My Top 20 from 2020
I've heard people say that contraints are a good way to encourage creativity. If that was true, then 2020 should have been my most creative photography year ever: coronavirus scuppered my goal of shooting more portraits and it made landscape photography difficult because travel was restricted. The constraints of COVID did make me seek out more local landscapes and I also created more still life images. But frankly, 2020 was a rubbish year for everything.
"Peak Autumn at Wyming Brook". Wyming Brook is a great Autumn location but it's tricky to time it — you want vibrant colours but you still want leaves on the trees. This time, it was Peak Autumn at half term, so I aimed to get there about 8 am to beat the crowds. In the original shot, there's a small triangle of sky peaking through at the top so I've done some judicious cloning to hide it.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8 lens at 16mm. 2.5sec at f/8, ISO 200.
"Cannock Chase woodland". I was mightily disappointed by Cannock Chase since it seemed to be endless pine trees and not the photogenic woodland I was after. I found this image just by a path and it contained more of the feeling I was after.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.12-40mm f/2.8 lens at 27mm. 1/4s at f/8, ISO 200.
"Sentinel". I could see mist coming in so I headed to Roaches wood in the hope that the mist would settle there. Fortunately, it did settle and transformed the woodland into photographic vignettes. I liked the way this tree seemed to be standing guard in the forest.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Lumix G Vario 35-100 f/2.8 lens at 60mm. 1/30sec at f/2.8, ISO 200.
"Bluebell Wood". Bluebell woods are a difficult photographic subject. They never seem to look as good in a photograph as in reality. I took a different approach this year and tried using the bluebells as a background rather than as the main subject.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.12-40mm f/2.8 lens at 40mm. 1/80sec at f/2.8, ISO 200.
"Roaches Tree". After a disappointing outing to Ramshaw Rocks, I took the long way home and went via the Roaches. I was surprised to see some mist in the valley so I headed to this photogenic sycamore tree that I've photographed before. The sun had set at least 20 minutes prior (hence the long shutter speed) so I don't understand why there was still such nice light on the tree. I felt wonderfully energised afterwards which just goes to show: the best picture isn't always where you think it is.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Lumix G Vario 35-100 f/2.8 lens at 35mm. 3.2s at f/5.6, ISO 200.
"Magpie Mine". This is taken with an 8mm fisheye lens. I've always struggled to find good compositions at Magpie Mine so I was pleased with this. I was less pleased with the walk back to the car: a number of cows looked like they were egging to take me on.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.8mm f/1.8 lens. 1/80s at f/7.1, ISO 200.
"In My Beginning". I took this in New Brighton. These groynes are invisible at high tide and then quickly appear as the sea recedes so you have to be quick to get the shot. As the groynes began to appear, I found myself re-adjusting the tripod between shots to ensure the leading lines were symmetrical. Usually I find long exposure photography to be quite peaceful and relaxing but the changing nature of the composition meant this was more like shooting a sports event. The white specks at the ends of the groynes are seagulls. In Photoshop, I tidied the horizon a little and did some dodging and burning of the groynes.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.12-40mm f/2.8 lens at 12mm. 13s at f/8, ISO 200. ND10 filter plus 2 stop graduated ND filter to hold back the sky.
"Path to Nowhere". This was taken at West Kirby Sailing Club. The foreground is as shot, but the background was a bit blah so I did some work in Photoshop to add a misty feel.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8 lens at 18mm. 20secs at f/8, ISO 200. ND10 filter plus 2 stop graduated ND filter to hold back the sky.
"Railings to nowhere". Suitably attired in wellies, I took this shot as the tide rolled in.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8 lens at 12mm. 15secs at f/8, ISO 200. ND10 filter plus 2 stop graduated ND filter to hold back the sky.
"Recession". I know that a number of people take photographs for their mental health. I certainly find it an important way to express my creativity. But when combined with long exposures, I find photography very meditative.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 8-18mm f/2.8 lens at 18mm. 10secs at f/8, ISO 200. ND10 filter plus 2 stop graduated ND filter to hold back the sky.
"Stag bellowing". This was taken in the Peak District but to my eye at least it looks a little like it was taken on the African savannah.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 100-400/f4-f6.3 lens at 400mm. 1/250s at f/6.3, ISO 200.
"Red Kite diving". Taken at the Red Kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm in Wales. I took literally thousands of photographs that day but there were very few where I managed to capture the whole bird in the frame.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 100-400/f4-f6.3 lens at 300mm. 1/1600s at f/5.7, ISO 800.
"Blue tit". When Spring arrives I like to start photographing garden birds. I’m getting better at choosing an appropriate perch and this year I added some blurry foreground to provide a candid feel to the shot.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Leica DG 100-400/f4-f6.3 lens at 400mm. 1/160s at f/6.3, ISO 640.
"Female Wood Wasp egg laying". This insect looks ferocious but doesn't sting. It has an ovipositor on its backside that you'd think is a massive stinger but it's used to lay eggs. This insect appeared out of nowhere just after we had some tree stumps ground down in our garden. She was so into her egg laying that I was able to lift up the piece of wood she was on and move it to a location with better light.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. 1/60s f/5, ISO 400.
"Glasswing Butterfly". I took this on a day out at Chester Zoo in February. It takes a while to get your eye in and spot these little critters, but when you do, they're everywhere.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. 1/100s f/5, ISO 1600.
"Three generations". I found these Milking Bonnet fungi in a friend’s wood. I loved the way they were intertwined and fancied that they looked like a family.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. 1/30s f/2.8, ISO 200.
"Seed head". This was one of several still life lockdown photography projects I did to counteract the Groundhog Day experience of life under lockdown.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. 1/250s f/2.8, ISO 200.
"Leaves in lockdown". Searching for an image idea that captured the limbo of living under COVID restrictions, I came up with a metaphor of life being frozen. I also tried this with flowers but it just didn’t work as well as it did with leaves.
Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Olympus M.60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. 1/25s f/8, ISO 200.
"Autumn Curiosities". Another still life lockdown project, this one taken with a flatbed scanner.
Epson Perfection V550 Photo flatbed scanner.
"Black Friday". Looking over these images, each of them could have been taken in 2019, or 2018. I thought I needed one image that was about coronavirus, and this is it. I spent an afternoon in Leek photographing the COVID-19 signs and trying to summarise the pandemic in a street photograph. It's not a great photo, but it does say "2020 - the year of the pandemic".
Olympus EM-5 Mark II with Olympus M.17mm f/1.8 lens. 1/100s at f/4, ISO 200.