My photography activity continued back on the road to normality, if there is such a thing for a snapper, after the hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
So I thought it might be good to look back on 2023, which provided a good range of commissions and photography opportunities.
In January I transported my portable studio down to Keighley for a session producing promo pictures for vocal group The Trilogies: Bradley Johnson, Freddie Bolt and Nigel Passey. On a totally different path, literally, the month also sees the running of the annual Spine Race, a gruelling traverse of the full 270-mile length of the Pennine Way at a time when daylight is shortest and the weather likely to be challenging to say the least. I caught up with some of the participants as night fell on Windy Hill, where the national trail crosses the M62 motorway.
Winter continued its grip on the moors around my home well into the year, as this drone shot shows. Snow covers the hills surrounding Top Withins, the reputed setting for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
The snow eventually retreated and spring began to establish itself. A trip to Staffordshire included a chance to visit Middleton Lakes nature reserve where this nuthatch was keeping a keen eye on his next meal.
In April, a film crew descended on Keighley to record an episode of the BBC’s Escape to the Country. Cat Murray of arts charity Keighley Creative offered her views on the town and its attractions.
I love walking round London during my visits to our capital, and my friends pointed me in the direction of the graffiti tunnel in the Leake Street arches in Waterloo, where street artists have been given free rein to express their creativity.
As spring turned to summer, new life appeared in the countryside around my home. Here, a roe deer fawn ventures into woodland within a few metres of my house. I managed a few frames before he scampered away.
To Liverpool in June for a trade show. The Mersey sunset made a fine setting for my drone shot of the Isle of Man ferry heading down the river at the start of its journey west. Warm evening sunshine drew the crowds to the Waterfront, which in the past few years has seen a rebirth as a major tourist destination.
June saw the annual Peace Meal, organised by Keighley Creative, of which I’m a trustee, hosted by Keighley College. The meal is a great opportunity for my town’s diverse communities to socialise in a relaxed atmosphere. Here, two young visitors view some of the artworks on display.
In June too, I was commissioned to provide some of the photographic coverage of Bradford Literature Festival, which has grown to be one of the major cultural gatherings in the country. It’s also a great opportunity to catch some big-name speakers. Here’s Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves speaking at the Creative Economic Conference.
And here’s author and film-maker Irvine Welsh enjoying himself before a screening of Transporting, one of his best known works.
Local celebrity Anita Rani was a popular speaker, giving insights into her book Baby Does a Runner.
In July I chose to start my big adventure and challenge of the year: walking the full 270-mile length of the Pennine Way, Britain’s first and, some say, toughest national trail. The fine weather of June became a distant memory as rainy day followed rainy day. Here, the cloud clears long enough to view the radome on Great Dun Fell, close to the highest point of the Pennine Way.
For nine miles, the route of the Pennine Way coincides with another national trail, the Hadrian’s Wall Path. Little did I know that my shot of the famous tree at Sycamore Gap on the wall would be among the last, as an act of supreme vandalism would result in the felling of the landmark just a few weeks after I captured my image. At the time of writing, no-one has been charged with the criminal damage.
In September, we made the journey to Nice on the Côte d’Azur, a trip we were due to make in 2020 until a pandemic put paid to our plans. Thankfully free of nasty viruses, we spent a few days in the late summer heat of the city on the Baie des Anges.
Another annual event back on the calendar after a hiatus for Covid-19 is the Keighley and Airedale Business Awards, a chance to celebrate the area’s firms’ and organisations’ successes. Keighley-born television meteorologist Paul Hudson hosted the proceedings for the second year.
Keighley Creative’s major production of the year, the Mega Drawing Box, took place in October, with the town’s residents, visitors, and professional artists joining to create an artwork in a disused department store in the Airedale Shopping Centre. The anarchic Bradford Belles turned up to provide a lively diversion for visitors.
In October a press trip courtesy of outdoor brands PrimaLoft and Montane afforded the possibility of a night shot of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. A bit of improvisation was needed to balance my camera on its bag for a long exposure to capture the scene on the beach at night.
Another trip to London, this time in a cold and wet November, and the chance to capture this monochromatic scene at Bankside on the South Bank of the Thames, as pedestrians negotiate the puddles with the high-rise architecture of the City in the distance.
Finally, as the year-end approached, crowds gathered to listen to Gareth Gates perform on Church Green before he turned on Keighley’s Christmas lights to herald the festive season.