Best photos of 2021

It’s perhaps a good indication of the sort of year that 2021 was, that when I looked at some photos from January, I genuinely didn’t believe they had been in the last year.
‘A photo of Uncle Jack Charles?! Wasn’t that 2 years ago!?’
‘A family camping trip to Wilson’s Prom? Didn’t we got to Narnia this year?’
Time and reality were at best ‘fluid’ for 2021, and at worst…well…2021. A LOT of time within 5kms of the house, and VERY little time feeling relaxed and inspired enough to get creative.
But there were still photos to be had and moments to be captured, so without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top 10 photos of 2021!

Uncle Jack Charles

Admittedly it’s statistically impossible to take a bad photo of Uncle Jack…it’s still awesome when you do. If nothing else, it means you’ve had the chance for him to tell you a story about how being able to read and write offered him protection in Pentridge…or his first ever play at the Pram Factory…or about being a cat burglar.
He’s a genuine source of light, enthusiasm and warmth, and I think this shot captured that.

Uncle Jack Charles

The Prom

The focus for this trip to Wilson’s Prom was our first ever overnight hike…and so I decided to leave my camera gear at home and live or die by the iPhone.
This meant that on one day I was returning from a walk, when Katie and the kids were heading off in the kayaks. The sun was setting over the hills in the background, the kids were my mid-ground…and Katie was the foreground. The moment was only going last a few seconds, but that’s all it takes to take your phone out and take the shot!

Bear and cubs

Shantilly clad

If you’re a ‘proper’ photographer taking photos at a gig, you’re normally only allowed to take shots for the first three songs (don’t ask my why…I don’t make up the rules). Which usually means you’re frantically trying to get as many shots as you can for those three songs. But if you’re taking photos at a venue like the Wesley Anne, you can actually take the time to experiment and get something different!
In this case it was the old ‘hold a lens in front of your camera and take a shot through it’ trick.
Also this is a band called ‘Shantilly Clad’ who sing sea shanties…I had to make sure they made the top 10, purely for their name.

Shantilly Clad at The Wesley Anne

Preston fog

We have the level crossing removal work going on in Preston at the moment (for people outside of Melbourne, we have things called ‘level crossings’ that basically stop traffic to allow trains to go through…and we’re getting rid of them by elevating the train lines so that the trains can travel unimpeded…and cars can be stuck in traffic caused by other cars, rather than by trains). On one night had some really heavy fog, and I had borrowed a friends 12mm Samyang lens…and so I thought I’d put on my ‘street photographer’ hat and get some shots.
I was having some issues working out how to get the lens to focus when about 10 metres in front of me, this guy walked out of his front gate in a long coat and golf-cap. With his collar turned up and the thick fog, he looked like something from a le Carre spy novel and I tried desperately to get a shot. But by the time I’d sorted the focus, he was already too far away and so I took this shot as I walked after him.
I knew the shot I wanted to get, and this wasn’t it…but when I looked back at the photo a few days later…I really liked it.

As close to a ‘pea souper’ as we get in Preston.

Seagulls on the Portland pier

With the exponential improvements in camera technology, the ability to take a great photo has never been easier. So a lot of the challenge is now being there to take the photo…and having the patience to wait for the moment to play out.
I had originally been trying some long exposure shots, until I realised that the whole pier actually moved with the waves, and so getting a non-blurry long exposure was going to be impossible. I saw a few seagulls at the end of the pier under the light, and so I sauntered over to compose my shot, then waited for more to arrive. When enough had arrived I thought I had my shot…but then a few took off and I realised that was the shot I wanted. So I waited a bit longer until this moment.
It’s something that I’ve learnt from years of doing video work, sometimes you have to set up a shot, and then wait for someone or something to populate it. If this means you have to sit on a cold pier for an extra 10 minutes while local teens chuckle at the guy on all fours looking at seagulls…then this is the sacrifice you have to make for your art!

Patience is a virtue

Strike a pose

After years of taking photos, I would say I am very confident in my ability to capture a candid moment. An unscripted, spontaneous moment. But ask me to create that moment…and my confidence evaporates.
Getting people to pose in a way that makes them look good, is really hard!
So I watched an instructional video from Lindsay Adle and dragged Holly out in front of the camera…and this was one of the shots that I got.
There were a number of shots that didn’t work, and it was really interesting to see how a comfortable pose can make for an unflattering photo, while poses that felt terribly contrived looked great in the final product.

Strike a pose

Sunset over sea

It’s fair to say that the wind blows strong at Sandy Point…and usually onshore. So any day where the wind is down and the swell is up has to be taken advantage of. On this day we had arrived just after lunch and spent the arvo in the surf. After dinner I went down to the beach to take some photos and the surf looked so good, I ran back to the house, put the still damp boardshorts back on and charged back to the surf with Josh.
It was magic! The waves were being held up by a slight offshore breeze and the sun was setting through them just before they broke. It was a constant battle between catching the waves and capturing them.
This shot was taken on the GoPro as the last light from sun set over a softening sea.

One of the many advantages to an early evening surf session

Lisa Mitchell at the Corner Hotel

As someone who has attended quite a few gigs at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, it was pretty exciting to get to take some photos there. I demonstrated just how excited I was by taking about 15,000 photos.
I really love this shot because it shows some of the things I’ve learnt over the last 5 years.

  • When an opportunity presents itself…take it! Up until about 10 minutes before this gig I was still trying to sort out a problem for a job the next day, and nothing would have been easier than saying ‘no’ to travelling to Richmond on Thursday night to take some unpaid photos.
  • Try not to take the same photo again and again. Get low, get wide, get tight, look for reflections or interesting framing. I know I missed a few shots changing to get onto the wide-angle lens…but it was worth it!
  • Compostion counts – I was in ‘the pit’ (the fenced off section between the stage and the crowd) with two other photographers, and I had to work to get this position right in front of Lisa and then frame her between the foldback speakers
Lisa Mitchell at the Corner Hotel

Danny Ross

I’ve been lucky enough to have Danny Ross ask me to take photos of a few of his gigs. In a year when live music has taken such a pounding, getting to see Danny play live was a constant reminder of just how important live music is.
Up until this gig, I’d never taken shots of Danny with a proper lighting rig..and the way so much of this shot is blown out and faded but Danny’s face is still exposed properly…lets me know that I made the most of the opportunity.

Danny Ross at The Corner

After the storm

One of my COVID-19 habits has been to walk almost every day past ‘The Tannery’ skate park in Preston. It’s basically an abandoned lot that some local skaters have converted into a skate park.
I was on one of these walks just after a storm had passed the through and decided to duck in and see if there were any photo opportunities. The setting sunlight was diffused by all of the moisture in the air and the in the calm after the storm there was water on the ground and no wind in the air, making for the perfect conditions for a ‘reflection’ shot.
It was then just a question of getting down low and getting the framing right, setting the iPhone to RAW, convincing the dog to stop walking through shot…and then taking the photo.

Reflections and post-storm light

So there you go. 2021 in 10 photos. Three photos of live music, two photos on the phone, one on the GoPro, one on a $10K camera I borrowed from Fuji, and one on a lens borrowed from a friend. Pretty reflective of a year where it was hard to plan for anything, you had to take your opportunities where you found them, and where family and music were the most important things!