My Top Ten Images of 2016Melvin Nicholson
WELCOME to my Top Ten Images of 2016
WOW, what a year 2016 has been. I have never been busier running workshops, 1-2-1 tuition days, shooting for myself as well as developing my photographic skills further with my newly purchased Canon 5Ds. I also got to shoot with some really talented photographers this year who have since become friends as well as discovering new and exciting locations in preparation for some new workshops in 2017. Places that have been on my bucket list were finally ticked off. Nine days exploring the beautiful county of Dorset was a big one for me back in September as was both Pembrokeshire and East Lothian in Scotland.
But of course, the highlight of my year from a personal and professional point of view was the huge international success of Fogbow, which I captured back in mid-November on Rannoch Moor in Scotland. Never have I had a photograph generate so much press coverage worldwide and here in the UK. It has genuinely been mind-blowing to receive such attention but it has been and still continues to be a hugely enjoyable experience. So many of you have written to me personally offering warm congratulations, love and support as well as some really personal and heartfelt stories about Rannoch Moor and what the place means to you. A huge thank you to all those who took the time to write, comment on social media and generally jumped onboard for the ride, it has been an absolute pleasure.
But without further ado, here are my Top Ten Images of 2016. The images that made the list may not surprise you but perhaps the winner might but all in all, I have selected the images that mean something to me. Images that moved me in one way or another when I captured them on camera or those that presented a huge challenge to shoot at the time and I felt a great deal of satisfaction when I eventually nailed the shot. I hope you enjoy looking through the images and reading the short stories behind them. Please feel free to leave a comment if you wish, I read and reply to every one of them.
Have a wonderful new year and all the very best of health, wealth and happiness to you all for 2017.
Number 10: Cauldron Falls, Rannoch Moor, Scotland, UK – November 2016
One of the difficulties I face and I know that I am not alone in this, is trying to find something fresh and exciting to photograph in an area of the country that you have visited many times. I relish the challenge to discover new locations and photograph them my way and Cauldron Falls is one such location. I found this place for the first time back in February but a return visit in November had me get the shot I wanted. Rannoch Moor had a large amount of snow and ice for a week or so while I was there between running workshops in Skye and Glencoe and I knew that this lovely little waterfall would look all wintry and spectacular. The challenge I faced taking this shot was getting the tripod into the exact position without damaging the ice in the foreground whilst trying to remove the build up of loose ice that had banked up against the static ice to the right of the image. I had to use one of the tripod legs fully extended, and from the bank side, continually hit the build up of ice that formed from flowing down the river and over the waterfall. Once I had broken up the ice, it disappeared under the top static layer of ice, but I only had a couple of minutes to set the tripod back up again and get the shot before more ice built up and spoilt the image. Challenging? Oh yes and in freezing conditions too. I was so thankful for my lovely and toasty neoprene Aigle Parcours wellies.
Number 9: Corfe Castle, Dorset, UK – September 2016
There are photos you see on social media time after time of certain places both here in the UK and abroad that just resonate with you and have you long to stand there with a camera and some lovely light. This particular morning at Corfe Castle was one such time for me. I love castles and Corfe has become one of my favourites, not least because it is located within the beautiful county of Dorset but because it is located on top of a hill overlooking the surrounding villages. I met up with fellow landscape photographer Mark Pelleymounter who very kindly took me to the viewpoint he shoots the iconic castle from and he most certainly did not disappoint as did not the weather and bumping into Jeremy Walker on the steps while waiting for the colour to arrive was also a bonus. My favourite time of the day is sunrise. To be able to stand there and witness the dawn of a new day with all the optimism that it brings and just being out with the camera during such a peaceful time of the day is a genuine pleasure of mine and if the warm colours of a beautiful sunrise present itself, all’s the better. I felt so fortunate to have captured the photo that I wanted on my first visit but rest assured that it will not be my last. I will announce a couple of new Dorset workshops shortly.
Number 8: Talisker Bay, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK – November 2016
Some locations frustrate the hell out of you. You know the ones that have you turn up time after time, promising to fulfil all of your landscape photography dreams while at the same time offering you little to nothing in return. Talisker Bay is or now was, one such location. I have visited it several times in the past, always in the hope that it would be the perfect time to capture some magic only to trudge back to the car feeling empty and disappointed. But I am a determined man who rarely gives up and in my sheer determination in wanting a photograph that is good enough to print, frame and hang on my wall, is the very thing that drives me on, drives me forward in thinking that the next time will be THE TIME. This happened back in November while leading a workshop. Quite often I don’t get a lot of time to shoot my own images on when running a workshop despite those attending wanting me to do so if only to compare what they see and capture to what I see and capture. Naturally, I am always at their disposal to assist and advise when needed but it is also important to allow people time to process the advice you give and allow them the room to breathe and develop themselves into more accomplished photographers, after all I will not be with them the next time they head out on their own once the workshop has finished. My point being that sometimes having to rush and make quick decisions due to time constraints can sometimes prove to be a good thing as you have less time to be undecided about the shot that you want. This was one such occasion. Lowering the tripod on the black, volcanic sandy beach and having the water rush underneath the camera as the tide rolls in and out is one of my favourites moments in landscape photography but the white wash of the water leaves wonderful streaks when set against the dark sand below it. This image of the visible reflections of the surrounding cliffs adds so much more to the image and the stormy skies that unleashed hailstones from hell a couple of minutes after this photo was taken, all adds to the drama of the photograph for me. But more importantly, I returned to the car a happy and fulfilled man.
Number 7: Forth Bridges, Scotland, UK – September 2016
The iconic sight of the Forth Bridges when you first see them in all their glory is quite a remarkable one, mainly the rail bridge which is the most recognisable of the two bridges (a third one is almost built and is due open next year). I had made the decision to explore and discover new parts of Scotland during 2016 and Edinburgh in particular as my last visit was New Years Day way back in 2003. I figured that it was time I returned with a camera in hand. Three local photographers by the name of Drew, Mark and Douglas attended one of my workshops in the Lake District during the summer and had very kindly offered to show me around Edinburgh as well as the Forth Bridges, and the magnificent Kelpie Horses nearby. We stayed out until 2am shooting The Kelpies (horses) despite them having to head off to work just hours later. Huge thanks to Mark, Drew and Douglas for all their help and kindness. I returned to the Forth Bridges in my Ford Galaxy complete with a double mattress in the back to grab a couple of hours sleep before meeting Gavin Duncan, another local photographer for the sunrise shoot. Naturally, I was blurry eyed, sleep deprived and a little quieter than usual but no sooner had we arrived on location, when the colours of the pre-dawn started developing. The oranges and yellows grew in strength until I thought I would be accused of increasing the saturation too much in Photoshop. The morning was a glorious one and the inclusion of the passing cruise liner on the left of the photograph was the icing on the cake. Local knowledge is king in wanting to photograph the best locations at the best time of the day in the best light. Many thanks indeed to Gavin for accompanying me that morning and for being such good company.
Number 6: Back Tor, Peak District, UK – October 2016
The Peak District is located no further from me than the Lake District but because I have to drive close to Manchester and on its motorways, it makes the journey lengthy, stressful and difficult so I don’t bother yet there’s always a part of me that feels I miss out on capturing a beautiful image. Heaven only knows that I see enough lovely photos on social media of the various locations in the Peak District to know that a magic photograph awaits if you can find it. The day I photographed Back Tor I had met up with two friends and we spent a couple of hours walking up the long path to this viewpoint. The weather was pretty poor at times with heavy rain showers coming in before the grey low slung clouds gave the whole place a flat, uninspiring feel. However, as we were packing up to return back down the hill to the car, the sun dropped low enough and under a heavy dark sky to throw its light out over the landscape. I quickly retrieved my camera from my bag, set up and fired off a few images and this is what I captured. The lesson that I was reminded that day was to hang on in there until the bitter end and if any rewards come your way, consider them earned. I also love the lone sheep on the hillside as well as the tree trunks being illuminated beautifully. The Peak District delivered that day for sure.
Number 5: Icebergs, Jökulsárlón Beach, Iceland – February 2016
There are a handful of places that I have visited that I consider extremely special and Jökulsárlón is one of them. This is a location that gives you two bites at the cherry for on one side of the bridge you have the beautiful ice glacial lagoon complete with large icebergs and the seals that lie on them and on the other side of the bridge you have the same icebergs that have floated out of the lagoon and into the ocean only to end up getting washed up on the stunning black, volcanic sandy beach. It is a sight to behold and when the light is just perfect, normally at the start and end of the day when it is at its softest, the whole beach lights up in a way that is difficult to describe. Perhaps I’ll just show you the photograph instead.
Number 4: St Abbs Lighthouse, East Lothian, Scotland – September 2016
I love lighthouses. That’s the truth. In fact, I also love castles as previously mentioned and trees, especially trees. St Abbs Lighthouse is located east of Edinburgh on the coastline just above Northumberland. It is a wonderful lighthouse, small but wonderful nonetheless. I had seen many a fantastic image of this particular one and I wanted to go and stamp my own mark on it. I also knew that it would prove to be one of the most difficult photographs to capture during 2016. I drove throughout the night to arrive by 4am which would give me around two and a half hours to photograph the lighthouse all lit up. I ended up standing close to the edge of the cliff which drops some distance down into the water and the sound of the crashing waves that were pounding up against the base of the cliffs certainly grabbed my attention. The rotating light would illuminate the tops of the cliffs leaving your imagination as to exactly how far down it went. Not for the faint hearted at 4am in the dark. I took several images at varying shutter times knowing that I would have to merge a few of them together back at home in order to get a scene that looked consistently lit. This proved very difficult to get just right but persevering for 90 minutes in Photoshop finally gave me the photograph I was after all along.
Number 3: Derwentwater, Lake District, UK – September 2016
This is the only photograph from the Lake District to make the top ten and considering just how often I visit and shoot here, I find that quite remarkable but this year has seen me visit far more places than ever before so the choices that I have are far greater. However, Derwentwater just happens to be my favourite part of the Lake District and this body of water in particular. Standing at Friar’s Crag with a 1-2-1 client back in September had me stand in awe as the light was the softest that I can ever remember it during any September. Castle Crag in the distance was visible but partially muted by the mist so all that was required once the camera was set up and positioned, was to wait for one of my favourite 1930’s wooden steamers to glide by. I did not have to wait long. One of the elements that I love about this image is that the wake wave from behind the boat looks so velvety and smooth, matching the whole scene really and the colour was wonderful too. What makes this image so pleasing for me is that I have photographed Derwentwater literally dozens and dozens of times in the past and yet I still feel able to pull something new and exciting from the place. That’s the sign of a quality location for me. I ended up falling in love with this image so much I am now using it as my company signage on my Ford Galaxy.
Number 2: Fogbow, Rannoch Moor, Scotland, UK – November 2016
Fogbow in at number two. I wonder just how many of you are reading this thinking, “What, Fogbow is not number one”? After all, it became an internet sensation last month with it being shown on so many TV channels all over the world, in most of the UK newspapers and even a feature on National Geographic and still continues to be shared today. It is without a shadow of a doubt my most successful photograph to date and I would be so incredibly lucky to have another image gain more exposure and love from the public than Fogbow. It truly is a once in a lifetime image yet it is ranked number two. Why? I hear you ask. Well, firstly I love the image, I love everything about it. I can visualise running in the snow to set up the camera as soon as I became aware of the fogbow. The obvious composition was to have the tree framed underneath the fogbow itself and the short time that I had to capture it properly. I remember running through all of the technical aspects of the camera before clicking the remote cable release. Was it level? Are the exposure levels, focus, ISO, correct? The LEE 105mm landscape polariser was fitted to help bring out the detail in the fogbow itself and above else, ensure that no-one’s shadow was in shot (it is the mounds of snow covered grass that are casting the shadows on the right-hand side of the image). What happened after sharing the image on social media will stay with me forever. Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Two featured the image and the story of fogbows, then an agent picked up the story and marketed it to the national UK press and within hours, Fogbow went viral. The next 48 hours was a bit of a blur as the number of emails, phone calls and social media messages from organisations, TV channels and newspapers/magazines came in faster than I could forward them onto my agent. It genuinely was quite something to live through but above all else, I seemed to capture the everyones imagination with it and that is what pleases me most.
But for the purpose of this blog, it ranks number two but what beat it to number one. Take a look below.
AND MY NUMBER 1 IMAGE OF 2016 IS……………. Aurora Borealis, Emergency Hut, Iceland – February 2016
Photographs mean different things to different people but for me, a photograph should mark a particular memorable moment, one that moved you to tears, or have you stand in awe open mouthed or perhaps even unable to take the shot because what you are witnessing is something that is so truly beautiful and other-worldly, that the photo simply becomes a physical reminder of that moment in time which is locked away in your mind forever. This is how I felt when I was stood there, by the roadside in Iceland, at 1.47am on the 12th February 2016 witnessing a kp5 display of the northern lights. It is true that I had never seen them before, and that this was to be my very first aurora borealis experience. I genuinely cannot put into words how I felt just standing there watching the mesmorising colours of bright green and vivid purples dancing about i the sky with the shape of curtains forming the structure. I could have sat in the snow for hours just watching them put on the greatest show on earth. For those of you who have been blessed with seeing a decent northern light show for yourself, you’ll know exactly where I am coming from. Once I had got my head around what I was seeing, I was then and only then able to set about trying to capture them on camera and this wonderful triangular emergency hut made just the best subject to shoot.
I am so fortunate to be returning to Iceland twice a year from here on in to run a week’s workshop both in March and November each year. My next visit is early March where I hope I get to witness the northern lights again but for now, I am so thankful for having captured them on camera. I hope you have all enjoyed reading through my Top Ten Images of 2016 with me and 2017 holds so much promise for being another fantastic year with trips planned to new and exciting locations, such as Ireland, Lewis/Harris in Scotland, Hungary and hopefully many more places in the UK. Thank you for getting this far and please do leave a comment below if you wish.
And to finish 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, Instagram, Flickr and on Twitter too. Your support, words of encouragement and kindness has genuinely been so appreciated and I cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for me and those around me. 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 2017.
Best wishes Melvin