These are my favourite photos of 2017. It wasn’t a prolific year for me but I am quite pleased with several of the photos I managed to get. There are possibly a number of reasons why it wasn’t a prolific year, but one must be the weather. I remember during late winter and early spring having a frustrating time of it at weekends, with few opportunities to get out due to rain. Another frustration was autumn – I normally love getting out into autumnal woodlands, but somehow this year it passed me by. Or maybe I let it?
Despite the infrequent nature of my outings, I am pleased with a number of the resulting photos. They may not all be technically perfect but they are personal favourites. One common theme is that many were
The last place I expected to find myself last weekend was Teignmouth pier. After all, I’d photographed it several times before and the attraction of a return visit wasn’t obvious. I am also trying to avoid heading out purely for red skies and prefer looking for other opportunities. Golden hour side-lighting, or foggy mornings for example. However I’d had a really frustrating weekend with the camera and was desperate to photograph something. Not quite anything, but something. I’d taken Friday off to head to Dartmoor and shoot autumnal scenes. That came to nought as I had a cloudless sunrise and my woodland walk – up the Erme from Ivybridge – was bereft of bronze and yellow foliage.Read more
I can’t believe that its the end of another year — it seems to have gone in a blur. What do I remember, photographically speaking, of 2012? Well, it didn’t start off too well when my tripod collapsed and broke my camera on a wet Dartmoor morning, but it got a lot better. I think I can safely say that my output improved over the course of the last 12 months. There are still things I would like to improve — on location composition for example as I do tend to crop a little too much in post production — but I can look back over the last 12 months with a feeling of satisfaction.
When compiling this list of favourites I thought of just picking out my faves and posting them but, after a bit of thought, Read more
Several times over the past year year I have been put off by other photographers when going out on early morning shoots. Maybe I should start finding less popular locations as I quite like the solitude at first thing — just me, my camera, and a rising sun. But, hey, I want to get my own versions of what others call the photographic clichés so I guess I’ll have to put up with company every now and then — after all I certainly don’t have “first dibs” on anywhere. I have found, however, that I am easily put off by these other photographers and this was never more evident to me than on a recent trip to Dovercourt Low Lighthouse to shoot the sunrise.
I first found out about this location back in 2008 when I was an active Pbase user and saw an excellent photo by Katie Jones on the same site. My usual photographic patch is Devon but, as my in-laws live in Essex and I spend several weekends a year up there with the family, I immediately put it onto my to-shoot list. It is a long drive from the in-laws’ house in Wickford to Dovercourt and getting there for sunrise after a few too many beers the previous night has proved beyond my weak willpower until now.
I was determined to make my own photo out of the location and not just copy what I had seen elsewhere. Turning up 20 minutes or so before sunrise the tide was perfect (about 3/4 out and receding) so I set up my tripod on the beach and composed a pleasing (to my eye) composition using the foreground groynes and more distant walkway to create a zigzag lead in to the main attraction. I took two shots with this composition, the best of which is below (another shot, omitting the groynes, is on my Flickr photostream):
I like the composition and actually quite like the almost monochromatic feel to this image. However, shortly after taking it, I was distracted by the other early riser on the beach — another photographer who was setting up his shot 30 yards or so to my left. “Aha”, I thought, “he’s a local and he must know the best compo’s”. Not wanting to miss out, I moved further up the beach towards him and started making different compositions waiting for the sunrise and the accompanying lightshow. None of these compositions really worked as well for me as the first one had and, by the time I returned to my original location after about half an hour, the sun was up, tide had receded too far, and the compo didn’t work any more.
Now, as it happens, I hadn’t missed a fantastic sunrise so no real damage done but, on closer inspection, I hadn’t focussed properly and the foreground groynes were sharp at the expense of an ever so slightly out of focus lighthouse. The effect is minimal but noticeable to me — and therefore very annoying. If I had only stuck to my guns and worked on my original composition I hope I would have noticed this and put it right, coming away with an image I was 100% satisfied with and not thinking that I must return (and at this rate it will be 2016 before I do so …).
Another example is when I visited Hay Tor in Devon in March (image below):
Again, another photographer was there and he put me off — probably more so than the one at Dovercourt because this one was aloof and ignored my presence and attempts to even say hello to him while waiting for sunrise (at least I had a good chat with the chap on the beach). I spent far too long more aware of what he was doing rather than concentrating on the scene before me and doing the best that I could. As it happens I quite like what I came away from Hay Tor with, so not much damage done there.
I have had similar experiences at other locations: Lyme Regis Cobb and Teignmouth Pier to name but two.
I have more than enough photographic experience to trust my own instincts. Why is it, therefore, that I always get distracted by the other guy? Resolution for the rest of the year: put the blinkers on and stick to my guns. Either that or avoid the photographic honeypots …
What do I mean by my “Favourite Photo”? Well, in this post I’ll be concentrating on my own photos — I have seen some pretty inspiring stuff from other photographers this year so I may well make another post focusing on those.
2011 has been the year that I’ve really got back into photography. In 2010 in an effort to stimulate myself back into a hobby I really enjoy, but which I’d let slip somewhat since the arrival of my young son, I challenged myself to take and post a monochrome photo a week. This was fun and stretched me a little bit as I hadn’t really done B&W seriously before then. I ended the year with some shots I really liked and had a new “sideline” to my hobby.
Fun and rewarding as that was, my real interest in photography is landscapes and, living in Devon, I have no real excuse for not getting as many of those in the bag as possible. So, in 2011, I chose to get up for sunrise whenever I could and get out and about wherever I was to make the best use of the pre-dawn light and the golden hour. This also coincided with my setting up a new Flickr account, having finally migrated away from the friendly but stagnating pbase which I’d used for the previous 4 years as my photo hosting site of choice. Most of my photo opportunities were limited to dawn rather than dusk as I still want to keep some semblance of a family life and I figure that getting up before the others is better than abandoning them at bedtime.
So, in purely chronological, and not preferential, order here are my favourite photos from 2011:
Here’s to more and better in 2012 — I certainly hope so anyway.
… “Forget it”. So said Tommy Cooper, the Wurzels and, I suspect, many others for comedic effect. However following a very thin weekend of photography, which included an “oh so nearly” shot from Dawlish Warren, I spent the next week mulling over what could have been and, rather than forget it, the traditional “try try again” kept coming to mind.
The “nearly shot” in question was one of the old groyne at Dawlish Warren in Devon. The beach here is part of a spit of sand dunes which protects the mudflats at the mouth of the Exe estuary. There are numerous wooden groynes along the beach to protect from erosion and, towards the far end, there is the remains of an old “first generation” groyne which isn’t really functional any more but which I’d had my eye on for a little while. I have had a grab shot of this structure in my Lightroom catalogue for a little while but I wanted something a bit more artistic.
The first week I though of visiting I chose at the last minute to go elsewhere. When I checked my Flickr account later that day I’d discovered that my contact Mark Lakeman had been there that day and captured an effective composition with muted colours which I quite liked, but which he wasn’t pleased with, complaining about a “lack of mojo” in his commentary.
The following week I headed off with a view to getting a shot from the right hand side looking out to sea, with the groyne pointing towards the midwinter rising sun. “Curses” I thought when I arrived as I had forgotten that there was a modern groyne just to the left which would hamper any attempt to shoot from this side. Add to that an almost total lack of cloud in the sky and it was my turn to experience a disappearing mojo. There was a thin strip of could on the horizon and I caught the sun behind it as it rose. Several compositions included pleasing starbursts but, and I have no idea how this happened, none were anywhere near in focus. I put this down to camera shake due to breaking waves moving my tripod in my own Flickr commentary but carelessness was probably a more accurate cause. Anyway, I posted one shot (below) to Flickr and left it at that.
The shot is OK but I had taken a number of more “square on” compositions which looked better overall as there was separation between the posts, but which were also blatantly out of focus. This one is, at least, in focus and offers a pleasing sun reflection and line of clouds on the horizon, but it is not what I was after.
Following Mark’s comments and my own disappointment I nicknamed this place the “Beach of Despair” and spent the next week mulling over what could have been. The sun would soon start rising further north and my chances at rectifying my mistakes would be few unless I wanted to wait until next winter. So it was that on Christmas Eve, I thought I’d give it another go. Rising a good 90 minutes before sunrise I headed off towards Exeter under a thick blanket of cloud. As I turned onto the A379 to head away from Exeter towards Dawlish Warren, I saw a clear slot on the low horizon and my hopes were raised.
Parking the car, I thought I may have been too late, despite it still being 50 minutes or so until sunrise. The horizon was already dark red and I ran and stumbled my way the 15 minutes or so to the old groyne. I made sure that the tripod was firmly in the sand, composed to hide as much of the new groyne behind the old one as possible, and took extra care focusing to ensure that the posts were pin-sharp. By this stage the sky was turning bright red and I was getting very excited indeed. For about two minutes just before sunrise the sky was intensely red. I took numerous shots until it began to fade, checking, checking, and checking again for focus.
Then I looked behind me.
The sky was turning pinker and there were wispy red clouds against the darker grey layer. I ran around to the other side of the groyne, composed, focused, and kept shooting. Once the sun had risen above the cloud layer, I stopped, packed up, and jumped up and down with clenched fist like a little kid.
One of these latter shots was the first of mine to make it to Flickr Explore, peaking at #49 and my views went through the roof. Web traffic and comments are, of course, not why I am taking photos but it was a really pleasing way to round off the day and was the final justification for wanting to go back and get it right second time around.
And it is in no way the “Beach of Despair” any more …
Due to my job I only really get out and about for sunrise photography at the weekends. Following one particular washed out weekend I was looking forward to the next to “scratch that itch” and had, therefore, been studying the weather forecast for the upcoming Saturday since Tuesday. The weekend looked wet and my only hope seemed to be Saturday morning. Fine, you might think, but I was taking Friday afternoon off work for a Christmas “do”. The last thing I wanted was to overindulge and spend the best hours of the next day in bed with a sore head.
Come Friday I made my excuses and left the party late afternoon to get the train home. The forecast still looked touch and go, with a clear slot in between a couple of banks of cloud promising just a chance of something good around dawn. I was still unsure where to go — Dawlish Warren for some groyne shots [insert smutty joke here] or Budleigh Salterton for a go at my “default” location of the Otter estuary. It was high tide 90 minutes before dawn so I thought I’d take a crack at the latter with the trees of Otterton ledge reflecting in the high tidal waters (another fave location for high tide is the Cobb in Lyme Regis, but I knew that there was a photographic workshop on that day so gave that a wide berth).
When I woke up it was raining outside and Honiton was under a blanket of cloud. A quick check of various weather-related apps on my smartphone and the chances of a good sunrise looked decidedly slim, so I decided to go back to sleep.
Except I couldn’t.
Half an hour later I gave in, got up, threw on some clothes and headed for the coast, still under a blanket of cloud and with a bit of drizzle continuing to fall. Am I addicted to this hobby of mine?
Half an hour after that I was on location. As well as being a fantastically photogenic location, there is also a bloody great car park about two minutes’ walk from my “tripod holes”. Even though it was 7 a.m. I paid for a parking ticket as this car park is notorious for being checked up on and, as expected, a mere two minutes later I was set up and ready to go. It was an still hour until sunrise and the estuary was totally silent. A bank of cloud overhead was, inch by inch, heading East and threatening the clear sky over the trees. Another bank of cloud on the horizon meant that it would be a few minutes after sunrise until any light show were to start.
I waited and waited. Grey skies — no great photos today I thought. Bored of waiting I wandered up and down the river looking for alternative locations and eventually headed back to the camera, still waiting patiently on its tripod. 10 minutes to sunrise. No light show; 5 minutes to sunrise. Still no light show; Sunrise. Still no light show. I decided to stick it out and, then, 5 minutes or so later, a few pinky red edges to the cloud-bank. Before I knew it the sky was red, the water was red, and I was thinking “bloody hell!”. Strangely the few dog walkers who had congregated in the area for their morning ritual seemed oblivious. I resisted the urge to go “snap happy” and concentrated on trying to get just a few “good-uns” and I have posted them, below:
I then ran up the estuary path to an alternative viewpoint, hoping to get a shot of the first rays hitting the reeds as the sun crested the ledge. Unfortunately the ebbing tide had receded by just a few inches too much and my photo included the mudflats rather than another reflection shot. Still – thats splitting hairs as I still like it and, come the next dawn high tide, I may just be back for more …
(As I got into my car to drive home, the car park ticket inspector turned up, true to form. Glad I got that ticket ….)
With pantomime season still a little way off, I didn’t think I’d be hearing the words “Its behind you!” for a little while. However, going down to Sidmouth the other week, I ended up virtually shouting them at myself.
For some time I’d wanted to get a shot of the Esplanade and cliffs at Sidmouth at low tide just after sunrise. My theory being that the light would reflect off the sandstone cliffs giving a bright yellow/orange backdrop to the town. Trouble is that low tides at sunrise aren’t that low, so I knew I probably couldn’t get out to the breakwaters for some interesting rocky foreground. However, with a low tide and sunrise co-incident I ventured out to see what I could get.
The clouds were broken giving an interesting sky but a bank of cloud on the horizon would block the first light. I sat on the beach and waited for sunrise, spooking a woman in a nearby house who wandered out onto her patio in her dressing gown, obviously expecting to have her presumably hard-earned view to herself but finding that she was sharing it with a geeky bloke with camera and tripod (the view, that is, not the patio).
Sunrise eventually came and I waited and waited for the cliffs to light up. They didn’t. Feeling more and more hacked off, for whatever reason, I turned around and saw that all of the action was happening behind me and the cliffs towards Ladram Bay were aglow! Sprinting back across the beach, tripod in hand, I quickly composed a few shots to capture the moment and then calmed down. I spent the next 20 minutes enjoying some fantastic light and getting wet feet.
Ever the self-critic, I feel that I would’ve done better if I’d have turned up with the shots I got in mind and not a preconceived shot looking the other way. However, they ain’t bad, and I’ll save the view the other way for sunset at low tide.
A week’s holiday on the Isle of Wight in early autumn was supposed to yield a satisfying haul of landscape photos. Before I went, I did my research and worked out where to go, what the tides would be, and sunrise/sunset times. Of course, I did some Google image searches as well and had my “targets” well and truly lined up. Unfortunately the TV forecasters had a series of weather fronts and overcast days well and truly lined up in opposition to my plans.
Therefore I decided to change tack, and concentrate on using Read more
After a summer of distractions, most of which were welcome but which also curtailed my photography somewhat, the nights are now drawing out – making sunrise photography easier – and I appear to have a few free weekends on the horizon. With this in mind, I don’t want to miss the boat – and some good photography weather – so I am forcing myself back into the habit of getting up early for sunrise.
So it was on Bank Holiday Monday I ventured out with the gear to Lyme Regis and the Cobb. Yes, its a bit of a cliched location but I am still to get my “perfect” shot there and until I do I will periodically return. Knowing that one of the highest tides of the year was just after dawn I was torn between the Cobb and the Otter estuary. However, my last efforts at the Cobb, earlier in the year were taken at low tide and I was unhappy that some unsightly concrete at the bottom of the wall were exposed. Therefore I reckoned that Budleigh Salterton could wait until the next high tide and I set off down the A35 to Lyme.
For once I was on my own, and I set up half an hour or so before sunrise. Everything had been checked the night before – lenses cleaned, battery charged, CF card checked and formatted, filters cleaned, no alcohol consumed, so I should have got back with some great shots. However, for whatever reason I wasn’t “in the groove” when I was shooting and I came away a little disappointed. On top of that, there were some boats moored out of harbour which contaminated my shot. The sky also didn’t quite do it (or so I thought) despite showing early promise. I have also got into the bad habit of composing and shooting using my camera’s “Live View” LCD on the back. While this helps me avoid my usual pitfall of sloping horizons, I find that my focusing is never quite up to scratch when I use this method, and the metering was all over the place. Note to self: “Back to using the viewfinder next time”.
When I got home, I half-heartedly imported the images into Lightroom and had some breakfast. Perusing the resulting thumbnails I wished I had stayed in bed and a little grumpily got on with my day. The next day I thought I’d have another look and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were no competition winners in the set, but some showed promise, and the cloud formation has really grown on me. Below are two of my faves from the day; the first being taken 30 minutes before sunrise – I like the general composition and grey/blue tones; and the second taken 15 minutes later when the sky was at its best – this one I have square cropped to make the most of the sky and to cut out some distracting boats on the left hand side.
The spark has been re-lit and the learning continues here.