2018 in review

At the end of 2017, when reflecting on the incredibly busy 14 months I’d just spent on the Kaikōura earthquake recovery (read my 2017 review here), I had high hopes that 2018 would be the year where I’d find a lot more time to focus on my photography and photography business.

It’s fair to say I’m super stoked with how the business side of things has worked out.  Through @purephotoadventures.nz we ran 4 highly successful tours, teaching 40 people the ‘how tos’ of landscape photography at some of the New Zealand’s most amazing locations.  The feedback we’ve received in our post-tour surveys has been amazing and indicates that all the hard work Rach, Lee and I’ve put into planning, preparation, and running the tours has paid off.  With six tours ahead next year it’s going to be another busy one!

2018 was the year our @purephotoadventures.nz tours really hit their stride!

We had an amazing bunch of humans on all our tours; it was a privilege to show them around my home patch and help them advance their photography skills

This year I’ve also sold more prints and licenced more images than I’ve done in all previous years combined.  Considering I haven’t gone out of my way to push that side of things I’m very chuffed with that result!

So yeah, stoked with the business side of things.  I haven’t yet done the full calcs but I’m fairly confident my photography income this year has more than made up for the income lost from dropping to a 4-day week in my day job.

Business matters aside, unfortunately 2018 hasn’t been a year where I’ve felt like I’ve achieved much with my personal photography.  My Lightroom catalogue certainly agrees with me: in 2018 I’ve only taken around one-third of the images I nabbed in both prior years.

One simple explanation is that between continuing to being involved close to full-time on the Kaikōura recovery, the photography business, and family time (which as always remains incredibly important), I haven’t had much time for personal pursuits.  That said, even when I’ve had some moments up my sleeve I just don’t feel like I’ve achieved much.  For long patches my creative spark and willingness to seek out new challenges has simply not been there.

I’ve often thought about what role Instagram might be playing in my malaise.  When I joined the platform in 2015 it was such a new and exciting place where I connected with new photographers, came across new and interesting creative styles, and could reach an entirely new audience with my work.  However, over the last couple of years my enjoyment of the platform has been on a downward trajectory.

The problem I’ve found with Instagram is that the landscape photography scene has become almost completely homogenised.  Endless shots of the same locations with the same composition and same editing techniques.  People posting for popularity rather than pushing boundaries.  And worst of all, Instagram’s algorithm and audience at large seems to reward this behavior, with anything outside the box quickly dropping below the radar and not being seen by anyone.  Which then reinforces the cycle of photographers only capturing and posting what they think will be popular (it’s definitely a trap I’ve found myself in from time to time).  And don’t get me started with the constant ads, countless wannabe ‘influencers’ pushing products, and endless preaching on how to live your life and save the planet.  What happened to the platform being about the simple joy of photography?  I’ve heard people say just skip past the content you don’t like, but when it’s the majority of your feed that’s an awful lot of skipping!

I expressed many of my frustrations with the platform, albeit dressed up in humour, in my A Brief Guide to Success on Instagram, which I posted earlier in the year.

Use my patented spin wheel to help choose what to post to Instagram

I really don’t know what the solution is for me; my heart says to stay away from Instagram, but my head says to stick in there because it remains a great platform for business.  I’ve also made many great friends and connections on the platform, and it remains a great means of keeping in touch with them and following their progress.

Anyhoo, I didn’t intend this blog to turn all negative!  In 2018 I’ve still had an awful lot to be thankful for, having got to some beautiful locations and collected many awesome memories.  So without further ado below are some highlights in chronological order.  BTW, this isn’t a collection of my favourite or best shots in a technical sense, but rather a collection of best photography-related memories.

Not quite 2018, but a couple of weeks after I posted my 2017 review, the family and I escaped down to Te Anau for a very brief break.  I captured the below image just two days out from the end of the year and it turned out to be my favourite from 2017!

I’d just about given up on any colour at this sunrise when all of a sudden this surreal orange glow hit the far shore of Lake Te Anau

In the new year I first headed out with the camera in late January during a family holiday to Wanaka.  Our week there coincided with the area’s hottest temperatures on record, with every day hitting at least 30 degrees C and the hottest topping out at 35.2.  Just prior to this trip I posted by A Brief Guide to Lake Tekapo.

A wild Lake Wanaka on a warm summer’s morning

Exploring hidden gems in Mt Aspring National Park, a short drive away from Wanaka

It wasn’t until early April that I got out with the camera again, during our first autumn tour with @purephotoadventures.nz.  We spent a wonderful four days exploring the golden colours of Wanaka and Queenstown, topped off with a flight to Milford Sound and a boat cruise on the fiord.  A couple of weeks later we were back at it again, this time on a 7-day trip which not only included the same locations of the previous trip, but also took in the Mt Cook region and a night in Milford Sound itself.

I was fortunate to get to Milford Sound twice this year; capturing Stirling Falls is always a favourite

Sunrise of the year goes to this particular morning at Moke Lake, taken on the last morning of the @purephotoadventures.nz Autumn 4-day tour

My camera was then put away for another month or two, only resurfacing in mid-July for the @purephotoadventures.nz winter tour.  Just prior to this trip I splashed out and bought the latest and greatest Nikon D850 to compliment my existing setup.  At that time I updated my gear list to explain my purchase rationale.

Taken on our @purephotoadventures.nz winter tour, which coincided with my first proper workout with the Nikon D850

Weekends throughout the winter were mostly spent skiing with my kids.  We got in 11 days and I managed to get close to 90 vertical kilometres under my belt; easily the most skiing I’ve done since my teenage years!  About the only weekend I got out with the camera was in mid-August, when I caught up with Rach and took in a few frosty spots around the central South Island.  About this time I also posted another blog, A Brief Guide to South Island Roads.

Exploring the Canterbury high country on a crisp winter’s morning

I love the simplicity and symmetry of light and colour in this shot

More South Island high country goodness

At the start of October I packed up the car and went on a 5-day solo mission around the South Island.  The first couple of days I had clear and fine weather, although the light and colour didn’t really come out and party.  The remaining days it poured with rain and photography was only possible intermittently.  Although it was nice to get away by myself for a few days the number of banger shots I got turned out to be a grand total of zero!

A sunrise climb above Lake Benmore led to this unexpected encounter with a kārearea, the New Zealand falcon

Rolling pasture in Central Otago set against an incoming storm (which subsequently drenched me over the following days)

A day after returning from the trip and drying out my gear, the family and I headed off to the North Island for a holiday break.  For the first couple of days we visited family in Auckland before heading off to The Coromandel for 4 nights.  The weather here was beautifully warm and we had the most relaxing time wandering the region’s forests and beaches.  I even found a bit of time to grab some new images, some of which I put into my new blog A Brief Guide to The Coromandel, which I posted in early November.

We then headed down the island to Mount Maunganui, Taupo and Rotorua where the weather wasn’t quite as kind, but that didn’t stop us getting out and about and checking out a few new sights.

A long exposure of Wainuiototo Bay, on the eastern side of the Coromandel peninsula

Finally managed to get a nice shot at Cathedral Cove after my third visit here!

One of those situations where you head out early to get an image you had in mind but return with something altogether different and better

Prior to this year I’d never been to Mount Maunganui; this year I visited twice!

I’d also never visited the Whakapapa area prior to this brief encounter in the rain; I’ll be back!

Come late November it was one last @purephotoadventures.nz tour to the Mackenzie Country, the highlight of which was an incredible scenic flight over Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.

A surreal early morning flight over Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park, with inversion cloud filling the Tasman Valley

Tasman Valley to the left, Aoraki-Mt Cook to the right

I’m always a sucker for early morning light on glowing peaks contrasted with deep shadows

Just last week I squeezed in a quick overnight tramping trip with my son to Arthur’s Pass National Park.  I can’t believe this is right on my doorstep and yet I don’t get here very often! This is definitely the sort of thing I hope to be doing more of  in 2019.

Just 90 minutes drive then 90 minutes walk from home – how lucky am I?

So that’s nearly a wrap on a great 2018!  Finger’s crossed 2019 will bring more of the same, but hopefully this time with a little better balance of business and personal stuff.

A big thanks to all of you who continue to support me in everything I do.  Wishing you and yours the most festive of festive seasons!

p.s. all clickable images above will take you through to a page where you can buy the print!