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.

 

Splitting the Slate: Exploring North Wales with the X-Pro1

Wales, especially Snowdonia, is a special place for me. My mother was born in Llanberis and grew up amongst the glorious expanse of mountains and landscapes, until economic survival forced her family into the industrial heartlands of England, hundreds of miles east. 

During my childhood, each summer we would return to Llanberis and the surrounding areas. The landscape and the mythology became ingrained in my very being; each time I return it feels like a homecoming. Even now, if my Taid's (Welsh for Grandad) name is mentioned, it is instantly recognised and greeted with smiles and stories from the locals, a testament to a man who died some 30 years ago.

My mum during dinner at The Royal Victoria Hotel. Shot with the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.6. ISO200. 1/1500.

This year, for the first time since I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to visit with my mum, making this excursion even more memorable. We stayed in The Royal Victoria Hotel which sits at the foot of Snowdon and was the scene of many a family wedding. The faded glory of this landmark is reminiscent of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel. The stairs creek as you succumb to the complicated corridors filled with cupboards and crevices, romanticised by my own childhood memories. 

Having my mum with me and experiencing the connection to the land and my heritage inspired me to think outside of my usual photography comfort zone and explore with the Fujfilm X-Pro1, especially as grey cloud colluded with the sky to hide the sun behind it's jealous density. 

I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with long exposures using the 18mm f/2 and B+W 52mm +10 Stop ND filter. I was kindly advised by Dan to purchase Nikon AR-3 Shutter Release Cable which works perfectly, and I picked up a Manfrotto Pixi to ensure my kit was a light as possible. The results have been continuously enjoyable (although my knees are not overly happy with all the crouching down).

Dinas Dinlle - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B+W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO200. 3.2 second exposure.

The beach at Dinas Dinlle was my playground as a child. Predominantly full of pebbles with only a small sandy section, it's expanse was perfect for me, the adventurer, always drawn to the vastness of the sea and the historical surroundings (it was once an Iron Age fort, a third of which as now been reclaimed by the relentless waves). I would scramble out across the rocks and survey my watery kingdom, imagining what lay beyond.

Dinas Dinelle - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B+W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO200. 3.5 second exposure. Converted into monochrome in Lightroom.

The tide was coming in which allowed me to capture some of the fast moving waves in motion. In the image above I'm particularly fond of the impending wave caught mid flow, suspended just prior to the rush. In the monochrome shot, the peppered sky fanned out across the horizon mirroring the coastline below, symmetry in nature.

The weather in North Wales can be unpredictable, but I often find that once you put distance between yourself and the mountains of Snowdonia, there is a high chance of finding a break in the cloud. With this in mind we heading towards Trwyn Du Lighthouse situated on Anglesey. As we drove through the picturesque town of Beaumaris, and up towards Penmon, the cloud began to shift, and the sun illuminated the lighthouse, alleviating the eeriness of the bell that regularly tolls from it's top, echoing out over the Menai Strait. 

Penmon Point, Anglesey - X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/8. ISO200. 1/850

Trwyn Du Lighthouse, Anglesey - X-Pro1 + 18mm f/2 & B&W 110 ND Filter @ f/16. ISO400. 6.5 second exposure.

The shoreline was busy with fellow photographers and walkers alike, all enjoying the brief warmth of the sun as the cloud once again began to reclaim the sky. I slid out onto the rocks for the shot to the right. Not my favourite of this structure, but I like the still, deep rock pool in the foreground contrasting with the sweep of the sea behind. The land to the right of the lighthouse is Puffin Island, somewhere I would love to visit soon.

Back on the mainland, Llanberis was the destination for Dinorwic Quarry, one of the largest in the world. The blasted scars of the surrounding landscape are still visible, creating pools of deep water, still and quiet, revealing none of the danger and difficulties faced by the quarrymen long since gone. Remnants from that era are visible everywhere, like the rusted wagon suspended above Vivian quarry, reflected in the calm water below.

Vivian quarry, part of Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis, North Wales. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4  @ f/16. ISO200. 1/10.

My Taid was a quarryman until he moved from Llanberis. The connection I felt to him as I wondered through the ruins of this once stalwart industry was intensely tangible. He would have walked the paths I walked, felt the breeze that I felt, lamented the cloud the same way I do. He was a skilled slate splitter, and this talent took him all around the country to exhibitions.

The National Slate Museum situated on the site of the quarry offer demonstrations of slate splitting, so I was able to gain some insight to the practise. Afterwards I spoke to the gentleman, who had been a quarryman himself and he let me take some photos of him during the process.

I'm not particularly brave when it comes to pushing the ISO on the X-Pro1, probably because I have been spoiled by a full frame Canon sensor that shows little noise, even over ISO1000, and I'm always aware that this just isn't achievable on a cropped sensor yet. Still, I happily pushed it up around 500 for the image below and used my trusty XF35mm f/1.4 to capture this dying art. At ISO500 there's virtually no noise, and although I've pushed to ISO1200 previously, this encourages me to go further and relent in my obsession with noise.

Slate splitting at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4. ISO500. 1/140.

Slate splitting at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4. ISO500. 1/50

National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/60.

The journeys that take us back through not only our past, but through our history tend to have a huge impact on how we conceptualised our identity. Although brief, my existence has been split from the slate and crafted in what it is today. It's a privilege to photograph these places, experiences, coastlines and memories, moulding the old with the new. My craft used to document the craft of my forefathers, the playgrounds of my youth.

Throughout these explorations, there's something about the X-Pro1 that makes me want to shoot with it, that feels less like it's just a means to an end, but more an extension of my intentions, coupled with both our imperfections. We're working together in a collaboration, exploring these moments and these memories; a companion who shares in the sentimentality. Each scuff and shot is another piece collected, place explored, hope ignited in this vast puzzle of existence. 

Stacks of slate at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/110.

Stacks of slate at the National Slate Museum. X-Pro1 + XF 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2.2. ISO200. 1/110.