Best of 2016
With the strains of Auld Lang Syne fading and the dawn breaking on a shiny new year, before we start looking forward to what 2017 has to offer, let's take a quick look back at 2016.
Don't worry, I promise not to mention Brexit or Trump, instead I thought I would pick an image from each month of 2016, a mix of favourites, new images and shots which reflect what I've been up to. It has been a busy year for me and at times it has sped by in something of a blur, so a look back through my images from the year was a chance to see how it actually went as much as anything.
The year started in similar fashion to how it ended, with a layer of freezing fog bringing a thick coating of sparkling frost to the Stour Valley. January's image was taken just before sunrise along a pastel toned River Stour between Flatford and Dedham on a frustratingly short trip before I had to tear myself away to get to work.
Another frosty morning for February's image, this time at Framlingham castle. Winters in East Anglia have been pathetically mild in recent years with barely a snowfall worth mentioning so I try and grab every opportunity to get out in the cold and add to my collection of wintry images. I prefer to photograph Framlingham castle in the afternoon when the low winter light hits it from the side but unfortunately the frost has long melted by then so I'll just have to carry on waiting (im)patiently for snow.
I love the changeable weather that often comes in early spring - the sort of days when the dark clouds part between showers, to reveal sparks of sunshine. This was taken at the end of one of those days on the north Norfolk coast and I spent a wonderful couple of hours at Burnham-Overy-Staithe, wading around in the creek shooting the boats scattered in the mud at low tide. On a technical note, shooting towards the sun like this causes the camera all sorts of problems, even using filters and this was one of the rare occasions that I had to blend two shots together in Adobe Lightroom to be able to reproduce the scene as I saw it, hopefully without it looking unnatural.
As spring gets into full swing I seem to spend my time photographing flowers in the landscape, wild or otherwise. Having never photographed a field of tulips before, April's image, which appeared on the cover of Landscape Photographer of the Year collection 10, was one of the highlights of my year through luck rather than judgement. I found out through a friend on Facebook that this field of tulips was in bloom and as these sights often don't last very long before the flowers start to fade, I decided to go and have a look at sunrise the next morning. Just as well I did because the conditions were perfect, I got my shots and the following day the flowers, which are grown for their bulbs, were cut.
I find the combination of fresh green beech leaves and bluebells hard to resist and even though it's positively bristling with tripods at this time of year, Ashridge Estate is one of my favourite places to photograph them. I chose this particular image for May because I like the dappled early morning light that had only just started to penetrate the forest leaving the background in darkness.
Poppy fields are another classic subject (or cliché depending on your point of view) that I find myself searching for at this time each year. I took several shots from this angle, some with more emphasis on the poppies, some, like this one, on the sky. This isn't exactly a classic summer sky though and initially I wasn't happy with it so I returned the next evening and was rewarded with the warm, golden light I had been hoping for. Looking back I actually prefer the contrast of the dark sky over the bright fields and went with the image showing the most sky... it's funny how over time as your emotional attachment to the image fades your perception changes.
Most landscape photographers bemoan the lack of good light in the summer but I like to take advantage of the long days and a a result, when it came to choosing July's image, I was spoilt for choice. In the end I went with this image of Happisburgh's iconic lighthouse for the dramatic curves through the soft, swaying barley. I love being at the coast so was surprised that this is one of only two coastal images included, neither of which show the sea.
One of my favourite images of the year was this swan gliding along a peaceful River Stour. The Stour is a fine example of the slow moving rivers that meander through the region and Sudbury water meadows is a beautiful part of it. My usual wide angle lens wasn't having the desired effect here so I used a telephoto lens to compress the distance in the scene, emphasising the effect of the river receding into the mist.
This was the hardest image to choose because I couldn't decide whether to include what was essentially a holiday photo. Venice, as I'm sure many of you are already aware, is a photographers dream and although this wasn't a photography trip, I spent an hour or two every morning before breakfast (and the crowds) wandering the city with my camera. Taking photos purely for my own pleasure was so relaxing and I loved every minute of it so it made the cut.
Throughout the year I have been working on commissions for the National Trust around the region so I thought it only right that I should include a photo from one of those shoots. This is Ickworth House from an autumnal commission, I've spent quite a lot of time here through the seasons but is such a big place that I'm still finding new views each time I go. The sheep are an important part of the estate so I was pleased that this one wandered into the frame as I was waiting for the first light to hit the rotunda in the distance.
By November autumn is at it's peak and I'm spending most of my time in the woods. This year I spent a bit of time exploring Thetford Forest but despite discovering some great views and stunning colours, sometimes t's the simple things and one of my favourite autumnal shots was this backlit close up of a leaf caught in the dew drenched grass.
With fewer pleasure boats around, winter is probably the best time to photograph many places on the Norfolk Broads, Turf Fen in particular. This is a simple composition but when nature produces a display like this, a simple composition is sometimes all that's needed. So after a dull damp start to the month, December just like 2016 ended on something of a frosty high.
So those were my highlights of 2016, I'm sure if I were to do this again next week I'd pick a different selection but they're a pretty good representation of my year. Thanks for following my infrequent blog posts, I'm going to do my best to find the time to write more in 2017... see you then.