I've been taking photos for a long time, but in 2020 one of my goals was to learn photography 'properly' - the science and the craft. Over the last year I've taken a lot of experimental photo shoots, in many different styles and locations. Some I learned very quickly from but some came out better than I could ever have hoped. Below is a selection of my favourites (all taken with my Sony 𝜶7III and the stock lens FE 3.5-5.6/28-70mm) and the stories behind them which I've come to learn is often more important than the image itself.
After watching a lot of astrophographers on YouTube, namely Alyn Wallace and Mike Smith, I was really interested and wanted to give it a go. I started doing a lot of cycling in the New Forest during lockdown, as there were basically no cars allowed, and I spotted this tree just east of Brockenhurst. Using the light pollution app for iPhone I could work out that this part of the New Forest was in the middle of a canal of light pollution from Bournemouth to the west and Southampton to the east, but shooting relatively south towards the edge of the Isle of Wight there was only a small pollution from Lymington. Byron and I did another recce by bike to scope out the tree and I used PhotoPills to plan the shot with the Galatic Centre of the Milky Way lined up. PhotoPills is an invaluable tool to anyone planning any type of landscape or astro shots.
We lined up a day for the new moon in June and got very lucky with the cloud cover. Pablo, Byron, Rhea and I were on location from around 2315 - 0200. I knew that my lens had speed limitations and after lining my frame up nicely at 34mm I only had f/4.0 available. The performance of the 𝜶7III is ridiculous in low light and I got very lucky in that one of about five cars that went past the whole night did so as I was in the middle of a shot, giving an amazing light trail and also some back light to the tree.
I heard and read a lot about Comet Neowise in the lead up to the time when it was going to be visible, when it appeared the internet was filled with amazing images. I wasn't able to get to a location on the days of being it's brightest but instead timed it with the new moon in July. I drove 45mins from Kassel to Desenberg the day before to check out the location having seen it from the Autobahn when we drove past. The top of the old tower offered panoramic views up to 40km away with a huge expanse of unspoilt skyline. It was definitely a goer.
On the day Rhea and I drove over again and took a picnic to watch the sunset. There was a bit of peripheral cloud in the sky which was in the exact location of the comet but luckily it moved just as the comet became visible. I will always remember both of us spotting it with our eyes at the same time. I'm not sure if this was possible in other locations but there was no light pollution here whatsoever. The top image taken at 22:47 was pretty much completely dark to the naked eye but the camera could still capture an amazing post sunset gradient with several wind farms in the far distance and Warburg in the closer foreground. The bottom image taken at 23:09 was on a complete whim when I decided I wanted to quickly go to the south-eastern side of the castle to get a shot of the hill with the comet behind. I can't explain how dark it was here and I only took two photos and this was one of them and I was so happy with the result. As I turned round to face the car I could see the Milky Way with the naked eye and it was incredible. I will return here next year to capture it.
Black Lives Matter and everything that happened with regards to the movement in 2020 was much needed for the world. Unfortunately, I wasn't in a place where I could capture any of the real time demonstration that I would have liked to, but as I went down to play at my local basketball court there was some amazing graffiti. Basketball is one of my favourite sports and I was very proud to see what the NBA went on to do for the movement over the year; the players leading from the front and the organisation supporting them 100%. It's something I support and hope to do more for in the future. Coming from West Dorset I grew up with a headstart because of my skin colour, a privilege that I recognise, but many people still don't, even after whats happened. I really hope this doesn't turn into just an event but an ongoing conversation for meaningful change. The photos speak for themselves in this one and I don't know the original artist to endorse, I just wanted to capture it before the time it is inevitably drawn over or ruined - whilst also emcompassing two things that I feel strongly about.
Just before I left Germany in September to return to the UK, I spent a day visiting a few spots I had sounded out over the summer. The top photo is of the Herkules in Kassel which is in a straight line with Wilhelmshöhe Allee and the tram tracks that run along it. A crazy piece of engineering from centuries ago. I used PhotoPills again to plan when the sun was going to drop in behind the hill and had to quickly run on and off the tram track in the middle of the road with my tripod between passing trams. I got the most amazing silhouetted image with the golden sun, sky and tram track, which was very symbolic of my last days in Kassel. The lower two images were shot in the city centre where there was some graffiti on the side of a new block of student flats. I really liked the conjunction of the original red brick buildings next to this fresh new building. The artwork is by Jackules and I managed to find some decent frames in a really tight spot. I love colour especially colour palletes and rainbows, this piece was a rose amongst many thorns.
I read about this one at Christmas time in 2019, despite living in Dorset for 26 years noone had even mentioned that this happened. For a week or so either side of the winter solstice the sunrise is visible through Durdle Door. Now this is Dorset so you have to be incredibly lucky with weather to get this shot because of the short window and the time of the year.
I left the house with Rhea and my Dad at around 06:30 and travelled from Tolpuddle over to Durdle Door caravan park carpark. There was some light starting to surface in the east at around 07:00 but it was pretty much complete darkness on the way down to the beach, there was some horrible cloud on the horizon and the immediate thought was that it was a no-go. Sunrise was due for 08:09 on Chrtistmas Eve and as we came down to the beach there was around ten photographers already setup. I found my spot whilst trying to keep distance from the other people there. It was incredbily cold and was getting colder as the sun came up, or so it felt. I framed up the shot and then it was a waiting game. A funny moment seen in the photo is the footsteps in the beach, a little boy came along dragging his heals infront of all the photographers with many tutting and shaking their heads.
Sunrise came and still nothing, the cloud on the horizon had cleared a little and as the earth rotated it had fallen away over the horizon but it wasn't enough. By about 08:25 I was joking with the guy next to me that we would be back on Christmas Day, which I think we were all prepared to do, because of the clear forecast. Then all of a sudden the people to the right of me started snapping, the sun came through and the golden rays appeared, everyone panicked and moved off their positions to the right where there was now a crowd but I stayed put. A few minutes later the sun had moved to the centre of the arch, directly in line with me and I was now at the front of an arrow formation of about 30 people, dead centre of the light coming through the door. It was an incredibly special moment and reward for not panicking originally. I loved how the light through the door became a searchlight for the footseps and in the end I think it was meant to be. This was a special shot and one that I will cherish that taught me a lot about the time and place nature of photography. After getting my shots I moved away to give someone else a chance before the sun moved off, on my way back up I took the photos below of the door and the beach. You can still see the light coming through the door onto the beach.