It's that time of year when we look back at our work over the past 12 months and think about what we achieved. For me the highlight was the experience of visiting locations to photograph that for a number of years now had been on my bucketlist.
High on the list for a photography trip and after a significant amount of planning I arranged a week long trip to Lofoten for 12 members of my local camera club in January 2017. Given it's popularity with photographers there is a lot of information readily available when planning potential locations. Of the main locations few, if any, are off the beaten track, but for a first visit with a large group there were enough to keep us busy for the week.
And what an incredible location to visit and photograph. Standing on the vast sandy beaches, looking at the rugged mountains that rise out of the ground with their snow capped peaks. With so many locations in such close proximity to each other and coupled with good sunrise and sunset times during winter, it is easy to see why this is such a popular location. Throw in the aurora and it doesn't get much better.
Unfortunately, even in January you aren't guaranteed snow and we only had one day where we experienced a reasonable amount of snowfall. We had difficult conditions to work with, the best light of the week coming as we checked in for our flight home, but you just have to work with what you're dealt.
That said it doesn't detract from what was an excellent trip but I do feel as though I have unfinished business in Lofoten and will definitely be looking to return in the future.
A country my wife and I had talked about visiting many times in recent years and we eventually settled on a week long trip in April. Access around the Faroes is pretty easy and we based ourselves in Torshavn for the week, something which worked well.
Whilst this was not a photography specific trip, all of the gear came along and my camera was in and out of the back all day. As it was a holiday, sunrises and sunsets were not on the agenda and so I was photographing during the day in whatever conditions I was presented with.
I loved photographing the Faroes - standing on the rocks as waterfalls plummet into the ocean and waves crash against the cliffs and rocks around you. It is unforgettable and I would return in a heartbeat... hopefully to get some better light! It is incredibly rugged landscape and coastline that just goes on and on. Some of the islands are just a long continuous mountain range with a variety of tunnels taking you from one end to the other.
It was also very refreshing to be somewhere with so few tourists. Compared to Iceland, which is over run with coach trips where ever you turn, we did not come across a single coach trip and bumped into the same half dozen tourists where ever we went.
North Coast 500
Our summer holiday where the camera gear came along for the ride. Whilst I had been to parts of the NC500 before to photograph, this journey would see us travel the full route over 10 days in a campervan with a new location every sunset, and sunrise.
The route was planned very much with the thought of standing on some of Britain's finest beaches watching the sun disappear below the horizon knowing that only a few hours later I would be back for the first light of a new day.
We were treated to glorious conditions during the day but mornings in particular were mixed and I shot more sunsets that I did sunrises. However conditions during the day were far more important than a nice sunrise as this was our summer holiday. Personally I can't think of anywhere better to be when it's 25/26 degrees, clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.
Over the course of the trip we visited Applecross, Mellon Udrigle, Achmelvich, Clatchtoll, Pollin, Sandwoodbay, Durness, Dunnet, Duncansby Stacks and Brora to name but just a few locations, some were new to me and but others were wonderful to revisit at a time of year I wouldn't normally go to photograph.
This trip not a trip we had considered let along planned until we returned from the NC500. From our first discussion about potentially going back to Japan it took us less than two weeks to get it booked. We had a full on itinerary planned, as anyone who followed the trip on social media will know, but I was able to squeeze in a single days photography out in the Hokkaido countryside.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
I am a big fan of Michael Kenna and Bruce Percy and own a number of Kenna's Japan publications, quite often spending hours looking at the minimalist images he has shot over the years. Even if I never had the chance to revisit Hokkaido I will remember each and every location that we visited during the day.
Conditions were good, there had been fresh snow overnight (and more fell the day) and we didn't have clear blue skies. At times it was hard work and I was up to my waist in snow a couple of times but it was a thrill standing in the freezing conditions, admiring and taking in the scenes that I have looked at so many times in books. Every time we arrived at a new location I could feel the adrenaline kicking in.
Fear only set in when I got back home, transferred the images to my computer and the thought of them being out of focus went through my head.
Whilst Hokkaido was a dream experience for me, if you don't like minimalist photography it is probably not the place for you.
The photographs above were all taken using my phone. Processing images is not something I am particularly quick (or prompt) at undertaking. It is something that I plan to work on in 2018... along with everything else.