The year is out, and what a year it’s been! I’ll start with the numbers: –
Air Miles – 21,239 (34,180km)
Flights – 21
Motorbike adventure miles – c.5,750 (9,253km)
Countries – 17 (two twice, one three times)
Rental cars – 9
Rental car mileage – c.6,364 (10,243km)
Lonely Planet International Coffee Hunt shots – 20
It’s certainly been an awesome year overall, and I’d particularly like to give big thanks to the following legends in no particular order: –
Peter Treadway, Scott Kelby, Erik Kuna, Mimo Meidany, Roberto Pisconti, Cathy Weatherston, Mike Kubeisy, Christina Sauer, JR Maddox, Fernando Santos, Juan Alfonso, Gilmar Smith, Larry Tiefenbrun, Noah Christensen, Ajna Adams, Rachel Scott, Sam Haddix, Doug Young, Mike McCaskey, Kaylee Greer, Jeff Kelby, Mark Yarnall, Kim Doty, Robert Vanelli, Alistair Hornsby, LaRae Lobdell, Devon Shuman, Elliot Vernon, Eliana Figueroa, Jim Levack, Alex Herbert, Morgan Brechler, Maria McKenzie, Stephen Midgley, Emily Frost, Andrew Fletcher, John Parry, Lee Simpson, Johnny Allen, Andrew Kavanagh, my Mum, my Dad, my sister, my Tiger, and c.30k followers on social media.
It’s these awesome people who have either pushed me, inspired me, or facilitated my thoughts through the course of 2018, and it’s to these people who I owe an incredible debt of gratitude which in many cases I feel I may never be able to pay.
These people represent KelbyOne, Platypod, BlackRapid, Lonely Planet, Passion Passport, Drobo, Wandrd, Triumph. They represent every member of Team Epic. They represent countries, cultures, and industries worldwide. They are professional relationships, and they are personal relationships. My closest friends are in that list, and my inspirations are in there too.
The customers of my images this year have included Microsoft, ESPN, BBC, The Guardian, Electronic Arts, Telegraph Media, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast, Boeing, NBC, The Sun, and countless marketing and publishing agencies.
My highlights from the year have been hard work to compile because, honestly, there have been too many highlights to mention. I’ll give it a go. 2017 was the year that my photography started to turn profit, rather than fund itself. 2018 then became the year that it was turning enough profit that I am now the proud owner of a shiny new Triumph Explorer and Audi A3, which makes me incredibly proud and which both enable me to explore much more in the UK than before when I stubbornly decided that I didn’t need wheels. The move out of London that happened this year was perhaps the realisation that maybe I was wrong! Having broadened my reach and now started to concentrate hard on education as well as travel photography and writing, 2018 was a great year for both establishing and firming relationships with some great people and great companies. The companies I push and promote are the ones I believe in and who’s products I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, and so having these relationships is a big deal to me.
It’s with great pride that I have become the importer of Platypod products to the UK and Europe, and aside from the relatively boring aspect of having had to register a VAT number and deal with customs over import duties, everything else concerned is great fun. I’m working closely with Platypod, providing content for their blog and assisting with judging their brilliant contests among other things, and I love where this relationship is heading. You can see my latest post for Platypod right here.
BlackRapid is another brand that I am really enjoying representing. I’ve been a BlackRapid user for years, and to now be involved with them in projects is like an awesome recognition that perhaps they like me as much as I like them. In my office right now I have a box of BlackRapid Sport Breathe straps which will be given away as prizes on my upcoming photowalks, so keep an eye on those when the weather in the UK gets better! You can take a look at my favourite BlackRapid blog post right here.
In March and April I rode a ridiculous distance on my motorcycle owing to a ridiculous idea I had. I wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean Road so in order to feel and experience it I headed from London to Norway, rising in excess fo 3,500 miles in all weathers (even torrential rain in Denmark and Germany, and ice and snow in Norway) and had to take the Channel Tunnel Train and a ferry, too. You can see the story right here.
Passion Passport featured me and my work, but perhaps the most interesting thing for me was to go totally off-piste and not feature photography or travel writing, but to be interviewed as a traveller on what I do on layovers. It’s right here.
My favourite country in the world, Iceland, featured three times this year. I really can’t get enough of it, and next year I’ll be tandem-leading a workshop there so if you’re interested in some hands-on, expert guidance through landscape and travel photography in the worlds most stunning destination, watch this space!
With regards to broadening the educational aspect of what I do I owe thanks to Andrew Kavanagh for having me run a webinar on the incredibly popular Facebook group Photoshop and Photography, and to Lee Simpson for having me deliver a seminar late this year at Sim Imaging, but the biggest deal for me was shooting a class on Cinematic Drone Photography in Italy early this year which has now been released on KelbyOne, as well as having numerous features in Photoshop User Magazine and continuing to hold the title of the only regular contributor on Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider where I write the #TravelTuesday column every week.
Right, enough waffle, here are some of my favourite pictures from the year: –
What 2018 has taught me is quite substantial. It’s honestly been quite a tricky year. My mates and my sister will back me up on that, having been on the receiving end of my problems that require solving. The travelling has given me time to myself, and although I love good company there’s nothing quite as relieving as being on a flight and having no e-mails or messages come through for that little bit of time. That time is thinking time, and is often accompanied by a little writing or retouching, but thinking is the most important part. Thinking about how and why my thirst for travel began always leads me to a question, but that question is far too deep and may not actually have an answer. I find myself searching for meaning. I started to travel a lot at a time in my life when I thought everything was mapped out but turned out not to be, and similarly I began 2018 thinking that everything was mapped out but again, I was wrong.
My journey into photography began at the age of 14, and the initial progress was very, very slow. With a film in the back of the camera rather than a screen it was a long series of lessons to learn about what all the buttons and dials did rather than instant feedback, and this developed (get it?) a passion over time for photography. I never studied it officially, rather I learned from books, tutorials, and trying to recreate things I had seen. The resulting series of water splashes, macro insects, terrible portraits, light painting and wire wool spinning, garishly over-saturated landscapes, terribly off-colour scenes and selectively coloured flowers all contributed to the style I have now, which obviously is largely nothing to do with replicating any of those catastrophic fails ever again! The travel came into it a few years ago when, deciding at a turning point in my life where some things had fallen apart that I wanted to see 30 countries by 30, I set off on the challenge. I didn’t make it, I was at 28 by 30 but that was quite an achievement considering the starting number was something like 9 and I was 28 when I set myself this ambitious goal. I’m so glad I decided to go experience the world, and I firmly believe that I have learned some serious life lessons in the process. Wherever you go becomes a part of you, and all that translates and becomes interpreted in some way to become a part of my outlook on life. It’s strange feeling that I don’t belong anywhere in particular and that my favourite place in the world isn’t in my home country, but having no remaining connection to the place I grew up in and having moved around the country through my late teens and early twenties with the job I did, and having also lived in South Africa, I feel quite comfortable with not really having a place to call home but rather being one of those ‘wherever I lay my hat’ kind of guys. Taking this through into 2018 and applying all that I have learned in the past I can now say that I have, according to the app ‘Been,’ set foot in 39 countries across the globe at the age of 33, with that number set to hit 40 by February with the plans I currently have and potentially 42 by April if my ambitious plans for the remainder of the winter come to life. Siberia and the Faroe Islands, if you were wondering.
I’ve had quite a few people follow my adventures, cast their eyes over the photos I make, skim through the words I write and listen to the words I say, and it’s given me perhaps an over-inflated sense of self worth which I constantly have to keep in check. Being recognised is now a thing and it’s so strange, but so nice at the same time. When it happened at the side of the road in Norway and a lovely French chap came and asked me to take a look at the photos he’d taken before revealing that he knew who I was and liked mine was the strangest thing, but it’s a reminder that my plan is working! At the wise old age of 33 I will bestow upon you, once again, the lessons I have learned. I have a dream, and my dream is becoming reality. But you don’t always have to have a dream. I didn’t used to. Whatever I do I focus on to the best of my ability, and it is from the achievements gained that I have learned that passionate dedication, ambition, and hard work filled with pride on the pursuits worth taking is far more fulfilling than having that large, over-arching dream. Happiness results from little bits of hard work, rather than by searching for happiness from the off.
The phrase that’s popped up throughout the year is ‘you’re so lucky’ but I counter that with the fact that I create my own luck. We all do. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Luck is the result of hard work, and that hard work spins around into success, which in turn creates that happiness which I create for others, and therefore for myself. Sounds a little pompous, I realise that, but what I’m doing when I’m making photos is wanting people to want to be there in the photo, to feel they can smell it and hear it as well as just see it, and in achieving that I become very, very happy.
Be hard on your self-critique and praise those around you who deserve it. The industry we are in as photographers and creatives is difficult enough. We must think critically about ourselves, be constructive to others, and identify our bias and be aware of it. Acquire an understanding through observation, reverse engineering, listening, and most importantly through sharing. Share with others. Go on photowalks and meet-ups, talk to your peers, engage in online forums and communities, and perhaps even earn yourself one of those ‘Top Fan’ badges on Facebook awarded to those who engage. Make friends all around, not just with those who you admire. Being friends with the rich and famous is cool, however it’s a two way street and the rich and famous don’t get to where they are without the masses, so to that end I don’t care if you’re the most powerful person in the room, I will judge you by the way you treat those around you. No matter who you are, no matter your status or worth, please share, and please give your industry strength and meaning.
In 2019 I will be doing this. I’ll be giving my time and attention to the people who see my worth through my little annoyances. I’ll be focusing on giving effort to the things that matter. I’ll be taking care to give my words meaning. In my adventures I’ll either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. At the end of 2018 someone who was already a part of my life stepped forward and became a huge part of it. The thing is it’s not as easy as you would think – it never is. My personality is dynamic, my passion is strong, and my energy is often overwhelming. It’s those things that drive my career and cause me to be commanding and compelling, but I haven’t yet translated those qualities into other aspects of life but the time to do that is now. One thing is absolutely true to say and that is that one day someone will walk into your life and make you see why it never worked out with anyone else.
And with the review of 2018 now complete, back to that question – that purpose I mentioned. That question that always pops up. Everything we do is tough, is full of ups and downs, and we wonder why. The 13.8 billion years that passed before us must’ve had meaning, but trust us humans to think that the meaning must have something to do with us. The meaning of life is to give life meaning, so give your life meaning. Fill it up with happiness. Happiness for everyone. Learn all that you can. Demonstrate compassion, humility, be the person your dog thinks you are, and share!