2013 in retrospect (with a New Year competition)
A single year is now only one sixtieth of my life's experience! No wonder each passing year seems to go faster. Photographically it has been such a stimulating and fun experience. Each new season has brought with it dramatic weather, from the worst snow in decades to the most summer sunshine most of us can remember. And the special highlight for me was the long awaited photo journey through the Highlands of Scotland under the expert tuition of professional photographer and friend Kieran Dodds. Yet close to home is my patch and to my amazement and delight I am still discovering new places to photograph in the Glens and along our fabulous coastline.
It hasn't been a big year for gear - learning to use better what I have has been challenge enough. However the biggest challenge, as always, has been to progress in the most important areas: vision, composition and understanding light.
Two of the most gratifying aspects of photography this year have been sharing the photos with more and more people (Facebook has provided lots of fun and feedback) and watching how some of the photographs have been used. Photos have found their way onto book and CD covers, a charity calendar, a restaurant and into homes - including our own! There's nothing quite like seeing a 30x20 print, beautifully framed and hanging on the wall!
Reducing literally thousands of photos taken this year to a representative 20 has not been an easy task. But here goes! (And by the way - there is a COMPETITION at the end!)
1. The Antrim Plateau. The early part of the year featured heavy snowfalls. My favourite shot from that period was taken on the Antrim plateau after I had to leave the car in a gateway and continue on foot to where I knew was an abandoned farmstead. In the still falling snow the silence was magical. I feel it each time I look at the photo.
2. Rathlin from Ballycastle. This year has seen many visits to the beach at Ballycastle, with its sweeping curve, iconic large rock, multi-coloured pebbles, wooden bridge and the Pan rocks. It is one of my favourite places to photograph. It is also a great place to experiment with shutter speeds to capture movement (or indeed the lack of it) in the water. Northern Ireland photographer David Cleland has been a major inspiration here through his excellent e-book - 'The Long Exposure'. Among many photographs taken there during the year this is probably the most memorable and dramatic. It was taken in February on a day of remarkable light - so remarkable that many of the walkers who would otherwise have been moving briskly along because of the cold simply stood staring.
3. Wolfgangsee. I also had the opportunity to travel to Austria for a week in March. Even though the start of the trip was accompanied by glorious weather - blue skies, beautiful snow, stunning mountains - my favourite photos were taken in damp, miserable conditions! This is one, taken during a cold walk with friends along the Wolfgangsee.
4. The North Coast. April can usually be relied upon to provide dramatic light, especially on the coast and this year was no exception. In between soakings one Friday early evening the sun burst through the storm clouds and lit up the iconic parish church at Ballintoy. A seagull fighting against the wind completed the picture.
5. The Giant's Causeway. April was also the month of my sixtieth birthday and with it the present of a fisheye lens. It certainly gives a different view of the world. It seemed to fit well with the hexagonal shape of the rocks at the Giant's Causeway.
6. Innocence and wonder (Portstewart Strand). The long and surprisingly hot summer gave plenty of opportunity to take photographs of my granddaughter. One ambition was to capture her in a white dress on the strand at Portstewart towards sunset. The opportunity when it came lasted only the few seconds it took for her to fall into the water and cover herself with sand. But the result was worth it and this remains one of my favourite pics I have ever taken.
7. Slieve League. The summer also provided a brief opportunity to revisit Donegal and explore an area that until then was just a name on a map. This led to the discovery of the dramatic cliffs at Slieve League.
8. Kinbane Castle. There were also new places to discover on the North Coast - Kinbane Castle being one of them. I had often noticed the signpost on the coast road but had never taken the road. Having made my first visit there in the early afternoon, following the advice of a photographer I happened to meet in the car park, I decided to return for the dawn light at the next possible opportunity. I was rewarded by one of the best photographic experience of the year. This is one of many shots I took that morning.
9. Fairhead. That same morning provided another of my favourite shots as I travelled towards home and noticed the changing colours of the sea and the sky towards Fairhead.
10. The secret cove (Ballintoy). On photographer Gary McParland's excellent website I discovered another North Coast location that intrigued me. It was a cove with a view of Sheep Island. By a process of elimination I came across it at Ballintoy. I've since come across a number of people who call this their 'secret beach'. Repeated trips were rewarded by another wonderful dawn. This time I was not alone - a number of other photographers were working the area. To my surprise they packed up and moved away just before the magic started and I had the beach to myself.
11. The Dark Hedges. That same morning, heading home for breakfast by my usual route which takes me through the Dark Hedges I again was surprised to find the area devoid of photographers for a change. There was mist in the early morning air and smoke from a nearby field added to the atmosphere. Out of many photographs of the Dark Hedges this is now my favourite.
12. Stac Pollaidh. The highlight of the year photographically was the photo journey in the Highlands of Scotland, led by professional photographer Kieran Dodds. Although I have been in Scotland before, it has usually been to the cities. Until this trip I had never been to Assynt, Wester Ross, Skye or Rannoch Moor. It was magnificent. What a fabulous place for photography and we were blessed with the best kind of dramatic and varied weather. Here are a couple of my favourite shots. Check out the gallery for more.
13. The Cuillins from Elgol
14. Buachaille Etive Mor on Rannoch Moor - the most photographed mountain in Scotland 15. Portglenone. As you can see from these photographs Autumn was now in full swing and upon returning home I paid a couple of visits to Portglenone Forest. It is a great place for bluebells in the Spring. What I hadn't appreciated is how wonderful it is in autumn.
18. The Glens. I had noticed this little cottage outside Cargan (between Glenravel and Glenarrif) some years ago and always planned to return. I managed it just after Christmas and the low winter sun provided a suitable atmosphere.
19. Portstewart. This year has witnessed many more attempts at capturing the landscape at the extremes of the day - dawn and dusk and from dusk to dawn. A recent photograph of Portstewart was taken during the 'blue' hour, when the warm glow of the street lighting looks its best against the deep blue of the sky after the sun has set.
20. Ballintoy Harbour. I have also made a number of attempts to capture the landscape under starry skies and experimented with 'light painting' - using a torch to add light to objects in the foreground. The most successful by far, judging by the number of comments and Facebook 'likes' is this photo of the boat house at Ballintoy harbour. Happy New Year!
I hope you have enjoyed this brief photographic journey through the year. Perhaps it will encourage you to 'get out more', to discover new places. Perhaps even to take your camera with you? There is beauty all around us if only we can make the time to see it and being able to share it through photography not only adds to the enjoyment but also helps us to see more.
My grateful thanks to all of you who have encouraged me through the year - through messages on this website, through Facebook and in face-to-face conversation. I wish you a peaceful and joy-filled New Year.
The New Year Competition
The prize is one beautiful A3+ (13"x19") print of your favourite photo chosen from the 20 above.
To enter the competition all you need to do is first to choose your favourite photo and second to explain (in no more than a few sentences) in the comment section below this post the reason for your choice. The winner of the competition will be chosen by a small panel of judges, on the basis of the most interesting and perceptive comment, on Sunday 12th January. Have fun! I look forward to reading your comments.
Keywords: Ballintoy, Ballintoy Harbour, Ballycastle, Buachaille Etive Mor, Cargan, Long Exposure, Northern Ireland Landscape Photography, Portglenone Forest, Portstewart, Rathlin, Slieve League, Stac Pollaidh, The Antrim Plateau, The Causeway Coast, The Cuillins, The Giant's Causeway, The Glens, The Highlands of Scotland, Wolfgangsee
No.9 Fairhead. Ballycastle bay towards Fairhead is one of my favourite views. I like this photograph because the 'stillness' captured is so unusual. The light is beautiful & delicate making the land of Fairhead stand out majestic. It is a beautiful scene & it reminds me of God's creation & his pleasure in what He had made ........ "& He saw that it was good."
35.Anne Marie Benson(non-registered)
what an amazing ability to capture something already pretty special and make it truly majestic.
so many fond memories of Balintoy where my parents used to take us as children, where I now take my little boy! Would love to have this piece of perfection hang in my home for all to see :-)
How does one pick a favourite from these? As one born and brought up near Ballycastle I have been so torn, but eventually I have picked No 4.
I too have a granddaughter, who at 2 and a half years old finds everything in each new day a cause of wonderment and excitement! She lives in the Midlands, far from any seaside so I'd like to give the picture to her. Accompanying Granny wisdom will be always to continue to admire the wonderful world we live in, but also know that clouds and sunshine in life both bring their different lessons. Also despite being such a little person in such a big world, each person has the potential to grow, change and influence the future!
waow what beautiful Hope that picture evokes.
'To be still and know that You're my God'
'I'm lost in wonder
I'm lost in love
I'm lost in praise forevermore'
Thank-you for blessing us with this photo Gilbert.
It makes my heart smile and dream for the seemingly impossible.
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