It's another year on and time for my review of 2015. It's the time to look back on how its gone, what has went well and my aims for this coming year. In this review I'm going to look at my image highlights of this year, if I met my 2015 aims and create new aims for 2016.
I thought I would start off by reviewing some of the images I've taken in 2015. Its a little different to my usual year review but photography is all about images so I thought it would be a nice change.
This year I carried on visiting Forest How to photograph the local Red Squirrels. In the summer of 2014 they were hit by a Squirrel Pox outbreak that sadly took a number of squirrels. Thankfully they have recovered well this year and are doing well considering what had happened the previous year. One of the star squirrels is 'Belinda', she is a regular visitor and is very friendly. She will take a nut from your hand if you offer her one nicely.
The above image is my favourite image my trips this year. This was taken in September whilst she was recovering from an infection. At first it was thought she had caught Squirrel Pox but thankfully it doesn't look like she has. The stone wall is one of my favourite locations at Forest How, capturing a nice pose on the wall was my aim of the trip. This was taken at from about 2 metres away so it wasn't difficult to get the blurred background but getting her face all in focus at this distance was difficult. I had closed the aperture down to f5.6 to increase the depth of field, the eyes, ears and front legs are in focus but the nose if slightly out of focus. Usually I use the 'rule of thirds' but I like the central composition. I think it works well due to the eye contact of 'Belinda' looking straight at me and making her the central focal point of the image.
My two night stay on Skomer was one of my highlights this year. Its the best way to photograph Puffins as you have the chance of both sunrise and sunset, something you don't get with a day trip. I've even booked another stay for 2016. I've picked two of favourite images from the trip, both were taken on the first night when I had a good sunset. The Wick at sunset is the perfect place to capture a Puffin portrait.
I love backlit lighting, with Puffins it brings out the orange beak detail. The calling adds a behaviour element of the Puffin, they gather on the cliffs at sunset and call out. The one thing I would change if I could would be the in-focus daises to the left of the Puffins, they lead your eye away from the Puffin but they do catch the golden sunlight well too.
This year I had more time to visit Woburn during the annual rut. I like getting out at this time of year to watch the season change.
I don't usually present images as a series, but these four images work better together than on their own. I have watched Red Deer stags eat the branches of trees on a few occasions before but I've never been able to capture it properly. This Red Deer stag wasn't bothered by my presence, it happily ate the tree posing nicely. The ferns in front of me produced a nice blurred foreground that produces the clean style I like.
For years I've been trying to capture a Red Deer silhouette. There is one ridge at Woburn I head to at sunset. If a deer appears on it can give a great silhouette image. I've stood there on several occasions yet walked away with nothing. This one evening I saw some walkers heading towards me, between us there were a few Red Deer Stags. I quickly headed back to the bottom of the ridge hoping they may make the deer walk behind the ridge and appear right in front of me, I was surprised when it worked out. I had time to try a few compositions, the image above is the last composition I tried. I like the wider view with the Red Deer smaller in the frame yet recognisable as the subject and focal point of the image. The silhouette of the bellowing stag captures the autumn Red Deer rut well, it also shows you don't always need to fill the frame too.
For a while I've been hoping to get some Hedgehog images. This year it became apparent the only way would be to go on a workshop. I saw Kevin Sawford was running a Hedgehog workshop in autumn, the perfect chance to try some images of Hedgehogs in autumn colours.
Unfortunately I couldn't order the weather. It was dark, overcast and at times wet. The weather meant low light needing high ISO and slow shutter speeds. Even though I was shooting wide open at f2.8, 1/200 second and at ISO 2500 I was still able to capture some sharp images. The wide aperture meant the foreground and background were both nicely blurred, but it meant the depth of field was very small at a subject distance of 1.5m. 1/200 second was fast enough to freeze the movement of the hedgehog. The carpet of autumn leaves gave the autumn feel I was hoping for.
Last year I set a number of goals I hoped would guide my photography. Lets look at how these went.
This year my aim was to complete a few Ironic British Wildlife mini-projects are than try to see everything. In 2015 I decided to concentrate on revisiting the Water Voles and Red Squirrels more than once. Unfortunately the Water Voles didn't work out as well as last year. I made more trips this year and put in more time but it just didn't work out. This was partially down to the visits were started early in February and March rather than April but it was a good reminder that wildlife photography isn't a given and it changes month on month, year on year. I once again visited Forest How to see the Red Squirrels. After last years Squirrel Pox outbreak numbers were lower but they were still holding on. One of my highlights of this idea lead to staying on Skomer Island for the first time. It was an excellent opportunity to concentrate on Puffins and great experience.
This as such isn't a goal but an aim to try to get something different rather than 'collect' the same images of others. This year I did only one workshop, it was an autumn hedgehog workshop. It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about Hedgehogs and get some nice images too. Hedgehogs are not an easy photographic subject due to their nocturnal nature so daytime autumn images and only be produced on workshops.
This year I can say I have pinned down my photography style. Its not a ground breaking style as many photographers have the same style. I've found I sway towards an eye level, shallow depth of field blurred foreground/background portrait photography style. From my trips to Skomer, Forest How and Woburn it's become clear to me that this produces my better images and something I can work on.
This is definitely something I need to work on. I did try wide angles a few times but not as much as I would have liked to. The problem is having a subject that you can get close to without causing harm to them. This year I have found I've got on well with shorter focal lengths. I have enjoyed using my 70-200mm lens.
I have been out trying to stay local. One project that I spend time on was a Great Crested Grebe mini project. It took me a while to find some a pair of Great Crested Grebes with good low PoV access. I finally found a pair and I spent quite a few mornings and evenings with them but I didn't get anything of the quality I would share. I also spent more time at Woburn Deer Park this year during the rut. As Woburn is quite local its my first choice deer park during the rut. I had thoughts of trying further afield but as Woburn is so close its just seems best to stay local.
This I haven't entered as many competitions as I had hoped to but I did enter BWPA for the first time. Even though I didn't get any where it did make me look through my images with a more critical eye and it was a good exercise. I have also learnt a lot from looking through the winning and commended images of the competitions. This I feel is a good way to benchmark my images and look at ways to improve.
During the early part of 2015 I quickly joined numerous social media outlets. I chose Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, 500PX and of course carried on Flickr. I've found I've kept updating my Facebook page thought the year, it's something I've enjoyed doing and plan to carry on. I joined Instragram and 500PX but I've not updated these much so they may be something I don't carry on in 2016. Although I've not used twitter much I have followed others so it has been worthwhile. I think part of my problem with social media was I went from zero to hundred in a matter of seconds, quickly joining several different platforms. Perhaps carrying on only a few will be more manageable this year as quality over quantity is probably a better aim.
I have made more time for landscapes this year with a few trips out locally and to the Peak District and the Lake District. Unfortunately I had to pull out of an autumn landscape trip to the lake district. I've got much to learn with landscapes and I didn't get that many images from my trips. Its still something I would like to do more of but if its a choice between wildlife and landscapes, wildlife is always going to be my priority.
My aims for this year are:
This year I'm planning to carry on where I left off last year. I will again for visiting the Red Squirrels at Forest How. I'm hoping to try Water Voles again this spring, hopefully with a bit more success this year. I have an idea for a project for the start of the year too if the weather works out.
I will try to stay local again this year. I'm hoping a few mini projects will work out so I can stay local. I like going out early yet being back for breakfast. I will try local Great Crested Grebes again, trying a find a go local pair is the problem.
Although last year I jumped into social media in a big way this year I'm going to carry it on but in a much smaller scale. I will be carrying on Facebook as well as Flickr. I'm going to try Twitter a little more as it looks to be a great platform to connect with other photographer.
This year I joined the local wildlife trust. I'm hoping I will be able to join in with local nature groups this year. Whilst out photographing Water Voles I've seen how photographers can help promote wildlife, joining in with local nature groups will help me get out at times without the camera.
Hope you all have a great new year and enjoy another year of photography.