Photos of the Year — 2020

Downland Path

Obviously, 2020 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons and wherever you are in the world, I hope you stay safe. I was unlucky enough to suffer fever, body aches, a dry cough, loss of taste and smell and confusion back in March. An NHS laboratory test in November confirmed the presence of Covid-19 antibodies in my blood. If there's a silver lining, I still had antibodies (at the time of testing) some 8 months after recovery and they should confer at least some immunity. Since I am on the priority list due to my job in adult social care, I expect to receive my first injection in the new year. Sadly, not everyone was lucky enough to recover unharmed. I have met several older adults, who nearly died from Covid-19, along with younger people in my age group, who display symptoms of 'Long Covid'.

2020 was a year in which many of us attended more closely to our health. I dropped 17 kg using diet and exercise and this winter, I'm walking 8 miles, several times per week. And the weight has not rebounded either. I've had influenza many times and it's a horrible illness, but I got vaccinated for the first time this year to protect myself and help my wonderful colleagues in the NHS. 

The most memorable thing I achieved in 2020 was photography-related, but it actually involved cycling all the way up to the Sussex/Surrey border (five times), carrying 20 kg of photography equipment. The return trip is 52 miles and if anything, using an electric bike makes this type of journey feasible. The typical kneejerk response to e-bikes, is that they are 'cheating', but a 20 kg bike plus a heavy payload feels like anything but. Using the lowest two assistance levels, the battery indicator dropped from 100% to 40% by the time I returned home. The route had steep climbs, particularly from Bolney to Warninglid, Staplefield to Pease Pottage and a good workout at Tilgate on the way back. After completing 5 hours of wildlife photography, the trip was only half-complete and I would begin my journey home in practically another county. Every climb became a descent in the opposite direction and it was fun speeding along country lanes at 30mph, although I had to purchase an ultra-bright LED light for unlit roads. I would stop beside the A23 near Warninglid for a water break, popping grapes as lorries headed northbound, knowing dinner would have to wait until 11.30pm. Nymans Gardens, temporarily closed, Staplefield Cricket Club, the drain cover at Bolney, 30 mph and half-way home, speeding through Pond Wood and dodging branches, Brighton 11 at Travelodge Hickstead, freewheeling past Braypool, battery bar two. It was tiring and frankly, when I look back, I can't quite believe I put in all that effort, but despite all of this, the photos speak for themselves

The cycle rides to Friston Forest were a little more sedate. There's nothing more lovely than starting your return journey in a beautiful forest and ending the ride along Brighton's wonderful seafront. I was very pleased to photograph a doe along the southern end of Friston Forest and capture a pair of Marbled White butterflies an hour later in a huge meadow. I was of course delighted to finally capture a high quality image of the famous and elusive Purple Emperor butterfly at the Knepp Estate. I broke my speed record on the way to Knepp  Saddlescombe Road, near Devil's Dyke is an absurdly steep hill on the South Downs and I reached 51mph downhill. I could have gone faster, but that's quite enough! And an impatient van driver still overtook me. No matter where you are, observing the upper end of 20/30/40mph speed limits, drivers still have to gain advantage by overtaking. 

The Sun and the Rainfall  View of the South Downs from Waterpit Hill  Chestnut Leaves  Young Badger  Mature Roe Buck in Summer Meadow  Roe Deer, Friston Forest  Marbled Whites (male and female) Friston Gallops  Purple Emperor, Knepp Estate  High Weald Rocks, Hot September  Fly Agaric in Woodland at Sunset  Beech Leaves in Autumn  Starling Blur 
Thank you for taking the time to look at my pick of 2020 in photos. The strict lockdown in April meant I couldn't visit Micheldever Wood in Hampshire as planned, but I will hopefully see the bluebells again in 2021, even if they are closer to home in West Sussex. I'm near to completing a new starling murmuration photo essay and I hope you come back in early January to enjoy it. Meanwhile, there's always a reason for a Riesling and I think I'm entitled to pour myself a generous glass of a wine variety, that I could not taste at all when I had Covid-19. 

Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!


Mark Nicolaides said…
Hi Alan,

Great collection of images and an interesting read, as usual. And, of course, I particularly liked the roebuck. I hope you well and have a successful 2021.

Alan MacKenzie said…
Thank you, Mark. Your comments are always appreciated. I'm not sure the first half of 2021 is going to be any better than last year and it'll be a while before I'm allowed to even leave Brighton, but I'm hoping restrictions will ease in time for the bluebells. Even then, I'll probably be cycling.

By coincidence, I added the doe in Friston Forest just as you commented. She was a lovely animal to encounter.

I hope you get the chance to see the deer and swans!

Mark Nicolaides said…
Hi Alan, Yes, I've seen you've added that lovely looking doe. Always loved the does (and the bucks, of course!), they're just such gentle animals - well, most of the time; they can get a bit feisty when chasing off their yearling daughters.

Your deer and butterfly images have such consistent clarity to them.

Just seen your new blog - I can see what you mean about the 'Jupiter' images, all you need is the Great Red Spot to cap them off!

Fingers crossed for the bluebells.

Take care on your bike, Alan.


Alan MacKenzie said…
Yes, I was kept awake at night thinking about cycling at 51mph. I now limit descent speeds, although it's hard not to travel down Saddlescombe Road below 40mph.

The clarity is a result of using the Levels tool in Photoshop.

I am going to wait to see what the weather does in February, as temperatures can affect blooming times and therefore the dates to book as leave.


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