2015

It has, I admit, been pretty quiet here on Creative Splurges as of late. I’ve been taking a bit of an extended break to recharge my batteries and creative juices so I can start the new year anew. I usually start the year with a review of the preceding twelve months, and so that seems the ideal time and best way to get back into the swing of things.

2015 has been a bit of a topsy-turvy year. It started out strong, dipped in the middle, had a bit of a resurgence and then petered out again. I spent the last half of the year being far too busy at work without much time off, burning out a bit and spending most of my free time relaxing and playing video games and not going out and taking many photographs. I’m still lacking in new content, but after four weeks of rest and relaxation I’m feeling a lot better in going out and taking photos.

January

January started with a roundup of 2014, followed quickly by 2014 in Pictures. Both of these are now multi-year old New Year traditions for this site, so of course once once I’ve finished writing up this annual review I’ll be putting together a pick n’ mix of 2015’s best shots. These were followed up by another yearly tradition, my annual end of Christmas shot. Every year when we take down our Christmas tree I take a shot to commemorate the end of the holiday season and the return to work. Admittedly they’re usually very similar, and last year I posted two shots, so there was at least one not the same as the others. I’ve not taken this year’s photo yet, I’m not sure what it’ll be but I’ve a half-baked idea I want to try.

At this point in the year I was running to a schedule, posting every Tuesday apart a few time-specific exceptions. Following The End of Xmas I turned back to the images from my 2014 European road trip with a set of images from Turin. The photos from that whole trip are some of the best I’ve done, and I liked being able to release them city-by-city in obvious, spaced out batches. In the past I’ve released such sets one after the other without breaks and oversaturated myself.

January also contained yet another annual tradition, my marking of the anniversary of this site with a self portrait. The theory is that the image shows off some element of what I’ve learned over the previous year, within the confines of it still being essentially a mirror selfie. I’m not sure what 2016’s shot will be, as most of what I’ve done over the last twelve months isn’t easily applied to such a shot.

I closed out a busy January with some closeup shots of some chocolate – a lesson in macro flash photography, and coincidentally the company who made the chocolate around the same time started using very similar shots on their website and in their cafes – and some long exposure shots of London, which has been one of my main areas of development in 2015.

Shot of the Month:

??????sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm
??????sec, f/11, ISO 100, 24mm

February

February started with a random opportunity post, as I was able to go and [shoot the London basketball team the London Lions] in a competitive British Basketball Association match. We were allowed to photograph the match in exchange for the team being able to use some of the shots we took for promotional purposes. I’ve no idea if mine were used, but at least one of the players saw tweeted one of the images of him in his pre-game and liked it:

This was followed by the first of a number of collaborations during the year with my friend Catherine. Our first walk of the year was a night walk in London near Tower Bridge, that became London at Night V. A night walk in February was probably not well advised, we cut it arguably a bit short due to losing sensation in our hands in the cold (it seems hard to imagine such cold now, after such a mild start to winter). This was followed by a tangent post from the same walk of some lit fountains near City Hall which I felt were too much of an aside to sit in the main post. February closed out with my twentieth Instagram post.

Shot of the Month:

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm

March

March started with another post from the 2014 road trip, which for the first time in 2015 was a couple of days late from my usual Tuesday schedule. The post was also probably one of the weaker of the road trip sets, with not quite as many interesting shots as the others, as I struggled to get the best out of the harsh Mediterranean greenery we were in.

Another Catherine collaboration followed, West End Wander, probably one of my favourite sets of the year. Another evening traipse through bits of London, it was one of those occasions when everthing seemed to click and I got some great shots, including quite a few during golden hour, the timing of which was somewhat a fortuitous accident.

March also saw the rivival of my Random Gems series, where I put the one-off shots that I want to share but won’t fit anywhere else. That has proved to be my most recent Gems set, and I think the strongest. There’s probably a few elements floating around to start composing a fifth entry, once I’m back on top of things.

March closed out with another road trip collection, featuring the pictures I took on our return to the Gorges du Verdon. I didn’t get anywhere near as great shots of the gorge itself on this trip compared to when we first visited it four years previously, but we were able to spend a lot more time in the wonderful town of Moustiers Sainte-Marie, where we were rained on heavily the first time.

Shot of the Month:

f/5, ISO 100, 50mm (HDR)
f/5, ISO 100, 50mm (HDR)

April

We were back to familiar haunts in April, which opened with a return to Borough Market with Catherine. This post was always going to have a lot to live up to; my first outing there in 2012 was unbelievably successful, hitting the front page of WordPress.com and drawing in tens of thousands of views (and a number of subscribers who still follow to this day). Despite the competition, the return trip went pretty well, with a decent number of great shots which, importantly for me, were different enough to the ones I got three years previously. The trip would have felt a bit of a waste if three years of development as a photographer could only result in me taking the same photos again.

The next post in April also returned to a familiar spot: Swanage. We visit there often, and will certainly be going there again before too long. This trip added a little of something different, as the day we visited this time was a very foggy one, encouraging me to get my camera out and photograph some familiar sights in not—so-familiar settings.

Yet a third return followed: back to London for a small collection based on a short wander. There were some decent enough shots in there but not really anything to write home about.

I missed the last Tuesday in April for reasons I can no longer remember. Having a posting schedule had for the most part kept me on my toes and posting constantly, but the scheme was beginning to show its cracks.

Shot of the Month:

1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm
1/320sec, f/1.4, ISO 500, 50mm

May

May started out with April’s monthly review, which would prove to be my last. I had found that trying to squeeze in a roundup post on the first day of every month was getting in the way of the schedule I was trying to stick to, and when they could sometimes take a couple of days to write they would eat into my time to edit and publish photographs, which is after all the main purpose for this site and one of the bits of this hobby of mine that I enjoy the most.

Following the monthly review, May fell quiet for a few weeks until the middle of the month when I published Macro Vinyl, one of my random playing-about-at-home posts where I played about getting a few extreme closeups of my record player. I liked the shots, but the post didn’t get any comments and only two likes, breaking a decent run of well-recieved posts with comments and likes.

The only other post in May was my penultimate set from the European road trip, our layover in Lyon. Definitely a stronger set than some of the others from the tour such as Massif De L’Esterel but not as good as some of the ones from the journey down.

Shot of the Month:

1/100, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm
1/100, f/2.8, ISO 2000, 100mm

June

June went very wrong. There was only post in the month, right in the middle. It was a decent one, a long-oversue set of a lot of the photographs of my cats I’d taken over the preceding six months or so. Such is the way for a post involving cats, it was pretty popular.

Shot of the Month:

1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/1250sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

July

July started with a new posting schedule: every Friday. I had decided that part of the problem of Tuesday posts was it didn’t give me enough time to process anything I’d shot at the weekend. Keeping up started to be a problem when my backlog became lighter and eventually everything fell off the rails entirely. Friday posts give me a week to get everything together and published, and left the weekends for shooting.

July’s first Friday post was the final set from Europe, our return leg through Reims. It was great to return to the city not so exhausted and have another explore, and get a pretty different (and I think, better) set of shots. I’m still amazingly proud of that whole holiday. We drove our own way across chunks of Europe visiting a slew of places we’d not been before, including over the Alps, and into Turin, and we did it off our own backs in our own car, and I got to drive some incredible roads and take some great photographs along the way. We don’t currently have any plans for another such epic trip, but I certainly would love to do another some day.

It took so long to post all of the sets from 2014’s summer holiday that – buffered only by a quick Instagram collection – it bumped up next to the start of the sets from 2015’s summer trip to DorsetBournemouth Aquarium was not my first trip to an aquarium to take pictures, so I was ready for most of the pitfalls meaning the shots actually turned out pretty well.

Shot of the Month:

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 40mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 100, 40mm

August

Things fell pretty quiet again after that post. It was six weeks – virtually to the end of August – before I published anything else. Another collaboration with Catherine followed, this time the set was from the first half of a walk we did starting at St Dunstan in the East before heading elsewhere. My collaborations with Catherine have proven to be amongst the best shots I’ve taken all year. We’ve a few we didn’t get to do this year that we hope to do in 2016, so hopefully that trend will continue.

Shot of the Month:

1/100sec, f/8, ISO 250, 24mm
1/100sec, f/8, ISO 250, 24mm

September

August’s only post was the start of 2015’s last unbroken run of posts that stretched all the way through September and almost to the end of October.

September opened with another Dorset post, and a slightly abstract one of some of the wild flowers we’d seen on our holiday. This was followed by one of my favourite posts of the year, mainly because it was to me a proper old-school Creative Splurges post the likes of which I’ve not done for a while. 60163 Tornado came about because I, purely by chance, had found out that a steam train would be passing through my local train station that weekend. So I headed out with my camera, took a bunch of pictures, took them home and edited them, and posted them in relatively short order. It took me back to the old days of this site when I seemed to stumble into photo opportunties more readily and get them posted quickly. There might be something in there to take from this.

The Friday schedule meant that there would be a post on my anniversary. As we’d hit five years, I wanted to mark it, so fortunately my wife Holly agreed to participate in some portraits of the both of us for the occasion. I think the shots would have been better had I not been attempting to be in them as well (based on what I’ve accompished in portraiture this year) but they came out pretty well.

September closed out with another steam train, this time the one in Swanage. Despite visiting the area so much I’d not photographed the Swanage Railway in much detail before. I decided that most of the shots would benefit from being edited into a oldschool style, so most were either monochrome or largely desaturated. As we also rode the railway, I noted a few spots along the track I should visit next time to get some more impressive shots.

Shot of the Month:

1/100sec, f/4, ISO 125, 35mm
1/100sec, f/4, ISO 125, 35mm

October

October returned to the remainder of the walk that started with St Dunstan in the East. City of London was quite a different beast, which is part of the reason I split the walk into two. The latter was probably the stronger of the posts, I think I managed to get more out of the varied architecture of the City than the remains of a church.

Bath followed, a set of images from a weekend getaway to an altogether different city. This is one of those occasions where I’ve returned to somewhere I’ve not visited in almost a decade, since before the days of Creative Splurges or even me owning a DSLR, where I knew the photographs I got at the time would not compare to what I’m capable of now. I hope this shows through in the post, as I made use of a variety of techniques that would have been alien to me conceptually and likely impossible with the technology available to me at the time in 2005 when I first visited. Just skimming the post I can see panoramic shots stiched together from multiple exposures, HDR shots, sun flares, and confident landscape and street photography, most of which I’d stuggle with two years ago, let alone ten.

The next post was Swanage Lifeboat, which arguably is one of those times when I spend a little too much time exploring a single subject. I’m not sure anyone else appreciated a dozen photographs of an orange boat, but that boat and that livery has been a big part of my childhood. Call it therapy or something. The strangest part about that post was the comment, which was from the owner of a stall that I photographed [several years ago] but is apparently still popping into this site from time to time to show off the pictures of.

The last post of October – and what would emerge to be the penultimate post of 2015 – was another quick Instagram set. That’s 22 installments now over almost five years, which makes me feel pretty proud that I hard the foresight to call the first set Instagram #1 all the way back in 2011.

Shot of the Month:

1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 250, 28mm
1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 250, 28mm

November

November’s only post was Rugby World Cup. For six weeks the world was in our back yard enjoying an incredible tournament, and for the most part we stayed in and hid from it. But it’s not often something so significant happens so close, so on final day I ventured out into the wilds to get some shots of the melée. I was also encouraged by another fortuitous discovery: the Red Arrows would be flying past at kickoff. I managed to get some decent shots of the stadium, the people surrounding it, and the planes flying over it. I thought the post was pretty good, but the post was largely ignored: no comments and no likes makes it essentially the worst post I’ve ever published, based on the limited metrics I have available to me.

Shot of the Month:

1/200, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm
1/200, f/8, ISO 100, 24mm

December

Yeah. Oops.

2016

So in general, 2015 was a bit of hit-and-miss. Overall I think the quality of the images I’ve out out has been pretty good, but when it comes down to it I’ve been pretty bad at going out and shooting new material. Where I have done well at this is going on photo walks with Catherine. We managed four walks in 2015, which is a little shy of the unofficial six we were aiming for, but the two we were short were planned, and should hopefully take place before too long in 2016.

This is usually the point in the review where I check myself off against my photographic resolutions for the year that I planned in last year’s review. There I talked about buying the 50mm f/1.4 which I did, getting back into my posting routine which happened for the most part, although it fell down a few times over the year, and going on more group photo walks which I haven’t done (but it’s looking like my walks with Catherine will be expanding to a few more people the next time out). I also failed to return to the Greenwood as a paid photographer, but I can’t blame myself for that one – not only is it ultimately out of my control, but I was actually invited in 2015, but by a bit of a disorganised group that only properly asked me on the show’s final night, when I didn’t have any of my gear with me. I have also been approached by someone at work to phtograph another event as an external photographer, but I clearly need to be cautious about how I approach that one. Work have also had me taking a number of headshots of the managers in our department, although this is in a bit of a greyer area – I’m doing it as a member of staff, but technically on my own time and with my own kit, so the copyright stays with me. I’ve still deemed it not entirely approriate to share the shots here, which is a bit of a shame as they’re simply the best portrait shots I’ve ever taken. Hopefully in 2016 I’ll be in a position to share them, but breaths should not be held just yet.

At this time of year WordPress shares with me a report of the site over the last year. This year it’s been interesting to compare 2015 with 2014’s data.  The key points that stood out to me:

  • In 2015 I published 38 posts, 20 less than 2014’s 58
  • Despite this, 2015 had 4,400 views, only 200 less than 2014’s 4,600
  • The most popular post of the year was 2013’s Boscastle Pottery which shows that post’s staying power. The next most popular post (and the most popular actually from 2015) was London Lions.

Looking forward to 2016, what do I hope to achieve? What resolutions should I lay down, completely ignore, and then inadvertently complete anyway at some point over the course of the year, as I have with all previous site resolutions?

Let’s start with the obvious one: get back into a routine. Right now I’ve been away from this site for almost ten weeks, and I’ve not really been shooting a huge amount either. I have a few sets in the backlog right now, but even so I’m only targeting posting every other Friday to begin with. I’m going to throw going on a paid photography gig in there too, because hopefully that will happen. The only other thing I want to pledge to do is go out shooting at least semi-frequently, because that’s where I’ve been most lacking in 2015.

Happy New Year.

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