Photos of the Year 2013


The year 2013 began cold and winter weather extended right into April. Just look at the first picture of Kingston Ridge for evidence of a ravished, pallid landscape, more reminiscent of February than springtime. When Britain was finally released from the cruel grip of winter, the delay in growth was all too apparent. Even in early May, Friston Forest was barely distinguishable from January. Bluebells were several weeks late and lasted until June, when Roe deer still had their thick winter coats. After a warm start to June, the rest of the month was cool and unsettled. Banks of fog rolled over poppy fields and summer 2013 looked set to be another mediocre disappointment. Enter the July heatwave of 2013. With coastal temperatures rising to the high twenties, we basked in an uncommonly pleasant and prolonged spell of good weather. Painted Ladies, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Cabbage Whites and Red Admiral butterflies flourished across the county and for once, the air remained still, allowing a rare occasion to photograph these beautiful winged creatures without subject blur.

Away from the cooling influence of the English Channel, temperatures rose to a breathtaking 33.1°C on the Sussex/Surrey border on August 1st. Owing to its southerly inland location, the area can experience very high temperatures, with a figure of 36.5°C recorded in August 2003. Mid Sussex is a world apart from the coast and even during cool summers, such as 2012, the mercury can hit 30°C. It can also get very cold in winter. Figures of -10°C are not unusual. Alighting from an air conditioned train into a wall of heat at Three Bridges gave me the perfect excuse to indulge in an ice cream followed by a second instalment at Ifield. Activity is draining when high humidity accompanies high temperatures. Even the deer could hardly be bothered to move. Spare a thought for the poor soul who lugged a Canon 500mm lens for miles across the countryside.

I used to look in awe at Canon L Series super-telephoto lenses sitting inside glass cabinets, never once, short of winning the lottery, expecting ever to own one, let alone two! After a friend very kindly lent me his primes, I simply couldn't return to using zoom lenses. Even after the huge expense of buying the Canon EF 500mm f/4 and 300mm f/2.8 lenses, the money is still intact, as lenses hold their value extremely well. 

I was rather tickled, when a South Downs walker earnestly suggested that my photographs of Roe deer are either staged inside a fenced enclosure or do not represent real animals at all. Since the hypothetical deer haven't been officially observed in person, they don't exist. I must have borrowed stuffed deer from the Booth Museum and carried them under my arm while getting funny looks from hikers or staged them using trained animals, much like in a circus. Teenagers even hung their baseball caps on the deer antlers and simulated acts of moral turpitude, while I popped into the Ifield Co-op for a Magnum Classic. It's so much easier than locating actual deer, finding ways to approach them and taking photographs while causing minimal disturbance.  I'll see what Lord Lucan makes of it when I go for a pint with him on Saturday. Knowing him, he'll probably suggest I move to North Korea and write a book called Schrödinger's Deer for Dummies

I will remember October 2013, as the month in which my father died. For two weeks, I either wanted to be very close to the people around me or completely alone. I spent whole afternoons unwinding in Friston Forest, before going for a pint or two. There's an old family photo of us posing at Exceat Hill, which overlooks Friston Forest to the north and Cuckmere Haven to the south. Rural family holidays and outings fashioned my interest in outdoor life and the natural world. My parents used to take my grandfather to the Golden Galleon for a pint of Harveys, during his summer visits from Glasgow. He died three months before my birth, so I never knew him, but I thought about what he might have been like, as I sat beside a log fire in the very same pub. To be perfectly honest, my father was no Ralph Miliband — the last time we spoke was 14 years ago. To his credit, my father did at least help me start out as a photographer, when he offered me the choice between a camera or telescope at the City Camera Exchange. I firmly believe that every place has at least one redeeming feature and for Croydon, it's the birthplace of Alan MacKenzie Photography.

If May, June and October are my favourite months, then December is my least. If I could afford an airline ticket to the southern hemisphere or for someone to come along and put me into a coma until January, I would be quite happy. I shall be glad to watch Christmas and mid-afternoon sunsets disappear into a memory hole. May the longer days and optimism of January 2014 roll on. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy my photos of stuffed deer posing inside the top secret Area 69, as much as I enjoyed lugging them for miles across open countryside.

Mother Deer

Roe Deer Buck

Young Roe Deer Buck

Air Traffic

Kingston Ridge

Kingston Ridge, Autumn

Kingston Ridge, Mid-Summer

Stanmer Down

May Evening, Stanmer Down

Solitude

Wanna Make Something Of It?

Starlings

Bluebells

Bluebells, Nate Wood

Scarlet Purse      Polka Dot

Cabbage White Butterfly

Scarlet Twilight

Glade in Autumn

Splash!

Seven Sisters and Birling Gap

Beachy Head

Pier Review

Comments

Anonymous said…
Love read Alan, with some cracking images from 2013. So sorry to hear about your loss, hope we have the chance to meet again.

Best Wishes,

Andy
Alan MacKenzie said…
Thank you, Andy. If you want to go on a field trip somewhere in 2014, just let me know. And I'll be down Brighton Pier on cold afternoons photographing the starlings. Happy new year! Alan.
Anonymous said…
I loved how you made your stuffed deer pose in a field of yellow buttercups. :D :D Kind of reminds me of Yash Chopra. He had( passed away this October)a habit of making his heroines( not actresses, mind you... but heroines) pose in Swiss fields full of blooms at sub zero temperatures in chiffon garments. Your stuffed deer looks just as beautiful as all those heroines did. :)

Your scarlet poppy looks no less ethereal nor do those green downs.

So a good year for you( and us - the viewers). :)

Wishing you a warmer brighter spring, summer and autumn in 2014. :)

- Jyoti
Alan MacKenzie said…
Pretty lifelike, isn't he? I had to spray the stuffed deer's nose, to make it look wet and realistic. A horse came along at one point and tried to engage in libidinous acts with it, but I think the small aperture and smell of mothballs put him off.
Anonymous said…
LOL

In case you ever plan on a change of career, you could consider fiction writing. LOL

-Jyoti

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