A Look Back Over 2019
It's been a very tough year for me this year in terms of my landscape photography.
Time has been so limited due to the pressure of work and various things that have been going on have left little time for me to get out and shoot.
The times I have been able to go out the weather hasn't been very kind either which all in all has lead to a pretty bleak year.
I have said many times that if you can manage 6 absolutely killer images in a year then you are doing pretty well, this might seem like a really small amount to most people but its a good guide to go by when you are being very critical of your own work.
I usually have a weeks holiday in October to go away to a new county to hopefully get a few decent pictures of a new area and these are often quite fruitful, sadly this year I have missed out due to being constantly booked up with workshops (Not complaining) and having such a demanding heavy workload.
This year started with an exciting new twist, I decided to make the jump to the world of mirrorless cameras which was an exciting and yet nervous time.
I did a lot of research into the mirrorless market and decided it would be the way forward for me, but this of course meant a complete switch to new glass as well
Im a Canon photographer by choice and was using a 5D mk III for many years having owned several incarnations of this iconic model I was worried about leaving it.
Canon announced the new EOS R model and it seemed like a good fit for me so I made the switch and I haven't looked back.
The added advantage of this camera was the fact I could use my current range of Canon L series lenses seamlessly with the new adaptor Canon had come up with.
Whilst the EOS R doesn't have all the features I want it was a great start into the world of mirrorless cameras and there was a promise on the horizon for a new pro body mirrorless camera from Canon which I was now eager to get ! (Hurry up Canon) So it seemed a sensible decision to cut my teeth on this model before the pro body was available.
The biggest improvement over the 5d mk III was the incredible detail the EOS R recorded with its 30 megapixel sensor and the fact it was so sharp with the new RF lenses.
This did however make me question my older photographs and feel they were no longer up to the standard that this camera was capable of producing, This lead me to look at my website and decide to delete over 50% of my images.
This was quite a serious cull as there was nothing wrong with these images but I just didn't think they could hold up to the shots from the new EOS R camera so they had to go
It also had the added bonus of slimming down my website nicely to make it more manageable and easier for the end user to browse and hopefully it increased the standard of the work shown.
I started to become a lot harder on myself with images and conditions and it was quite common to go out for a shoot and come back having not even taken the camera out of the bag if the conditions weren't what I was after.
I started to target certain areas where I had a shot in mind and keep returning to the location time after time till I got what I was after and this approach seemed to work well for me rather than rushing around all over the place trying to take shots of areas that I had already got a pretty good shot of.
Pardon the pun but my landscape photography was far more focused this year than ever before, I didn't get as many shots but I did get better shots and the ones I was after so from that point it had to be considered a success.
I also got heavily obsessed with panoramic photography and loved how these absolutely huge images could contain so much detail and were capable of being blown up to such large sizes, once again I was enjoying doing something different and finding the pitfalls of this type of photography but working out solutions to correct it, this in itself was exceptionally rewarding on a personal level.
Again I had mainly stayed inland rather than going to the excessively busy coastline so I could enjoy the solidarity and peace and quiet but I did have one or two trips back to the coast and started to get excited about shooting it again which was nice having spent several years just shooting inland.
I have also had some success with my images getting noticed with the press and have been contacted by Dorset Life Magazine to have a 5 page feature and also had images used for the cover and a couple of centre page spreads.
I was also asked to write an article for Outdoor Photography magazine which was a real proud moment for me.
I was approached by several companies in regards to working with them on items which I chose to decline but it was however very nice to have been noticed and considered.
All of these opportunities had come through the website and I have never chased magazines or companies to feature me so it really was a big compliment to have these people come direct to me.
Another big deal in 2019 was the year of the Vlogger ! YouTube seems to have gone from strength to strength this year and now there are so many landscape photographers doing their thing on there, does this mean the end of the blogger ?
Well as popular as Vlogging is I still feel that blogs are something that will continue to have a decent following as some people simply prefer to read and YouTube "Personalities" can grate sometimes.
Never has it been so easy to get so much information, but at the same time I have often watched YouTube videos and thought that the advice they are giving is poor, and often not from experience but more a subject that they have chosen to do a video on simply because it will pull in views, that alone is worrying.
Now I certainly don't include all YouTubers in this and there are some very knowledgeable people out there who give great advice, but not all.
I think people fall in love with the idea of being known, or a "face" in the landscape photography world and rush to do these channels without really knowing their subject well enough to do so, I think in those situations people really need to be honest with themselves and not give advice on a subject that they aren't really qualified to do so as many people hang on their every word and can compromise their own work for it.
I certainly wont be doing a channel, I wish to remain as unknown as possible frankly so I can continue to enjoy my landscape photography on my own terms, not be fuelled by making content to achieve likes.
I have seen many channels which used to be very good put out sub par videos purely so they can keep to their release schedule, and keep pumping out content without really being something good. I would much prefer to see channels which didn't post regularly but when they did each video was fantastic and well worth viewing, The same goes for social media and peoples need to put up images often rather than striving for top quality.
Everything suffers for it, standards slip and that's hard to recover from. More importance needs to go on good quality content, not just content.
Once again these are purely my own opinions and i'm sure many will disagree with them which is absolutely fine.
This year I have also made a conscious decision to worry far less about sunrise or sunset colours, Instead focusing on the light that comes after or before them on the subject.
Now these pictures don't get the same interest as a pretty sunrise or sunset but I've always shot for my own personal taste and enjoyment so Im not really worried what response they get as long as I like them, Ive found this type of photography far more rewarding and it certainly helps you improve I feel as your not reliant on big colourful skies to make the picture.
Instead you pay more attention to the composition and of course, work the light which can make your subject simply pop in a way that a sunset can never do.
So what do I consider to be my best images of the year ?
Well this again is a subjective one, The work I consider my best isn't necessarily the best image, perhaps it is the work involved in getting it, the number of failed attempts before it finally all came right and I got something that was immensely satisfying on a personal level for me. Sometimes it isn't all about the "wow" factor, more a personal quest conquered.
So to start off with is an image of Worbarrow Bay on Dorsets Jurassic Coast.
Now this isn't a spectacular image by any stretch of the imagination but it meant a great deal to me as it was a return to the coast after a 2 year hiatus.
It was January and the weather was bitterly cold and there were 40 mph winds lashing the coast and frankly the day looked pretty bleak, but I could just see a gap opening up and knew there would be special light happening so I decided to stick it out and was pleased I did because as predicted the light came and it was a beautiful moment, super intense and it brought absolute joy to this photographer.
The struggle to stay there in the biting wind when all I wanted to do was get back to the car and put the heater on was rewarded and satisfying.
I had been spending a lot of time in the forest partly because of the solitude and partly because I was in awe of how it all looked in the different seasons and especially when fog would descend on it giving it a very ethereal feel.
I became fairly obsessed with morning light falling on trees while leaving everything else in shadow and spent a great deal of time patiently waiting for this to happen only for a cloud to thwart attempts or the light just not falling quite right on my subject.
Now this image will be absolutely marmite, you will either love it or hate it and I suspect most will be the latter but for me I was absolutely enchanted by it and really valued getting it.
Landscape photography in a forest can be a really hard thing to do and I had many struggles getting it right, trying to find order in the chaos of trees can be quite a daunting prospect especially when you have been used to seascapes which frankly are easy to make look interesting by comparison.
When the moment came I was elated.
My next image didn't come till April as I had been flat out again with work and simply struggled to get out or when I did the weather simply wasn't up to it.
I put a lot of time and effort into April as it was bluebell season and frankly I love it, there is something truly special about hunting down these wonderful flowers and capturing them basking in the sun deep in a forest that is just full of the scent of these magical flowers.
I also had an ulterior motive as I wanted to capture an image of my beloved dog, Indy in a forest of bluebells and as he went everywhere with me it seemed like a perfect chance for us both to enjoy ourselves.
Half of the love for this image was the adventure of chasing round looking for the bluebells, I found so many forests this year it was simply crazy ! The excitement of finding a new one and seeing a carpet of bluebells really does take some beating and of course all of this was shared with my dog, who was in heaven with all the forest to run and sniff in !
My next image came only a couple of days later and was of course of Bluebells again, This time thought it was a large panorama and evening light was cascading onto the forest and trees making a magical scene.
I had gone back to this spot 5 nights running after work trying to get this shot, I just knew it was there and just needed the right conditions with the light to make it a reality.
I had come very close several nights running and in truth had several shots that could have easily made it into the gallery but I just knew it could be better and I kept relentlessly perusing it until I got it.
Now there are a million Bluebell pictures that are better than this but this was my reward for persistence and determination not to accept something that was "almost" what I wanted but not quite.
I had been relentlessly pursuing a full arch rainbow over Corfe Castle, my personal nemesis that I just cant seem to get, I had spent so much time at the place I had got sick of it frankly but every time conditions looked good for a rainbow, that would be where you could find me.
I never did get the full rainbow over it sadly, I had a few half rainbows and bits but I will be back there again next year trying to achieve this shot, my unicorn.
I was however treated to some stunning conditions there with big stormy skies and beautiful golden light being thrown all over the castle and the surrounding hills and an image that I was more than happy with, it might not have been the rainbow I was after but it certainly made a fairly decent consolation prize ! It also went on to be one of my best selling pictures that adorns many walls, I was lucky enough to get an ultra large panorama of it too which looks stunning in the flesh.
In fact doing this also gave me this image on another day and I cant decide which I like best.
June is not usually a season that holds much hope for landscape photographers but promising looking conditions convinced me to make the trip out, it happened to be my birthday and I was hoping lady luck might smile on me for it.
I was keen to try and avoid the usual honeypot locations which would be super busy with the forecast of potential mist and I was keen on a solitary outing (dog allowed) So I chose a location that few ever visit and it paid of big time.
The 400 mm lens is one of my favourites when it comes to misty mornings, perfect for isolating your subject and giving a nice compressed view of it to emphasise the mist.
When I got to my location the mist was actually very thick and very little was visible under this blanket.
I was patient and kept waiting for the sun to come up and illuminate an area of woodland that was fairly high up.
The mist started to burn away and I had to fight temptation to pack up and go elsewhere deeper into the mist.
I held my nerve and waited for the moment I was after, it finally came and gave me an image I was really happy with as minutes later the mist had completely burnt away.
I didn't rush anywhere after that, I just sat down with the doggy and just watched the morning unfold, Happy birthday indeed.
Without the light on the trees this image just wouldn't have worked.
Work commitments had been coming thick and fast during the summer months and I had given the photography a much needed rest in order to focus on work and personal life, This had however left me with a burning urge to satisfy and that would come in the shape of a misty heather shot, I had taken quite a few this year and got some I was really pleased with.
I had gone with the intention of shooting an area one morning and when I got there it just really didn't look how I wanted it too so I gave it a pass and went off elsewhere to bag a sunrise shot instead.
I was rapidly running out of time before Sunrise and eventually settled on the River Frome in Wareham as I knew there would be mist on the water still and it was the right time of year for the sun to be behind the boats.
When I got there rather unsurprisingly there were people already there so I opted to shoot with the long lens from the bridge, a totally unplanned shot to be honest.
This is why it really struck a chord with me, I had put so much focus this year in planning shots with military precision, going over every detail and making them count yet here I was totally winging it and it gave me my favourite shot from the year.
Its a well photographed location but I didn't care, I had a shot I was over the moon with, the emotion of the picture is clear to see and mist was simply perfect.
The whole thing made me laugh, I rolled up half heartedly, got my shot and was gone within 5 minutes onto the next location, no planning and boom, my favourite shot of the year.
Funny how things go really.
September was mist season, and probably one of my favourite times of the year to shoot. I had been actively avoiding sunsets & sunrises for a while in favour of shooting other conditions but mist and sunrise go hand in hand and I was determined to get a good one.
There are several locations in Dorset that were almost guaranteed mist when conditions looked favourable but they had all been shot to death and I was keen to avoid them.
I wanted an area that covered a fairly wide vista so I could do a panorama of it, after much searching I found my place and visited it every time the mist looked likely, sadly it didn't come up to my expectations, I knew it had huge potential and kept going trying to get what I had in my head on the memory card.
I got several nice images of other areas of this venue which I was happy with but not the one I really wanted.
The forecast looked favourable and I once again set off with this image in mind and was disappointed to see the lovely cloud that was overhead start to clear leaving a very bright sunrise sky.
I nailed the shot with the first click and then got the panorama too, which ultimately was the one I ended up liking even more.
The dog knew I was happy and gave me a knowing look as if to say, you done alright there now let's go walkies ! and so we did.
This was runner up to the above shot for my favourite of the year, I simply love the scene and the hard work that went into getting it.
The nights were starting to draw in now and I was making a few trips on the way home from work to close by venues if the weather looked promising.
This was one such occasion and I found myself at Horton tower waiting for some dramatic light to fall on it while big heavy rain clouds swirled round behind it, it wasn't to happen and I decided to call it a day.
My long suffering dog was with me and had been confined to the lead as there are sheep close by and I didn't want him to cause any bother with them so I decided I would nip down to Knowlton Church which was just a short drive away so he could run around like mad in the enclosed area of the church.
This turned out to be a great decision as while driving towards it a small gap opened up and light started to pour through just as the heavens opened, I quickly got the gear out and hoped that a rainbow would make an appearance, Then like a beautiful streaking spectre of the sky it came out and I nailed the picture, I saw another photographer facing the other way shooting into the sun clearly oblivious of the marvel that was taking place just over his shoulder.
I couldn't let him miss out so a quick shout of "Look behind you" was followed by him legging it over and also getting his shot, he turned out to be newly into photography and I was super happy that I had helped him get a cracking shot and also learn the valuable lesson of always look behind you !
In case your wondering, Indy dog got extra dinner that night, if it wasn't for him id have been on the way home and would have missed this shot. Nice to luck out for a change.
October brought with it a solid month or workshops and very limited time to get out on my own.
Normally during workshop I wont be shooting myself as you are focused on your client and helping them achieve a great shot but I always take the camera gear in order to sometimes demonstrate a technique or a benefit of certain equipment etc....
This was one of those times where it had been a poor day with the weather and we had all worked exceptionally hard to get images but perseverance was to be rewarded.
The dull grey sky began to clear a little and a small area of colour started to appear, and then get bigger and bigger and it just didn't seem to stop.
I couldn't resist a shot of the iconic Portland Bill with a glorious sunset happening above it.
Sometimes a bit of perseverance and a lot of luck can be the difference between success and failure, this time luck was with me.
Still in October but having had no free weekends I was itching to get out and some potential misty conditions made me take notice for a midweek morning so a day off was quickly booked from work and I was full of expectation and excitement.
I was going to head to the New Forest and hopefully capture some beautiful Autumn colours and some lovely mist.
I planned everything in detail, I knew the exact spots I was going to shoot, the times I had to be at each, I had back up areas, and back ups for my back ups ! I was going to nail it.
The alarm was set for 5 am and I couldn't wait.
I woke up at 6.30 am, the alarm hadn't gone off and I went into a blind panic as I knew it would be good out there and I didn't want to waste a day off work so I grabbed the camera bag and headed to the nearest misty location I could think of, Corfe Castle.
I really don't like to shoot Corfe Caste in the mist as to be honest its been done to death and done very well by many other photographers but time wasn't on my side and it was that or miss out completely as I couldn't get to the forest in time with the awful morning traffic that takes hours to get through.
I got to the hill just in time and hiked up it and warp speed huffing & puffing like a goodun, I got to the top and looked at the view in front of me.
Theres no other word for it, epic was all I could think and I while I hated myself for being up there shooting it in mist I could instantly understand why so many people find themselves there doing just that, its breathtaking and in truth I had missed the old girl as I hadn't shot it in mist from West hill since 2010.
This morning prompted me to rekindle a bit of love with Corfe castle in the mist and also was the reason behind writing the locations guide on it in a previous blog.
Again the picture isn't on here for being an "outstanding" image because it certainly isn't, its here because it reminded me of a feeling of which I first had almost ten years ago when I last shot it in the mist and that was a pretty special feeling back then.
Ive put both images on here as they are almost identical but shot many years apart.
Autumn is usually my favourite season but this year it had been especially cruel to me, if it wasn't the lack of time to shoot it was the poor weather that seemed to dominate October.
The jet stream was in full effect and was bringing non stop rain and high wind, great if you want to shoot big waves but not so good if you want to shoot misty woodland scenes.
The leaves were starting to turn and then the cruel wind took them all away with several days of high gales, Frustration levels were at an all time high.
The misty conditions I had enjoyed in 2018 were nowhere to be seen sadly and October quickly blurred into November without anything of note happening and the pressure was really on to get some decent landscapes so my thoughts turned back to the coast.
November was again a hugely busy time for me with work, workshops & general things getting in the way of my photography.
I had to spend a week away in Birmingham at a show which was again very frustrating as that week saw some pretty good conditions which I was forced to miss because of work and as soon as I got back it was back to high wind and rain again.
Work went into overdrive and November soon turned to December and I hadn't got any shots worth getting excited about.
December typically was full of social engagements and lots of extra work as year end was looming, these again cost me time to get out and all my hopes were pinned on a week off I had between Christmas and New Year but the forecast was looking more of the same, high winds and heavy rain and admittedly my enthusiasm wasn't exactly at a high during this time.
My article that I had been asked to write for Outdoor Photography came out in December and it gave me renewed enthusiasm to get out again and nail some last gasp pictures if possible so I watched the weather with keen interest in the run up to Christmas, it didn't look great but bad weather can often produce the most interesting results and if I was very lucky a rainbow may appear so all hopes were pinned on that.
Alas it wasn't to be, bad weather dominated the Christmas break and on the odd occasion we had good weather I had previous plans which had to be honoured.
I got out a couple of times and got a handful of ok images but nothing exceptional so I decided to simply knock it on the head and enjoy the rest of the break without any pressure to get shots.
The bottom line was I had started to feel a little burnt out with work and photography so didn't feel there was any point in forcing it.
I would sooner recharge the batteries and go for it all again in 2020 with renewed enthusiasm and passion.
2019 had been a fairly brutal year but it had its highs as well as lows so as usual we take it in our stride and learn from the experiences.
My targeted approach to images in 2019 had worked fairly well and I had decided to stick with it again in 2020 which might mean that I get less images but I do believe it brings you a better quality of image which in my opinion was a far better reward in the long run.
I have also become a lot less bothered by missing out on good conditions and instead valuing non photography things a lot more highly than I had previously which had made things a lot more balanced and enjoyable.
So there you have it, a round up of my 2019 landscape photography year, I hope this will give you a true picture of what its really like and that you simply don't get winning pictures every time you go, its a hard slog sometimes and you have to be prepared to go for long periods without any highlights sometimes but this always makes the highs that much sweeter when they come, and they will come for you if you keep putting the time & effort in.
Thank you to everyone who reads and supports me and this blog and I wish you all a exceptional 2020 and hope its year best year to date.
As always, Happy shooting.
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