2014 Review, and Thoughts For 2015

December 31, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

It’s been a busy year for me. And as December rolls around, I start thinking about where I want to go with my photography in the next year.

This time last year I posted about my goals for 2014, so today I’m going to take a look back at them and see how I got on. Then I’ll give some thought to my goals for 2015, and look ahead to the subjects I’m hoping to photograph this year.

It’s important to me that I set my standards high. I’m still not reaching all the targets I set myself, but if I did I’d put that down to low standards and easy targets! The idea that I’ve achieved all my goals is almost unthinkable.

 

MY GOALS FOR 2014 WERE…

Light rays through the forest on a misty woodland sunriseFoggy Woodland SunriseThis shot shows the sun throwing it's rays between the tall pine trees of a Bedfordshire woodland.
Fine Art Landscape photography, Bedfordshire, UK.
Continue to refine my and improve my landscape photography.

I didn’t spend enough time on landscapes this year. I don’t live in a part of the country with views around every corner, and I only really get to take landscape photos when I’m away somewhere. So it’s not something I get to try as often as I’d like. Excuses aside, I did get a few nice landscapes this year, and I was particularly pleased with my foggy woodland set. I just didn’t make the time to get out often enough.

A puffin stands on a cliff at last light. Skomer Island, Wales.Puffin Sunset PortraitThe iconic Atlantic Puffin, standing for his portrait.

This is kind of a dream shot for me in many ways, and quite surreal looking, due to the puffin's obliging pose.

Nature photography,
Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Build on my collection of wildlife photography, with new and creative portraits of popular British Wildlife.

I can’t say I really spent enough time on this point either. To some extent, I was unlucky with a couple of key trips, which had to be cancelled. I also just failed to make the time to get out enough in the second half of the year. But I think, amongst the stumbling blocks, I had a few successes. I’m really pleased with the originality of the photos I got of puffins on Skomer Island, and the quality of shots from the British Wildlife Centre on my photography day there.

Although I didn’t really get as much as I wanted, I think my wildlife photography is going in the right direction. It’ll take me years to build up the portfolio of wildlife photos I want, so I can consider last year’s progress as OK.

A cow stands staring at the viewer, in a dark studio-lit portrait.Low Key CattleLow-key studio-style portrait of a horned cow.

These cows make for fascinating portrait subjects, because of the way they will stand and stare. They're inquisitive animals, and that long stare is inviting and engaging.

Taken in the New Forest, Hampshire, UK.
Maintain and build on my small but valuable reputation for deer photography, and fine art nature photography.

It’s not like many people really know me or follow what I’m up to. But it’s important to me that I keep a high standard, and build on what those few people know me for.

I think on that front, I’ve done OK. I think I’m taking better pictures than before, and my standards are continuing to rise, which means that the quality of photos I share is steadily improving too.

I didn’t have much success with the deer this year. The lack of snow was a big disappointment, and I ended up moving house during the deer rut season, so I wasn’t able to commit as much time as I’d have liked.

Based on the goals above, it sounds like a disappointing year, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m pleased with the photos I got, and I think I’m improving my hit-rate by reducing my former scattergun approach. With more efficiency, I can increase the number of good photos I take for each shoot, without having to keep increasing the number of trips I take.

 

MY GOALS FOR 2015 WILL BE…

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, with pink water lit by the warm autumn sunsetSeljalandsfoss SunsetSeljalandsfoss is a spectacular waterfall, which you can walk right around, and pick your favourite view. This was mine, and I took it just before the sun dipped below the horizon. The curtain of water is lit pink like the clouds by the sunset, and the cave behind is illuminated too. A spectacular sight.

Landscape Photography, Southern
Iceland.
Continue to improve my landscape photography.
Yep – same goal as last year.

Good, engaging landscape photography is deceptively difficult. And with limited opportunities available to me, I still feel like I have a way to go before I’m regularly reaching the standard I want to achieve.

This year, I’m excited to be going back to Iceland, which I absolutely loved on my first visit. I’m also off up to Yorkshire, and various other trips I can cram in here and there. So I should get the chance to practice more landscapes in 2015.

An otter swimming head-on at the camera.Otter ApproachingA river otter, swimming head-on at the camera.

This was a shot I really wanted to have in my portfolio, and I'm very pleased with it. The dark background gives a very atmospheric mood to the shot, and the simplicity of the composition leads the eye straight to the subject.

Nature photography, in captive setting, UK.
Build on my collection of wildlife photography, with new and creative portraits of popular British Wildlife.
Yep – same goal as last year.

I’ve written before about how I’m less inclined towards the “natural history” / “documentary” style of wildlife photography. I love to see it, I’m inspired by it, and I enjoy following those who do it well. But I don’t think it’s my strength, and it doesn’t really fulfil my creative motivation. I also have a real determination not to go out and take the same photos everyone else is taking. So I want to go further down my own route of specialising in fine art nature and wildlife portraits.

I have a couple of concrete ideas for subjects and techniques for original wildlife portraits this year, and I do intend to concentrate on portraits more than just wildlife photography generally. This is a really tough goal, and I don’t expect to succeed overnight, but it’s the direction I want to go in.

This year, as well as more local wildlife, I have trips planned to Skomer and Spain for wildlife. As well as hopefully getting back to the seals and water voles.

The sunlight cloud casting a shadow over the impressive North face of the EigerThe North Face Of The EigerThe Eiger was a really impressive sight close-up.
I struggled to see it through the cloud on my first visit, but I went back a few days later and was treated to the sight of the cloud gradually clearing as the sun burned through. This was my favourite shot of the day, showing the swirling cloud, harsh mountain sunlight, and the imposing Eiger itself.

Landscape Photography, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland.
Shoot more for Black and White.

When I was first getting into photography, I saw black and white as something out-dated; a longing for a time that had since passed. Like clinging on to cassettes as if mp3’s are a passing fad. I didn’t understand why anyone would choose not to use colour. They simply didn’t capture my attention.
Note: I’m a philistine, and don’t watch black and white films either.However, as time goes on, and the more great black and white photography I see, the more I’m drawn to its quality for subtlety or drama. I think visiting the Ansel Adams exhibition in London last year planted that seed. The reality is that black & white highlights different elements of an image to colour. And it’s a fact that some situations are better suited to black and white than to colour photos. I knew when I was photographing the Eiger in Switzerland last year, that it was going to look much better in black & white. I’ve also taken more portraits this year, which have suited black and white much better, and I’m increasingly recognising this at the time, and shooting with black and white in mind.

I feel slightly at a cross-roads now, as I’m drawn towards more black & whites, yet I’m well aware that public opinion firmly favours colour photos. I don’t like the way that many niche communities seem to self-implode; becoming more and more keen to please those within the circle, at the expense of connecting with the general public. I want my photography to be accessible to everyone, so it’s important to me that I don’t veer too far from the mainstream.

At this stage, my instinct is just to shoot more black & white, so I’ll follow that for now. I doubt I’ll ever shoot exclusively in black and white, but I can see the proportion increasing next year.

Long eared owl in bluebell wood.Long Eared Owl - In Bluebell WoodlandI was fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph the owls from the British Wildlife Centre, in a natural bluebell woodland setting, and this long eared owl was my favourite owl photo of the day. The dappled sunlight shone through the trees, and lit the owl, while the woods kept the carpet of bluebells in shade behind. A highlight for me, from a hugely enjoyable day.
Nature photography, captive, Surrey, UK.
Continue to pursue a niche in fine art nature photography.

It’s not a term I particularly like; “fine art photography”. It sounds pretentious and self-important, and I kept it off my website for quite a while. But when I see the kind of photos I want to produce, they’re invariably categorised as “fine art”. So it’s a term I’ve reluctantly taken up, in the absence of anything better.

Irrespective of the term used, it’s the style I enjoy most, and creating artwork is still the primary intention of my photography. So for 2015, it’s just a case of taking continued small steps in that direction. I’m also designing a new look for my website, and clearer print options, which should help to reflect this intent.

 

FUN IN 2014

Aside from just taking photos, 2014 has been a really enjoyable year for me in terms of support and encouragement. I had my first magazine feature, first magazine cover photo, passed a million photo views on Flickr, and won overall prizes for Marwell Wildlife Photographer Of The Year, and The British Wildlife Centre’s photography competition. Flickr aside, they all seemed to come completely out of the blue, and I would have been staggered to win either of those big competitions, let alone both.

I don’t enter many competitions so it was really incredible to have my photos picked as winners in two of the four I did enter. Although I had photos short-listed for the British Wildlife Photography Awards and Landscape Photographer Of The Year, I didn’t get any notable results. So those two – the largest national competitions in the UK, will be something to hope for next year. Though it’s exceptionally tough to be noticed amongst the tens of thousands of entries they receive, it’s just a case of sending what I have and hoping for a bit of luck!

Thanks to everyone who helped me in the last year; To those who came out on photo days with me, helped with advice, and those who have taken the time to comment on my work and give me valuable feedback throughout the year. Particularly to those who’ve shared Facebook posts and tweets, which really helps too. I really appreciate it, and I hope I keep coming up with photos you enjoy.

As mentioned earlier, my website is going to have a new look & feel for 2015. I’m also going to write more blog posts about animal photography in captivity; Specifically, a series of reviews for various zoos and wildlife centres I’ve visited, and how they work out for photography. That’s something I haven’t found elsewhere, and I hope will become a useful resource over time.

You can follow my photography throughout the year on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Flickr, & 500px. If you’re on any of those sites, do drop by and say hello. Or if you have any suggestions for great ideas for subjects or locations I should visit, then get in touch.

Happy new year, and best of luck for 2015 :-)

Post by George Wheelhouse, 2014.


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