A few thoughts about 2017

Posted on 31st December, 2017

From any perspective, 2017 seems to have been a full on and, in some ways, rather strange year. Thinking about the world at large - politics, the environment, poverty, extremism - it's been a very sad and depressing time. However, I'll leave others, better qualified than I am, to write about that. I'm not going to share my best or favourite images from the year - partly as I really don't have a feel for what they are at the moment, but also because time for my own work has been so limited. These are a mix of images that bring back good memories and reflect what most of this year has been about, photographically speaking. I'll also mention a few inspirations at the end of this blog.

From a business and career point of view, then 2017 has certainly been my most busy and fulfilling to date - by some distance. It's felt a bit crazy at times, on occasion somewhat stressful, but it's been great; and I'm so grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way. It was a wonderful antidote to have three weeks off in November, with a holiday in South Korea with Rob. A busy year has meant little time for my own photography and it's perhaps no coincidence that one of my definite 2017 favourites was from this trip - above.

2017 has certainly been the year when I've got to know Iceland - or at least parts of this magnificent country. Six trips in all, co-leading workshops for Wild Photography Holidays - it's been wonderful working with such a lovely group of people, as well as meeting so many great clients from all over the world. This clearing blizzard on the Snaefellsnes peninsula was one of many special moments we enjoyed. Those that think Iceland has been done to death, think again - there is so much there to enjoy and photograph, and I've only scratched the surface.

Squeezed in between two of my three winter trips to Iceland, was a week in Swedish Lapland with Rob, skiing the northern part of the King's Trail. Something we'd wanted to do for years and a really memorable, if at times exhausting, experience. We stayed in mountain huts, had to drag water out of ice holes, chop wood, light fires, walk bloody miles in the dark for a wash or the loo, and so on! Some of the scenery was magical and it was a truly wild experience!

Springtime and early summer was all about the Yorkshire Dales - lots of recce trips, both for workshops and the Fotovue book. It's been great fun getting to know several new areas, reaquanting myself with the grander views (which I've been inclined to neglect of late) and sharing some of my favourite places with like-minded folk. The image above was from a very memorable evening, walking amongst the curlews and lapwings, watching the light change and admiring the best of Wensleydale.

Midsummer and another trip to Iceland - a bit of a grand tour, endless daylight and mesmerising scenery and bird life - exhausting but such fun! I also had 6 days on the road with Rob, at the end of the trip, exploring a few new places, showing him a few favourites, and getting incredibly lucky with the weather - rather important as we were camping.

Either side of that trip, I was extremely busy with North Yorkshire Open Studios, my first solo exhibition at the Joe Cornish Gallery and a first go at participating in Art in the Pen in Skipton. My exhibiton in Northallerton went really well and of course it's lovely to have my work on display there permanently. Sadly, I fear NYOS and Art in the Pen will be two events that I'll not repeat - they just didn't seem to work for me. In amongst all of this, I managed to catch some wonderful displays of heather in the Dales. The midges were terrible this year - I suppose they must like that heather too!

Two more trips to Iceland and, sandwiched in between, our yearly workshop in the Outer Hebrides (Harris and Lewis). Alex and I had a couple of days exploring a few new places, then joined for the rest of the week by another lovely group. Rob then came to join me at the end of the trip and we spent a few days travelling down the other islands. Harris and Lewis remain my favourites, however, and we look forward to returning in October!

Autumn was a bit hit and miss this year, with various storms stripping many leaves. I had a week back in Yorkshire between my final Iceland trip and our holiday to South Korea. With two one day workshops scheduled, all the spare days were spent tearing around, trying to find areas where we could enjoy some colour as well as some characterful woodland. Two wonderfully enthusiastic groups joined me on some very long and steep walks amongst some beautiful, untamed scenery in Nidderdale and Wharfedale.

South Korea was an amazing country to visit - stunning scenery, extraordinary history, somewhere so very different to anywhere else we had been. I'll be writing more about it in future, but the above is an image that very much typifies the landscape of many of the national parks there. Incredible rock, very steep and wonderful trees - particularly pine trees! We did a lot of walking, up and down some very steep terrain. Unfortunately I fell on the last day - on rock not dissimilar in texture and gradient to that in this picture. It was wet, there was lightning and we were trying to rush down from the hill. I twisted my knee and ankle rather badly - some five weeks later, the jury is still out on exactly what is wrong. However, better to do it on the last day than the first.

I wasn't sure whether I'd be fit enough to run my last workshop of the year. However, nearly three weeks after my fall, I felt I could just move well enough to manage and we were rewarded with a wet, wild and windy day at Whitby and Saltwick Bay. Some of the most interesting conditions I've enjoyed there - but quite challenging to operate in driving rain and hail! I think we made the most of it, however, and I was happy to snatch a quick shot that really captures the mood of the day.

The rest of December was spent writing, preparing prints for customers, endless admin, and then a lovely few days off with family for Christmas. 2018 promises to be busy but perhaps not quite as hectic as 2017. I hope to find a little more time for my personal photography and time for some thinking!

Finally, I'd just like to end with a few references to some of the things or people in the photographic world that have given me a bit of inspiration this year. In reality there are too many to mention, so I'm just going to stick my neck out and give a little nod to a handul!

Firstly, a photographer of whom I was aware, but someone I'd not really followed until we became friends on facebook earlier this year: Alister Benn. Please do take a look at Alister's website - his work is truly inspiring and genuinely creative. I love the diversity of his imagery and approach yet, within that, is harmony and integrity. Wonderful!

I've long admired Colin Bell's work but, this year, Colin produced his first book - Healing. I'm not an avid buyer of photography books but I knew I had to get this one. I think it's fair to say Colin has set the benchmark extremely high. The work within is so sensitively produced. I'd love to attempt to create a book of this nature one day - I already knew I was some way off being ready to do so - I now know I'm even further! Something to aspire to, however, and I was so pleased to see Healing get the attributes it deserved, with all 500 copies selling in no time.

Talking of books, I have to mention Shona Grant. Shona is a fine photographer but she is an all round talented artist and has been producing a series of wonderful hand made books. I've yet to see them in the flesh, so to speak, but hope to do so. Remarkable work! Having attended a John Blakemore book making course a few years ago, it's something I also long to try again - another one for 2018 perhaps? Talking of the great man - I bought myself his book Inscape for Christmas - I've yet to spend proper time with it but it would be fair to say I am blown away by the beauty and creativity of the work within. It's been great to see John on twitter this year and he also has a new website.

Last, but certainly not least, I have to mention Anita Nicholson. Anita has been on fire this year, producing really beautiful photography and steaming ahead at a remarkable rate writing her Fotovue book on Northumberland. All this in her spare time! Her enthusiasm and joie de vivre are an inspiration, she seems to be able to turn her hand to any kind of photography, is endlessly creative, and she also happens to be a lovely, generous person. Definitely inspirational!

In a year where there has been so much negativity in the world, it's good to remember how many good things can and do happen and that there are a lot of good folk out there. Happy New Year's Eve, everyone, and all the best for 2018.