Well another year is about to pass me by and while I am, like many of you out there, always looking for that next challenge, or goal to reach, it is immensely satisfying to look back on your achievements over these past twelve months. So without further ado, here is my 2015 Top Ten Images. It was a seriously difficult decision to whittle down the many thousands of images that I have captured, both during the workshops and private tuition days that I run in the presence of my clients but also when out with friends or even shooting solo.
So here we go, strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.
Number 10: Squalls Over the Black Cuillins, Elgol, Isle of Skye – November 2015
Heavy rain squalls battered this small area of Skye back in November. I was leading a group of three fantastic clients on a five day workshop on Skye when we arrived in Elgol early one morning. We sat in the cars for four hours waiting for the rain to ease with only a handful of occasions in which we could jump out and set up the cameras but not before the rain came down again five minutes later. It is very easy to become frustrated waiting to photograph the stunning scenery in front of you but all good things come to those that wait and on this occasion, it came to us all. Elgol for me, has this mysterious, almost haunting feel to the place and this image in at number ten perfectly sums up how I feel about this village.
Number 9: Scale Force Falls, Scale Fell, Lake District – August 2015
Number nine involves an image that required almost an hour’s walk with a good friend up to a deep tree lined gorge on the western side of Crummock Water in the Lake District. I had visited this back in 2014 with another friend but I failed to navigate the slippery, steep 20 foot plus section of rocks to the left of the first waterfall in order to arrive at the base of the second one higher up as seen in this image. Scale Force Falls is located in a truly amazing part of the Lake District for the deep tree lined gorge never sees the sun and as such, retains an almost Jurassic Park feel to the place. The sheer amount of green moss that is present makes this place feel like a hidden gem untouched by human hands indeed.
Number 8: River Etive, Rannoch Moor, Scotland – February 2015
This wonderful scene was begging to be photographed on arriving in Scotland to lead a four day workshop in Glencoe and Rannoch Moor back in February. I landed two days before my clients so that I could recce the locations for accessibility as well as giving me an opportunity to capture some of my own images. I remember pulling up at the roadside by the bridge on the A82 near the King’s House Hotel and standing there wondering just what the hell do I start photographing first for there was a stunning image in every direction. This shot was taken not long after having spent an hour wandering around looking for the most interesting foreground subject not to mention a knock out backdrop to match. I found this beautiful view and for the next thirty minutes or so I stood in the river in sub zero conditions in my neoprene wellies, which did an admirable job I have to say. I call this image ‘Ice on the Rocks’.
Number 7: Isthmus Bay, Derwentwater, Lake District – July 2015
One of the joys of being a professional landscape photographer is that you get to spend an incredible amount of time in the great outdoors, which is where I love to be and I consider it my office of sorts but I also love to travel and discover new places. Finding a new location at home or on foreign land has me feel like a wide eyed child again, enjoying the sensory overload of a new location while trying to decide how best to photograph it. This broken concrete jetty lies in Isthmus Bay on the shoreline of my favourite of all the waters in the Lake District, Derwentwater. Despite spending many years photographing this part of the Lakes, I only discovered this bay back in July. I instantly knew that the image was to be converted to infrared in Photoshop as those wonderful huge white fluffy clouds screamed black and white to me. I saw a lot of potential in that lovely old broken concrete jetty too mainly due to the differing levels of each of the sections and the way that the end piece veers off to the right. Of course those clients who I have taken there since wonder whether I have gone mad considering the sheer beauty all around that they could be photographing instead but they concede defeat once they capture it on camera and see just how good it looks. This image makes my top ten because of the wonderful surprise in finding a new location among very familiar surroundings and because it turned out to a far better image than I could have hoped for.
Number 6: Lone Birch Tree, Buttermere, Lake District – December 2015
Number six sees a very recent image of the iconic lone Birch tree at the northernmost end of Buttermere in the Lake District. While I have photographed this tree countless times, I yearn to visit during the winter months when the water levels are high enough to surround the tree and reduce the visible height of the grasses on the shoreline. On the day I arrived at Buttermere, the horrendous floods in the Lake District that took place five days before and the water levels judging by the tide lines in the adjoining fields indicated that the water had been a good four or five feet higher than you can see here. I spent some time walking around, in and out of the water in order to find the best composition and despite wearing wellies, I was only able to venture out a few feet before having to make the decision as to whether I get my feet wet or not. I decided against that idea and settled on this viewpoint instead. I used a Lee Little Stopper filter (six stops) to partially smooth out the water and create some movement in the grasses. I love the way that the grasses snake their way around to the tree and that the falling rain that was soaking me hid the fells of Fleetwith Pike and Warnscale in the background, therefore allowing the tree to stand out so much more than it would have normally. I felt as though David had beaten Goliath in this image with the tree reigning supreme. What do you think?
Number 5: Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland – October 2015
Finally we head straight into the top five of my favourite images from 2015 and in at number five is this capture of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, a county that I genuinely enjoy returning to time and time again. I run several two day workshops in Northumberland every year, two in March and two in November and this image was captured on my last day during my week spent there back in late September/early October. My clients had returned home the evening before and on his particular morning, it was my seventh consecutive 5am wake up call and I was determined to take things easy. No sooner had I arrived down on the beach at Bamburgh some half an hour before sunrise, I realised that it was going to be a cracking start to the day. I looked around for a composition that I had not shot before and on seeing the water hitting this wonderfully textured three foot high rock wall, I decided to position the camera with a wide angle lens on it, four inches above the water. On waiting for the sun to rise, the soft light lit up all of the textures, and detail of the rock face as well as the castle itself in the distance. I was particularly happy that I had captured an unusual but quality composition. A good morning’s work done indeed.
Number 4: BBC Media City, Salford Quays, Manchester – June 2015
Number four sees a departure for me as it involves the only urban landscape that made my Top Ten. I run several one day workshops in both Liverpool and Manchester including Salford Quays which is where this image was taken. Urban workshops are very popular these days with those who wish not to travel too far from south Lancashire yet would love to photograph buildings in an exciting and interesting way. Back in July I visited one of my favourite urban areas, Salford Quays in Manchester. The aim of the day was to find some new compositions to those that I had captured before and from those seen many, many times from others. It took me some time to spot this wonderful opportunity to photograph something a little different. I can often be seen sat on a bench looking around, absorbing the scene and trying to spot an interesting viewpoint which no-one else has photographed and this double sky light that nestled between two of the BBC buildings was my moment of inspiration. The exact positioning of the light meant that I had the camera two inches off the ground which was almost impossible to compose for as I could barely see the LCD screen to move the camera into position. Twenty minutes later, I was ready and what a cracking way to spend twenty minutes, lying on my back looking skywards.
Number 3: Martindale Common, Lake District – October 2015
Martindale nestles on the east side of Ullswater in the Lake District. It is not a well known location as it is situated down a dead end road to nowhere but it provides me with countless photographic opportunities. On this day back in October, I visited it with a friend of mine Shaun and on parking the car by the roadside near the small bridge over the stream, I spent a good twenty minutes pacing up and down trying to decide what exactly it was that I wanted to capture. The scene is busy, there’s a lot going on and a lot to try and photograph in position without the many subjects overlapping each other. I wanted the stream to come into the image from the bottom left, leading up to the dominant tree on the third left. I also wanted the two stone buildings in the distance to be visible and not be hidden by either of the two trees. The cattle also played an important role in helping to give the location some context. The low lying mist in the background helped to diffuse the light wonderfully well which in the end gives the background a soft, almost painterly quality. But the most important element of this image for me are the two small trees on the left hand side, especially the brighter lit one of the two for I felt that they framed the scene beautifully well. On clicking the shutter button, I genuinely knew that I had taken one of my favourite images of the year as everything came together.
Number 2: Sunrise, Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland – November 2015
In at number two is a yet to be released image of my recent visit up to the utterly spellbinding view of the 160ft high Old Man of Storr on the magical island of Skye in Scotland. I led a five day workshop there last month and on the final morning, I along with my clients made the somewhat challenging hike up to the Storr two hours before sunrise. We set off walking at 6m and arrived at the summit just up from the Storr at 7.20am, fifty minutes before sunrise. Having ensured that everyone was set up and ready to shoot, I watched in disbelief as the sky created its own light show and along with some truly stunning cloud formations, I was left almost speechless (for those of you who know me, you will know that that does not happen often). As the colours grew in intensity, I knew that I had photographed one of the finest images I am ever likely to capture on camera. That feeling of sheer elation when you manage to firstly witness and furthermore photograph such an amazing scene, especially having completed a two and a half hour return walk from the car, is like no other and it is the absolute reason why I do what I do for a living. I am truly blessed indeed. I cannot wait to return to Skye at the end of February for another five days (two places left on the Isle of Skye workshop if anyone is interested?)
Number 1: The Sentinels, Buttermere, Lake District – October 2015
AND the moment you have all been waiting for, my NUMBER ONE image of 2015. This ran the above Storr shot very, very close but it pips it because I have photographed Buttermere many, many times but finally I felt that I had captured something quite extraordinary. I was on a tuition day with two regular clients of mine, Nick and Sharon and I took them to Buttermere to photograph the light as it filters through from the top left hand side of Fleetwith Pike around mid to late morning. We had been shooting for a couple of hours already when I saw this shaft of light emanating from the numerous clouds above us. It was literally a pure shaft of light that presented itself and it danced back and forth lighting up all that was under it. The Scots Pine trees and the white stone bothy by the shoreline was being wonderfully lit from above and I was mesmerised by it. Moments like these do not present themselves all that often and it is most definitely a numbers game, the more you head out with the camera, the luckier you get, as the saying goes. This is an image I could quite happily print and have hanging on my wall and I do sell prints of my work so you too could have it hanging on your wall if you wish. Contact me for details. This photograph for me typifies 2015 as a year where the quality of my work improved to an even higher level and if there is one thing that I take away from this year and the one element that leaves me feeling so content, is that I maximised my opportunities to capture some of the finest landscapes the UK has to offer and with a week in Iceland booked for this February, I can only hope that 2016 proves to be an even better year.
I just wanted to add before I go a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has joined me on a workshop or a private tuition day this year and to the huge numbers of you who have followed my exploits on my website, Facebook photography page, my Facbook photography group Landscape Locations on Twitter and on Flickr too. Your support, words of encouragement and kindness has genuinely carried me through some difficult moments this year but I equally look forward to an even more enjoyable and prosperous year ahead. All that remains for me to say is have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a very, very happy, wealthy and in particular healthy 2016.
Best wishes Melvin