Reviewing a year's worth of photos can be a daunting but rewarding task. This year was made less daunting because there were fewer pickings than usual, owing to the fact that I can count the number of days out with my camera on two hands. The sparsity of photo outings however was made up for by the richness of experiences, both familiar (returning to Svalbard for the first time since 2019) and brand new (visiting the gannet breeding colony at Bempton in Yorkshire).
From one year's review to the next, some things don't change, whilst others do. On making this selection, I've noticed a recurring theme which has long been central to my photography - a single creature, small in its environment. But the way that this theme is handled varies from month to month, year to year, through composition and lighting choices. The big lesson that I take from this is that, no matter how many times you photograph one animal or place, you can never run out of ways to tell its story. Keep turning the stone over and there's always more ground to uncover.
Here are my Top 10 Photos Of 2022, and I hope they inspire you to keep looking at the familiar in new ways.
Mallard - London, UK
One Saturday morning in February gave a forecast of heavy fog. With dreams of birds swimming in and out of white clouds, I set an early alarm clock for my first belated photo outing of 2022. The lake in my local park was completely under cover of white, the fog enveloping even the tallest trees. I hoped to find a mandarin duck swimming below the long inky branches of a tree, which would evoke the mood of an old Chinese print. As the layers of fog peeled away, I instead saw this mallard duck drift into the perfect position.
Gannets - Yorkshire, UK
Fast-forward four months and I hadn't taken a single photograph, so it was time for drastic action! I spontaneously booked two days off work to visit the seabird colony at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire. To think that one can leave the busyness of London behind and, just a few hours later, be thrown into one of Britain's greatest natural wonders is inspiring. The sight, sound and smell of thousands of gannets, puffins and other seabirds (not to forget a long-staying albatross) was nevertheless quite overwhelming, so I focussed on a visually interesting "window" of rock and green water, catching this gannet as it flew in to its mate and chick, and a puffin as it headed out to sea.
Gannet - Yorkshire, UK
Further along the cliffs, there was a section where the gannets rode the thermal currents. As some birds spread their wings and tail feathers to brace for landing, this presented ample opportunities to freeze them in flight. Having often seen them way out at sea, this was the first time I'd observed gannets close up and at their breeding colony. I over-exposed a little to whiten the background and to bring out the striking colours of the gannet's plumage.
Atlantic Puffin - Yorkshire, UK
A puffin peers out from its burrow, perhaps thinking about whether to go find some fish for lunch. I'm glad I couldn't get any closer than this with my 400mm lens, because for me there's something whimsical about this big open framing, with the puffin looking over the sloping grass and across the sky-blue water.
Barn Owl - Yorkshire, UK
After an amazing few hours at Bempton Cliffs, topped off with a perfect summer sunset, I made my way back to the train station. Not a soul was present. Gannets cruised by my side over the cliffs, as the last glimmers of sunlight tinged the clifftops pink and set the meadows on fire. At this sweet moment a barn owl, the most fabulous of British farmland birds, silently entered the scene. Simultaneously fist-pumping the air with joy and inwardly swearing that I might miss the last train, I decided that, if I hadn't had a barn owl encounter like this in my lifetime so far, it might be a long while before I do again. The magical half hour in this bird's presence was well worth a missed train and was an unquestionable wildlife, let alone photo, highlight of the year.
Arctic Fox - Svalbard, Arctic Norway
After 3 long years of absence, I was back in Svalbard to show a new group of photographers its special wildlife. Arctic foxes are often the first mammal we spot, as they appear as a stark white against the melting tundra grass. But on this visit, which coincided with the end of the bird breeding season, many of the foxes were a chocolatey brown and hunting closer to town. It was a mesmerising experience watching them scavenge and play around the town houses, and we'd lie in position waiting for the best foxes and scenes to come together.
Cottongrass Landscape - Svalbard, Arctic Norway
As a tour leader, rarely do I have a moment to stop and quietly focus on my own images. On our final night, with guests in bed, I made a last midnight sun excursion, eager to photograph the cottongrass on the tundra. The clump of grass and clouded pool, surrounded by cottongrass and mountains, seemed to quietly breathe harmony and balance.
Arctic Tern & Walruses - Svalbard, Arctic Norway
Each time I visit the walrus colony at Borebukta, I try to focus on something different. In 2019, the wrinkled, warty textures and battle scars of the large cow walruses made for some interesting 'landscape' photographs. This year, after a bit of unsuccessful experimenting from the rib boat, it was this arctic tern, and the curious expressions of the walruses watching on, which got my attention.
Arctic Fox - Svalbard, Arctic Norway
As foxes scavenge around the edge of town, it is irresistible to show them within the human landscape. This bold female fox passed by this house like clockwork in the early mornings, expecting chicken bones from the homeowner. A couple of times she sat right below the window, looking like a pet cat. I could have taken a tighter shot, but I loved the building's shapes and colours, and the window's drawn curtains which tell a story of their own.
Mushroom species - London, UK
One damp afternoon in late November, we come full circle back to my local park in London. I had a mushroom mission - to photograph a fungus in the undergrowth, lit in an ethereal way. Very quickly I found a tiny specimen, no taller than my fingernail, springing out of a mossy tree trunk. I moved around a lot, playing with focus and background bokeh to get a bit of the mossy textures and shadowy tree bark. I used the torch on my phone to light up the mushroom and create a fairytale scene.