My Year In Retrospect

2013 Photography Highlight

Is it just me or does each year seems to go faster?

A single year is now only one sixtieth of my life’s experience!

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.  

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!

19 Photos From 2013

Here's a collection of some of my favourite photos taken over 2013. 

Reducing literally thousands of photos taken this year to a representative 19 has not been an easy task.

But here goes! 

1.  The Antrim Plateau

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

Rathlin Island 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

Wolfgangsee Photos

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

Giants Causeway Fisheye Photo

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 and seemed to fit well with the hexagonal shape of the rocks at the Giant's Causeway.  

6.  Innocence and wonder - Portstewart Strand

Portstewart Strand Northern Ireland Photo

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

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

Kinbane Castle Sunrise Photos

 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

Fairhead Photo

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 in Ballintoy

Ballintoy Cave Photo

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

The Dark Hedges Northern Ireland

 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

Stac Pollaidh Photos

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

The Cuillins from Elgol Photos

14.  Buachaille Etive Mor on Rannoch Moor

Buachaille Etive Mor on Rannoch Moor Photo

This is 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.

16.  Slemish

Slemish Photo

17.  The Glens

The Glens Photograph

 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.

18.  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.

19.  Ballintoy Harbour

Ballintoy Harbour Photo Night

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 and 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.  

- Gilbert Lennox

Matthew Thompson