Gosh, where to start! What a strange year that was.
One of the more interesting aspects to this rather lovely thing called photography that I do is that you become very aware of subtle differences year on year. Usually these differences are confined to which particular flower has been favoured by the sequence of weather conditions that have prevailed over the last 12 months, whether it’s the spring Orchids or the Bluebells or the August heather. We rarely get weather events that are so extreme that they’re worth a separate mention but this year has come with two noteworthy interludes. Last winter sort of came on in a somewhat undemonstrative fashion with the first snows arriving in the middle of December but then it simply wouldn’t go away, with the cold intensifying as the early months progressed. A sequence of Easterly air streams brought by a contorted Jet Stream created prolonged cold and snowy conditions and not for the first time I found myself restricted to photographing places that I could reach on foot because we were snowed in. Thankfully I live in a very pretty place so being grounded does not carry the same frustrations for me that it perhaps does for town-based photographers. Spring came very late and was quite short and intense before more Jet Stream contortions brought a six week long hot and dry period where lots of things got a serious toasting. Autumn was very colourful as a consequence. Curious conditions create rare and curious scenes, however, and should not diminish the drive to get out and record with the camera things that perhaps occur only very rarely.
Due to circumstances I have run far less workshops this year. In part this has been due to the simple fact that I have been overworking. I have managed to go down with something unpleasant every year for the last few years at the back-end of November and the flu-like thing that I went down with at the end of last year laid me up until March. I wont be going back to the 40-50 workshops a year situation that I have been in before. 20 or so will be plenty from now on. I am sure that it will be to everyone’s benefit. I will have more energy and be able to apply myself better. Having more time has also allowed me to experiment a bit and I have been making progress on several photographic and non-photographic fronts this year. More about them sometime later next year, hopefully.
I also had the pleasure of illustrating another book this year, with Roly Smith’s lovely ‘Wonders Of The Peak: Then and Now’ coming out late in the summer. A very good and satisfying collaboration with one the Peak Districts leading authors.
Camera-wise the combination of ill-health, curious weather and experimentation has inevitably impacted on where I have gone with the camera and what I have done with it so let’s see – and I’ve cheated a bit this year because for some months I have chosen more than one image …..
Easy. I only had one trip out with the camera worthy of note in January. A lovely wander around the upper reaches of Weardale which produced this very pleasing shot of the detail from one of the rapids. A very careful exposure made by resting the camera on top of my rucksack because I didn’t want to carry a tripod with me.
This was when the colder weather contortions of the Jet Stream started to manifest themselves. A visit to the frozen Kinder Downfall has been on my to-do list for years and the prevailing easterly finally delivered the right conditions for me at a time when I could actually exploit them. I wasn’t in ideal shape for the trek and found it a bit arduous but the rewards made the exertions very worthwhile.
I have put two images in here because the second, a black and white from a walk into the woods just around the corner from my house, was made on film. Ilford XP 400 shot with a Nikon F-301. I spent some time this year trying to retro-fit some of the techniques that I have developed for digital back to film to see if they work and of course they do. I haven’t invented anything new. It simply means that after all these years I have learned how to do photography properly. It’s not surprising that I can now create film images better than at any time before when I was only using film. The results are nonetheless very pleasing and I will do more film in future.
The snowy weather didn’t leave us until the middle of March, which was a bit of a worry because we finally got to run a photography holiday with our good friends at Plas-y-wern in Wales. In the end the A487 was cleared just in time for Martin, Colin, Catherine, Moy and Chris to get over the Welsh hills to Cardigan, at which point the sun promptly came out and suddenly it was Spring.
Two images again from March with the first one being the waterfall on the beach at Tresaith from the final day at Plas-y-wern and the second a shot across the fields at Parsley Hay in the Peak District, where I spent a couple of days working while the Visitor Centre in Bakewell was being refurbished. Not a bad view from the office window!
I started doing some very interesting experiments with red filters this year and I must say that I think that the quality of even the digital frames created by using red filters is better than the simple black and white conversions available in photoshop. The red filter is now a permanent add-on to my camera bag – either digital or analogue. This shot is a detail of the Devonshire Dome in Buxton.
As expected, Spring was pretty intense but quite brief, with everything trying to make up for the late start. The Bluebells were pretty without being outstanding as was the wild garlic. In some places the orchids failed to show at all so it will be interesting to see what happens next spring. This month’s shot comes from near Fairholmes on Ladybower. One of the benefits of visiting places repeatedly is that you get past the sense of being overwhelmed by what you see and you start to see the details, where a lot of the more interesting photographs can be found. This process is called Accommodation and this shot is definitely a product of my brain accomodating the wider, impressive nature of Ladybower through visiting it many times. It’s not a composition that I had noticed in previous visits but it leapt straight at me when I saw it.
Well, someone definitely left the heating on in June ! We had a very pleasant trip to Snowdonia for our wedding anniversary but it was so hot we didn’t actually do very much. It was very enjoyable, though, and the area around the cottage in Nant Peris was lovely. Two photographs again for this month with one from Nant Peris and the Peak District shot taken in Water-cum-Jolly, just down from my house from a set of long exposure exercises in texture. I was very pleased with the Monet-like qualities of this one.
The warm, toasted countryside continued all the way through July but there was really quite a lot to photograph. I was particularly interested in the extremely low water levels in the rivers, which revealed details that you would not normally see. The water levels in the reservoirs of the Upper Derwent just fell and fell. July’s image is a pleasingly different study of the Weir in Monsal Dale.
The drought somewhat held the heather back and it wasn’t as good as it has been in recent years but at least the rains returned in August, meaning that the late summer colours were actually very good. We enjoyed an excellent trip to Argyll and Bute where we were amazed by just how much wildlife the area supports. From our chalet on the shores of Loch Caolisport we regularly saw a local Sea Eagle. My favourite shot for the month is of a Sea Eagle and was taken on a trip out to the Corryvrecken, a famous maelstrom that occurs between the islands of Jura and Scarba.
The autumn colours crept in gradually in September but the rains had arrived just in time to stop everything from simply dying off at the end of the summer and there was an awful lot of things to look at and shoot. Even so my favourite shot is from Howden in the Upper Derwent which reached amazingly low levels. A day out with Gill.
Commitments meant that I barely got out with the camera in October but just being able to look at the colours was a joy. We managed a couple of days in Venice, which is a photogenic marvel, but I also managed a trip out to Priddock Wood, somewhere that I hadn’t been to for years and was very glad to get back, particularly with the colours being so good. So, another month with two images.
It was pretty much back to normal with the weather in November. Mild and wet. Windy. Mild, wet and windy. A bit of frost. Mild and wet again. November in a nutshell. November is also when I tend to hold my last workshop of the year, which is usually a moving water workshop and this year was no exception. It was an annual trip up into Crowden Brook. A really lovely location with lots of interesting detail to shoot.
It seems that we’re heading out of the year in a bit of a dull squish – at least in the Peak District we are. There has been some nice occasional light, however, and I have another month with two images. One from a beautifully lit Bolehill Quarry from early in the month and the second a shot of Broadway Tower that I took on Christmas Eve while on a short break in the Cotswolds.
So there we have it. It doesn’t seem like 12 months since I last did this but then it has been a very unusual year and despite the limited opportunities the product has been very pleasing.
Thank you for your company this year. There’ll be more fun in the New Year. Have a good ‘un 🙂