2020 in review

Well, what a crazy, crazy year it’s been.

For a long while I thought I might not even bother looking back at my photography highlights of 2020, as to be perfectly honest, to the most part photography has been far from my mind.  My Lightroom catalogue suggests I’ve only taken one-sixth of the photos of last year, which probably says it all.

When the year began there were vague whispers of a newly circulating virus, but at that time it just seemed like one of those far-away problems in a far-away place.  During the first week of January I worked on A Brief Guide to Kea, making use of several images I’d captured the year before.

In early February, as I set out on a 3-day tramping adventure (see my A Brief Guide to Lake Angelus), those whispers were gathering volume.  At that time I’d already got that sinking feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, this problem wasn’t going to go away.  But a full-scale shut down of New Zealand and the closure of our borders?  I simply couldn’t have imagined it.

Video highlights from my 3-day trip to Lake Angelus

I think this is probably my favourite capture of 2020; the view from a mountain peak near Lake Angelus

And yet just 6 weeks later there we were.  Like the rest of the country, and millions of others in similar situations around the world, I sat glued to my TV screen trying to come to terms with what our Prime Minister was announcing.  Wow, this is really happening.

At 11.59pm on 25 March 2020, NZ went into lockdown for 33 days.  While unprecedented and a little scary at the time, looking back it was definitely the right thing to do.  Those actions have ultimately meant that New Zealand has been extremely fortunate to escape large-scale casualties and the ongoing disruptions that have inflicted many other countries.  I was one of those strange people who actually enjoyed the lockdown experience; I simultaneously managed to get more day job work done AND spend more time with my family.

With the borders shut, and over half our clientele from abroad, we had to cancel our @purephotoadventures.nz tours.  That was quite the stressful time although it was great to have such understanding customers, all of whom were in similar if not worse situations to us.

In June, by which stage NZ had moved to our lowest COVID risk category (Alert Level 1), I managed to slip away on a weekend trip to Mount Cook with Jack Burden and Lee Cook.  Our plan had been to overnight at Mueller Hut, which at that time of year (middle of winter) is usually close to empty.  To our astonishment the hut was fully booked; a sign that New Zealanders were getting back into our great outdoors with gusto. In the end we did manage to get up to the hut for a day walk and were treated to an incredible sunrise in the Tasman Valley the following morning.

Mueller Hut, Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park

A view across to Aoraki-Mt Cook with the Hooker River Valley below

Battling the nor-wester while capturing sunrise in the Tasman Valley

The family and I managed to get away on a campervan trip to the upper South Island in the July school holidays.  The camera barely made it out of the bag but I came away with a couple of shots.  The experience cemented our long-held wish to purchase a motorhome of our own, and just 2 months later, we became the proud parents of “Artie Johnson” (his naming is a long story… 😊).

The Riuwaka Resurgence near Motueka

Our first trip away in Artie Johnson (excuse the quality…. iPhone shot)

A kayaker spotted on Lake Pukaki during our trip away in Artie

We ran our first and only @purephotoadventures.nz workshop of the year at the end of November.  As always it was such a privilege being able to take people to our favourite spots, but this year, with a group of just New Zealanders, it seemed extra special.

Soaring over the Southern Alps on our @purephotoadventures.nz Spring workshop

Mt Sefton looks impressive when viewed from the familiar position of Aoraki-Mt Cook village, but I like this angle even better

The many braids of the Godley River

December was a month of reflection with the conclusion of the Hurunui-Kaikoura earthquake recovery rebuild, a substantial part of my life over the prior four years.  I wrote about my early involvement at the outset of my 2017 in review; at that time I certainly didn’t think I’d be working on the project at the end of 2020.  Without doubt it’s been the highlight of my working career; an absolute privilege to be involved in such a gargantuan, challenging and important undertaking.  If you’re interested check out this little reflection piece I did with my employer, and click the image below for a series of stories from the recovery (plenty of fascinating imagery and videos).

Click the image above to read of 8 incredible media-rich stories of the Kaikōura earthquake recovery

So that’s nearly a wrap.  Quite where the year has disappeared is anyone’s guess!  Before the year ends I’m heading off to Wanaka for some relaxation with the family ahead of starting 2021 the right way with an epic adventure into a remote corner of New Zealand.

As always, thanks to each and everyone of you for your ongoing support.  Wherever in the world you are, here’s hoping to a brighter and more hopeful 2021.  Merry Christmas.

Read my previous years in review: