A look back at 2018
At this time of year many of us look back at the year and for photographers this more often than not involves looking at our best images from the last 12 months.
Whilst the images are important, photography for me is a hobby, a passion, and the experiences are equally if not more important.
As much as I like returning to old haunts it doesn’t always give me the same buzz of visiting new locations. The hours put in researching the area, understanding conditions that might work well, the potential compositions and then you turn up, get out of the car and the plan changes in an instant… probably for the better.
I tried to make a point of seeking out new locations this year and it’s one area where I feel I’ve been successful having visited a number of new areas, particularly on the east coast of Scotland. I also had the pleasure of visiting the Outer Hebrides over the summer and whilst the conditions weren’t great it has whet the appetite for a future visit.
Another highlight was visiting the Isle of Eigg and the experience of standing on the beach looking over to Rum as the sun set, watching the patterns in the sand change each and every time the waves lapped around the wellies. I would happily return.
It has been a number of years since I participated in a workshop but this year I signed up for a few which I thoroughly enjoyed and found both inspiring and motivating.
When I was looking at potential workshops the deciding factors for me were subject matter, location and the teacher. In the end I signed up for a couple of bookmaking workshops, which I’ll discuss below, and a 1-2-1 workshop with John Irvine.
I see shot after shot of beautiful trees and woodlands and it’s a subject I’ve never gotten to grips with, probably because I don’t shoot them that often. John has an extensive portfolio of stunning images from the area around his home in West Lothian and the day was based in and around these woodlands.
The location was a big decider for me as being only a 30 minute drive it’s accessible for me in the future when I am by myself unlike somewhere that is a 2 hour drive.
It was a great experience being able to discuss the thought process behind John’s work, what he looks for, his post processing, seeking out locations, lens selection, etc and I feel it has given me a platform from which to work and develop my woodland shots in the future.
My collection of photobooks has begun to expand at quite some pace (I might try and curb it a bit next year) but the appeal of making my own books with my own images is something I have been interested in exploring for quite some time. I would love to print my own work more but I don’t want to end up with a bundle of prints lying around gathering dust… hence books.
This year I was finally able to book myself on to Joe Wright’s course and in June I made the 350 mile trip down to Swindon for a weekend of bookmaking. It was full on for the two days and I came away with both a Japanese stab and stitch style book and a hardback book.
However, it wasn’t just the finish books that interested me, it was the combination of all the processes involved in getting there. One aspect I particularly enjoyed was the group discussion on sequencing and I was surprised how after the first day I looked at the images I had brought for the second day very differently.
Joe is an inspiring teacher with years of experience (it shows!) and has produced a number of beautiful books, a couple of which I own. It is not difficult to be inspired by what Joe shows over the weekend I could happily attend another of his workshops.
The other book workshop I attended was here in Glasgow at DAD’s Bookbinders where I spent a day learning about coptic binding. They have other courses, which aren’t photography specific, but will allow me to develop my skills further and only involves a 10 minute subway ride.
I haven’t progressed my own bookmaking at home as much as I would have liked to but I have been jotting down ideas which I hope to develop and work on in the future.
In the past couple of years I have started submitting some work to open art exhibitions in Glasgow and this year I was delighted to have work accepted to both the Royal Scottish Academy’s open exhibition in Edinburgh and Paisley Art Institute’s Open Exhibitions.
I have found it a tremendous experience submitting ones work, getting through the first stage and then handing in the framed piece for the second selection stage not knowing if it will be hung in the exhibition. When the notification comes through that it has been chosen it’s a great feeling, particularly when my work could be on display beside a painting that is for sale for £20,000… as actually happened!
I was both delighted and humbled to have had a photograph I took in the Faroe Islands selected for the cover of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year Portfolio III book at the start of the year.
And it was nice to follow that up with Fotospeed selecting a shot from the Lofoten Islands for the cover of their 2018 product brochure.
I ended the year being interviewed for Outdoor Photography magazines ‘In The Spotlight’ feature which whilst a touch nerve-wracking it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and great to see the finished article in print.
Having my work in print, nevermind being interviewed about my photography, was never something I sought nor did I ever consider it likely to happen. However, it’s these little things that give some reassurance that I have taken a couple of good shots over the years.
It’s great to get together with like minded people and talk photography.
This year I managed to make onLandscape’s Meeting of Minds conference which is not only a great opportunity to hear from a range of photographers from across the world but also the chance to catch up with photography friends and meet some new faces who I only know through their twitter handles.
Unfortunately due to a clash of dates I was unable to make either of the #Connected events but I hope to make this and other events in the future.
This is what matters - if I didn’t enjoy getting up early, hunting out new locations, being frustrated by weather but eager to get back for a second attempt then photography wouldn’t be the same and I would most likely try my hand at something else.
Thankfully though that isn’t the case and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings.