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2020 - A reflection on a bumpy year!

2020; certainly one of the strangest years I've experienced in all of the 29 years of my existence. On one hand, it feels like it was all over in a flash! Then on the other, I look back at images I took at the start of the year and feel like they were taken years ago! It's a year that everyone is probably quite eager to forget; it's certainly been a tough one, I'l give it that! However, for me, when I look back at the year from a photographic standpoint, it's actually not been too bad! I was lucky enough to get away to Scotland a few weeks before the lockdowns started, then again in the early Autumn as the restrictions were relaxed and I'm lucky enough to be based in one of the most beautiful areas of the country; The Lake District. So here's a few of my favourite images taken this year a long with a bit of the story behind them!

1. Rise & Shine - Catbells, Lake District, UK

Winter sunrise over Derwentwater in the Lake District taken from the Summit of Catbells.
Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm F4 @ 16mm, bracketed exposures blended and focus stacked in photoshop, F11, ISO 64

Back in January of the year, I took a hike up Catbells on what was quite a chilly morning. I remember quite clearly the forecast being for clear skies and I had planned to go up there to find a composition to return to on a better day. Not often the forecasters get it wrong and it works out to the photographers advantage, but it does happen and it certainly did on this morning! After watching an incredibly vibrant sunrise, I waited patiently for the first light to break over the horizon and light up the fells. Thankfully, there were still some nice cirrocumulus clouds over towards the North that were still catching the faintest of the dawn colours!

2. Full Rainbow - Wastwater, Lake District, UK

Full rainbow over a dramatic Wastwater in the Lake District with moody clouds and dramatic light.
Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm F4 @ 16mm, 1/5 Sec, F/11, ISO 64

Now this evening certainly was a highlight of the year for me! Since I started photography, every Winter I tried to get a rainbow shot here. The sun sets at just the right angle to get a perfect full rainbow, just before the sun goes down. All you need is a gap on the horizon, some nice moody clouds in the opposite direction and a rain shower, ideally moving away from you. It doesn't sound much to ask, right? There was a decent chance with the forecast so I decided to go for it. I stood around for a good couple of hours being blasted by strong winds and frequent rain showers; refusing to take shelter as I didn't want to miss the moment. It seemed like time was running out and nothing was going to happen. Poor visibility had me thinking there was no chance of the sun blasting through on the horizon but in the space of a couple of minutes, the skies to the West cleared and what you see in the image above, unfolded itself! I'm glad I took a soaking for this one, as it was over as quick as it began!

3. Glimpse of Light - Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Beautiful Winter waterfall at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK. Snow on mountains in the background.
Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm F4 @ 18mm, 8.0 Sec, F/11, ISO 64

My first Winter trip to the stunning Highlands of Scotland ended up being a brilliant experience. I decided to spend just under a week on the Isle of Skye and there was plenty of dramatic Wintery weather to be had. Sadly, the golden hours didn't really deliver much but the suns low elevation in the sky at this time of year can produce some fantastic light pretty much all throughout the day! I think this was my second day on Skye and I decided to spend the late afternoon at the Fairy Pools. It's quite a popular spot and I've photographed this particular area a few times before in a horizontal format so decided I would try out getting closer to the cascade and use a vertical format which I felt worked quite well!

4. Snowed In - Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Heavy snow cover on the Old Man of Storr on a Winter morning. Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK.
Nikon D810, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 @ 32mm, f/11, 1/25, ISO 64.

A wild morning this was; snow up to the top of my knees in some parts and crazy winds at the top which forced me to shoot this shot a little lower than I had wanted to. The hike up was pretty tough going, especially after that gate where the obvious path turns into a bit of a puzzle; the snow just pretty much made it a 'go which way you want' kind of path! The pinnacles kept on getting clagged and the crazy winds near the top had made me make the decision to turn around and get the hell out of dodge! It was on my way back down that the cloud briefly lifted, revealing what was left of the sunrise colour in the sky.

5. Onward - Tewet Tarn, Lake District, UK

View to Blencathra at sunrise.
Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm F4 @ 17mm, f/11, 0.4sec, ISO 64

This one was quite an impressive morning with what can only be described as a 'nuclear' sunrise. The sky was that saturated that it kind of made it hard to make look realistic! Nice to see in person but hard to get it to work with photography. As the sunrise colours started to fade, I was treated to some fantastic light hitting Blencathra and the sky being a bit more manageable, I decided to shoot a vertical which I think works well using an old rural stone wall as a leading line towards Blencathra. This would be the last time that I got to get out with the camera for a few months with the first lockdown coming the day after!

6. Summer Mist - Nether Wasdale, Lake District, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 @ 36mm, 1/10 sec, F/11, ISO 64

Taken mid way through July on a lovely Summer morning. I had intended on shooting sunrise at Wastwater but on arrival I witnessed something I truly hope to never witness ever again! I'm not one for telling people what they should and shouldn't do, I usually like to keep my opinions to myself but seeing cars endlessly parked along the roadside, tents all over the place and rubbish everywhere was actually quite heartbreaking. It probably sounds like I'm exaggerating but believe me, if anything, it was worse than how I'm making it sound. I didn't even bother trying to find a parking space, I wanted to get as far away from there as possible. On the drive to Wastwater, I noticed some mist hanging around in the Nether Wasdale valley and decided I'd head there! Turned out probably to be the best thing I could have done as the sky lit up beautifully and as a bonus, had the whole place to myself!

7. Pyramid - Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 @ 70mm, 1/10, F/11, ISO 64

A breathtaking morning up The Quiraing looking over towards Cleat as the morning light broke through the dark clouds, spotlighting this very distinctively shaped hill. I had spent the past three mornings trying to get this shot! On the morning, it very nearly happened but I knew it wasn't quite what I wanted so I opted to return the next morning and I'm so glad that I did. The waterproofs definitely came in handy on this morning as I got an absolute soaking on more than one occasion but I'd gladly do it all again and again for scenes like this!

8. The Storr - Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm f/4 @ 22mm, 1/5 sec, F/11, ISO 64.

Half way through me and my partners two week stay on the Isle of Skye, the constant low pressure weather systems decided to give us a break for a day and with that, we headed up the Old Man of Storr for sunrise! The clouds didn't exactly play ball for that sunrise colour but the light was absolutely gorgeous! For anyone who's been up The Old Man of Storr, they'll know that it's an experience in and of itself and you'd consider yourself lucky even if you just go to see the pinnacles as they're often shrouded in cloud! I took this on the way back down not far from the popular viewpoint!

9. After the Storm - Neist Point, Isle of Skye, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm, 5 bracketed exposures merged to HDR in Lightroom, F/13, ISO 125

After a wet, wild and windy two weeks on Skye me and Sophie decided to spend our last evening at probably both our favourite location on the Island; Neist Point. The weather did not go easy on us and the winds were probably the strongest I've ever shot in! I was just thankful that they were coming in off the coast and not towards it. As a storm headed inland, the skies towards the West started to open up producing some lovely golden light and a rainbow that I just about managed to fit into the frame!

10. Intro - Holme Fell, Lake District, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 @ 122mm, 1/250 sec, F2.8, ISO 320.

Well, Autumn for me this year was a bit of a washout! Things got off to a good start, a very good start and then when prime time came, we got a hell of a lot of wind which took all of the leaf away. It was also quite a mild November which didn't help. Thankfully, I managed to get this shot mid October of a pair of Birch Trees on the side of Holme Fell. I'd known of these trees for quite a few years but could never seem to find them. Turns out they were pretty much right under my nose the whole time and somehow I'd managed to walk right past them!

11. Lone Walker - Kelly Hall Tarn, Lake District, UK

Nikon D810, Nikon 16-35mm f/4 @ 20mm, 1/5 sec, F/11, ISO 64.

Possibly my favourite image of 2020; an absolutely belting sunset enjoyed with a few other fellow photographers at Kelly Hall Tarn. After grabbing a few shots of the evening light from the other side of the tarn I decided to try and make the most of the skyfire that I could see coming by moving to the side facing the lone tree. Everything seemed to come together perfectly as a lone hiker (possibly one of the other photographers) just happened to position themselves perfectly within my frame!

Anyway folks, these are my favourite images from the year! Here's to hoping that 2021 is a little better for us all and we can somehow get some normality back into our lives! Hopefully, come Spring, travel will be made a lot more easy for us. All things going well, I'm planning on finally getting myself to Iceland!

Wishing you all the very best for 2021!


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