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Year in Review – 2016

So nearly the end of the year and time for the traditional blog based round up of how my photography has gone over the last 12 months.

In 2015 I started to try and take photography seriously and this brought my first ever publication and first ever print sale, but I didn’t actually take many photos and I took almost none of my local area. I set some resolutions at the start of the year to try and fix this, basically take more photos, experiment more, enter competitions and a more personal one to capture more family moments – I think I’ve done pretty well at all of these.

I rolled ‘take more photos’ and ‘enter competitions’ into one by setting the challenge of joining in every week of a Twitter competition run by Wex Photographic. This got off to a great start with a second place in my first ever week which got my hopes up, but it wasn’t to be and despite a further 4 shortlists I didn’t earn any more points, leaving me at joint 47th by the end of the competition. I did however manage to enter every single week which was the main target for me, so really pleased to have done that, I think the amount of ‘filler’ images decreased through the year too.

Fotospeed started a similar competition early in the year which I’ve been very lucky to win 3 times so far, there’s no points or leaderboard here but it’s earned me some very nice A3 prints and contention for the big prize announced in March.

There’s also been a little community competition running each week, judged by the previous week’s winner – I was delighted to win this one twice, especially being chosen by other talented photographers and good fun to take on judging responsibilities a couple of times.

The year got off to a good start with publications too, with a small write-up in Amateur Photographer magazine as a result of being a runner up for their Christmas cover competition in 2015. This was the first time I’d been asked to write anything for a magazine so really exciting. I also managed to sneak some photos into Outdoor Photography magazine for the first time, which felt like a real accomplishment considering the standard of photography in there, with 3 photos in a row shortlisted in their monthly competitions.

The last bit of competition news was getting 3 photos shortlisted in Outdoor Photographer of the Year and 31st place in the Black and White round of Amateur Photographer of the Year. 2016 was my first attempt at any major competitions so I was really pleased to get some recognition in those two.

The competitions among other things has somehow meant that over 2000 people now follow me on Twitter and more importantly I’ve met some great photographers on there. I really couldn’t overstate the impact the support and inspiration Twitter especially has had on my photography this year and I’m hugely thankful to everyone for that. To say thanks I ran a couple of print giveaways towards the end of the year and really enjoyed seeing two images go off to appreciative new owners. I also offered to donate any print sale profits in December to Shelter, a charity I support throughout the year, and it was nice to receive a few orders on the back of this which have gone to help a good cause. It felt great doing something good with my photography and it’s something I’d like to try and do more.

It’s been really nice to have some of these successes but the real satisfaction this year has come from the development in my photography. I still love some traditional landscape photos and have taken a few cliche locations in the Lake District this year, I’ve also joined the misty tree club on a couple of occasions and will definitely do more, but I’ve been most pleased with the results of my abstract work.

This is something I hadn’t really tried at all until this year, but a few factors inspired me to try intentional camera movement and multiple exposures, all I can say is I became hooked and was determined to create something unique. At the start it was mostly blurry trees, but with more practise and trial and error I ended up making images I was really proud of using these techniques.

I had two short family trips, to the Lake District and North Yorkshire, which both yielded a few images I’m very happy with, but the vast majority of my photography this year has been done in the very immediate local area. The abstract work, alongside a general approach to look at the smaller details rather than wider views really helped with this.

This year I also took my first jump into project work, with 3 projects started throughout the year. This was a really rewarding way to work for me, as I’ve never been so focused on the individual standout image, so being able to concentrate on a series of complimentary photos instead felt more natural.

These factors combined gave me the foundations of a project finished just before Christmas, making mountainscapes from flat Nottinghamshire locations. The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s the first time I’ve really felt that my photography has offered something creative and interesting. This has seemed like a bit of a culmination of what I’ve learned and worked towards this year.

So this year has been really positive for me, I’ve taken loads of photos and probably shared plenty of ‘filler’, but it’s helped me experiment a lot and develop my own direction and some bits of ‘success’ here and there has made me think I must be doing something right.

I’ve got a few things I’d like to do in 2017.

  • Shoot more for myself and develop my own style
  • Focus on quality not quantity and only share things I’m really proud of
  • Go to more exhibitions and events, meet more fellow photographers
  • Go on a workshop
  • Experiment more and do more project work
  • Work towards having an article published and a photo in a book

All the waffle over here’s some of my personal favourites from the year, with my reasons for picking them.

January – This was the only snow we had all year, it was gone by the afternoon and I didn’t take full advantage of it. The image was taken at the end of my morning’s wander and very early in my ICM/abstract experiments, quite a simple shot but the first time I had been happy with a blurry photo.

March – My first venture into some misty woods and also my first time squeezing a quick early morning photography trip in before work. I didn’t initially process or share this image, but went back to it later and it’s now my favourite from that morning.

March – This was shot on the dullest of days with no real ‘scenery’ to speak of, but it won a Fotospeed competition judged by Doug Chinnery, a real boost to get some recognition from a photographer like Doug and also the start of my realisation that I could make something from nothing.

March – A rare photo that includes people, one of my first images that I considered successful using more abstract movement to help create a darker mood.

May – Taken with a long lens from Castlerigg Stone Circle, this was the one that got me placed in Amateur Photographer of the Year B&W round and serves as a reminder to look beyond the obvious at your location for interesting details. My photos of the famous stone circle were all average at best.

July – One of my favourite ICM photos of the year and taken at a local spot found by looking through the OS map. It’s somewhere I’ve returned to and will go back again in different conditions which encouraged me to spend more time browsing maps, Google Earth, etc. to find promising locations and explore my surroundings a bit more. This one got shortlisted for Outdoor Photographer of the Year.

September – From a week staying with my parents in North Yorkshire, family time but I managed to get a fair bit of photography in. The first morning I woke up early to an inversion visible out the window, me and my Dad spent the next two hours driving round the local Dales chasing spots to photograph the mist. My favourite from the morning, this also got shortlisted for OPOTY.

October – I had found this small clearing with a wonderful beech tree in the middle on a previous walk around one of my favourite local woods and knew I wanted to return on a misty Autumn morning. I rarely pre-visualise shots but the conditions turned up and I got the image I wanted from a very quick dash before work. This did show me the importance of scouting locations and knowing where you want to go when certain conditions present themselves.

November – The first image from my latest Mountains from Molehills project which made me realise I had something promising to keep experimenting with.

December – My favourite image to date from the Mountains from Molehills project which was all I really shot for in the last month or so, I’m really proud of what I created here.

I finished writing this post just after Christmas assuming the photography year would be over, but we’ve had some stunning conditions since then and I’ve been lucky enough to make it out with the camera 3 mornings in a row and get some photos I’m really happy with. I haven’t spent enough time with the resulting images to choose clear favourites yet, but here’s a bonus image from the last few days that wasn’t in the original post.

Thanks for reading if you got this far – I’m really looking forward to seeing where things go in 2017.

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