Although I haven't actually counted, I suspect I took fewer photos this year than in previous years. This was largely due to work commitments but also, to some extent, due to the adoption of a slightly more focussed approach to image taking. In previous years I would often visit a nature reserve to have a good wander around and to photograph anything that caught my eye. This year, largely as a result of having less time, I tended to know what species I wanted to photograph before leaving the house. Once on site, I therefore targeted that (or those) species and then left. This is undoubtedly a more efficient approach to photography (if efficiency were measured in terms of hours of labour per 'successful' image), but I'm not necessarily sure it's a more enjoyable one.
In terms of competitions, I entered three and had images placed in two of them which, when I write it like that, doesn't sound too bad. My Brown Hawker image was Highly Commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and earlier in the year my Confused Grasshopper image was one of four finalists in its category in the International Garden Photographer of the Year. The competition in which I wasn't placed was the WPOTY which is obviously the toughest of the three. In years to come I think I will give the other competitions a miss and simply focus on BWPA and WPOTY.
This year I was also pleased to begin contributing to the Meet Your Neighbours (MYN) photography project, something I have enjoyed a great deal. I've taken many images in the MYN style and a small proportion of these are already available via the Nature Picture Library (this proportion will grow in time).
Another notable aspect of this year's photography was the emphasis I placed on wideangle 'macro'. Some of these images were taken with my Tokina 10-17mm fisheye while others were taken with a new purchase, the Tokina 35mm macro. This latter lens has been great fun to use and is a true macro lens, capable of lifesize reproduction.
Other than that there probably isn't a great deal to report. I sold quite a few images through FLPA, had a few published in BBC Wildlife magazine (including an online gallery) and had an article on macrophotography published in Digital SLR magazine. All of which were very welcome.
So which were my favourite images of the year? As ever, this has been a difficult decision for me to make and a number of factors were taken into account when selecting images. It is not intended to be a selection of my most popular images, though hopefully there is an overlap between the two. Anyway, in no particular order, the images that I am most pleased with are:
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Crab Spider. For several years I have been looking for a Crab Spider to photograph and so I was very pleased to find this one. I particularly like the composition of this image and the purple colours formed by the Periwinkle flowers.
Emerging Damselfly. One of the aspects of the MYN project that I like is the ease with which composite images are possible. This sequence shows the emergence of a Large Red Damselfly from its aquatic nymph form into an adult damselfly.
'Wideangle' Nomada Bee. My new Tokina 35mm macro lens made this image possible. The Nomada Bee is very small (approx 10mm) and so to show it within its environment would typically have meant the bee was very small in the frame. However, the lifesize capabilities of the Tokina lens allowed me to overcome this. The result, an unusual mix of (fairly) high magnification and (fairly) wide field of view.
Nursery Web Spider with Egg Sac. Again, a subject I have been trying to shoot for several years. This is a Nursery Web Spider carrying its egg sac. The female carries the egg sac around like this until the eggs are about to hatch at which point she builds a protective nursery web for them. In the past I'd never managed to get close enough to photograph this behaviour but on this occasion I was successful.
Globular Springtail. I always enjoy photographing these tiny, colourful springtails but it is often difficult to photograph them from a low viewpoint due to their tiny size and also difficult to achieve a nice background. This one was found on the edge of a red house brick and so this allowed me to get the lens down below 'ground level' to photograph it side-on. Also, I like the fact that the orangey red of the house brick complements the colours of the springtail.
Newly Emerged Dragonfly. Another image taken with my Tokina 35mm macro. This time, a newly emerged Four Spotted Chaser dragonfly is shown within its waterside habitat.
Ladybird Taking Off. This image was taken back in the spring and was the result of a number of attempts to capture Seven Spot Ladybirds as they took off. Not an easy subject matter but I was quite pleased with this one.
Meet My Neighbours. Another composite image, this time showing a selection of the insect life photographed this year in my garden. This was my first attempt at creating a composite of this type and I was pleased with how it turned out.
Common Blue in Habitat. It may surprise you to know that this is probably my favourite image of the year. Again, it was taken with my Tokina 35mm macro and is precisely the type of image that I hoped to capture when I bought this lens. It shows a lovely fresh looking female Common Blue butterfly as she flits about a flower meadow in the June sunshine. Why do I like it so much? I think it's the combination of the butterfly itself, the blue sky, the natural looking habitat and the fact that, when I look at it, I can almost feel the sun on my back and hear the bees buzzing and the birds singing. I'm sure my judgement is at least partly influenced by the experience of actually taking the image but to me it represents the epitome of English summertime.
Banded Demoiselle. As a simple portrait of a male Banded Demoiselle damselfly I think this shot works quite well due to the nice soft light, the attractive perch and the pleasant background. However, what I like most about the image is the fact that just as I was about to take it, a fly landed on the Demoiselle's wing and proceeded to wander around for a minute or two before eventually flying off. I have versions of this image without the fly but I like the added interest that the fly brings.
So those are my favourite 10 images, but maybe I can include one more for luck. It's a portrait of a Common Green Grasshopper photographed in the MYN style.
That just leaves me to wish all of the readers of this blog a happy, healthy and photo-filled new year.