“Retrospective” – some people get hung up on the word, its almost as if the best is behind them. That’s not stopped Michael Kenna from having at least three and given how prolific he is, I’m sure there is another one in the works. (Rush has also done two retrospective albums that I am aware of 😉 ).
For the sake of this post I take my definition from the Cambridge Dictionary – “relating to or thinking about the past”. I’ve reviewed previously my photobook purchases of 2017 (and had a bit of a rant), so now not quite a “Best of 2017”, but close as I think about my photography in the year just past.
Two big things have happened to me this year photographically.
- I don’t think I’ve photographed the sea as much as I have done this year – and I like it! I’ve never really consciously sought the sea out, yes I’ve taken a photograph or two of it if I happened to be there. But I’ve never gone out of my way, as I have done this year to seek out locations with the intention of taking seascapes. There is something quite invigorating about being near the sea – particularly if the wind is in your face and the waves are crashing about you. Raw power that humanity has no ultimate control over. That said, if it gets too windy then, as I discovered last November, it just makes photography very challenging, if not impossible if you’re on your own.
- Colour. As a film photographer you choose your film to meet the conditions or the mood you want to convey. My go to films were Kodak Portra 160, Fujifilm Provia and a little bit of Fujifilm Velvia 50. For black and white I used Ilford Delta 100. I would carry around in my rucksack a camera back loaded with each, and depending on the conditions and the subject I’d pick what I felt to be the best film at that time and expose accordingly.Skip forward to me using digital for 9 months and I was missing that look and feel that film gave – digital was giving me nothing except boring consistency. In April I was introduced to VSCO film plug ins, which it may sound perverse emulates film. Since then I’ve felt (and it may just be me and my own self justification talking here) that using the plugins and particularly the Portra 160 one, has given my photography a certain lift that makes it a wee bit different from what you get straight out the camera. This may not be a revelation to some that it is okay to play with colour and boy people do! But as someone that rarely spent too long on their shots after they were scanned, it was a bit of a Damascene moment. The shot above, looking out from Ardnamurchan to Rum and Eigg, was one of my first VSCO processed shots and I’m still rather pleased with it.
Reviewing what I’ve done in 2017 there are probably two stand out photographs from me in 2017. They are very different for me, in a year where overall my photography has become on the whole slightly different through manipulating the colour of my photography. The first photograph (click on the image to view larger) is of a long exposure of the harbours at Portsoy in Aberdeenshire (you may have seen if you’ve watched the remake of “Whisky Galore”. The moment I saw the orangey/red lifebuoy I knew I wanted to do a long exposure shot of the harbour, the buoy and the gathering dusk (and get that small pool of water in as well). One fish and chips with a can Irn Bru later the shot was in the bag.
The second shot may not have happened if it wasn’t for Facebook. I was camped above the beach at Hosta on North Uist. Having made dinner and washed up I checked Facebook to find out that for the past hour the Northern Lights had been kicking off behind my back. So having done the obligatory out of focus Northern Lights shots, my eye was caught by the huge moon and the light it cast on the marram grass that was getting buffeted in the wind. Using the lee of my campervan I hunkered down and took this shot looking in land to the interior of North Uist. Its always been a shot that I had visualised in a mental tick list of shots I wanted to take, but I wasn’t until prompted by Facebook present enough to consider the opportunities the conditions outside the campervan had made.
Looking back over 2017 some of the photographs that I prefer have been edited using what I’d call an Xpan crop – or a crop that uses the same dimensions of a Hassleblad Xpan film camera of 6.5 x 2.4. Not quite sure why it appeals, may be its me hankering after using my favourite camera, or perhaps because the crop is not a particularly common crop.
I’m not going to limit myself with Top 3, or 12’s or what ever else, but below are some of the other photographs that I took this year that caught my eye. It seems that November and December – with a trip to Scotland and the snow in the Peak District have made these months the best for me. Looking back, what I felt was a very unproductive year, has (in retrospect 😉 ) probably turned out to be my best year yet, in terms of making photography that I am happy with and that I am happy to share.
If you have any comments or feedback (it would be appreciated), please feel free to use the comments below.
To finish the retrospective off, here’s a (poor) photograph of our new van at Hosta with the last remnants of the Northern Lights in the background. Without the van I wouldn’t have been able to see and visit many of the places that I have last year. This year, as a family we’ve set our sights on going further afield and visiting Europe.