It's been a while since I did a review of my photographic year so I thought perhaps it was time to repeat the exercise.
In 2017 I continued to publish my daily photoblog and this means I have a huge number of pictures to choose from - I published no less than 1911 photos on my blog last year. While this gives me lots of images to choose from, when picking my best ten, it also makes the experience quite brutal. For every picture I select, there are nearly twenty I have to reject, which means I have to be very ruthless!
Making a first pass through my 2017 pictures, I selected a couple of hundred images which I then whittled down quite quickly. It was an interesting experience doing this, as it really gave me an insight into the sort of work I've done the most through the year. I've continued with lots of architectural photography, as well as plenty of animals but I found it interesting to see the rise in the amount of street photography I've been doing.
Traditionally I've never been a people photographer, and portrait photography is still something I find challenging. However, I relish the opportunity to go people watching and I love to capture those 'decisive moments', as Henri Cartier Bresson called them. A day workshop in street photography with Damien Demolder in December 2016 gave me some new techniques to try and helped build my confidence when it comes to capturing candid moments. This shows in my final ten images and I never expected my selection would include so many people!
Anyway, here's my selection as it stands today. Of course, being objective about one's own work is difficult and it could be that if I went through the process at another time I may come up with a different choice. I hope you enjoy my 'ten best'!
A day in London in January resulted in two of my chosen images, both of them from the street photography genre but very different in style. I found this girl hamming it up outside Hamleys toy shop in Regent Street and just love the contrast between her and the rather disapproving lady in the background!
Trafalgar Square is a great place for people watching. Everyone has a camera in their hand, even if it's just their phone, so you can catch candid moments without being noticed. This piece of street art remained from the previous day, partly eroded by the passage of tourists' feet and I was struck by the way she was being trampled on, unseen by passersby. I had to wait a while for the right combination of feet to walk through the frame I'd prepared but my patience was rewarded.
April saw me return to the motor circuit at Silverstone for the World Endurance Championships. Naturally, I photographed the action on track but this can be tricky at Silverstone because of the high fences. As we sat in the grandstand on the start/finish straight I started to look for unusual ways to shoot. I spotted these two photographers over in the pitlane, beside a mirrored wall, and knew immediately I just needed to wait for the right car to drive into my frame and create the reflection I was after.
I visit a lot of National Trust places on my travels, but few of them got my photographic juices going in 2017 like Ightham Mote in Kent. This manor house has been lived in for over 700 years and it was fascinating to be able to see the history of the building through the changes made over the centuries. This particular view was my favourite of the day, with those weathered cobblestones leading you through the arch to the stables beyond.
Hatfield Forest has continued to be an inspiration to me and my camera. I'm so lucky to work there and it's fascinating to observe this beautiful place through the seasons. I noticed this scene view while eating my lunch there over the summer and the combination of reflections and those glorious lilies made me think of Monet. No doubt most people would have focused on the lilies and trees but for me the reflections were the star of the show.
My other life, as a musician, takes me all over the country so I get to visit lots of new places. Back in the summer I had a rehearsal in the Oxfordshire village of Watchfield and I went for a stroll at lunchtime with my camera. In the church I found this scene and was enchanted by the combination of that beautiful light and the exquisite arrangement of flowers by the window. Such a simple image but one that still delights me six months on.
I continued my explorations in street photography on a rainy day at the end of August. When I say rainy, it was actually monsoon like at times, so it took real dedication to drag myself into London, knowing I'd get soaked! That said, I also knew there was the potential for some wonderfully atmospheric scenes, with shiny pavements and folks dashing to get out of the downpours. As it happens, one of my favourite images came towards the end of the day when the rain had eased off. I found this spot near St. Paul's Cathedral and immediately knew it had photographic potential. I carefully set my composition and patiently waited for the right character to walk onto the 'stage' I'd set. This chap, smartly dressed in a business suit, was the individual I was after and I was able to catch him at the perfect moment, mid-stride.
One of my favourite events of the motor racing year is the Goodwood Racing Revival. There's something so photogenic about these old cars and it's immensely exciting to see classics (some of them worth millions of pounds) genuinely being raced wheel to wheel. On the first day of the 2017 Revival we had copious amounts of rain, but that wasn't going to dampen my spirits! I knew there was the potential for something magical at the first race of the meeting, which runs from day into night, with a wet track and the cars's headlights illuminated. Sure enough, as the field charged away from the start line, the air filled with spray and a Jaguar E-type slid gently off track. Suddenly it was worth getting soaked earlier in the day, having to tog up in full waterproofs and stay until the end of a very long day to get this shot!
Every year I'm lucky enough to visit Llanerchindda Farm, near Llandovery, to teach on a music course. As well as being set in the beautiful Welsh countryside, the farm has this magnificent view down the valley towards the Cynghordy Viaduct. It's an endless source of fascination watching the weather and light change over the viaduct. The pleasure was also enhanced last because they'd finally completed a restoration of the stonework and all the scaffolding had gone. One morning I got up before dawn and waited patiently with my camera for the sun to emerge. My patience was rewarded with this scene - the perfect combination of warm dawn sunlight and mist. The addition of a train crossing the viaduct at precisely the right moment was the icing on the cake!
I never tire of watching the natural world and it's an added bonus when you can get as close as I did to this robin. I regularly visit the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes, in Essex, where there is never any shortage of bird life to photograph. Before Christmas I'd heard there was a particularly tame robin living in the old cordite storage area so I went along armed with some mealworms. Sure enough, the robin was utterly fearless and I spent an hour or so watching and photographing his antics in return for some tasty treats, some of which he ate from straight from my fingers. Later that day I found one of the reserve's volunteers feeding the robin again and was lucky enough to catch this adorable picture, which reminds me of Oliver's request for more food in the musical of the same name!