I got my first digital SLR camera back in December 2008, I had been interested in photography from an early age but had never been able to justify the expense of an SLR. With a little gentle persuasion from my boss' son, who is a talented professional photographer in London, I bought a Canon 40D and a 24-105 f/4 L lens. I had no preconceived ideas about what made a good shot and so happily and naively snapped away in auto mode photographing everything that moved and stood still.
After just a few months of SLR ownership I entered a photograph into The York Press' landscape photograph competition. It came second, I got some photographs into the local rag and a Jessops voucher for £70. I entered the same shot into the Sewerby Hall photograph competition and won. A few more months on and I entered some more images into 'The International Sharrow Photograph Competition' and got a commendation. I thought I was the 'nuts'.
Then something 'happened', after these successes I became 'frightened' of venturing out to take photographs just in case they failed to be as successful as the ones I had taken earlier in the year. I still took photographs but never with the same amount of enthusiasm and commitment that was required. My line of work provided an opportunity to explore architectural photography and through this I picked up an odd paid commission and had some images published in trade literature, I rarely shot 'for fun'.
Earlier this year I made a mental decision to make a proper attempt to improve the quality and regain the enthusiasm I once had for photography. The thing that held me back was serious motivation. After a trip to London, I had become disappointed with the results from my compact Canon G11. I loved the camera but the low light quality was poor and the zoom function operated by a small lever infuriated me. I subsequently purchased a Canon EOS M from WEX which was intended to be my travel camera. The camera arrived and inside the box was a leaflet advertising their 'Photographer of the Year' competition, a shot from London was entered the following Monday and shortly after this my motivation gradually returned.
It wasn't long before I realised I wasn't quite the 'nuts' that I thought I was, the other competition entries were stunning! It was initially clear to me that there were a couple of photographers who stood out from the rest, Lee Acaster and Justin Minns. I really admired, and still do, their work. I love the diversity of Lee's images, it appears to me that no shot is a slight replica of the one that went before and Justin's early morning sunrise landscapes are equally as stunning. It was these two chaps who gave me inspiration to improve my work and WEX was the motivation for me to get out a couple of times a week with the camera.
As the weeks went on other photographer's work drew my eye; Matthew Dartford, Paul Shears, Dylan Nardini, Lewis Fackrell to name a few. It was obvious to me that a #WexMondays win would be a huge challenge. I knew I wasn't in their league but if all I did was improve my work I would be happy. I believe my work has improved and it is all down to #WexMondays and the competing entrants, I'd like to thank them all, I have thoroughly enjoyed this competition. The banter which was generated between everyone who took part was also a joy to be part of. I didn't get a win this year but I did manage a runner's up place which I am thrilled with.
Below is each of my #Wexmondays entries for 2014, looking forward to 2015!
Week No.12, 17th March - The Lloyd's Building, London. It seems nobody likes this shot. Despite the 'Dutch Angle' I still like it! I reckon the colour tones look fab!
Week No.13, 24th March - The roof of York Railway Station, York. This has been one of my favourite locations in York to take photographs. I've been that many times the staff are almost on my Christmas card list!
Week No.14 31st March - Ripon Baths, Ripon. I recall this being a week of dull and grey miserable weather! I'd been struggling all week for inspiration and this shot was taken in desperation and it was probably the first time I'd experienced the #WexMondays pressure! I love the texture in this old building which is still in use today. I dread to think what it's like inside!
Week No.15 7th April - The Groynes at Sandsend near Whitby. When I processed this shot I thought it was fippin' awesome! I can see loads wrong with it now. I wanted to get a longer exposure but I was limited with my kit , I recall using 4 stop filter with a polariser which gave an exposure of 3 seconds. Shortly after this and seeing more of Justin Minns' work I started to desire a Big Stopper, a 10 stop filter!
Week No.16 14th April - Pocklington Canal near Melbourne. The Pocklington Canal is only a few minutes walk from our house and is another one of my favourite locations to photograph. It was also the first time my partner (now my wife) began to think I was more in love with my camera than I was of her. You can just make her out below the setting sun, storming off in a huff!
Week No.17 21st April - York Railway Station, York. I gave the Lensbaby an outing for this one. I'd spent a good 2 hours waiting for the sun to come out and light up the platform combined with a good crowd of people to fill the empty space to the right of the shot. I had the camera on a tripod and at one point had a gathering of train geeks near me as they thought something 'special' was coming into the station!
Week No.18 28th April - Blue Bridge, York. This was taken whilst struggling for inspiration, the best of a really bad bunch this week.
Week No.19 5th May - A Parisien, Paris. I loved this shot until a month or so later someone pointed out the 'distraction' of the other person's head to the left hand shoulder of the subject. I've never been into street photography and I'm not sure of the protocol when someone knows you are photographing them. In this case I ignored him and walked off and hoping he wouldn't cause a scene! I wish I had submitted my Eiffel Tower shot for this week, a much better shot (see homepage image).
Week No.20 12th May - Church Bridge, Pocklington Canal, Melbourne. The first week of Big Stopper ownage! I want to take this shot again as I don't like the cloud formation. The canal in this location is now completely overgrown, I'm hoping it will be cleared next year.
Week No.21 19th May - Skeldergate Bridge, York. My inspiration for weeks to follow, York's historic bridges. This would have been a better shot if my boss had designed the flats beyond to be 3-4 storeys lower!
Week No.24 9th June - A Henry Cartier Bresson inspired image at Monk Bar, York. This was taken for a PhotoCrowd assignment. I purposefully set up the camera with a high ISO to add grain to the image. I thought I hadn't got the shot the first time I visited and expected I'd be there for another 2 hours later that week to get the 'right' kind of person in the frame. When I loaded the image files to Lightroom I found I'd got the shot I was after. It did okay in the contest, coming 38th out of 700 images submitted. I still really like this one!
Week No.25 16th June - Skeldergate Bridge, York. This image was well received but I didn't like the cloud formation, work in progress!
Week No.26 23rd June - Lendal Bridge, York. A low river made this shot possible, quite often this walkway is flooded. The white streaks you can see on the river are rowers from the nearby club.
Week No.27 30th June - Skeldergate Bridge/Bonding Warehouse, York. This was a last minute entry for #WexMondays, so last minute in fact it was taken the Monday I submitted it. I later found out it wasn't eligible for submission and should have been entered into the following week's competition! I initially didn't like this one, but it seems to be growing on me.
Week No.28 7th July - Lendal Bridge, York. Not much to say apart from I was running out of bridges in York to photograph!
Week No.29 14th July - Skeldergate Bridge, York. This shot was taken for another Photocrowd contest 'Blocking Tactics'. The brief asked to show pictures that had been taken with a polarising filter. This did very well in the contest, achieving a 4th place in the crowd vote and 9th place for the expert vote. On this very bright day the clouds were high and not moving very quickly in the frame. I wanted the clouds to appear stretched out, because it was sunny I needed to use the smallest aperture available of f22 to maximise the shutter speed, which was 150 seconds. I wanted to retain sharpness for the foreground so took a second shot of 42 seconds at f11. Using the polarising filter to darken the blue sky and remove water reflections along with the Big Stopper I had a 12 stop increase in shutter time. I planned the shot so the sun would be at its best position to increase the effectiveness of the polariser.
I was hopeful that this shot would have caught the #WexMondays judge's eye, but it didn't get selected :(
Here's what the Photocrowd expert made of it:-
"A great combination of long exposure and sharpness in the static objects. I like the composition of this shot with the water flowing through the bridge and the cloud movement also drawing you into the distance. Using two exposures to get contrasting effects is a great technique. This is a strong combination, with the contrast and detail paired against the softness of the longer-exposed parts of the image. My only advice would be to make sure you blend all parts of the sky and clouds as the white fluffy one in the centre does not blend so well with those to either side." Alan Ranger, Landscape Photographer.
Week No.30 21st July - The Reading Room, Rowntree's Park, York. The second shot I took for the same Photocrowd contest as above, it came 29th out of 351 images submitted. The weather has been rather dramatic in the UK over the past few days. By the time I took this shot it had cleared a little but the scenes I had witnesedgave me the inspiration to create the image. There is still decoration celebrating Le Tour de France adorning the building - I thought about re visiting the scene once it had been removed, but I decided it should be a part of the shot.
This is really ott processing, here's what the expert thought of it!
"This scene has tons of drama and I can personally recall many days in the UK this summer where we had really stark contrasts of bright sunshine mixed with dramatic thunderstorm clouds and light. The composition and design of this shot are all great but I feel it's been let down by the processing and use of too much vignetting, turning large areas of the image black. The light on the building/pub looks so unnatural compared to the surrounding light in the sky and trees. This contrast is just too extreme and whilst it gives the image drama it also feels too contrived and unrealistic. I am sure a more subtle version would work really well without removing the dramatic feel of the UK weather that the photographer was trying to capture." Alan Ranger, Landscape Photographer.
Week No.31 28th July - Lendal Bridge, York. My third submission the 'Blocking Tactics' contest. I think this is a nice image of Lendal Bridge, I decided to process this in colour as most of my previous images had been in monochrome. It came 35th in the contest.
Week No.33 11th August - Church of St Monica's, Melbourne. I'd lived in Melbourne for nearly 10 years before seeing the converted church nestled in the trees from this viewpoint. It's a stark contrast from the approach on the main access road! This image is made up of two shots, the wheat in the foreground is from the test shot to calculate the long exposure, the shot I used for the sky. It was quite windy that day and I wanted the wheat to be static in the final image. I want to get the same shot in sunset and sunrise but as it is so close to home I always seem to be leaving it for a rainy day, metaphorically speaking of course!
Week No.34 18th August - St Paul's Church, Heslington, York. This is one of my favs from this year, taken in summer after a period of heavy rain. I'm not that keen on the movement in the trees, at some point I'll try photoshopping in the trees from the test shot for this long exposure!?
Week No.35 25th August - Glendora Dodge at York Raceway, Melbourne. Hurrah! This was given a runner's up spot in #WexMondays. Taken for another Photocrowd contest, 'Panning for Gold', this is one of about half a dozen shots from 4Gb of image files that were sharp and crisp. I got 2 other bespoke drag cars and a few more road going cars which I was happy with, this shot having the edge. It came 2nd in the Photocrowd contest, being beaten by an image which had the motion blur added in Photoshop. I was a little bit miffed, but the recognition it received from other photographers made up for not quite winning.
Week No.36 1st September - Some Old Barn, Bubwith. Another last minute panic on a Sunday evening shot! I don't mind this too much, maybe it would work better in sunrise?
Week No.37 8th September - Velo, York Minster. This might be might favourite of this year, initially taken for the 'Panning for Gold' contest. There is a shared pedestrian/cycle path passing across the main entrance to York Minster. I had a vision of capturing a cyclist in sharp focus with intermingling pedestrians blurred. I didn't quite get the shot I was aiming for but the girl on the bike made the shot for me. Her Parisian-esque appearance, I feel, complemented the scene. This was placed in the top 10 in the crowd and expert vote.
Here's what the judge thought of it:-
"I do love this image and it's so powerful in black and white. It reminds me very much of the kinetic photography of Martin Munkácsi that he shot on the streets of Berlin in the 1930's. It's a timeless image, and the subject's clothes, as the photographer has stated in the image description, makes it look quite Parisian. There is movement in all the right places - background, wheels, hair -and it all helps to invoke a sense of speed. Slight shame about the raised arm of the guy behind." Richard Seymour, location and transport photographer.
This was another shot I was hopeful would be picked by the #WexMondays judges.
Week No.38 15th September - Pop!, Pocklington Canal near Storwood. Taken with my shiny new 5Dmkiii and 16-35L f4 lens! We went for a walk (mainly to test my new camera), my partner was getting pretty bored whilst I took photos along the canal. I was allowed just one long exposure before we headed back to the car. The scene was pretty bland but I set up the camera with the filters and stood around for a few minutes whilst the shutter was open. I was amazed to see this on the screen, I hadn't expected the sky to appear so dramatic. I reckon this makes a great desktop wallpaper!
Week No.40 29th September Barn at Storwood. This little barn/shed is tucked away behind a tall hedge with a small gate leading to it. I must have cycled past it hundreds of times before spotting it a few weeks before it took this shot. The clouds were brewing for a dramatic sunset at home so I shot out to capture the scene. In hindsight I should have tried to get some separation between the foreground tree and background?!
Week No.42 13th October - Entwined, Allerthorpe Wood. The work by Lee Acaster and Russ Barnes were the inspiration for this pic. I had never bothered going out with the camera when the weather was grim! Their work taught me that it's possible to get a shot in virtually any conditions, all I needed to do was find the right scene!
Week No.43 20th October - The Shambles, York. I've always avoided photographing The Shambles because it seems to be such a cliché!. I had an hour or so to kill after work, I was unable to think where I could shoot with the limited time I had without needing to reccy the area first, so I gave in and went to The Shambles. Although this was reasonably well received, I don't like it, I don't think it portrays the historic street at all well!
Week No.44 27th October- Our Wedding at Merchant Tayor's Hall, York. This selfie taken on one of the happiest days of my life technically didn't comply with the #WexMondays rules as it was taken on the Monday it was submitted, anyway, I don't think it would have won but it was the best shot I took that week! The guy with the bald head is my Dad (far left!).
Week No.45 2nd November - West Rim at the Grand Canyon, USA. This was taken on our honeymoon. I completely blew the chance to get a decent sunset shot at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon! We got the canyon quite late on in the day and without the time to suss out the surroundings I was shooting like a loon desperately trying not to miss viewpoints. Back at the hotel I had limited processing abilities but at least managed to make a submission.
Week No.46 10th November - View from Sequoia National Park, California. I didn't get chance to have a good photography session with the wife being in tow, but it was quite easy to get a few decent shots of the scenery. This was taken about 4,400m above sea level.
Week No.48 24th November - J'adore Bishy Road, Bishopthorpe Road Christmas light switch on, York. Bishopthorpe Road, or Bishy Road to the locals, has recently been voted as one of the top three Local Shopping Parades in Britain. Bishy Road has got a cult following and since the Tour De France travelled through earlier this summer, the fan club uses the J'adore Bishy Road slogan. My shot, with the cheesy heart shaped highlights, pays tribute to Bishy Road.
Week No.49 1st December - Shield Bug, My Garden. Taken with my new Sigma macro lens. I love how macro photography brings out the detail in little critters which would otherwise go unnoticed by the human eye. This was a time consuming shot to get, it was fairly breezy and it was tricky to get the eye of the bug in focus as any slight sway on the branch shifted the focus point elsewhere.
Week No.50 8th December - Sunrise on Pocklington Canal. Another shot taken with my new 150mm macro lens. This was the first time I'd set the alarm clock early enough for me to get a sunrise shoot in. I originally went to take some shot of Gardham lock, which can just be seen in the distance. I disappointingly didn't get anything of worth so headed back to the car.
I'd spotted the swans earlier but initially had no desire to take any wildlife shots, but seeing as I'd made the effort to get up early and hadn't got anything decent so far I thought I may as well give it a go. The swans were really active, I'd never seen them like this before, cleaning themselves in the water and feeding. I got several shots of the swans spreading their wings but this was the winner for me. Most of my shots to date had been taken with a tripod, it felt liberating to leave it to one side and shoot these terrific birds 'freehand'.
Week No.51 18th December - A Stormy Night at The Shambles. Another contender for my favourite shot this year. I had another go at shooting this street after my disappointment with the earlier shot. I purposefully chose a wet night so there was plenty of water on the ground to reflect the light. Unfortunately it was a bit too wet so I had to use an umbrella to help shield the lens from water droplets. It was a bit of a struggle as shooting with a wide angle lens meant I had to hold the umbrella quite a distance from the camera. I used an ISO of 200 to reduce the amount of time the camera was exposed to the elements.