2019: A Photographic Retrospective

It is that time again where one looks back over the past year; for many photographers this also means choosing a selection of photos of particular significance. In my case, for the last several years I have been choosing twelve photos published on this blog, presenting them as a retrospective. This started for me with Jim Goldstein’s annual project, and as usual I have submitted this entry there. If you’re interested, you can also see my earlier selections for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

If you’re here just for the photos, skip down to the bottom of this post for a gallery. Otherwise I’ll start with a summary of this year and then will say a few things about each of my chosen photos.

The trend this year follows the previous one, but to a greater degree. Work has been particularly busy, but between becoming head of department and getting the green light on an interesting project where I’m the principal investigator, it’s hardly surprising. Photographically, volume has continued to increase, which I think is a good thing. Again, part of this is due to increased travel over the last few years. This year I’ve been to Laval, Kingston (and London and Guildford, of course), Geneva, Wellington, Sydney, and Grenoble, besides our annual vacation in the English lake district. R joined me in Kingston and it was great to meet up with friends in London and Guildford. Can’t believe it’s already more than five years since moving back to Malta. However, the number of photos processed has decreased, which is not a good sign. Part of this is because many travel photos are more of a souvenir, but partly it’s also because I have been slacking a bit with my processing. I have a significant backlog to work through yet. This is reflected in my choice of photos for this year: three photos are from England, the remaining nine from Malta.

With respect to gear, I have added another two lenses (yeah, I know) this year (well, since my last retrospective, actually), both fully manual lenses from Samyang. The first, acquired about this time last year, is the 24mm tilt-shift lens. This is a very specialist lens, allowing movements that would normally only be possible in a view camera. I had been hankering over getting one for a very long time and finally took the plunge. It was a good decision, as I found I really enjoy using this lens. The second is the 14mm f/2.8. Idea here was to fill a small gap for the odd case where my 17mm isn’t wide enough and for night photography, where the larger field of view and wider aperture are both useful. Given the lower cost of these manual lenses, it was worth it. It’s interesting to see how gear is reflected in my selection: one photo was taken with my EOS M5, the rest with the 6D; in terms of lenses, five were taken with the 24mm tilt-shift, the remaining seven are a mixed bag (100mm macro, 150-600mm, 70-200mm, 17-40mm). None of the chosen photos are film, because I haven’t been shooting much of that. Much as I enjoy shooting and developing film, I suppose I still need to figure out where that fits in my photography. The irony, of course, is that of the prints that hang at home, I think I’m happiest with my B&W film prints.

As for the last few years, I remain an enthusiastic rock climber. Few other activities bring me the same sense of peace, adventure, and personal achievement. I have kept to the same approximate level of engagement as last year, having been out climbing on 82 days so far this year, compared to 83 over 2018. Trad climbing continues to be a big part of this, with most of my news sends being in that style. So far, this year, I have ticked 54 routes that I had not done before. This brings my lifetime trad leads up to 76 routes, including two at E1 grade and a first ascent (meanwhile sport leads is at 177). I also managed to swim every so often in summer and headed out for a few walks in the cooler months. A couple of these walks I have shared on the blog, for others who may want to explore our countryside.

The selection of photos follows the same philosophy as previous years. These are not necessarily my best photos, but merely twelve photos that are meaningful to me, and also representative of my work.

Now that we’re done with all that preamble, allow me to present the chosen photos in a sort-of thematic order below.

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Golden Light. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

I’ll start with photos from our stay in Cumbria. And the first of these is from an evening outing to Castlerigg Stone Circle, specifically for photography. I already have photos of the stone circle itself that I’m happy with, so I focused on other options, and this location never seems to disappoint. While conditions nearby weren’t great, I could see some light in the distance, so I hooked up my long telephoto and headed upfield. I have several photos that I really like from this session, but chose only one for this series.

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Ullswater from Heron Pike. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

The next photo is from my first walk in the lakes this year. And a very enjoyable walk it was, though the steep descent from Heron Pike caused me some pain in the following days. The views were amazing throughout the walk, and the atmosphere was exactly what I associate with lakeland.

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Carlisle Cathedral. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

For the first time this year we also visited Carlisle, and started with the cathedral there. I have a thing for English Gothic buildings, and Carlisle has a jewel in its medieval cathedral.

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Triton Fountain. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

The next two photos are both from Valletta, on my first outing with the 24mm tilt-shift lens, about this time last year. This lens is just the thing for architecture photos, and to be honest I really enjoyed the slower completely manual process. For years I have toyed with the idea of getting myself a view camera, to shoot B&W film and develop myself. I might get to do that eventually, who knows, but with this lens in my kit there is much less reason to. The photo above shows the Triton fountain, just outside city gate, while the next photo, below, shows the new parliament building, just inside.

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New Parliament Building. (Click on the photo for added detail.)
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Tower and Veiled Moon. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

Earlier this year there was a total lunar eclipse, for which I made plans with a good friend of mine who also enjoys photography. It’s not often that you start the day well before sunrise with a drive up to a beautiful place and spend some time in the cold making photos. After sunrise, we packed up, and headed to work. This photo too is with the tilt-shift lens.

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Kappella tal-Kunċizzjoni Immakulata. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

This year I also made an effort to get more work done on my chapels project. I wanted to do more photography, so having a long-term project helped. The tilt-shift also opened up more possibilities, which helps. However, I almost never head out with just the one lens, as it’s hard to predict what works best. In this case, after taking photos of this chapel with the tilt-shift, I switched to a telephoto lens and walked around to look for other points of view. It so happened that the sky turned apocalyptic, which I made the most of here. (Yes, the sky really was that colour. No, it was not enhanced or changed in post.)

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San Pawl tat-Tarġa. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

Continuing with the chapels series, I’m particularly happy with how this photo turned out. It required some imaginative use of the lens, as I needed to shift both horizontally and vertically. In the case of a view camera, this is easy, as there are usually independent movements. On a 35mm camera, however, it’s a bit more complicated, as the lens only allows shift in one axis. The solution, of course, is to use a diagonal axis, but at this point I was at the extreme of the available movement.

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Madonna tal-Providenza. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

This photo is from another outing specifically for photographing chapels, again with the tilt-shift lens. The chapel is rather particular, and R insisted this photo should really be in the series.

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Ħabb il-Qamħ tar-Raba’. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

We had a lovely spring this year, following a winter where the rain was nicely paced, allowing the ground to soak well. Consequently, I took the opportunity to make a good collection of flower and nature photos, many in a single session in nearby Wied il-Għasel. I had to pick only one for this set, and I went with this portrait of Ħabb il-Qamħ.

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Ħamrija Tower and Headlands. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

You’ll have probably noticed that so far there haven’t really been any Maltese landscape photos, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been out to enjoy the country. Mostly I’d be out climbing, and sometimes I’d take my EOS M5 with me. Which is great when the light is fading and conditions are good, as happened with the photo above. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. And the M5 sure beats a smartphone.

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Crashing Waves at Ras Ħanżir. (Click on the photo for added detail.)

Finally, I’ll end with a photo I only took this weekend, and just shared on this blog yesterday. I’ve said before that when one visits a new place, it’s easy to make the first few photos, usually of the obvious points of view. You know, the kind that become iconic. But the more often one visits, the more one gets to know a place, and I think the more meaningful and revealing the photos become. For many places in Malta, I think I’m well beyond the obvious at this stage. Which is not a bad thing.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this selection. You can also see the selection as a gallery below; click on the gallery to navigate through the images.

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