2012

Shots of 2012

I can’t believe that 2012 is already behind us. It’s flown by so very quickly it still feels like it should be October. I guess that’s just a sign of getting older. I read somewhere that the years seem to accelerate as you get older because they’re less of a percentage of your total life. When you are five years old, a year is a whole fifth of your existence, but when you are twenty-eight, a year is a much smaller fraction of your time (one twenty-eighth, in fact) and so passes quicker. I concur with this theory, and the fact that it was brought up in an article about how being immortal would suck shouldn’t give it any less validity.

A year in blogging, however, can be quite a long time. For Creative Splurges, a blog not quite two years old, the last year represents half of its life. Regardless, a year in blogging for anyone – whether they’re committed to a post a day or even a post every so often – can be a daunting length of time.

Around this time of year, I like to do a roundup of the year from Creative Slurges’ point of view. Last year’s review proved therapeutic enough to warrant monthly reports, so hopefully this one will be as successful. The slightly disjointed and tangental opening complete, let’s have a look at 2012 and what it all meant. Well, not all of it, just the relevant bits.

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January

On January 1st I launched what was originally titled The Daily Photo from Creative Splurges. Having thought about the somewhat archaic posting schedule for Creative Splurges (ie there wasn’t one), I wanted to have a blog that posted regularly, and daily for that matter. I also wanted to make use of the photography-based theme that the blog originally launched with, which gave EXIF data and put a single photo front and centre. The hope was that I would be able to showcase individual images and in the process push some traffic back to Creative Splurges. I was also hopping it would be relatively easy to maintain, by queuing up big blocks of posts in advance. We’ll look at how well it all worked as we progress through the year.

January turned out to be quite a busy month for this blog; it is still, in fact, the postiest month of all time, with 14 posts. It was also a bit of a varied month, with a set of doodles, and a few more ‘admin’ posts than I’d usually publish. Even so, January became a ‘target’ month in terms of post count for the rest of the year. There was quite a variety of posts in January; a lot of them were based at home, including a couple of posts of the moon, a whole post dedicated to some night photography just outside my flat, and a bit of a go experimenting with photographing fire. I also got out and about too, visiting London for the post I consider to be the start of my creative post-processing, the long-planned Sights and Sounds of London Town. After a considerable lull in activity and enthusiasm for this blog from October to December, I was back in full swing in January.

There were a few changes in January too. It is often a month I look to refresh myself creatively and personally. At the very start of the month I bought a remote shutter cable to strengthen my night photography (despite first trying night shooting only a month prior). Soon after I bought a long sought after macro lens, which remains a favourite to this day. I also refreshed the look of this blog, replacing a papaya and burgundy theme with the more traditional one I’m still using, and started a Creative Splurges Facebook page. All told, January was a pretty strong month, and was a great show of form after the pre-Christmas lull I suffered in the tail end of 2011.

Picture of the Month:

Exposure 1/100sec, f/8, ISO 500, 300mm focal length (cropped to 4MP)

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February

After the enjoyment of rounding up 2011 with an analysis post, I decided to start February with a retrospective of January. I’d found it useful to give an account of all that had happened in the month, allowing the majority of the posts published on this blog to be about something, rather than housekeeping. Every so often I still put out these housekeeping posts during the month, when I think they’re important enough.

February also saw the start of an unfortunate tradition for Creative Splurges: starting the month with images from the previous one. In the early days of this blog, I would go out shooting of an afternoon, get the images home, keep all of them, select the best ones, and put them on here with a short commentary and little other effort. This meant I was able to turn around trips almost always on the same day. As my style developed I now spend a lot more time constructing posts, meaning a trip can take a week or more to go from shooting to publishing. I’d like it to be shorter, but until I earn enough money from this blog to do it full time (spoiler: I haven’t earned a single penny from this blog), I’m not sure how I can improve that time. The images in the two posts that opened the month – Chinese New Year and London at Night Revisited, were two and four weeks old respectively at the time they were published. I’ve long realised that most of the images I take aren’t all that time sensitive, so these delays aren’t all that huge of an issue.

February was also the month when I released my first portraits post. This is one of the few times I’ve put out a selection of images grouped by type rather than trip – the Instagram series notwithstanding – and it remains one of my favourite post, especially since I’ve grown to love taking portraits. Ever since its publication I’ve been talking about doing another portraits set, but the shortlist for that one has been growing over the months and as it’s not a particularly time-crticial post it’s one I’ve been determined to take time over. It will be along in 2013, I assure you.

February also contained a post called Frosty Macro, which up until that point was the most-liked post I’d done. March, however, had far bigger things in store.

Picture of the Month:

1/200sec, f/3.5, ISO 2500, exposure bias -1.0, 50mm (cropped)

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March

It all started innocently enough with, as virtually every month did in 2012, with a review of the previous month. Next came Birds in Motion, another post from February. A couple of days before it was published, I’d gone out on a joint trip with some friends from work, Catherine of CJ Trigg Photography and Simon, and five days later I’d managed to get it posted, encouraged this time by them both getting their images posted online before me. The timing on my part turned out to be perfect, because the post got Freshly Pressed ahead of that weekend, something I have already written of in enough detail to not really need to retread it here. The idea of this yearly reflection is to look at the effect of events beyond the scope of the monthly review, and being Freshly Pressed certainly had a big effect on things. It brought in over 200 new subscribers and over 40,000 hits, the latter skewing my blog stats for years to come. With this, however, came a renewed fervour in posting; I had been feeling a bit unenthusiastic when posting to only 30 subscribers, but now I had hundreds. It’s certainly kept me going through some struggling times, which I didn’t know were only a few months away.

My main bugbear with March is the fact that I drew a single day’s shooting – a trip along the South Bank, to the London Eye and the London Aquarium – into four posts (and a fifth followed in April). In hindsight, it seems a bit excessive, but as the day broke up so easily into several disparate sections, I’m not sure how else I could have presented it. I suppose my biggest problem is not the number of posts as much as the fact that it allowed me to freeload off of them for the second half of the month.

Picture of the Month:

That knife looks a bit sharp for just nougat...  |  1/800sec, f/2.8, ISO 1250, 100mm

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April

April, by comparison, was a far more varied month. A trip to the rugby, a short post of a sunset, a shot of a shack, returns to Richmond Park and London, and a From the Vaults release dating back 20 years, as well as a nice little trip to some church grounds. Most importantly for me, comments and likes were at a decent level, which are the main ways I gauge the quality of my posts. I was very pleased with the quality of the images in the month,  and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that many of the images posted in April were ones I would never have taken in 2011.

That, in fact, is the main reason for this blog’s existence. It is intended to track my development as a photographer, hopefully in the process inspiring others, and I think it’s possible to see, if you read through my posts in chronological order, the improvements I’ve made and the techniques I’ve learned. Of course, that’s easier for you to judge, I suspect I might be a bit biased.

Picture of the Month:

1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 500, 100mm

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May

May started out a little unusually. I ended April with 98 posts on Creative Splurges, and I had every intention of marking the 100th post with a mini-celebration. More importantly, on the final run-up to post #100 I didn’t want any ‘cheat’ posts, such as monthly reviews or Instagram sets, so I put off the monthly review until I’d passed the 100 post milestone. Unfortunately it took until the 5th of May to get post #99 published, and a further two days to finish the big #100. A big part of the delay was because for the 100th post I spent the best part of a week putting together a video celebrating 100 of my favourite images from the last 100 posts. The final version took over 11 hours to render. Only 8 people watched it. That took a lot out of me, and I suspect was the start of the problems I would soon encounter. Slightly more optimistically, with the marking of the 100th post, I bought creativesplurges.com, and with it created a new logo for the site.

The rest of May had its ups and downs. Overall, the remaining content for the month was pretty weak, but it contained Instagram #10, one of my favourite batches of images from the image-sharing app. By late May, however, I was suffering from what I would frequently refer to as ‘creative block’, and it was beginning to show.

Picture of the Month:

row of lightbulbs above market stalls

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June

The creative block persisted throughout June. Looking back at the month’s posts, I think it’s completely obvious that I was struggling with my enthusiasm. I’d admitted to the problem at the beginning of the month in May’s review, but even so, I think it shows in the images I posted too.

One of the side effects of the creative funk was a lack of conviction. Ultimately it meant me throwing away less images due to misaligned quality controls, causing a trip to the Waterhouse Plantation in Bushy Park to result in no less than five posts in the the month of June. I had kept too many for a single post, and so spread them out thematically to make each posts more digestible. I think – although I’m not certain – that had I been in a better frame of mind, I’d have had the courage to delete a few more images.

Indeed, the only posts of the month that weren’t from the Waterhouse Plantation were Instagram #11 and the images from a tug of war I attended in Twickenham. The tug of war images were the first inkling that I would rekindle the spark, but there were comparatively few comments in the month which served to further the problem.

Picture of the Month:

monochrome shot of a broken bottle

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July

At the beginning of July I took slightly more drastic action to clear the creative fog I was suffering from, and bought a new laptop and flashgun. The logic was simple; the new laptop was to stand in for my old one which was growing increasingly decrepit and was a constant source of frustration for me, robbing me of the joy in editing photographs and the ease of writing posts. The flashgun was to open up some avenues and give me the opportunity to try some new things.

I quickly played about with the flashgun, releasing a set of self-portraits shot at home with flash lighting. Playing about with something new was a little reinvigorating and prompted me enough to bring my camera with me when I attended Hard Rock Calling in the middle of the month when I hadn’t previously intended to.

Hard Rock out of the way, I went back and finally write up some images from Greenwich I’d shot at the end of May. This was followed by another rare departure from photography for one of my first ‘commissioned’ posts – a couple of drawings for my wife’s blog. I’m actually really pleased with those – the first time in ages I’ve put any effort into drawing, especially using a real pen and paper for once, kicking it old school.

What followed a few days later, however, would serve to be my salvation and finally kick that period of creative fog to the dirt. I had long planned to catch the Olympic Torch Relay at some point throughout its 70-day sojourn throughout the UK, and on day 67 it came through Richmond, finally giving me that chance. Compared to a lot of the photography I’d been doing in the few months preceding that point, this was a completely different kettle of fish. Just about every post since my trip to the rugby in early April had been some variation on still life; be it things on market stalls, scenes in parks, views from the London Eye, near enough everything I’d shot over those months had been something I’d have another chance to photograph if the first shot didn’t come out right. Not so this time. One shot, one chance, get the settings wrong or expose for the wrong bit of the image and you’re stuffed. This was when I first realised that I thrive in such environments, and they are one of the times when I most enjoy my photography.

The Torch Relay was quickly followed by a couple of Olympic cycling events before the month closed out, and when the time came to write up the review of the month, I called it the month I got my groove back.

Picture of the Month:

Torch 5

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August

The Olympics straddled the months of July and August, so I was quickly back into Olympic shooting at the start of the month. For all of my Olympic posts, I was aiming at getting my posts out on the day I shot them. It led to a few late nights, the use of ‘gallery-style’ posts to minimise the amount of writing, and I didn’t succeed every time. But it was a nice challenge, and what started as ‘we’ll go take a look at the first race’ ended up becoming ‘what else is there that I don’t need a ticket for?’, meaning I ended up shooting both cycling races (the women’s in particularly bad conditions), the cycling time trials and the men’s triathlon, and regretted not buying any tickets when they went on sale earlier in the year. I also managed to get some decent abstract Olympic images, and (tangentially) some great shots of a cupcake as we took shelter in a cafe from the rains of the women’s race.

By this point my funk had completely cleared and I felt on a roll. I turned back to some images I’d shot before I put everything on hold for the Olympic challenge. Shots of the Twickenham Jubilee Festival and the St Margarets Railway Bridge, as well as another selection of Instagram images, were posted before the month came to a close.

Picture of the Month:

1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 37mm

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September

September was a month devoted to working through my backlog of images which had built up over the year. Every post was shot at least the previous month, if not earlier. September was also the month of my summer holiday, so a lot of the posts of the month were queued up to publish automatically in my absence. Most of these posts had very few likes or comments, but it is a measure of how good my mental state was that it didn’t really bother me – I just took it as a sign to work harder next month.

Picture of the Month:

1/320sec, f/8, ISO 100, 18mm (middle exposure)

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October

My backlog continued to grow in September and October. I shot over 4,000 images on holiday on September and added more than 2,000 more images to that pile on trips in October. In fact, very few of those images have yet seen the light of day. The backlog continues to be a challenge, and I am a bit frustrated I’ve not been able to clear it on my time off over Christmas.

October’s batch of posts is perhaps my favourite. There was a great selection of sets and the images are some of the best I’ve ever taken. That most of them weren’t taken in October shouldn’t matter any at all – I always go by when they were posted. From experiments in HDR processing to finally getting results with fill flash, and a couple of simple sets taken at home, I’m really, really pleased with October’s images.

Bubbles is perhaps my favourite post on this blog so far. It was the first time I’d used fill flash effectively – albeit not deliberately – and the quality of the images ranks them up there as some of my favourites. That is was images of my family helped too, as it got a little more exposure and praise. It’s always nice when that happens, and is part of the reason I enjoy portrait photography.

Picture of the Month:

1/250sec, f/5, ISO 320, exposure bias +1.0, 50mm

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November

November was a little quieter on Creative Splurges. In September, I had been moved to a new location at work, and the increase in demand on my time and energy was beginning to show. Quite by accident, I slipped into a schedule of posts in November, managing to post near enough every Monday. It started with my Bonfire Night images, which had been shot the day before but I wanted to release on Bonfire Night itself, resulting in another ‘gallery’ post with fewer words and more pictures.

It quickly turned out that I wouldn’t have much time during the week to write or shoot, so weekends became the time when I would be writing and, occasionally, shooting. By extension, my posts were being completed and published on Mondays. I have always been opposed to forcing myself into a constant posting schedule on this blog, preferring instead to publish whenever I was ready, but posting informally to a schedule seemed to work pretty well in November.

November’s content was also pretty strong – arguably, better than October, depending on preference. Much like previous months, most of the images were from months past, but that’s now the norm. Along the Thames became my most liked image since Borough Market, with 24 likes.

One of the reoccurring themes of this blog is my failure to understand your reaction to my images. I can never tell when a post is going to be popular, or on the flip side when it won’t spark much response at all. I still don’t comprehend why Along the Thames got so many likes and other posts I’ve enjoyed received so few. Maybe one day I’ll understand it, but for now I’m content to be surprised whenever a post gets a strong positive reaction.

Picture of the Month:

f/8, ISO 320, 19mm (HDR)

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December

December fell apart a little bit. I managed to get out a post quite quickly at the outset of the month, but not as early as I had been intending, and it ended up being another Monday release. I was very pleased with the quality of the images, a nice confidence booster after a November in which I’d not done much shooting.

Ultimately, it all went a bit wrong from there. The day after that post, I went and conducted another ‘commissioned’ shoot in which I ended up taking over 1,100 shots. As of late, sets of that size – specifically my holiday shots, and the ones from my big trips in October – had been put onto the back burner But on this occasion, with two sets of people interested in seeing the images (as well as, or perhaps primarily, my own desire), I decided to make editing these images as my priority.

It took longer than expected. Indeed, it’s only just been finished, so the images will be along in early 2013. But by concentrating on that, I got out of the swing of writing, and let the rest of my backlog fall by the wayside a bit. It does frustrate me that I let it happen; I feel like I’ve let you down by not producing anywhere near as good a month as I’ve been able to maintain over this year.

I managed to squeeze out one more post in December, however. Once my break from work started I took the time out to play with some product photography that was, if I’m honest, a mediocre post. If it’s any consolation, there are some far better images in the pipeline for 2013.

Picture of the Month:

1/640sec, f/5.6, ISO 2500, 62mm

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2013

This time last year I looked ahead to 2012 and what I planned to do. They were, for want of a better term, my new year’s blogging resolutions. How well did I stick to them, and what do I have planned for 2013?

I achieved most of what I set out to do for 2012. I bought my new macro lens, went on two big photo trips, and returned to at least one of 2011’s projects – all as was foretold. I didn’t get round to hiring a tilt-shift lens as I intended, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing – at no point did I feel at enough of a loss for ideas in the year to warrant hiring one to try it out. Maybe in 2013? I think I superseded my own expectations for 2012 in being Freshly Pressed; that is so much more than I was expecting out of the year.

So 2013. What do I have planned for 2013? As I said at some point in this post, January is often a time I use to refresh myself creatively. This time out I’ve undertaken a bit of a project at home to redo our study into a more enjoyable space to be in. We’d let it go a bit to ruin over the last few months, and as I’ve also just ordered a new iMac (finally, some might say, especially if you follow me on Twitter) and I wanted to make the room a little nicer to put it in. That, in fact, has taken up a lot of my time over the last week or so, as the project expanded a little into a reorganisation of the entire flat. That’s not a change that you’ll see much benefit from, apart from hopefully a faster, bigger machine will allow for quicker editing and writing of posts, in a new environment slightly more distraction-free than the living room I’m currently writing in.

What will I do in 2013 that you’ll see? There is that portraits post I’ve been talking about for six months. Once the iMac is in place and my currently fragmented photo library is back in one piece I’ll be able to compile that collection properly. At this point, I suspect it will turn into several posts.

There’s also the present my wife got me for Christmas, which means I will be doing a lot more astrophotography in 2013. On that note, there will also be a comet coming close to the Earth in the tail end of 2013 and I’d like to photograph that event.

I’d like to clear out my backlog too, but at times that seems like an optimistic proposition.

I’ll also be ordering some business cards, and moving more into promoting myself as a photographer.

But the thing I definitely want to keep doing is producing high quality images for you to enjoy, and bringing an eclectic array of photography for you.

I’ll be starting small, however, with a couple of other retrospectives on 2012 tomorrow, which will be shorter, more interesting and easier to digest.

From me and my family, I wish you and yours the very best new year.

To 2013.

5 Comments

Add yours →

  1. Happy New Year Rob, I’ve enjoyed your blog in 2012. Long may it continue

    Like

  2. petit4chocolatier January 1, 2013 — 2:37 pm

    Happy New Year Rob! Wow, what a year you have had 🙂
    I agree, where did time go? I like your round-up; brilliant! I wish you and your loved ones a new year full of happiness, creativity, rewards, and good health!

    Like

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