Photos of the Year: 2014

I certainly manage to get about for someone reliant on public transport. With the heavyweight Canon 500mm and 300mm lenses on my back, I certainly have no need for a gym subscription. Trains to Crawley, Horsham and Arundel and buses along to coast road to Friston Forest and Beachy Head mean I am well served with opportunities to visit beautiful and interesting locations. 2014 began mild, wet and windy. We enjoyed good weather in spring and high temperatures over July, peaking at about 28°C. Autumn lasted from September to early December, with one day in late October reaching 23°C. Climate change and increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide mean that trees can remain in leaf far longer than they could in the past. Some parts of Friston Forest were still nearly 100% green on 20th November.

A friend recently commented that my work is more focussed and settled than it was a few years ago. Creative blocks are a thing of the past, because I've learned to accept the mood I am in, rather than attempt to change it. Consequently, any creative blocks are like the passing weather and only last a day or two. Acceptance has not only helped me to stop taking photography too seriously, but it's made me a happier person.

I'd like to pick out the leaping Roe deer as my favourite photo of the year. It was the hardest shot to take, because the subject was very quick and elusive. I would pick out the first shot of Beachy Head as my second favourite. The bluebell woodland in April was like being surrounded by a 360° IMAX screen. My favourite occasion was on November 1st, when I left my camera at home and took two friends for a pub lunch and a walk in the forest. I felt proud to be sharing a special part of the world with them. And I now have two witnesses to prove that deer really do exist in Sussex!


Murmuration and West Pier

Starling Murmuration and West Pier, in a Hail Storm

The Famous Five

Leaping Roe Deer


Marbled White, female and male

Marbled White on Pyramid Orchid, Friston Forest

Rabbit in Meadow

Bluebell Wood

Friston Forest

Misty Forest Glade in Autumn

Accredited Herd

Kingston Ridge, June

S is for Sussex

Bread Basket

Fulking Escarpment

The Landscape is Changing

Enjoy the Silence

Night Life

Brighton Starlings | November 2014

Every autumn, starlings migrate to the British Isles to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. Some of these birds (about 40,000) spend the winter in parks, gardens and farmland around Brighton and Hove. In late afternoon, they fly to Brighton Pier, where they gather in fluid-like murmurations, before roosting for the night underneath the pier structure. It is thought that starlings began using Brighton Pier (and formerly the West Pier) to roost after the Great Storm of 1987, when gusts of 115mph felled millions of trees across Sussex. 

Although no-one knows exactly why starlings form murmurations, it is thought to be a multi-purpose behaviour. Starlings benefit from safety in numbers and generate collective body heat to survive the night ahead. Each bird shadows seven of its neighbours, which accounts for why murmurations can rapidly change shape, speed and direction. Should a bird of prey attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will usually pass straight through, because it only takes the initial evasive action of a single starling to feed through to neighbouring birds. I've even seen murmurations react to low flying light aircraft, suddenly forming a very compact group from a larger, looser swarm. There is competition within the murmurations for the most sheltered spots under the pier and it is thought that starlings prefer to roost next to stronger, healthier birds, as they are likely to fly off to the best quality feeding locations at dawn.

If you are planning to watch the starling murmurations this December, stand on the deck of Brighton Pier at least 30 minutes before sunset. Be patient, as the starlings can arrive late, but you'll be treated to a better display as the birds all arrive at once. The best views are either on the west side of the first games pavilion or to the east side of the Fish restaurant. Cold winds blow across the pier, so I use Merino wool thermals as a base layer and Lowe Alpine Cyclone gloves to keep my hands warm.

I run photography workshops on Brighton Pier for individuals and groups. Sessions are available on weekdays and weekends. For all the basic information on technique, lighting, composition and perspective at an affordable price, send me an email to book a session.

Starling Murmuration and West Pier


Egg Timer


Murmuration against evening sky

West Pier and Starlings at Sunset

Starlings flying at sunset

Brighton Starlings


Dusky West Pier and Starlings

Starlings, Brighton

Autumn in the Forest

I have always loved woodlands. They are places of great emotional sanctuary. I can spend hours wandering through the trees and glades, in a dream-like state, forgoing every worry and responsibility back home. October 2014 began like summer. T-shirts in daytime, al-fresco dining and windows open late into the night. And then early on a Sunday morning, it all changed. I couldn't believe it. Beads of dew on the long grass had frozen solid following a calm, clear starry night. Thereafter, each day saw high winds and frequent torrential downpours, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Leaves blocked drains and early morning commuters found themselves stranded, as flash floods overwhelmed transport infrastructure.

A succession of heavy, thundery showers passed over the Arun Valley on an early October afternoon. The tree canopy swayed violently, as squalls cut through the tall slender beeches, opening up the woodland floor to debris and cold raindrops. It became so dark, at one point, that the Tawny owls began calling to each other, as they normally would at dusk. Towards evening, the updraught needed to generate cumulonimbus clouds faded and the sun came out. It was a shame my camera wasn't set up for wildlife photography, as Roe deer, still wearing their summer coats, were present along a nearby glade.

October ended as it began, with temperatures of 19°C, far too warm for jackets. A privately owned forest on the High Weald features a classically beautiful woodland glade, lined with pine and beech trees. The scene only works on October and November afternoons, when low back-lighting generates a spectacular autumnal vista. I arrived just as a cigar-shaped bank of mist slid through the golden autumnal treescape. 

After enjoying an al fresco pub lunch, I had the pleasure of showing two friends around this forest on a gloriously sunny early November afternoon. It didn't take long, before my sharp-eyed Latvian friend spotted a Fallow deer along a glade. Moments later, several more followed suit. Having grown up in a village near Riga, she is the only person I've met, who has seen the Eurasian Lynx. At one time, the Lynx would have roamed Sussex, preying on Roe deer and other mammals. This wild cat survives in Latvia, because it is one of the few European countries still relatively untouched by human development. I had to wait another three days, before capturing Fallow deer on camera. A herd of Fallow deer galloped through the trees, just as it started to pour with rain. I was pleased to obtain something creative and unexpected.

The Sun and the Rainfall

Autumn Jaunt

Friston Forest

Golden Hour, Friston Forest    Forest Glowing in Sunset Light

Autumn Overture, Friston Forest


Woodland Ride in Autumn

Misty Forest Glade in Autumn

Brighton Photography | Print Sales | Christmas Gifts

Treat your loved-ones to a unique and imaginative gift this Christmas with a print from Alan MacKenzie Photography. 

Why buy a mass-produced print from the high street, when you can print your own beautiful and imaginative work of art.

Print from file: £30 each | £45 for 2 | £ 75 for 3 | £95 for 4 | £ 115 for 5 | More? Ask.

Send Alan an email to order your gifts. 

Can't find what you're looking for? Try searching Alan's Flickr stream.

Brighton Clock Tower in Snow   Snow Covered Bench on Hove Promenade.   Night picture of the Chattri in December 

Hove beach huts in snow   Snow on Hove Promenade   Brighton Clock Tower in snowstorm

Starlings   Starling Murmuration   Starling Murmuration and West Pier, in a Hail Storm

Starlings   Star-ti-ling Sunset   Murmuration

Brighton Pier   The Landscape is Changing   Orange Margarita

Bluebell Wood   Glade in Autumn   The Golden Trail

Poppies in the Red Zone   White Horse   Wanna Make Something Of It?

Rabbit and Daisies   Marbled White, female and male   The Famous Five