• Daniel Wretham

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.

Worbarrow Bay
Intense light at Worbarrow Bay, Dorset

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.

The New Forest
Solitary light in the forest, Stand proud & Individual

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 !

Bluebell Forest
Dawn in a Bluebell forest, Simply magic

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.

Bluebell Forest
Bluebells in Evening Light - Panorama

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.

Corfe Castle Panorama
Evening Light on Corfe Castle - Panorama

In fact doing this also gave me this image on another day and I cant decide which I like best.