It’s that time of year again to review the past year by showcasing my favourite 10 images from this year. As is always the way, a summer slump made me think I’d fallen out of love with photography as the conditions just don’t work for me personally, with too many greens, too much blue sky and not enough atmosphere for the type of image I love to create.
I’ve had some great trips away with my best mates to create a lot of images, from the Outer Hebrides, Isle of Skye, Sutherland, Glencoe to the Northumberland coastline and North Yorkshire. The UK really is full of diversity when it comes to creating landscape and seascape images. So lets begin, and in no particular order…
Bamburgh I went to Bamburgh on the north east coastline of Northumberland for a sunrise, knowing the tide was a really big high tide. When there I realised that I wasn’t going to get a sunrise, but I got much better, a lovely moody morning, with the whole beach to myself. It’s a location I have shot hundreds of times, yet I never tire of this place. It’s a special place for me, one of my favourite places in the whole of the UK. As I looked around for my composition, I seen the waves coming up and almost swirling around this part of the rock, knowing that with the correct shutter speed I could really emphasise the movement in the water, and use it as the start of a leading line up towards the mighty castle. ____________________
Callanish We headed to the fantastic Callanish Stones for sunrise on the Isle of Lewis, and we were not let down. We got some lovely colour just before the sun popped up, with some great cloud to boot. I often find this location difficult to photograph to get a clean and balanced composition due to the way the stones are set out, and the amount of stones there are too. I don’t like what I consider mess in a photograph, I always look for clean compositions free of clutter. Choosing this spot to shoot from works for me as it’s the best composition so that the majority of the stones aren’t overlapping, and it’s not always about getting it all in the frame. There are many more stones left out of the image, but that works for the better for my personal tastes. It would take great consideration to get more of the stones in the image and still keep a pleasing composition for the eye. ____________________
Crummock Water Ricky and myself headed out for sunrise to Crummock Water in the Lake District to shoot a very well shot boat, but the conditions we got were exceptional, which made all the difference. When we first arrived we were treated to some great mist and a wee bit of colour, although the sky was pretty much clear, so when the clouds started rolling in just before the light broke on the fells, I had a feeling it would make for a great image. I dislike nothing more than clear blue skies, so it was also a wee bit of a relief. I watched the light slowly trace down the fells and eventually onto the foreground grasses I composed in the image too, and glad we still had a wee bit of reflection on the lake too, and it all came together to make a rare pleasing summertime image for myself. ____________________
Buachaille Etive Mor I couldn’t do a top 10 without an image of the mighty Buachaille! A mid afternoon shot from a wee spot that I’ve visited on numerous occasions and never got a thing from it. This time however the light fell great, the clouds weren’t shrouding the top of the mountain and the composition just works with the frozen lochan drawing the eye through the image. It’s just one of those mountains you can’t help but stop and shoot when even driving through Glencoe. ____________________
Saltwick Bay A sunrise near Whitby, again a day away with my good mate Dave, we were treated to some spectacular colour. Whilst I went here to shoot the Admiral von Tromp boat wreck, I came away with this image which I prefer to the one I had initially had in my head and that I went to shoot. It’s funny how that works out at times. Another pretty simple composition that really jumped out at me, using the random rocks as a lead in line to the Black Nab, I think it does the trick nicely! Another clean composition though with no clutter or mess, a big thing for me and something I really take care about when composing an image. ____________________
Winskill Stones A very recent image made at the Winskill Stones in North Yorkshire. Three times I’ve visited this location and it has never let me down when it comes to making images. This one though is the winner of all I’ve taken here so far. We initially started at Ribblehead for sunrise, an image which will probably make it into this top 10 too, but to see the limestone pavement layered in snow was quite something, and also something to be extremely careful of, not knowing where the deep holes were, it was a case of stepping carefully! I guess the pavement can go down as quite messy in my head when it comes to setting up a composition, something I’ve mentioned a lot already, I know. I took my time working the location to get the composition that looked best for me whilst still keeping the lone tree in the image as an important element to the scene. Once the light broke through the clouds, as always the way with landscape photography, it lifted the scene a lot and I took my image. ___________________
Bow Fiddle Rock A trip up the east coast of Scotland this time, and to Portknockie and Bow Fiddle Rock. A very impressive lump of Quartzite with a natural sea arch. Certainly not my favourite conditions when we shot here, flat calm and rather hot, however the mist out to sea making the horizon vanish made for quite a surreal look to this image, making the rock look like it’s almost floating in midair. Once again composed so that there’s nothing on the edge of the frame, nothing poking into or vanishing out of the frame, one of my biggest bugbears when it’s something that can easily be avoided. ____________________
Glencoe A day trip when the forecast was for howling gale force winds and lots and lots of rain. Most folk thought I was crazy heading out of the house, let alone 3 hours north to go and make some images. Conditions I thrive in. I love the challenge of working in adverse conditions. Knowing the are well, I knew if the rain forecast did indeed come, that the rivers would rise rapidly, giving some great opportunities. When I first looked at the spot in the morning, the river was nothing but a trickle, but a couple of hours of heavy rainfall and a lot of sitting in the car, it became a raging torrent of water. Out I got with the tripod, set up with the wind almost knocking me off my feet, and the rain pounding into me, luckily it was blowing from behind me which made keeping the filters free of rain quite easy for once! A sturdy tripod in conditions like this makes all the difference to get a shutter speed of 0.6th of a second just to give the water a wee bit of motion but not flattening it out. The light down the glen really made the image come to life for me, whilst it’s just a little bit, it worked wonders when compared to images with no light. ____________________
Elphin Recently asked what my favourite view was, I replied anything with Suilven in the frame. It’s a majestic mountain and totally different from any angle, and I just love it from the wee bothy at the roadside in Elphin, North West Scotland. Quite a miserable day when I shot this one, so it was shot with the mono conversion in mind. A long exposure also to smooth out the sky that wasn’t really working for me otherwise. ____________________
Ribblehead Viaduct If this was the last good day of photography for 2019, then I bow out of the year rather happy. Ricky and I decided to head here at the very last minute, and we weren’t disappointed! When we seen snow forecast, I hoped for a sprinkling to lift the scene, but what I got was SO much better. A good 3 or 4 inches covering the landscape, with low cloud and mist rolling through to boot, it really couldn’t have been better! I love Ribblehead but always went home with images that I felt were lacking something, but what, I wasn’t sure. Now I know! Snow. Then it was just a case of finding a composition that suited me, and a cracking wee lump of grass sticking through the snow worked for me. ____________________
So there we have it, my personal favourite top 10 images of 2019. If you made it this far, thanks for looking! A lot of these images would never have happened if it wasn’t for my good friends coming along for the ride with me, splitting costs and generally having a blast, and that’s what it’s about first and foremost for me, having a good time with good friends. The photos are always secondary to a trip away with good friends. Dave, Ricky, Jono, Nick, Gary, here’s to next years adventures! All images were made on a Sony A7RII with either the Tokina FiRIN 20mm F2 AF or Samyang 24mm F2.8 AF. All images do go through a phase of post production in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Also a massive shout out and thanks to my sponsors, Benro UK, Kase Filters UK and Vanguard Photo UK for the support which is always appreciated. Their kit is for me the best out there making everything and anything possible.