In some ways 2012 has been a slow photographic year for me, but in others, a very fulfilling one. I’ve experienced the high’s of awards ceremonies and the low’s of broken camera’s. So here’s a little look back at the year gone by as I share twelve photos that sum up 2012 and talk about a few of the things that went well, some if the things that didn’t, and also thank those of you who’ve inspired or entertained me throughout the year.
First of all…
THE BORING STUFF
I knew 2012 would be a quieter year for me and my life away from the camera would be a busy one filled with trips to Germany, France and Italy (non photography related) and DIY as my wife and I prepared our house ahead of trying to sell and move. This resulted in much of my time being reserved for trips to B&Q, being covered in paint and having bathrooms and kitchens replaced! That all finished a couple months ago and we then moved on to the estate agents phase and house viewings. All very time consuming and, annoyingly, still ongoing! But the more I started to think back about this year, the more I came to realise that although my photo opportunities were few, it certainly wasn’t uneventful.
THE YEAR IN BRIEF
Several smaller highlights of this year gone by before I get in to the detailed stuff:
1) My main portfolio site got a redesign
2) I launched an online print store
3) I saw my first ever Waxwing and live Badger (no laughing please)
4) I was awarded in both the WPOTY and BWPA competitions
5) On behalf of Wex Photographic, I had two one-to-one hands on with both the Nikon D4 and D800 at Nikon HQ ahead of their release. Both of which I went on to add to my camera bag.
6) I then broke my D800 a month after purchase (again, no laughing please)
In March my wife and I squeezed in a couple of nights in the New Forest which, although mainly a relaxing getaway weekend, provided me with the opportunity to capture a photo I’ve wanted to get for quite some time. The light on our second evening was perfect and so I set about driving the heath-land roads in search of the perfect position to get my shot, with a beautiful New Forest pony grazing in just the right spot for me to underexpose the scene and really emphasis the rim light from the setting sun. I’d tried to get this shot in the past but never had the right combination of light, position, background and pony so it was great to finally have these elements finally come together.
The end of April saw me head for Belarus. Not the most productive time away and on occasion, outright awful (more on that later), but it was certainly an experience! The highlight of which was spending some time with Great Snipe during a lek. Being in a hide out in the middle of the action as they called out and displayed from all directions was simply incredible. A wonderful experience that won’t soon be forgotten.
In May spent the day with the incredible high speed flash photographer Dale Sutton. A very talented chap and all round nice guy. Dale has access to some private land which a family of Little Owls call home and so the day was dedicated to photographing these wonderful birds. I took many photos that day but one of my favourite is of these three owlets peering out from the nest as they await mums return with food.
June provided my second annual trip to the Farne Islands with good friend and even better photographer Austin Thomas. We also got to catch up with fellow wildlife photographer friends Kaleel Zibe and Alan Hewitt. Compared to the year before, this time we would face awful conditions the entire time which culminated with us being forced off the island early on our last day by the approach of one of the biggest storms Northumberland had seen in some time. I took very few images on the the islands although I’m quite fond of this simple portrait against a deep grey background which is the result of the distant black rock face being shrouded in incredible thick fog and mist.
More recently, at 330am one dark December morning I found myself waking up to drive across to Norfolk with good friend and first class photographer David Lloyd, to meet up with the photographic talents of another regular shooting buddy Luke Massey and meet Ben Andrews for the first time, for another first, a visit to Snettisham. This was covered in my most recent blog post, but my favourite image from the day was (of course) a flock of knot flying through the air. The sheer number of birds and detail of the image really lends itself to being viewed BIG, but hopefully you get the idea.
AWARDS, MEDIA & MAGAZINES
Of course, if you’re a regular , there’s no prizes for guessing that being awarded in both the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and British Wildlife Photography Awards topped my year, with the Awards dinner for the former being an incredible and unforgettable night. Seeing my image Snow Pounce on display at the Natural History Museum was both humbling and surreal. The BWPA saw one of my images awarded, plus two more make the competition book with one of those being the editors choice for Outdoor Photographer magazines coverage of the competition. A true honour but I won’t waffle on about these as I’ve covered them in detail in blog posts which are linked at the top of this post. I’ll simple share this photo of me with Snow Pounce at the WPOTY exhibition at the Natural History Museum, the day after the awards.
2012 also saw several sets of images getting picked up by the National Press, both in print and on the websites of papers including the Telegraph, Times, Mail and Guardian. They included some of my little owls, a goldcrest attacking it’s reflection in my car window and the knots at Snettisham. I’m always hugely appreciative of any inclusion in papers and magazines as there’s a lot of talented photographers out there, so it was nice to also make appearances in several photography magazines including four times in N-Photo (three of them in consecutive issues) plus Digital Camera Magazine and Nikon Owner Magazine.
I selected the owl double page spread from Digital Camera Magazine to highlight here simply because it makes up a little for number three in my ‘top three low points‘ below, which was the day I took the shot.
TOP THREE LOW POINTS OF 2012
Can’t have some highs without a few lows. So, just for your amusement here are my top three moments of 2012 that had me gritting my teeth…
Damaging, to the tune of over £300, my D800 and having it away at Nikon for repair for several weeks, less than a month after buying it. What a plonker!
Driving from the Farne Islands in Northumberland back down through Newcastle towards Bempton Cliffs during one of the biggest thunderstorms of the year. The roads were being closed and flooded left right and center with diversions being put up all over the place and passing stranded/flooded cars on every road we tried to drive along. Going through the Tyne Tunnel in single file traffic, whilst a policeman stood in several feet of water up above his knees, prompting me to not stop or slow down (or drive too fast) as I drove through said water at the bottom of the tunnel, was quite the hair raising experience and all added up to the single worst journey I’ve ever had to drive.
The first morning of my Belarus trip. Another photographer and I had to walk through, at times, stagnant water (that was deeper than wellies in places) out to a temporary hide which had been placed out the night before by our guide. When we arrived at the hide it was not only way too small for two fully grown adults and their camera’s, tripods and bags, but the floor was also under four or five inches of water making placing our bags down impossible and changing lenses, teleconvertors and camera’s a delicate and worrying process. We could just about deal with the lack of space, the smell, sitting there with wet feet and the the entire hide being covered inside and out with hundreds of spiders, beetles and earwigs which constantly crawled over us as we unavoidably rested against the sides of the hides, but the final straw came as the first light of day began to appear and we realised the pre-setup hide had been placed facing in to the sun! All of this would have been forgiven if there were plenty of subjects to photograph, but even that was not to be the case. It was an epic fail in every sense of the word!
Certainly not some of the best bits of 2012. But it would be fair to say often the best stories are the ones where it didn’t go to plan! I felt a less than attractive creature would fit in this part of the post though 🙂
There’s no doubt in my mind that social media can be a powerful tool and I’ve enjoyed some great conversations with followers on both my Twitter and Facebook page this year, so thank you all very much for continuing to show an interest in what I do and for posting links to great work of others that I’d otherwise maybe never see. My website also had it’s highest traffic yet with 157k unique visits and almost 350k page views, I’d have never guessed when I started it a few years ago that eventually I’d be on my way to half a million page views in a year! So thank you everyone who has visited the site and sent me emails off the back of it.
Also, far from an exhaustive list, but there are a few wildlife photographers not listed above whom I’ve either met this year or find inspiring or, in some cases, I’m privileged enough to call friends. So take a bow:
NEXT STOP, 2013
So, there we are. There’s been highs and lows but despite being a quiet year for me (in terms of new photos opportunities), there’s been some great moments and memories. As for 2013, that’s shaping up to be quite a bit more productive with two trips to Scotland already planned as well as five weeks in Australia (with a brief stop off in Langkawi) and two weeks in Alaska. I’ll certainly try my best to squeeze some more in where I can, although, I’ve still got a house to sell and a new house to find and buy to fit in somewhere too…!
Thank you once more for contuing to show an interest in my work and for all the comments and emails I’ve received this year. I look forward to more of the same in 2013!