Over the last few weeks, in what has become an annual event, I went through the photos that I shared on this blog over the last year, choosing twelve photos for sharing again in this retrospective. As usual, this means that the photos have appeared on this blog since I published the last retrospective, but may have been taken earlier. For those who are interested, the retrospectives from previous years are still available.
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 brief review of the year and then will say a few things about each of my chosen photos.
Like last year, this has been a strange year. The pandemic has of course lingered on, and most of us have been through cycles of near-lockdown to almost-normality, due to the vagaries of human nature. In many countries the vaccines have really helped, though it beggars belief that there are still many who refuse them for the most irrational reasons. And often keep behaving in the most narcissistic and egotistic manner possible. It is enough to make one despair of humankind. Thankfully, on my side, work has continued much as before, except of course that human contact has decreased significantly, and this is now really taking its toll. I also seriously miss the travel and networking opportunities that my work usually provided. Sure, we still kept in touch with contacts through Zoom etc. but it’s not the same. The work does continue but the human connection is lessened. One positive outcome, though, has been the reduced impact of traffic when a commute is not necessary.
On a personal level, this year has been even worse than the previous one, due to health issues in the family. Between that and the consequences of the pandemic, my extracurricular activities have been rather haphazard. For starters, we had to once again cancel our plans for a break in the English lake district. This means, of course, that there are no travel photos this year. I did continue running until the warmer months crept in and it all became unbearable. This was rather easier to maintain than anything else, as it required practically no planning and no partners. In the warmer months it was easy enough to replace this with a swim in the sea – something that I managed to do every week this summer. I also took up weight training rather more seriously than ever before, and ended up getting myself a proper rack (necessary for safety) and Olympic bar and bumper plates. I’m not really the gym type, so if it had to happen, it would have to be at home. While this kind of activity is normally thought of as the preserve of the young, I find it even more useful as I grow older, and hope to keep this going for a long time ahead.
Climbing was a bit trickier to manage, initially because I just couldn’t afford to be away for several hours, and lately due to unavailability of climbing partners, for various reasons. I did take the opportunity whenever it presented itself, mostly over summer, which turned out to be a good thing. I generally look forward to the winter months for climbing; sadly this year this has been rather limited. I like to think that my climbing has improved, in any case, and perhaps it has, after all. Just a few weeks ago I on-sighted a couple 6b’s, and repeated without much difficulty another 6b that had given me a hard time when I sent it a few years ago. Seems like I just need to test myself more on harder routes. Unfortunately, I haven’t attempted any routes in the 7th grade this year. This is something I need to fix when I get to climb more regularly again.
When I couldn’t climb, I also continued with my country walks. As by now I had repeated my usual walks a few times, I also took the plunge to explore new possibilities for interesting circular routes. There were times I had to backtrack, finding access blocked, but there were enough successes to make the whole thing rather enjoyable. Eventually, this led to me to consider writing up a book of country walks in Malta. Actually, I have largely written up the first draft for the Malta walks, needing only to choose a few photos to illustrate them, and write up the introductory sections. All that remains then is to add a few walks in Gozo.
Photography, unfortunately, has been left a bit on the back burner in all this. Most of my photo outings were related to my ongoing chapels project. In that sense, it is good to have such a long term project. Otherwise, it was simply a matter of taking the camera with me when out on a walk or climbing. Most often this meant taking the small mirrorless camera, which while a very capable piece of gear, does limit one’s options. On a few of these outings, though, I did plan to take photos, so took more comprehensive photo gear with me.
So with that, let me present my selection of photos below. I kept to the same philosophy as previous years: these are not necessarily my best photos, but merely twelve photos that are meaningful to me, and generally representative of my work over the last year.
Given that most of my photography outings were related to my ongoing chapels project, I thought I’d start this year’s series with one of these. Specifically, I picked this abandoned cemetery chapel below the walls of the old city of Mdina, because it’s a view I had long been thinking about shooting, and finally did.
Continuing with the chapels series, this year I made another photo of the chapel at Mtaħleb. The walk starting from there is one of my favourites on the island, and on one occasion this year I did this walk in the afternoon, getting back to the chapel near sunset.
As I reviewed my selection for this year I also realised how my choice of gear has rather converged to a small set of preferred combinations. For the chapels, I find that I mostly shoot these with my 6D and the 24mm tilt-shift lens. In this particular case, I wanted a wider field of view, so I stitched two photos with this lens, which is easily done when there is only a shift between the photos. This particular chapel, which has some interesting history, happens to be at the start of another lovely walk, through Wied Qirda and Wied Ħanżir.
While not quite part of my chapels series, I’m also including here a photo of our parish church on the feast day. I headed down there for a quick photo shoot this year, knowing there would be much less people than usual due to the pandemic. The pjazza would normally be packed with people, as they awaited the issue of the statue for the procession though the village. (This year, of course, all external activities were cancelled.)
One day, when R was feeling up for a stroll, we headed to Mdina for a walk among the narrow city streets. This is something we’ve often done before, and it was a good feeling to be able to do this again.
Often enough, good photos happen as a matter of chance. I was repeating a walk I had not done in a while, and on a steep uphill section I came across a view that I didn’t really remember from my first time there. I’m sure the wild flowers played a big part in this.
Not all climbing outings were cancelled due to lack of partners. On the odd occasion, the weather also had something to do with it. In this case, Hendrik and I decided to chance the possibility of rain, and meet anyway in Lapsi. Unfortunately, the rain chased us all the way there, and the ground was utterly soaked by the time we arrived. So instead I put on my walking boots, and we attempted a walk from nearby Xaqqa. As we walked along the cliff, we could see the remains of the storm out at sea, and I took out my camera.
On some of the walks I actually planned to take photos, taking my usual selection of gear with me for that purpose. I ended up choosing three photos from this outing for this year’s retrospective, which is quite unusual. The first was the Mtaħleb chapel photo earlier. The second shows the cliffs at Ras id-Dawwara, with Filfla in the distance.
The third photo, above, shows the cliffs near Blata tal-Melħ, and the cliffs of Ta’ Ċenċ in Gozo in the distance.
Another productive photo walk was one I did in Miżieb in the spring. I picked two photos from this walk for this retrospective. The first shows the Maltese Swallowtail butterfly, having its fill on a thorn flower.
The second photo from this walk shows a male Sardinian Warbler resting on a twig, and keenly interested in what I was up to. Both these photos were with my mirrorless M5 and the big 150-600mm lens, which turns out to be an excellent combination for this kind of photography.
I also used the same combination (plus the 1.4x extender) when I went out to watch and shoot the Malta International Airshow in the early autumn. The star attraction here were the Red Arrows, a photo of which I picked to end this retrospective.
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.