As the year draws to a close, it’s inevitable that we spend time reflecting on our lives and as photographers the journey we have taken through the passing months. It’s certainly been quite a big year from my point of view with a lot of changes in approach, equipment and finally ending up by wanting to inspire others and passing on much of what I’ve learned by launching a programme of workshops.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a classic glass is half empty person and while some people might think that’s a burden (it is by the way!) it has always driven me to try and do things better and achieve more, regardless of whatever my endeavour is. That brings a certain approach out of me to set ever higher standards for myself and continually force myself to evaluate what it is I’m doing. So at this juncture in the year it would be very easy for me to focus on what I didn’t achieve, but based on the last few months in particular I think that would be a bit harsh even by my own usual benchmark.
I think if you had said to me at the start of the year that within twelve months I would have images shown in two national galleries in London, would have been commended in the Landscape Photographer Of The Year competition run by landscape master Charlie Waite, be printed in a landscape photography book you can buy on Amazon, spend a weekend learning from the world class talent that is Michael Levin, pick up representation by Getty Images and end the year by launching my own landscape photography workshops, I think I would have chewed my own arm off for that lot. Even sitting here now and writing this I don’t believe I really set out and planned any of that – some of it might be dreams that turned into reality with a bit of effort, but I certainly don’t remember thinking that this would be the picture of 2012 for myself.
As I alluded to at the start of this piece, even my equipment has changed. The arrival of the Nikon D800 in the first quarter of the year was a camera which I had been waiting for. Having spent a couple of years with the excellent D700 and built up my full-frame collection of optics, I was waiting patiently for a high resolution landscape body at a reasonable price and finally Nikon came good and blew the rest of the DSLR market away.
Now I am not the sort that is naive enough to think that the D800 really changed my photography, but actually it liberated so many things about my approach – I’m now producing images where I can get away with a 24MP square or a 30MP 16:9 crop from a single frame; I can even produce 100MP panormas with only three frames and that for me is absolutely fantastic. I can finally produce high resolution images which rival Medium Format bodies for quality and detail which cost ten times the price, surpass the relevance of film and print images natively at 300dpi across my lounge wall.
I jumped all over the release of the D800 in March and haven’t regretted it for a moment; there’s no other body out there right now that can touch it based on its price point and end quality, especially when paired with a lens like the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 which I also added this year. That particular combination proving to be pretty incredible this year for me – an example image below and one of my favourites from Dorset, I’m often left looking at the back of the LCD in disbelief at how beautiful some of the frames are it produces…
So what’s in store for 2013? Well with only a few days away to the start of the year I already have three objectives which I want to undertake;
- The first will be an attempt to land myself an Associateship with the Royal Photographic Society. My Arcadian series will hopefully be the catalyst for achieving that one.
- Secondly I want to run workshops in at least two mainland European locations, the first will probably get a dry run before the end of the year anyway, so we’ll see how that goes.
- Finally something which I didn’t do this year which I keep promising myself is to get to grips with a sizeable solo exhibition, which I think my work towards the Associateship will help with.
That is of course if the world doesn’t implode tomorrow when the Mayan Calendar comes to an end – that would be an irritating inconvenience to my plans!
So which images are my favourites of the year? It’s always an almost impossible pick for me, each image I work on is an extension of myself, moments which I’ve usually revelled in. I’m going to select five I’m particularly happy with here:
This is a great tree I’ve visited over the last couple of years that can be found on The Fosse Way in South Warwickshire. It was a misty summers morning and the cloud was perfect for a long exposure, providing me with a great opportunity to use all of that resolution goodness with the Zeiss 21mm for this long exposure, but I just love that stubble in this one.
This just had to be in the top five – a recent image caught towards the end of the year in my trip to North Devon while I was out location scouting, giving rise to this good v evil struggle which I imagined. The stark black jagged rocks made such a wonderful contrast to the clean white water which was cascading over the cliff and because it had been raining the light reflected beautifully from all of those edges.
I love scale and space in my images as I’m sure you can tell, and this one benefited from that magnificent storm light you sometimes get at the coast. This is a strong Tilt Shift image taken with my 45mm PC-E; it was hand held, poorly levelled in the RAW file (straightened horizon in this one!) and because the wind was buffeting me sideways it’s also actually slightly out of focus too. But it’s all about a shared moment, what it felt like in those seconds – as if this was a projection of myself onto the beach. That makes it a very powerful image for me personally, it might get lost in translation to others but without question one of my favourites of the year.
This is certainly a favourite of mine this year – I absolutely love the concept of the collision of the three natural elements here – the textured land, the serene sky and the soft edges of the sea. But almost out of sight and seemingly insignificant is the boat – the stamp of the human race on the world; so seemingly small, yet so powerful. I wonder how many people understood what it was I was trying to show here…
So here it is, my favourite image of the year. It’s not here by accident and I wish I had twenty more just like it. This is the minimalism which I crave, I love the simplicity of this shot, its whole atmosphere, toning and textures. It might not be everyone else’s favourite but despite my earlier hesitation this is an easy pick for me this year. This is an image which has launched a whole project for me, something which has bound my thoughts and released me from self doubt. Even Mr Levin said he enjoyed this one, the whole mystery to scale and references to what we’re looking at here are pretty much removed and it’s a look I will continue to try to bring to my compositions going forward.
Thanks to one and all…
So that’s it, my 2012 pretty much over. As always I look forward to 2013 with a mixture of trepidation and excitement – if the next year is as successful I think I’ll be doing pretty well but if anything I have more confidence than I did a year ago which can’t be a bad thing.
Lastly, here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and prosperous New Year and a big thank you for all your comments, competition votes, endless support and sharing again this year!