2008 was a year of great change, a year of both great loss and new friendships and responsibilities. These changes have sadly left little time to write about photography, but when I was recently looking through the photos I’ve taken in 2008, I released that through it all, I’ve still been taking photos. I just haven’t shared them with the world yet.
So here is a look at the 40-odd times I made it out in and about with my cameras in 2008, and a glimpse into the 4,462 photos I took.
I hope you find this enjoyable, and I’d love to read your review of 2008 in photographs too.
February started with a trip to Brighton for the day. Although we’d been to Brighton many times in the past (we’re both great fans of Moshi Moshi and the Lanes Armory in equal measure), this was the first time I’d seen the ruined Brighton West Pier. It left a lasting impression with me, and made for my most striking photo from the day.
March was a busy month, starting with the Explore show at the NEC, Birmingham. One of the features of the show was the Ordnance Survey’s Outdoor Exploration Portal website, which I’d contributed to in 2007 and 2008. I’d just finished a secondment to the Ordnance Survey, and it was nice to see the team promoting the website to visitors to the show before we all headed off to pastures new.
We actually spent the week staying in our favourite cottage up in the Malvern Hills, a place we love to retreat to when life gets a bit too much. I always prefer photographing Malvern outside of the summer months, as the lower sun really brings out the contours of those wonderful hills.
And, although it’s a photo taken in 2007, March was the month that my shot of the rainforest biodome of the Eden Project was chosen to be the front cover of the Eden Project’s 2008/9 Guide Book. Sadly, I haven’t made it down to Cornwall this year to see the books on the shelves in person, but the Eden Project were kind enough to send me a copy.
May saw us return to yet another stomping ground – Chesil Beach in Dorset. We were last there in December 2005, my last trip out wielding the Nikon D100. I’d always wanted to go back with the D200, but grey skies and gentle winds conspired to deny me the shot of waves crashing against this amazing beach that I was after.
June was another quiet month, photography-wise, with my cameras making it out the house just once, coming with me to work in Bath for the day. Bath is such a beautiful city when the sky is blue, thanks to the sandy-coloured stonework throughout the city.
July followed the precident set in May; another trip to revisit somewhere with the D200, another denial. This time, the place was Llanberis and the fabulous castle tower of Dolbadarn. I’d last been here in 2003, using my Sigma 15-30mm lens for the first time. The shot posted on Flickr from that visit had to be cropped because of vignetting I didn’t check for at the time; I’ve been wanting to try that again ever since, and as I had to drive up to Harlech to pick Kristi up at the end of a week-long art course, it seemed like a great excuse to swing by Llanberis and try again. Unfortunately, Dolbadarn was closed to visitors, as it was being used for some sort of filming. Epic fail!
At the very end of August, we headed up to the North Yorkshire Moors for two weeks of holiday. Based in the picturesque village of Thorton-le-Dale just outside Pickering, we had a blast. After arriving on the 31st, we wasted no time on the 1st September by heading out into York to visit the Minster. Without a tripod, I found the low light conditions inside very challenging, and I managed to get into trouble for having my hat on my head (I’d run out of hands!)
There was no let-up the following day. We went north to the Devil’s Arrows, before crossing over into the Yorkshire Dales to spend several wonderful hours exploring Brimham Rocks. It’s one of the places from my childhood, and a great place to go to pick winberries (something we’d been and done in July). We finished the day off with tea in Scarborough.
We went even further afield the following day, all the way up to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. This is the wall built from one side of England to the other to keep out all the troublesome Celts to the north. Parking up at the visitor’s centre at Once Brewed (no, I didn’t make that name up. There’s also a nearby village called Twice Brewed), we walked a bit of the wall in between sheltering under trees from heavy showers. It’s a beautiful place, but our highest peaks are much more developed than this. Well worth a visit, but make sure you bring your own food! Soggy and hungry, we retired to the amazing Roman excavations at Vindolanda. This one site is where much of our knowledge of Roman life in England comes from. Photography isn’t allowed inside the museum, which I found disappointing, but if the Romans are your thing, there’s probably no better place to visit in the whole of England.
After such a long day, we made the next day a relatively light afair, visiting the bizarre standing stone at Rudstone in the East Riding. This stone is remarkable for its size and location, standing almost as tall as the church which has sprung up beside it. After a trip down to Hornsea in search of potteries that I remembered as a child but utterly failed to find as an adult, we retired back to Thornton-le-dale for me to wander around making the most of the late afternoon sun.
Friday was a rest day. Good job, as it turned out.
The plan for Saturday 6th September was to head out to the White Scar Caves on the west side of the Yorkshire Dales, where we’d meet my Dad travelling up from his home in West Yorkshire. This was the day that the Dales were flooded, with roads closed and communities cut off. Although the caves were still open when we phoned ahead, by the time we’d forded the floods and made it there they’d had to close the caves for the rest of the day. The rising flood waters meant that we couldn’t head back the way we’d come, so in the end we headed out west to the M6 and turned south towards Manchester and the M62. This is when I decided to kidnap Kristi for the rest of the day and take her to Blackpool to see the illuminations. (Blackpool is a sadly run-down Lancashire seaside resort famous these days for its tower, the rides at the Pleasurebeach, a popular destination for hen and stag nights, and the Illuminations that it puts on from later in the year). We had fun on the gentler rides at the Pleasurebeach, but by the time it was dark enough for the Illuminations to come on, we were too tired to really enjoy them. I didn’t get any photos at all; I’ll have to go back another year to try again. My Panasonic DMC-FX33 finally died too. This day turned into an epic fail I think.
Sunday 7th was a much more successful day. Kristi grabbed her pots and paints, and we ended up in Runswick Bay just north of Whitby. Mmm … a lovely relaxing day after the long mileage the day before, and Kristi did a lovely little painting that she finished and sold whilst we were there.
With the floods receeding by the Monday, it was time to head back into the Yorkshire Dales to Malham Cove. I was really looking forward to exploring the limestone paving at the top, and of putting my 10-20mm lens to the test down in the cove itself. Unfortunately, as we were walking along the footpaths towards the Cove, someone fell from the top of the Cove and died. The party of walkers in front of me found him and called in the emergency services, but there was nothing anyone could do for him. We spent the afternoon over at nearby Gordale Scar (my first visit there), before finishing the day taking photos of the small but perfectly formed Janet’s Foss.
Tuesday 9th was a rest day, and I took a day out of my holiday on Wednesday 10th to visit a customer for work.
Flamborough Head was our destination on Thursday 11th September. We pottered around a bit, enjoyed a somewhat windswept picnic, and swiftly retired back to our holiday cottage for the day.
Friday 12th September was the last day of our holiday, and that meant it was time to travel on the North Yorks Moors Railway. This privately-run steam railway winds its way through some picturesque countryside, with several stations along the way where you can hop out and explore. Our first stop was the Malyan Spout waterfall near Goathland. It’s an impressive sight, and I was both stunned and privately annoyed at the young woman who hiked out to it to then take photos of it using her camera phone. I mean, a camera phone ffs! Damn, it still annoys me now, months later 🙂 We had lunch at the pub in Beckshole, before heading back to Goathland to catch the train once more. The train terminated in Grosmont, where Kristi decided to hide out of the rain with a cup of tea whilst sending me on a speed march up above the valley to find a stone circle shown on our map. I had something like an hour and a half to hike 3 miles up the hill, find and photograph the stones, and then make it back for the last train home. No wonder she stayed behind! It was wonderfully eerie up in the mist, and whilst the stone circle was definitely of the kind you find when you stub your toe on it, just being so away from everyone else felt really great.
And that was it … our annual vacation was over, and it was time to come home.
We went on our first Flickr meet in October, to Margham Country Park with the folks from Welsh Flickr Cymru. We didn’t really know anyone else from the group, and we’re both very independent people, so we actually spent the day wandering around on our own, occaisonally bumping into other WFC members. We did really enjoy ourselves, got some nice pictures … but haven’t been on a Flickr meet since. Hrm.
In November, I spoke at PHPNW 08 up in Manchester. On the way up, I picked up a Panasonic DMX-LX3 to replace the FX33 I killed during my September holiday, and all I can say is yum 🙂 It’s still early days with this camera, but I’m really enjoying the photos it can take.
Back from Manchester, I went for a walk down by the river in Bath with the LX3, checking out its black and white modes. I’m not yet convinced that it’s a decent camera for black and white photography, but perhaps more experimentation will yield better results?
December was a relatively busy month with the camera so far, all in the name of putting the LX3 through its paces, you understand. 🙂 It’s also helped that, after the dullest summer for years, we’ve enjoyed a relatively sunny (if cold) end to the year. A trip down to the Glamorgan Heritage Coast is always good for an eye-catching shot, and this year was no exception. With my Dad visiting to drop off and pick up Christmas presents, and his new Canon Powershot G9 to compare with the LX3, we headed off down Cardiff Bay for a day. Although we weren’t very impressed by the latest Doctor Who exhibition, as the sun set I was able to snag my favourite photo of 2008. And we did have fun with the cameras the following day at Caerphilly Castle, where amongst the stalls of the medieval fayre I found a new supplier of the wonderful Moniack Mead 🙂 If you’ve never had Moniack before (and chances are you haven’t unless you’re a sad LARPer or you’re married to one like I am) then you’re really missing out.
Finally, to bring the year to an end, we spent Boxing Day out in the Brecon Beacons with the cameras. Four years ago the Beacons were covered in snow, but this year muddy paths and bright sunlight (eventually) greeted us. We started at the Castle in Crickhowell, moved on to a large but seemingly imposssible to reach without trespass standing stone on the north bank of the Usk, before enjoying a beautiful walk along the towpath of the Brecon and Monmothshire Canal to Brecon and back in the setting sun.