2021 has been quite a year. Not withstanding the disruption that was caused by Covid, I have still managed to visit some amazing places and have seen some wonderful things. It is not lost on me, that I am incredibly fortunate that i was with either great clients or wonderful friends when many of these images were taken. My heart felt thanks goes to each and everyone one of them for making it 2021 very special.
It's never easy picking 12 images from a whole year. Do you go for the best compositionally or do you choose an image that might not be technically perfect but provokes lots of great memories. In this years top 12 there are a mixture of both. Unfortunately I didn't get north of the boarder into Scotland this year, so it is absent. However with 3 week long workshops planned for 2022, I am sure it will make an appearance next year. Unsurprisingly, with spending 4 weeks in Iceland this year, there are a number of images from this amazing place, but what will claim the top spot for 2021?
"An Evening On The Hill"
Number 12 - We start off close to home at Cockshaw Hill Quarry, looking across to Roseberry Topping. As soon as the heather comes into bloom, I head for this location as it makes a wonderful composition. Get the light just right and the location just glows. It's somewhere that you have to visit if you are holidaying in North York Moors and are into photography. Or indeed just want a great view and walk on a evening then it's well worth the effort to get here.
"Enter At Your Own Risk"
Number 11 - Even closer to home in Helmsley. This image was taken in early January, just off the side of Baxton's Sprunt road. I had walked past these trees on many occasions with the dogs and had previously photographed them on a misty morning. However, I knew that with a bit of snow, the composition would be transformed. I wasn't wrong and with the snow staying for a long period last winter, I was able to shoot this location in all different types of light. However this particular image is my favourite as there is something dark, mysterious and slightly threatening about it.
"The Dancing Bull"
Number 10 - Ok, I admit it, I am obsessed with watching and photographing the Northern Lights. If you have ever seen them, I am sure you will understand why. This image was taken in September near Seyðisfjørður in Iceland. It was one of those magical evenings that I will never forget. The Aurora danced for hours on end, under perfectly clear skies and I believe it was close to 2am before we headed to bed, with the green lady still lighting up the heavens. I am always amazed at the shapes that the Aurora forms and it was not until reviewing the images a couple of months later, that I came across this one. To me it looks like a bull ( head and horns on the left of the image ) prowling along the top of the mountains.
Number 9 - Back in April, I spent a week in the Lake District with a couple of clients. Believe it or not there was not one spot of rain, and the clouds that you can see in this image were some of the very few that we saw all week. It is an image that I debated about putting in, as its not the best that I have taken from this location over the years. However I returned to Blea Tarn, 2 weeks after Storm Arwen blew though. What I found was heart breaking. So many of the trees have been up rooted, thankfully the one that stands slightly by itself of the left hand side of image survived, but many other in this image have now been sadly lost.
Number 8 - You can't get a much more simple image. Sea, Sky and a Sea Stack. Saltwick Bay, near Whitby is a great place to photograph. Get the right conditions and its amazing. Sure, you need to get up early for sunrise in the summer months or stay late for sunset but it's so worth it. There are compositions all over the place. A very simple composition, which is brought to life by the contrasting colours. I knew when I took this photo that it would probably get into the top 10.
Number 7 - If you have never been to Iceland, then as soon as you have finished reading this blog then book a plane ticket. If you have been to Iceland and haven't been to glacier lagoon, then as soon as you have finished reading this blog, book a plane ticket! Better still book yourself a place on one of my workshops! Glacier Lagoon is an iconic place to shoot along with its sister location of Diamond Beach. Get lucky and you can also photograph the aurora over the ice. For me its the fact that the ice is constantly moving and coupled with the aurora, this is an image that can never be exactly replicated.
Number 6 - Talking of Diamond Beach, it's no surprise that an image is in the top 10. This image was taken in the middle of the day, is heavily polarised and after taking 1000 of images at this location, this year alone, is without doubt the best image, in my opinion that I have ever taken with a camera on a tripod from the beach. Like the image from Satwick Bay, its very simple but in a way the appeals massively to me.
Number 5 - Off to the other end of Iceland now, where we find Kirkjufell. This is probably the most iconic mountain in all of Iceland and has become a bit if a Mecca for landscape photographers. It is easy to see why, as everything is laid out in front of you. I did have to work hard for this image and only had literally a few minutes of semi decent light. I have still never managed to get an image of the Aurora over Kirkjufell but fingers crossed that will change in 2022!
Number 4 - There was no way that an image from my native Northumberland wouldn't make the top 12. Dunstanburgh Castle is an iconic location on this part of the coast. I can't even begin to count how many time I have been here in my 50 years. Living only 5 miles from this beach for the first 21 years of my life, it holds special memories. This image was taken at the end of a marathon session in early July. My clients and I had gone out to photograph sunset the previous evening and ended up staying out all night and for sunrise. We weren't disappointed in what the light gods served up at 5.30 am that morning.
Ok now it's time for the top 3. Well done and thank you if you have managed to get this far without hitting the little Red Cross at the top of the page :)
Number 3 - The only drone image to get into the top 12. Once again we return to Glacier Lagoon. I am really proud of this image, as whilst its simple, compositionally its very strong. What is poignant about this image is that all of this ice will now have returned to water, having existed in the Vatnajökull Glacier for hundreds if not thousands of years. Ok, so it's a natural event, the ice breaks off the glacier and floats down the lagoon ( hence the name ) before going out to sea where its washed back up on to the black sand beach in smaller chunks. However, shortly after taking this image, I spoke to an Icelandic man who works at the lagoon. He was telling me he couldn't believe the speed at which the glacier is retreating and would he or his son even have a job here in years to come? Climate Change is something we should all be doing our bit to slow down and protecting our home for our children of the future.
Number 2 - So very nearly the number 1 image and I agonised for so long about if it should be. Taken in Beckdale near Helmsley, its the closest image that I took to my front door all year and I really love this image. Beckdale is somewhere that I love walking, it's an ever changing scene. I remember going out with the camera one evening in late spring with the intention of going to this exact spot. It is a composition that I had found with a workshop group the previous November and is probably the strongest composition i have taken all year.. Being sheltered the fern that you can see on the right of the image had survived all winter and its colour was just perfect for this part of the image. I also love how it seems to point at the little waterfall which then takes your eye through the rest of the image. The bridge also adds some framing to image. If only all of my photos could work as well as this one does.
"A Day Of Wonders"
Number 1 - Well it had to be Iceland and my favourite place in world to photograph. For me, Stockness, which is where you will find the iconic Vestrahorn is a landscape photographers paradise. It's no wonder that I am always sad to leave, it's one of the few places that I would actually love to live close too. With its sister mountain of Eystrahorn which is a few kilometres up the coast it is just amazing. I will never tire of coming here. Compositionally wise, I have taken much strong images from here, indeed this year I have got better images. However the day on which this photo was taken, was THE best photography day in 2021. It had started with great light at Eystrahorn, we saw a herd of wild Reindeer, alpine glow on the snow capped mountains, crashing waves on a black sand beach, great conditions at Vestrahorn, the most unbelievable sunset and then to top it off the aurora came out to play for a short while in the evening. In my mind, it is therefore fitting that an image from the day should claim the top spot as it will always remind me of the wonderful memories from a special day in Iceland.
What do you think? Do you agree with the order I have put the top 12 images in. If not what would be your number 1 image and why?