lighthouse

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.

Neist Point Lighthouse by Neil Alexander

It's 6am in the morning as I write this. I'm sitting with the most spectacular view in front of me. I'm perched high up above the Neist Point Lighthouse on the Isle of Skye just waiting for that glimmer of light to fall in the right place. The sun rose about an hour and twenty minutes ago, so I've been up here for 2 hours now and there's something crawling up my arm….

I came up here yesterday, leaving home at 7:30, and I finally completed the 500 mile drive about 8 o'clock last night, although I did do a little reconnoitring before making my way up to lighthouse. When I finally found the end of the road, I was greeted by a blanket of fog. I couldn't see 5m in front of my face. Gutted. I decided it would be unwise to venture  along a precarious cliff top path in these conditions, so I decided to make my bed for the night. I rustled up myself a chicken curry, using my  best new camping gadget, the JetBoil Zip system to rehydrate my dinner and rolled out my sleeping bag. 

I set my alarm for 2am. If it was still foggy or looking decidedly unfavourable then, I was going to jump behind the wheel and do the 60 mile / 2 hour drive to Elgol and see what was happening there. It would have been a rash decision. I'd driven all this way. Endured so much junk food and caffeine that surely the Lord of the Light on the Landscape would be good to me. 

I awoke at 2am to see the waves crashing on the shore under the moonlight on a distant craggy cliff. I snoozed my alarm. All would be good.

I reappeared from my slumber about 3:30, packed a lightweight bag, threw on all the warm gear I could find and set off to find the shot.

I staggered around in the marsh for some time, completely failing to see the bleedinlgy obvious "Path this way" sign and arrive at a suitable position with soaking wet feet. Here I have now been sitting for the best part of 2 hours and the light just never really happened. 

It was pretty cloudy at dawn. Very little colour or character to the sky. Flat as a pancake and dull as dishwater. I'd done all this for the almighty Lord of the dappled countryside light to present me with this. I was not to be swayed. I  stayed my ground, I ground my hooves and snorted. "There will be light" I said. And lo and behold, I waited a bit. And a little bit more. And after some more bits of time passed, my damp feet and cold arse complained, eventually the Lord of the Light of the Landscape deemed it appropriate to throw some of it's magnificence upon my subject. I was honoured, and I quickly thrashed off as many different frames as possible before he deemed me unworthy yet again. I used as many focal lengths, apertures, neutral density stops as possible to make sure that I had all the ingredients to somehow be able to replicate in print, the majesty of the view before me.

I think now that I have probably pretty much exhausted all possibilities here with the current light, It may change, though it looks unlikely to. And with that I'm going to head inland and check out the wonders that Skye holds.

Incidentally, these 3 images are now available on my gallery to purchase as prints here. I will shortly be adding more images from my trip as I get round to processing them. Keep checking back for more. 

I also posted a bunch of iPhone snaps whilst on my travels - you can check them out here

 

Hale Head Lighthouse by Neil Alexander

Hale Head Lighthouse in the fog by Neil Alexander

 For one reason and another, I decided the other day that I'd like to make an image of the lighthouse that sits on the North bank of the Mersey estuary near Warrington. I spent some time using Google Maps, Ephemeris and a raft of other tools to try and work out a good vantage point from where to try and shoot it. Unfortunately all these tools can only really get you into the ballpark, and there's really no substitute for visiting the locale in person. Save to say that until this particular morning, I'd probably spent around 5 or 6 hours travelling to, from and around the area to try and find my composition. Finally, I figured I had the image in my mind and knew where and how to get it. The final piece in the puzzle was the light. In my mind, the image had a moon in the background, and the overall exposure was a kind of twilight-ish feel rather than completely dark. From ploughing through Ephemeris and assorted charts, this particular morning was the time to shoot it, and the window of opportunity looked fairly short. The forecast was for a completely clear sky, so needing an early start for the hour's drive, I hit the hay early. I arrived around 6:45am to a hard frost and fog so thick that I could see about 20 feet in front of me, no further. I waited and waited, but the lighter it got, the denser the fog seemed to become. Knowing that I had to be on the road, and that as a result of the fog the traffic conditions would be steadily deteriorating, I was conscious that time was running out. I made a few frames, though not of the composition that I had in mind, and left determined to return the next time the conditions will be right - in about 6 months time.... The image above was shot on a D300 with a 17-55mm F2.8. Settings: 8 secs at F8 ISO200. Toned in Lightroom & Silver Efex Pro. The image below was shot using an Olympus E-P1 and processed exclusively on an iPad - just to see really.....

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