Top 14 for '14

2014 has been a seminal year for me as a photographer, both professionally and personally. I can see the progression from the beginning to the end and I've had the help and support of some wonderful people in the industry. I wanted to share my top ten images of 2014, as well as give some thanks and praise to the people who have been there along the way.


"Relentless Optimism" - Bear Pits in Bristol, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/4. 1/50.

I've always been a photographer and a person who struggles to pick one discipline. At school I won prizes in arts and science, played sports and tried my hand at everything (except musical theatre, never musical theatre). Ostensibly, I'm a landscape photographer, but I love exploring all the different genres of photography, so this top 10 will be a mixed bag of images and disciplines. Basically, if I find it interesting, I'll shoot it. This shot was taken in the Bear Pits in Bristol on my birthday. I'm very fond of Bristol, especially it's culture, and I instantly fell in love with this piece of graffiti. As the old lady with her shopping bag turned the corner, I pushed down the shutter. 'Relentless Optimism' is one of my mantras, even though it can be sometimes hard to maintain.

"Sunrise over Selfridges" - Birmingham, England.
Canon 6D + 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/22. 1/25.

Couldn't really not include an image of Birmingham. I've done my own top list for Brum, but this one I held back for this blog. I get excited about foggy mornings, and this one was a favourite. The fog cleared quickly, making for a beautiful sunrise, and my favourite aspect of the 16-35mm, the sunstar, pretty much made the image for me. 

"Turquoise Light" - Clevedon, England. 
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/11. 1/200.

I've spent a lot of time down in Clevedon and Somerset in general. I've always found a decent sunset impossible to capture, mostly because the conditions have never been favourable. However, on this particular day, it wasn't the sunset that was the major event, it was the transient light several hours before. The colours in the sky complimented the colours on the pier, turquoise, with streams of light penetrating through the cloud. Probably one of my favourite images of the year.

"Light at the End of the Tunnel" - Monsal Trail, England.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/2. 1/50.

The Peak District is a favourite place of mine, and two of my favourite people live near it. I love visiting them just because being near such good energy is inspiring. 2014 has taught me again and again that people matter, much more than praise or success. We went on a winter walk through the tunnels of the Monsal Trail which afforded the opportunity for some dynamic monochrome silhouettes. Looking back I hadn't realised how much I appreciated the Fujifilm 18mm f/2 lens. It's fast and it works really well in situations such as this.

"In Rolls the Weather" - Crummock Water, Lake District, England.
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/11. 1/400.

I visited the Lakes several times over the year (and intend to return for my birthday weekend in January). During the first trip, we stayed in Buttermere so I had easy access to both Buttermere and Crummock in the early morning. Neither sunrise was particularly note-worthy, but the light that came afterwards made up for the disappointment. The cloud rolled over the fells above Crummock Water, and the diffused light illuminated the slopes. I'm a big fan of telephoto lenses for landscapes. Wides have their place, but looking closer has it's benefits. 

"Cat in the Afternoon" - Cognac, France
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/5. 1/450

Probably my favourite photo of the entire year. One of those moments where the three photos before and the three photos after fail to have the same impact (it's all about the timing). The cat arching into the sunlight at that moment made it work. It's a quintessential continental image, the kind I want to put on my living room wall, and reminds me of a happy afternoon on a warm summer's day. 

"Generations" - Cognac, France. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

"Generations" - Cognac, France.
Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4.5. 1/400

Another example of France being a haven for interesting scenes. I went back for this shot after wondering if I should or not. That's something I really struggle with; street photography in general, but I find people wonderfully interesting. I initially noticed the old man sat on the bench, looking thoroughly French, and when I returned, his quiet solitude was amplified by the family to the left. Generations, close together put completely alone. 

"Lansdale Light" - Cumbria, England
Canon 5D MK III + 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ f16. 1/50

Taken at the end of a wet weekend in the Lakes with good friends. On the final morning, my buddy Rich and I returned to Blea Tarn for the sunrise, finally the light prevailed. We drove on to the Langdale valley, chasing the weather and the light that appeared on the winding road that descends down the scene was worth all the rain. My favourite part of this image is the hint of a rainbow on the left hand side, it's virtually imperceptible, but like the best things, if you look hard enough... When the rainbow took form, I literally jumped up and down with excitement. These are the moments, amazing to witness, whether I capture it or not, that define me.

"Purple Haze" - Exmoor, Devon, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/10. 20 Seconds.

September is a lovely time to visit the moors, and I spent time of both Exmoor and Dartmoor. The late summer sun remained throughout the week, a treat after the dampness of the Lakes. On Exmoor, the heather was just about to go over and presented some final opportunities to capture it's colourful beauty at sunrise. Looking torwards Porlock, this was a 20 second exposure on a morning filled with transient light. Of course, the universe remained in balance as I left my shutter release cable on the moor, forever lost. 

"Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

"Rugged Edge" - Stanage Edge, Peak District, England
Fujifilm X-T1 + 10-24mm f/4 OIS @ f/22. 1/3.

November, mid semester, the most bonkers for someone teaching in higher education like me. We took a weekend out to explore the Peak District, drink whisky, take photos and be with our soon-to-be traveling friend. On Stanage Edge, the wind was howling, but the climbers were undeterred. As the sun went down the cloud broke and my timing was on to grab the briefest of sunstars, peaking through the weather, illuminating the rugged autumn foliage.

"The Watchers" - Dartmoor, Devon, England.
Canon 5D MK III + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ f/22. 1/80.

There is something magical about the ponies that roam Dartmoor and Exmoor, especially in the golden light. The fog had lifted off the landscape of Dartmoor and the sun was creating to most glorious of atmospheres as the road winded through, back towards Yelverton and an impending breakfast. I spotted these two grazing on the roadside. When I arrived they calmly paid me the smallest moment of attention, surrounded by sheep and gorse. Several frames after they would gallop off into the morning light. I'm saving most of those images, although I'm not sure why. Some moments feel more sacred than others.

"Face in the Crowd" - Birmingham, England
Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/4 @ f/4. 1/2500

It was the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Digbeth, and I was capturing the atmosphere. This gentleman's face caught my eye and then his hat grabbed my attention. All I can see is all the stories he must have to tell, one for each badge, each line on his face. The crowds closed around me and he disappeared into the festivities. I've been told he is a Digbeth local, maybe I'll see him again when the parade rolls through.

"Textured Nature" - Pontsticill Reservoir, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - 5.6 @ f/11. 1/60.

One of my latest. There's nothing more satisfying than clean, crisp, frosty mornings and still, reflective water. Pontsticill Reservoir and the surrounding Brecon Beacons has been my playground for the last 4 days, and each morning exploration has brought immense happiness. That's the thing about all of these images, the process, the moment, the editing, the sharing - all of it contributes to my wellbeing. Photography keeps me grounded, it keeps me focussed, and it keeps me learning. It is a curve, a beautiful, endless, unfinished curve. 

"Hoar Frost" - Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Fujifilm X-T1 + 18-135mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 @ f/13. 1/160

Sometimes you shoot an image and you know that the value it has is intrinsically personal. It's unlikely to be popular, but it signifies something. This image of entangled branches covered in hoar frost in the heart of the Brecon Beacons symbolises a shift, just not one that I'm able to verbalise at the moment. It's abstract, conceptual and reminds me of the interconnected nature of art and life. I'm proud of it, and I'm not even sure why... But it makes me excited to see what 2015 brings.


I want to shout out to the amazing community that have supported me through the year, and also some of my contemporaries who inspire me.

Johnny Patience and Rebecca Patience - Both intensely talented photographers working predominantly on film. I've had the pleasure of spending time with them on both of the LNDNWLKs and feel grateful to call them friends. Good energy is infectious. They are people who vivaciously encourage the community around them, building confidence, and sharing all they can, whenever possible. One of biggest inspirations from this year, and I'm incredibly grateful for all that the do and say. 

Mathieu & Heather, AKA Mirrorlessons - The Mirrorless community has some brilliant bloggers at it's spearhead and one of the finest is Mirrorlessons. It's a resource not only for the technical aspects of using a mirrorless camera, but also for aspiring photographers. The community that has grown up around the site is a great place to get feedback and generally be part of something. I'm honoured to have been interviewed for their website, and their collective belief in me and my work has been a high point of the year.

There are some amazing photographers that have influenced me this year:

Olivier Glod - What a guy! One of the loveliest people I've met in the last year. Genuine, talented, warms your heart to chat with him. 

Marco Larousse - Inspirational street photographer, all round lovely guy too. This image in particular sticks in my mind. Perfection. 

Ben Cherry - Wonderfully encouraging and supportive. Also has a fondness for the Peak District and his work from Borneo is superb.

Robert Paul Jansen - Stunning in whatever format, whether it be iPhoneography, film or digital. 

Donovon Bond - Creator of Fuji vs. Fuji and Co-Founder of FujiTuesday. An inspirational member of the Fujifilm community. Hopefully I can buy him a pint when he makes it back over to the UK!

Othman Kammah - The other Co-Founder of FujiTuesday, and another supportive member of the Fujifilm Community. I'm a particular fan of his 1 camera, 1 lens project. 

Rafa Garcia - A genuinely wonderful photographer with whom every interaction is a joy.

Basically owning the mirrorless wedding photography scene and generally an absolute dude, Gavin Hardy

Then there's those who are inspiring me to shoot film and helping me find the best way of going about such an endeavour, especially the lovely and talented Andy Spencer.

My dear friend Rich Jones, currently traveling the world with his camera. 

Also big love to Stacy Guiney, an old friend who took a big step to strike out on his own as a freelance photographer. Check out his shoot at the Morgan Motor Car factory.

Recent acquaintance Ugo Cei. Currently in love with his project on lighthouses. Amazing stuff.

Lots of love goes out to anyone I chatted with on both LNDNWLKs, especially this enigmatic bunch - Thomas Menk, Darren SeamarkMatthew Dowell, Matt Wilkinson, Daniel Ruffles, Sam Burton, Joe Harper, Jann Lechelle, Vincent Opoku, Mark Hales, Steve Davis 

A year ago I was without a strong photographic community, and a year on I feel very much part of a beating, vibrant, supportive family. If I've missed anyone out, I do apologise, I've been writing this blog for about 3 days and I've sort of lost the will to live at this point.

Thanks for all the inspiration, guys (and a few gals). Can't wait to see what you produce in 2015! If there's anything I can do to help, I'm ready and willing.

 

Lakes and Mistakes

It was a Wednesday evening, two days before I was scheduled to travel up North and spend the weekend exploring the Western Lakes in the Lake District. I unzipped my camera bag to find the LCD screen of my beloved Fujifilm X-Pro1 had cracked behind the plastic. I was gutted to say the least, we'd just become good friends, myself and the X-Pro1. We'd just started to cement a tentative relationship, we were beginning to understand each others strengths and shortcomings. I was producing work that even my intensely critical eye was mildly pleased with and I was considering giving up my bulky DLSR for good. However, sometimes even good things come to an end, and within 24 hours, I was making moves on my new love; Fujifilm's flagship camera, the X-T1. Some might say that's fickle, but honestly, it's all about luck and compatibility.

The Lake District is a special place for me, somewhere I've forged more than just relationships with my cameras. On a winter's evening back in January 2012, as the snow fell softly across Windermere, and the silent streets quietly iced over, I walked with my love down to harbourside, and amongst the curious geese and swans, asked her to marry me. This has forever cemented my sentimental feelings towards a place already so beautiful. We return whenever we can, determined to explore as much of lakes and landscapes as possible.

Rachel, my love, after a walk around the Buttermere. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8. ISO 200. 1/200.

Nestled on the western side of Honister Pass awaits the village of Buttermere, presiding over both Crummock Water and it's namesake, Buttermere. Often my biggest stipulation of accommodation is it's proximity to the great outdoors. Sunrise and morning is my favourite time of day to shoot, and in the summertime, when the sun is above the horizon before my clock hits 5am, the more I can reach in the shortest amount of time becomes a priority. The Bridge Hotel in Buttermere, which maintains it's airs and graces in an age of consumer power, fitted that profile, and they were happy to accommodate my early morning explorations.

Buttermere in Black and White. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/11. ISO 250. B+W ND Filter. 28 Second Exposure.

The Lake District suffers from the same affliction as North Wales; the frequent proliferation of dense and impenetrable cloud that seemingly gets hung up on the fells, failing to properly move on. The first morning, I awoke at 4:30am to grey skies and drizzle, but rejoiced that I had the lake to myself. I left the hotel in the rain, but there was always a hopeful glow in the sky, as the sun tried desperately to burn off the cloud. Heading around the lake, I was kept company by the call of the cuckoo from the forest, echoing through the trees, and the scampering of red squirrels, surprised and alarmed by my presence. This was my first time out with the X-T1, and I was ready to make friends. When the cloud obscures the colours, long exposures are my default, and these we made distinctly more manageable by the X-T1's articulating screen. I never thought I would find such a feature at all useful, but I really enjoyed the differing viewing angles, it's intensely helpful and kind on my knees.

The fells over Crummock and Buttermere as the weather rolls in. Fujifilm X-T1 + 35mm f/1.4 @ f/11. ISO 200. 1/140.

Returning for breakfast, the light began to change, dissolving from grey to blue, sunshine illuminating the fells with the warmth hitting my face. Avid walkers were out now, nodding a 'good morning' my way, pleased with the weather. I looked up and witnessed the clouds rolling over the hills above, like dry ice. The formations mirrored the peaks creating ghostly extensions to the landscape. The 35mm f/1.4 on the X-T1's cropped sensor makes it more or less at 50mm, a focal length I find rather endearing for landscapes, as it gives a sense of vastness and yet also a certain degree of intimacy. The clouds pictured above brought in the weather, and with it, our decision to spend the day exploring the intricacies of the local pub.

First light over Buttermere. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/13. ISO 200. B+W ND Filter. 30 Second Exposure.

Buttermere is one of my favourite lakes. It's small enough to walk around and the variation in foliage adds a diversity to images. The layers are further enhanced by the clarity of the water and the fells that rise up in the distance, reflecting in the water on calm days. In autumn, the colours are rich and alluring, but summer also has it's appeal, drenched in greens and yellows. The second morning brought a false start. Too much wine the night before and less sleep than I would like rendered me unwilling to face the rain at 4:30am. I crawled back into my bed, deflated, and waited for sleep to reclaim me. Alas, when I'm awake, I'm awake, and after an hour rueing the weather, I decided to give it another try, and I'm glad I did. 

The sky was folding in warm colours to the darker clouds, and the rain had ceased. There was little breeze, ensuring Buttermere's waters remained still and reflective. Again I was ready with the 18mm with an ND Filter attached, perching my X-T1 on my Manfrotto Pixi on one of the stones for a low angle and once more using that articulating screen to great effect. Sadly, I had not yet been able to invest in a shutter release cable, so I was limited to either 30 second exposures or holding down the shutter in bulb mode and keeping really, really still, so my results could have perhaps been better. 

Crummock reflections.  Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/16. ISO200. 1/25.

As the sun rose, it was clear it was going to be a beautiful morning, so I decided to take the streamside path towards Crummock Water. However, I found that a herd of cows and their calves were taking the same road and they were less than impressed with my presence. I'm not overly fond of cows, mainly because they're huge, and any mother protecting their child can be a force to be reckoned with. I was forced to clamber up the steep sides of the valley, wading through bracken and tripping over hidden branches, cursing like a sailor for my bruised and battered shins. Finally I was a safe distance from the herd and on the shoreline of Crummock, bathed in morning light, tumbling down the fells like liquid gold, with the stillness of the water acting like nature's mirror.

Crummock Water bathed in morning light. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/16. ISO200. 1/250.

The light is everything. It changes the dynamic entirely. Half my job as a photographer is to learn the art of patience without getting frustrated and to read the light. Ultimately this is a distilled version of many life lessons that I've had to learn the hard way. You cannot force it, and you cannot bend it to your will. It is what it is, and if you're lucky, it will be everything you never knew you wanted, and some of what you hoped it would be. For me, photography is the art of preparation and the joy of being surprised.

Streamside in Buttermere village.  Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/9. ISO200. B+W ND Filter. 20 Second Exposure.

I thought that my trip to the Lakes would be ruined by smashing my X-Pro1. On the contrary, that one incident changed the entire experience. I was offered the use of an X-E1 from a friend on Twitter who had no obligation to help me out, so in breaking one camera, I not only experienced an act of human kindness, I was able to push the boundaries of my practice, and (thanks to insurance) have fun with a new camera. The X-T1 sits much more naturally with a child of the digital age such as myself; I love the ergonomics and the dials, especially quick access to the ISO, metering and shooting modes. In my small hands, it feels right. In essence, it's becoming my favourite camera, although I haven't used it enough to give a decent overview. 

For now, I'm grateful for the mornings where Crummock and Buttermere were bathed in light, reminding me that that every cloud has a golden lining. 

Sunset over St Bees on the Cumbrian coast. Fujifilm X-T1 + 18mm f/2 @ f/10. ISO250. B+W ND Filter. 28 Second Exposure.