Snow

My Best Photographs of 2013 by Neil Alexander

What a year that was eh? A new calendar is on the wall and there are my initials next to the date of every cheque I write for the next few weeks. So it's an ideal opportunity for a little reflection.

 Neist Point lighthouse on the Isle of Skye. One half decent morning of light if memory serves and that was it, but what an amazing place. My first trip proper here in 2013 and there's already a return trip in the diary for later this year. Blog post here.

I made around 20,000 images last year, although about a quarter of those were for timelapses. So it's nearer 15K of which a large proportion as always were filed under Trash. That makes it one of my lowest exposure counts to date. However, looking back over the last few years, an exercise I do every January, reinforced what I already felt to be my best year yet. Not necessarily from a business perspective (my financial year unfortunately ends in the middle of the summer) but certainly from a creative point of view. I feel that my work is of a better standard than ever before, which is extremely pleasing. Reflection over my previous years' work feels like I have the opportunity to take a baseball bat to the little demon that likes to pop up over my shoulder every now and then kindly shouting at me "You are crap and everything you're churning out is dirge". It's a very therapeutic exercise. It also provides me with the ability to see at the most elemental level how my direction as a photographer has changed. 

For your information, here are my previous years: 2012, 2011, 2010 & 2009

 

 Click on any of the images for a larger version.

 The Eiffel Tower, Paris. Seems ages ago I was there. It's only actually a couple of months ago. I went partly for the Paris Photo exhibition, which was a little disappointing, but the Parisienne streets and landmarks provided ample inspiration to more than make up for it.

 This was a really fun day out. These guys were headed up catch the ferry to the Isle of Man for a blokes weekend hurtling around the lanes. I joined them as they met up on the M6 and photographed them all the way culminating with this carefully choreographed rolling roadblock so that I could get a photograph of them all together. There's more here.

The finely manicured beach at Deauville in Northern France. This beach is so well maintained it is quite unbelievable. Every morning a team clear up all the debris left from previous day and then two tractors turn over the sand removing any previous sign of human presence whatsoever. Bizarre.

 

 Blea Tarn. A trip to the Lake District that provided a great deal of wind and rain, and very little else.

Boathouse on Wast Water. This image wasn't made in the best of circumstances. There were 2 Search and Rescue Sea Kings searching the lake going round and round in circles for over an hour whilst I was there. It later transpired that they were searching for a diver who didn't reappear after diving to a sunken wreck in England's deepest lake. 

 The Forth Road and Railway Bridges, Edinburgh. After scouting the shot the previous night, a spur of the moment decision saw me dashing to a different location in the hope of making this photograph. The light performed and it worked a treat. Blog post here.

 Technically, this photograph was actually made towards the end of 2012, but it took me some months to finish the composition that I'd initially had in my mind when making the original photograph. There's more details on the Photoshop work that went into this here.

 Spur of the moment decision one weekend to head up to Snowdonia and make some photographs of my wee car. It was cold, really cold. Blog post here.

Bamford edge in the high peeks at dawn. I've headed up here. I should still here in the half light of predawn hoping for some colour in the sky. When that didn't pan out I don't go out a couple of XP 900s and started playing with some of the camera flash. The full SP is here.

 

 Finally, many of these images are available as fine art prints from my print shop.

The Lake District on the cusp of Winter by Neil Alexander

The Old Man of Coniston

"It's all turned to sh*t!" Was the last thing I said to my wife before turning round and heading for food. 

I'd scheduled in a weekend in December to get away, shoot some landscapes, and possibly even combine it with a model shoot idea I'd had. Initially the plan was to head up to Skye, but the closer the time came, the more family and business pressures squeezed my window on both sides. 

As mid November came, the time required for the 20 hour round trip had been nibbled from my window leaving me with Friday afternoon until Sunday lunch. Two potential sunrises, two sunsets. With a 6 hour max drive there and back. So the Lake District it was. There'd been snow on the tops, and more was forecast. 

Friday afternoon I was in heaven. Getting some keepers on the side of Ullswater shooting towards Patterdale. Seemed like ages since I had been in the fortunate position to pursue nothing other than the light and the shot. No one to answer to. No time constraints or pressure whatsoever, other than my own desire to make wonderful photographs. To really try and do justice to the beauty in front of me. The scenery is so jaw-droppingly beautiful up here, than one can feel nothing other than inspired, even on the greyest, dankiest of days. 

Honister Pass

I shot and shot until it was dark, my fingers were numb and my cable release died. I drove the short hop back to my B&B, dumped the gear, extracted memory cards and headed off for a mighty fine feed at the Brackenrigg Inn.

Sufficiently replenished I returned to my digs for the night, had a large glass of Merlot, and promptly fell asleep. It was at that point my luck changed.

I overslept, waking 5 minutes before dawn. There were pockets of fluffy pink in the sky, like balls of candy floss on a pale blue carpet perched atop snow kissed mountains. It was stunning, and minutes away from disappearing. I was in my pyjamas. 

I had arrived at the bed and breakfast in the dark, so hadn't been able to appreciate the beauty of surroundings and its views. Actually I had planned on being an hours drive away by about 30 minutes ago in case of such an eventuality. "P*ssed" doesn't quite do justice to quite how I felt. All that way for a sunrise and I'd slept through the bloody thing. 

Looking over Little Langdale 

Always the eternal optimist (my glass is never less than half full), the weather looked like it might hold. After Nailing a quick insubstantial breakfast, I jumped in the motor and headed for Plan B. Up over the tops I went, up into the mist. But down I came again towards Coniston arriving at a spot I'd poured over using GB outdoors Ordinance Survey maps, The Photographer's Ephemeris, Flickr, Google Image search, Google Earth, Street View and my own Geo-tagged archive (my go-to tools for distance scouting). It was all I had expected, but it was flat, misty & bleurgh. I stopped, took a call from home about faulty fire-alarms - It sounded like they were going deaf and out of their minds at home, but naff all I could do from 100 miles away. Then the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and blessed the landscape in front of me with a smear of its golden lips. Frame after frame I made whilst giving instructions on isolating rings in the main fuse box at home over the phone. But they were keepers - I knew it.

And then I headed off to my next location and on the way, to do a little scouting for a model shoot I'd lined up for the next day. Within 2 hours, I'd called off the model shoot and informed the wife that the weather had gone to mush and so had any possibility of making anything worthwhile. 

But was a productive trip. With such a busy home / work life, it's extremely freeing getting the opportunity to blast up and down the lanes in a set of wheels perfect for these roads (sans snow and ice) with very little chance of anyone getting hold of me (its like one giant cell phone black spot up here), and make some creative work in the process. 

I'll share some more with details over the coming week or so, assuming I don't burst with the excesses scheduled in the next week or so...

Have a great Christmas y'all.

Neil

Best of 2010 by Neil Alexander

Once again, I've gone through all my images shot during 2010 and selected what I feel to be my best images. Thanks to my revised Lightroom workflow and organisation it was a significantly less painful task than last year, and when I compare the final selection to last year's post (see here) I definitely feel that I have made quite significant progress these last 12 months both from a point of view of composition and technique. A very rewarding exercise. I've appended a little blurb below each image. If you want to skip that, then there's a slideshow here.

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Shot on Hale Golf course after a brief flurry of snow. Processed in Silver Efex Pro. Wasn't quite the composition I'd pre-visualised but as I retreated under the tree behind me I saw the overhanging branches and felt that these improved it quite a bit.

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This was a TF shoot I did with Frankie on Alderley Edge. We got completely lost and I couldn't find the location I had originally planned on using. She was really into her kick-boxing so brought her gloves with her to try something a little different. Shot this from an embankment looking down on her with two SB-900s on either side of her.

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On a family holiday to Cyprus in March I took a dawn wander along the beach and saw these rather odd-looking umbrellas without their covering and built into the rock somehow. It all looked a little surreal.

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Whilst going over old ground along the Bollin Valley one misty spring morning I stumbled onto this woodland scene and instantly knew it would make a great photograph.

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In May I was fortunate enough to be able to get into John Ryland's Library in Manchester for one of their occasional photographic tours. The place is quite amazing and the architecture equally so. The rest of the group seemed to race round the place snapping away whilst I slowed right down and took as much time as I could trying to soak up the ambience of the place. Shot this with a Lensbaby Composer. (Original post)

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Hooked up with the delightful Amy in June for a sunset shoot on top of the NCP car park by G-Mex in Manchester. We managed to draw a bit of an audience but had fun nonetheless. (Original post)

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In July I went down to London for Kelby Training's "On location lighting workshop" with the legendary National Geographic and Life photographer, Joe McNally. Whilst I was there I arranged to shoot with a bunch of models, and this one with the lovely Azzi was definitely the most creative of the lot.

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August saw me in Walberswick in Suffolk where I made this HDR image of the river estuary at dawn. It was quite a spectacular sight with the cloud rolling in from the East producing a defining line in the sky.

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This image was made in Salford Quays in Manchester one sunny September morning.

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In October I joined MM Photo Tours and Adam Barker for a trip round Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia and had the most amazing time. From the 6,000 or so frames I shot I feel that this image stands out the most. For the whole series of posts, go here.

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In November I arranged with local make-up artist, Natalie and model Alex to do an Autumn themed shoot. Conditions were far from ideal, and we ended up shooting several hours later than planned missing the sunset completely! (Original post)

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December brought snow, and quite a lot of it. I've been up to Shining Tor in the Peak District quite a few times over the last 12 months or so, but longed to see it in the snow. So when my wish finally came true I could barely contain myself!