This is the first of the magazine articles I'm posting here, this one submitted to 'Healthy Life...', but not suitable for their magazine as it seemed too much like an advert. I wrote it as a retrospective look at the work I'd done the previous year, and felt this sort of 'spring clean' could apply to all walks of life - assessing how you've done, and things you can hope to achieve in the year ahead.
Late winter sees me looking back over the images of the previous year, as a sort of spring clean. Often, when you’ve shot thousands of images over a busy period, all you have a chance to do is edit them, organise them, and move on. This time of year gives me a chance to have a more leisurely sort through, taking my time to view and digest the pictures I have.
I’m also doing this now as I’m currently deciding which photos I’m going to enter into the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, and although I have a very good idea of the candidates - earmarked at the time; you always know when you’ve got something extra-special - having a thorough reassessment often throws up some surprises.
So here are five images that I’ve taken during 2006 that I’m especially pleased with, and why they tickle my fancy...
The first is one that I’ve wanted to get for quite a while, but opportunity and luck had failed to come my way. However, one sunny day in the summer, I got a phone call from my friend Colin to say that there were two Hummingbird Hawkmoths regularly nectaring on Buddleias at Weald Country Park in Brentwood. I nipped over there, and spent a couple of hours chasing these little moths around, sometimes they’d disappear for ten minutes or so, sometimes they’d be bobbing around right at the top of the bush, but occasionally they would come into range of my lens, and the result is shown here. I’ll try to improve on it this year...
Sticking to the insect theme, I’m really pleased with my shot of a Migrant Hawker Dragonfly, sunning itself on a bush at Bedfords Park. I love the sun glinting off the wings, and giving the body that amber glow. The whole shot looks warm - it’s a because the sun’s in front of us, so the leaves and insect are backlit, almost luminous.
The third picture is of dew-laden grass in Scotland. I was staying with a friend in a village near Edinburgh, in October, and the cold mornings, with clear blue skies, meant the dew was heavy. On my knees in the garden, I soon saw that every blade of grass had a delicate bauble balanced on its tip. One of many compositions I tried, this being the most simple, often the secret behind a good image.
The last two photos were taken on the same day, at Trebah Gardens in Cornwall. These gardens are in a small valley that runs down to a private beach, and it was here, walking along the shoreline, that I saw a small pebble with a wonky grin. With its cartoon-ish face, I knew I had to take its picture, and it makes me smile every time I see it. I must get this printed up onto canvas - I think that will suit it down to the ground.
Further up the valley again, I passed a tree with peeling bark. I took a quick snap and moved on, so have no idea what sort of tree it was. The shot has lain dormant ever since, and it’s only now that I’ve seen it’s potential and taken a closer look. I’ve cropped it down to a square, increased the contrast, and produced a graphic, simple image. I like it a lot.
These are some of my favourite images from the past year, but I know they won’t appeal to everyone. Photography is subjective, just like any art form. I attach all sorts of other emotions to these pictures because I was there at the time. I can remember the sense of achievement at capturing the hovering moth or the play of light on the dragonfly. My few days in Scotland were a treat, and I associate the image of the grass with this trip and the good feelings it gave me. I was smiling when I took the shot of the pebble, so this too brings back happy memories. Perhaps that’s why I like these shots - because of the memories they stir.
Which leaves the image of the bark. I have less emotional attachment to the photograph, so can appreciate it more objectively I think. There’s mystery to it, there are no clues as to where or when the shot was taken, it invites you to consider the texture and the darkness. As I said, I like it.