career), I have my nose pressed against the computer screen or the viewfinder. Our puppy Monty is very much my Wife’s companion more than me these days and it is becoming increasing difficult for me to find time to dedicate to anything other than photography. Indeed even that has suffered as I’ve found little time to write even this blog, something I promised myself I would do more.  As many fellow photographers are finding, having two careers/jobs is not easy! So, all I can really say is thanks to Mrs W for putting up with me in 2016 and also to those folks who have been unfortunate in being on the receiving end of the odd moan, you know who you are.

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Right, so this blog is kind of in two parts/episodes. Episode One today (in itself it is in three parts), and Episode Two in a few days. Here goes:

Episode One, Part One – A Quick Round Up of Photographic ‘Achievements’ and Places Visited

If I don’t write this down somewhere, I’ll forget in years to come, what I did and when. So, apologies for a little self indulgence. Things that happened this year:

  • January cover of Outdoor Photography magazine (Wild Mountain)
  • Winner: Live the Adventure category – Outdoor Photographer of the Year
  • Image (Torridon: Valley of the Lost) in Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year book
  • Received Civic Award in Solihull MBC Civic Awards in the Creative Arts category
  • Talks at Patchings Art Festival and OnLandscape Meeting of Minds conference
  • Commended Image (Vertical Limit) in the Landscape Photographer of the Year book

Places visited: Vietnam, French Alps, Crete, Iceland, Snowdonia (multiple times), Isle of Skye, Isle of Arran, North Yorkshire, Lake District, Isle of Lewis & Harris

Episode One, Part Two – My Best Images of the Year

Ok, so over the last few weeks folks have been posting similar blogs or tweeting their best 3 images of 2016. I took part in that and posted 3 images myself. I also posted 3 images that I considered my least favourite and promised to explain why. So, here is an expanded list of my best images including some backstory about them, and also, at the end in Part Three, those 3 least favourite images and why they are.

‘Winterfell’ (Llanberis – Snowdonia)

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This image seems to have been a crowd favourite and is also one of mine. I photographed this tree perhaps a dozen times in 2016, but only on this occasion did the snow fall and the light prove perfect for the type of ghostly image I wanted to create. This image was also auctioned in aid of Marc Elliott to help him recover from his awful motorcycle accident. Two photographers each donated £100 to the event, a total of £200, for a print each. I’m really pleased it helped raise some cash towards to the amazing total of over £6K.

Passaggio (Horgabost – Isle of Harris)

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The Isle of Harris is a seascape photographers dream. Most folks, however, seem to go nutty for Luskentyre and Seilebost beaches. Although they are lovely beaches, it was Horgabost that captured my imagination the most. I could so easily have spent the entire week on that one beach.

Snowdonia’s Autumn Splendour (Llanberis – Snowdonia)

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The result of many months of failed visits, finally I got the light I wanted over the Snowdon Massif together with some glorious colour in the quarry pit. Enough said.

‘The Tempest’ (Elgol – Isle of Skye)

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A scene familiar to those who know the Isle of Skye. This egg-like boulder was made famous by Joe Cornish but I have no doubt others before him had photographed it. There is no other boulder so distinctive on the shoreline at Elgol, though there are many that can be quite photogenic. I have a problem with many images taken of this boulder and that is the wall of rock just to its right that can so often dominate the image. For me the image should be all about the boulder and the brooding Black Cuillin in the background. It’s perhaps the first time I’ve worked a scene in advance of my arrival (pre-visualisation) with the intention of eliminating elements that annoy me. Even so, it took three visits over the course of a bank holiday weekend, to get it just right.

‘Surfacing’ (Tryfan – Snowdonia)

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This image was shot on my last workshop of the year and is quickly becoming my favourite image I’ve taken of what is also my favourite mountain. I probably spent half an hour with my client working on an image beyond the frozen lake and it was only upon returning to my bag on the other side of the lake that I noticed the potential for something quite minimal. One shot, simple but effective.

‘The Buoy’ (Horgabost – Isle of Harris)

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These sand patterns were incredible. Fascinating to photograph, even better to just watch. Every so often a wave would wash up the beach further than the others, cleansing the sands of these patterns, only for them to slowly reform as rivulets of water ran their way back to the sea. This buoy was in the firing line and although the patterns in the sand are strong enough to carry the photo alone, the buoy adds a sense of place for me.

‘Fragments of Time’ (Rhinogs – Snowdonia)

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Another image from my ‘Song for Snowdonia’ project and a first visit for many years to one of the quieter places within Snowdonia. In fact go anywhere in Snowdonia away from the three big ranges and you are almost guaranteed to only see a handful of people all day. Magic. This area is full of Erratics and is a small paradise for landscapers…just don’t tell anyone 😉

‘Fjallabak Flexion’ (Fjallabak Region – Iceland)

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This image was shot on my return to the Laugavegur trail, just under two years since my first visit, a trip that proved quite fruitful. This time however the light never really played ball. On the second day whilst still trekking high and with a blizzard only moments away (it was the beginning of July), I captured this image of the trail heading into the distance, crossing a snow bridge and providing a lovely curve to the composition. One of the few images from the trip that I really liked.

‘Guardian’ (Tryfan – Snowdonia)

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Another image of my favourite mountain and one of those that ends up being a keeper but that started out as nothing more than an opportunistic shot on the way down the mountain. This time a muddy, but partially frozen, puddle winds it’s way towards the edge of the plateau on the descent to the miner’s path. The light, although no longer golden, remains soft enough to avoid harsh contrast. I keep returning to this image.

‘Alien’ (Elgol – Isle of Skye)

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Finally, an image that was only ‘discovered’ in post-process. I wanted to come away from Elgol with a different version of the ‘standard’ view of this infamous boulder. Didn’t realise I’d also find myself worrying about a facehugger getting me…

Episode One, Part Three – My Worst Images of the Year

Technically these aren’t the worst images I’ve taken this year, clearly. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of failures in my Lightroom Catalogue that either have more glaring composition issues, are incorrectly exposed, are out of focus or whatever. However, each of these images could have been so much more or just proved difficult to capture such that they are just missing a certain something. They are untitled.

Image 1

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This image was taken on the morning of one of the coldest wild camps I’ve experienced, back in April. It wasn’t forecast to be so cold and it wasn’t forecast to snow either. Having pulled on my frozen solid boots and trousers at some godawful hour I set about making some photos. At some point, soon after, I changed lenses on the camera without turning the camera off (oops). This reset the aperture to wide open which was f/4 on the new lens. Now, I was shooting standard settings so didn’t bother to check, I just carried on shooting, not realising the aperture and thus the background focussing was way out. I’d spotted this particular scene lit up beautifully in the soft light and having got the best out of the composition, moved on. About 10 minutes later I noticed that the aperture had been reset…I had to go back and reshoot this scene. Unfortunately in those 10 minutes the light had changed and I was so annoyed with myself I didn’t quite get the composition right. This was the best image from that second attempt. At least it’s in focus.

Image 2

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Luskentyre – Isle of Harris. I had been so looking forward to visiting this beach and photographing it. We arrived late afternoon and the tide was coming in…not good. The beach was covered in footprints, right down to the waterline. I set about trying to find something without a million footprints in the scene. Just before I shot this image I’d been trying to take a longer exposure…only for our puppy, Monty (who was 5 months old), to come dashing into the scene from halfway along the beach, pick up the seaweed and ruin it. In the end I had to wait for the water to wash away his paw prints and leave the seaweed in a pleasing shape. However, I couldn’t risk a long exposure now as the tide was coming in closer. It’s an image that I think needs ‘smoothing out’, hence a missed opportunity.

Image 3

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I love this scene. I returned to photograph it at least a dozen times in 2016. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. This was the second visit, which at the time was quite unusual for me. Until 2016 I very rarely returned to the same scenes twice and this is an example of how I’ve changed and developed as a photographer this year. I like the bold colours in the trees and the moody weather but this photo is an example of posting an image prematurely. It wasn’t the image I wanted from here, it could be better (IMO, see above) and so should never have been posted. It’s plainly obvious I wasn’t 100% happy with it as I returned to the scene so frequently in the search of something better. Another thing learned in 2016, have patience with your photography, don’t post/release images until you are 100% happy with them.


So, there you go, the best and worst along with some highlights. In Episode Two of this blog which I’ll post in a few days, I’ll identify those images I seen from others that have really captured my imagination or have stolen my interested. Will your image make the list…?