It barely seems like a couple of months ago I was penning my previous end of year recap. Since starting the beginning of 2018, January 1st in the Bangladesh countryside, I’ve since travelled to, in order, Kenya, Amsterdam, Italy, Finland, Italy, Ireland, Wales, Sri Lanka, Wales, Iceland, Wales, Scotland, Kenya, Poland, Ireland, Italy, France, Spain, Iceland and finally, Uganda! Granted one visit to Ireland plus Poland and Sri Lanka were not strictly photographic related but regardless, it’s fair to say when I arrived back in the UK mid-November after my time in Uganda, the two months following in the UK have been greatly welcomed! You’d also think with two months at home, I’d have had plenty of time to carefully consider and write this end of year review. But no, with so much of home life to catch up on here I am, frantically writing this on 31st December – so I’ll apologise now if seems a little rushed!
It’s been a packed year that, alongside actually taking photos, has involved being on the jury of two photography competitions, one in Italy plus the British Photography Awards. And of course, mixed in with all that has been travel at home visiting events to hold talks etc but as end of year posts can become a bit long-winded, I’ve curated some of my favourite moments down in to several highlights, plus some thoughts along the way. I’ve also included images that remind me of highlights of the year gone by, not necessarily the best of the best (apologies now but I always hold back on those for a while) but ones that serve as a heart warming reminder of moments I’ve treasured over the year – as cheesy as that sounds.
When somewhere you’ve no interest in becomes a highlight of the year
It’s a funny thing. I’m sure we all have a place in mind that we aren’t really that interested in visiting. Let me put it another way. A place (and animal) that’s on the to-see list but it’s way way down there near the bottom. For me, that place was Uganda and the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees that call it home. Don’t ask me why but it simply wasn’t anywhere near a priority for me to spend time with these primates. I don’t know why, it simple wasn’t. However when my friend David Lloyd asked me to co-host his Uganda Primates trip this year I decided I should put my lack of interest to the side and see what happens.
It’s fair to say I am so glad I did because Uganda has easily become not only a highlight of the year but a place that I have fallen a little bit in love with! From the stunning countryside and friendly people to, of course, the incredible primates that live in its forests. I’m lucky enough to see a lot of animals but I don’t remember the last time I felt genuine, raw, excitement like I did with the chimpanzees. Hearing them calling in forest long before we found them, then seeing brief glimpses of them high in the trees above, before finally coming almost face to face with one resting on a log just metres in front of me. Whilst the chimps stole the mountain gorillas thunder a little, it was still a jaw dropping experience to come face to face with them a few days later. The whole thing was simple unforgettable and I cannot wait to be back there again in 2019! Don’t forget to keep an eye on my photographic workshop page for details, if you’d like to join us.
Lenses lenses lenses
Casting my mind back to July of this year, a week or so before heading to Kenya for our Great Migration Photo Safari, I inquired to Nikon if there was any chance of taking any ‘nice new shiny lenses that might be coming out soon’ to Africa for the three week duration. Of course I was talking about the new 500 PF which had been announced earlier in the year. To my amazement permission was granted and so I found myself packing one of the only pre-production models in Europe, into my camera bag. Disguised perfectly by wrapping it in one of our camps linen laundry bags, I managed to use this incredible lens for three weeks without anyone batting an eye-lid, assuming it was actually me babying my 70-200 from the dusty environment! Having been the first wildlife photographer in the world to use the 180-400 1.4TC the year before (which was also then released in 2018), it was an incredible honour to essentially field test two of Nikons most well received lenses that have been released this year. As an added bonus, you can read my Nikon 500 PF review here and my Nikon 180-400 1.4 TC review here.
Co-hosting for Wildlife photographer of the year awards 2018
One of my favourite moments this year was co-hosting of the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. The Natural History Museum’s Nature Live coverage was live streamed out to their social media channels as the awards where announced. Rather than describe it all in detail, you can see how it all went in the video below.
- Running out of fuel on route to a talk in Amsterdam
- Having to wear all my clothes to bed, because my hosts heating had packed up, during winter in the Amsterdam countryside (they were the perfect hosts though, and the these events just made the whole thing more memorable and fun)
- Wearing a guests pink onesie, to entertain everyone during a particularly wet and miserable day on Skomer
- Seeing the Northern Lights for the first time. And, Iceland. Just. WOW!
- Being touched by a baby mountain gorilla as it ran around playing in the forest
- As always, speaking at The Photography Show in Birmingham for the four day duration of the event (watch the video below to see my full talk)
The joy and curse of travelling
Of course all the travel this year has been wonderful. I love to travel. I love to see new places, meet new people and see amazing wildlife. And for those of you reading this with the dread of going back to work in the coming week, the idea of packing it all in and switching to a photographic profession with lots of travelling probably sounds like a much better prospect.
Those who know me will know I like to keep things real. I don’t over-glamorise things I just tell it how it is. And whilst travelling is enjoyable, it’s not all glamorous. It means being away from home, friends and family, a lot. It means periods of being very tired, especially at times when all that travel is bunched close together. This year I went to France for eight days, home for a day, then to Ireland for two nights, home for two nights, straight to Spain for three nights then from there direct to Iceland for nine days. From Iceland I flew straight back to the UK, jumped on a train at the airport and went straight to London to co-host the previously mentioned Natural History Museums Nature Live coverage of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I ultimately enjoy everything being a full time professional photographer entails but there is a healthy dose of reality that can easily be forgotten about, especially if you’re looking in at this from the outside at a carefully curated social media stream full of all the ‘best bits’. It would be fair to say I’ve also given a lot of thought to my carbon footprint this year. Travelling so much is of course something that has an environmental cost that can’t be avoided. Whilst I’m not sure I could ever come close to counter-balancing that, I’ve made small changes as and where I can such as replacing all bulbs in the house with LED’s and only having lights on in the rooms that are being occupied. Also replacing as many items around the house with environmentally ethical variants etc. Like I say it will never fully make up for all the glob trotting but it’s a start that I will aim to push further on.
Don’t mistake the above for complaint in anyway as I love what I do. And if its for you, I’m sure you would too. But it is most certainly fair to say all the time I’ve spent on the 45 individual planes I’ve been on(!) In 2018 has certainly given me time to reflect on the other-side of my job!
On that final note
The image I’ll leave you with for this year actually wasn’t taken in 2018 at all. But it’s an image that was awarded in this years Windland Smith Rice Natures Best Photography competition, and graced the walls of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC earlier in the Autumn.
2018 has been a rollercoaster ride and there are already some pretty exciting plans in the works for 2019, so for now I’ll say happy shooting everyone and thanks as ever for the continued support. Of course I love to photograph the animals I put in front of my camera but meeting like minded people is always one of my highlights. I very much look forward to more of the same in the coming year ahead. And as ever, if you’d like to join my free newsletter to receive occasional emails, you can do so here…