It’s nearing Christmas and time for the traditional end of year review, getting in a bit early this year but I’m also going to try and put a bit more thoughtful introspection into this one, rather than just listing all the good things that have happened.
That said, the year did start off with a few highs, writing articles for both Outdoor Photography and Amateur Photographer magazines, my Sherwood book being published then selling out and there were more bits of good news throughout the year too, with a third place in International Garden Photographer of the Year, commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year, a series of successful talks, three images being included in an exhibition in Nottingham and a highly commended image at the British Wildlife Photography Awards.
Despite all of that, it actually felt like one of my lowest years since I started in photography, which seems bizarre now I’m writing it. But this was about the images I was making at the time, rather than everything above which had in fact resulted from images taken the year before.
I think a lot of this came off the back of the Sherwood project ending, I felt like there was a clear path in what I was doing last year and my photography was coming on in leaps and bounds with recognition from peers, competitions etc. providing that well needed pat on the back. I’d run straight from the Mountains from Molehills project into a few days of my best ever winter conditions which kicked off the yearlong Sherwood series, and managed to fit a few other decent mornings in alongside it all. Everything fell into place nicely.
In some ways it felt like a sigh of relief to finish Sherwood, it had got to that slightly draining stage at the end of the year concentrating so much on a relatively small area, I was running out of ideas to keep the images fresh and had felt a fair bit of pressure, then disappointment, especially around Autumn when it didn’t come together as hoped.
On the upside the project had also been a real motivator, it provided a reason to go out each morning, something to work towards and something I wanted to achieve. My much needed break at the start of this year soon turned into a lack of inspiration to do anything new without that clear focus in place.
Some changes at home and work made it more difficult to get out when the conditions were good and I missed some good mornings, on top of that there was a feeling I’d done nearby locations to death, and just didn’t know what I wanted to achieve this year.
Traditional woodland photography didn’t excite me as much, there were some big ideas in my head about conceptual abstract projects, but I completely failed when trying to get what was in my head into my camera which was frustrating.
Looking back at the year there were actually a few shots that I came away with which I’m still pleased to have taken, although I definitely see a darker, more subdued aesthetic dominating my favourite images.
Later on in the year there were three specific moments of realisation which have made me finish off a lot more comfortable than I was halfway through, so here they are.
Number one started with a trip at the end of June, I got up in the early hours to get to Charlecote Park in Warwickshire for around 4am, meeting the fantastic Darren Rose and Verity Milligan. It didn’t look promising on the drive over but the conditions were stunning, mist hanging around the river and a glorious sunrise. I just couldn’t make it work, getting a few OK shots at best, but the one that really made the cut for me was when I grabbed my little Fuji out the bag with an ND filter and made this abstract of the house – no mist or sunrise in sight.
The second was a family holiday to North Wales, I knew this wasn’t a photography trip but hoped to get a bit of time in. By far my two favourites from the week were shot during the day on the beach, wife and daughter nearby, just playing around with some ICM work. I tried going down to the beach one evening with the ‘big camera’, tripod, filters, the lot – and hated it, so much fiddling around, trying to keep the camera still in the wind, timing exposures. Frustrating, boring, no good shots out the end of it and just not what I wanted to be doing with my photography.
Last on the list was in early December when I decided to finally try and get to grips with my Lensbaby, spending a couple of hours kick starting a new idea which feels like a continuation of the Mountains from Molehills project that ended two years ago. This one is working at a much smaller scale and with a more consistent aesthetic, but taking on a similar concept of the created landscape.
The working title for the project is ‘The Promised Land’. I didn’t think it would be a crowd pleaser and have only shared the above image so far, but somehow this was probably my best received photo of the year on twitter as well as feeling like a wake up call to my inspiration. After all those early mornings, long walks, days watching weather forecasts and scouting nice areas of woodland, it’s a blurry shot of absolutely nothing that clicks.
Hopefully this carries forward to 2019 with a more comfortable idea of what I want to do with my photography.
So if you made it through all that, thank you for reading, thank you if you’ve supported my photography in any way throughout the year, or shared images of your own that I’ve enjoyed seeing and taken inspiration from. Here’s a few more of the new Promised Land images to finish with which I’ve not shared anywhere else.