Photos of the Year 2012

I will remember 2012, as the year in which I became a true wildlife and landscape photographer. I've wanted to specialise in these fields since the age of 18; for want of the correct equipment and knowledge of wild animal behaviour, I dared not call myself a specialist photographer. Equally, 2012 saw my interest in photography become a social activity. Among others, it was nice getting to know Alex Lawrence, Andy Bertram and Finn Hopson, after bumping into them at various locations around Sussex. I would like to thank Alex, in particular, for his kindness, in lending me the Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS USM and the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM MKII for months at a time. The optical quality and focus accuracy of these lenses is second-to-none. Using them has been the turning point of my career; since everything counts in large amounts, I will now save for a super-telephoto prime lens of my own.

If 2012 was the year of wildlife photography and social activity, it was also the year of getting noticed. My photo of starlings over Brighton seafront was featured in the Flickr blog, attracting enough views to populate Hove. The graph on the wall, tells the story of it all. During the summer, Total Photoshop Magazine interviewed me, about my landscape photography. In the run-up to the London 2012 Festival, the Artichoke Trust used my image of the Seven Sisters to advertise Peace Camp 2012 at Cuckmere Haven. I was rather tickled, when I saw my photo on the dashboard of a taxi, while being driven to start my autumn holiday in West Dean. My work appears in the Brighton and Hove Calendar 2013, which is on sale inside Churchill Square (stall on left aisle). Prints are also available to buy. Whoever keeps surreptitiously placing prints of the Clock Tower at the front of the rack, it isn't me, honest.

It was a great privilege to hear Alex Lawrence tell me that my wildlife photographs are good enough for submission to Magnum Photos. Alex has been a professional for nearly a decade and knows the difference between a good photo and a work of art. I will consider his suggestion carefully, not least because Magnum Photos doesn't appear to have any wildlife portfolios. If my photographs don't turn out to be good enough for Magnum Photos, they are certainly good enough to steal, as several incidents this year have sadly proven. I am quite happy for social network users to share my work, provided they leave a back-link and attribute copyright to my name, but there is no excuse for an individual or business to purloin someone else's work and pass it off as their own, whether for vanity or commercial purposes. If you didn't press the shutter release button, you are not the copyright owner. Please respect that.

I would like to thank my Flickr contacts for their kind comments and encouragement. Without them, eleven of my photos would never have met some unknown algorithmic criteria, triggering a robotic command to include them in Explore, among 499 other images of dissimilar quality, at various intervals throughout 2012. May the accidental distribution of my work through intercontinental fibre-optic cables proceed until at least the next foretold apocalypse.

Finally, before I reach for the port and Stilton, I must thank my mother for the holiday birthday present back in October. I enjoyed some beautiful autumn scenery and had the luxury of staying in a renovated medieval flint barn for a whole week. Credit must also go to the very friendly staff at a Touch of India. I wouldn't have recovered from my long days out in the countryside, without their expertly cooked vegetable Vindaloo and Phall curries. Chin chin and Merry Christmas!


Starling Murmuration, Brighton

Star-ti-ling Sunset

Symphony in the Sky

Iridescent Starlings

Behind the Wheel

Roe deer, Pyecombe

Roe deer, Friston Forest

Wood Nymph

English Bluebell Wood

Friston Forest   

Cuckmere Haven

Seven Sisters

Golden Hour - Stanmer Down, South Downs

Balcombe Viaduct

Fly me to the moon

Bloody Mary (Chosen by top-secret computer algorithm to feature in Explore, among 499 others of variable quality. Reaches for Buckfast Tonic Wine and chipped teacup)

September, bad patch


Agent Lawrence said…
Alan, my suggestion of Magnum is simple - you are of that calibre. Social and stock is not the medium I think the likes of yourself and others should aim for. These are my opinions. The common thread say between you and Mr Hopson is one of self belief; your images deserve gallery space and your social diary of the South Downs, Sussex and it's natural habitat has a Magnum feel of it's storytelling. You need to both believe that you are very talented and skilful photographers.

Your images have captured something that many people may see but to display the full majesty of nature, the landscape or its man-made interventions, both good and bad, in a way that is warmly familiar takes an art, eye, skill and passion that many observers miss.

For me, the best of the media observers and history photographers reside within the Magnum archive and you have that ability with your knowledge and camera skills to be able to portray your locality in that way.

Whilst the likes of Getty, Corbis and others seem to have taken the commercial space for the middle-men of photography, I believe that the artistry and storytelling of the images is of more worth than merely a multiple-selling image. I may be wrong but photography to me is an art form, is subjective and should move you, the viewer. It should engage you and this to me is what you've got when you depressed the shutter button.

I will continue to watch your work as you progress and I look forward to seeing your work appear on a more gloabal stage over the coming years. And please pass this sentiment on to Finn - I know he will probably be either riding a bike or eating a sandwich but he too has more latent talent than he gives himself credit for.

I hope 2013 is a stellar year for you Alan.
Alan MacKenzie said…
Thank you, Alex. I will let your suggestions grow on me - that's how I deal with things. I can't just magic super high confidence into existence, although I am by no means without any confidence at all. Magnum Photos vote on new members in June. I have read their submission guidelines.

My main focus is gathering enough money to buy a super telephoto prime lens. After using your lenses, I cannot go back to the 100-400. That would be a retrograde step. The 400mm f/2.8 is on my list of optics; the fast aperture would be ideal for low-light woodland photography. The focal length has just about enough reach for deer and is wide enough for starlings. When I'm strutting about the global stage with all the high hegions, you can borrow my 600mm lens, if you like! There's a used copy on sale at Mifsuds for just under £5000. There won't be any telephoto wildlife photography, until I obtain a lens of this class.

I will return to 500px in January. As you said during our last meeting, I need a higher calibre of audience.

I first saw Finn's work a couple of years ago on Flickr. I felt slightly aggrieved that a photographer with so much talent received such little praise. I'm pleased he's getting more recognition. If I meet him again, I'll pass on your sentiments.
Anonymous said…
Hi Alan!

Interesting review of the year. :) Congrats on all the achievements you have listed here. Least of which seems to be the Flickr Explore. :)

I quite agree with your friend here. Your images deserve an audience of higher caliber. :)

Having said that, I'd take a minute to point out that there might be many average viewers like me who discovered your images and thereby Friston Forest and Brighton... through your images, because of the said social medium and Flickr Explore. Had it not been for Flickr and explore... I for one might have lived my life not ever knowing about Friston.

We (the audience of lower caliber) neither have the knowledge nor access to the calendars, books, brochures and travelogues that your images grace. And am not trying to be sarcastic here. Just stating a fact. :) So please don't take an offense. :)

Alan... saying your images are beautiful, I suppose, would be an unworthy response to your effort and talent. I could throw in a lot more adjectives in that sentence... but they'd all mean the same... "Alan your images are beautiful." :)

All I can say is... thank you for sharing a part of the world I may never see myself. :) :)

Aaah... and yes... last but not the least. I eat very "un-spicy"( LOL I wonder if that's a word) food. :) Quite unlike the macho Englishmen. :) So if ever I make it to Brighton... or even England... am going to go for an English. LOLOLOLOL

Wishing you even greater success in 2013. :)

Jyoti (I'm on a learning curve)
Anonymous said…
Oh.. and I forgot to add...

Belated Happy Birthday!! :)
Alan MacKenzie said…
Thank you for your kind words. I've just finished the Vindaloo. It wasn't that hot, actually. And I'm not trying to be all "Real Men don't eat quiche" about it. I hadn't eaten much during the day, so I managed to eat the entire meal. I've bought some gin, tonic and limes for inebriating myself, as beer and curry is way too filling.

I'm glad you've discovered more about Brighton and Sussex, via Explore. If you ever visit the area, let me know and I'll treat you to "an English" in one of Brighton's many cafés.

I was once an 'average' photographer. In fact, I was once a totally crap photographer and most of my photographs (slides in those days) are now holding up a new build housing estate in east Brighton. People used to tell me to my face, that my photos were crap and that I'm a complete weirdo for staying out late in the countryside. Although this was unkind of people, I benefited from it, because I've never been under any illusions about my work. It's wrong to be unkind to people about their standards - not everyone can take it - and there are more productive ways to help others. I'm not saying everyone can reach a standard, where people are suggesting you send your photos to Magnum. Some people have it and others don't. I have some Flickr contacts in their late teens, who are much better than I was at the same age. I look forward to seeing what they produce at 30.

Flickr is good for social networking and being introduced to people via the web. I don't think there's any harm in stating that some photographers are better than others. There are too many photographers being given undeserved praise on Flickr. Backslapping and reciprocal favouriting, while nice, doesn't help people improve their standards. I've pointed this out to many Flickr members and they've agreed with me. Photographers come away thinking that they're the bees knees, when they need someone to take them aside, in a kind way, and point out the level they're at and what they need to change, in order to improve. I don't know much about state education in the USA, but in England, too many children are never allowed to experience what it's like to fail. I get quite cross, when I see parents chastise their children for engaging in 'dangerous' activities, such as running along a one foot wall or having a friendly chat with strangers. They will become adults who see risk as something to be avoided rather than managed.

I think it's very important for people to be themselves and to try many different things. People might not be good at all of them, but if they show ambition, then they must be nurtured, even if it sometimes means being told the truth. If you're an 'average' photographer and you're perfectly content to remain at such a standard, good luck to you or anyone else. Not everyone has the time or resources to sacrifice chunks of their lives in order to become really good at photography. There are costs to being really good and if you don't want to sacrifice other things in your life, for the sake of one thing, then fair enough.

Thank you once again for your time in writing a substantive comment. I wish you a good weekend.
Alan MacKenzie said…
P.S. I assume you are a beginner photographer, in which case, you're a damn sight better than I was, when I started.
Anonymous said…
Oh how I wish I could claim to be a beginner and take a pat on the back. :)

I got my first ever digital camera in mid-2009 and the DSLR that I use at present... around the later part of 2010.

Does that still make me beginner??

I have seen a meteoric rise in terms of quality in people who have started with me. My learning curve on the contrary has been slow... much like the ascent of the South Down. in your pictures. :D

While it isn't something I'd go around boasting about, I see no point in cribbing either. I cannot give photography the time, effort and money it needs to be nurtured. I know my limitations... and work with/around them.

I totally agree with you about backslapping and the "I rub your back you rub mine" kind of behavior. Fortunately for me, when I had joined Flickr, I came across many good photographers who felt free to tell me how bad I was. :) Honestly... I loved them for that. There weren't too many "nice picture" kind of comments on my pics. I learnt to correct my errors one mistake at a time. It was painstakingly slow... but worked well for me. There was a time when my pictures had more brickbats than compliments. That had worked wonders for me. :)

Now many of those photographers have moved on from Flickr... either to become professional photographers or have no time for photography anymore. So there are very few left who actually tell me how bad I am. But there are. :) Moreover... over time I have learnt to assess myself so I already know to an extent before I post the pics how bad they are. If and when I need a critique or suggestions for improvement for any particular image... I Flickr-mail my ex-contacts... and they very kindly respond. :)

I believe there's a long way to go before I can create pictures that can speak for me. :) Till then... I'm willing to traverse my learning curve... one step at a time. :)

You have a great weekend too. :)

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