I love nothing more than to click the shutter and freeze the perfect moment or capture something beautiful. I have always been the same. However, three years of studying photography at an academic level stole my passion and left my camera gathering dust in the back of a wardrobe. I thought I would never find a love for it again. At least, not until I received my Olympus PEN last Christmas.
This year, I have rediscovered my love for a great photograph more than I ever thought I would, and I couldn’t be happier to say so, which is why I have chosen my top ten photographs to sum up what has been a visually exceptional year.
1. New camera’s first outing – Portstewart Strand
Portstewart, the gorgeous seaside town I called home during my university years, will always have a special place in my heart. From the promenade to the rolling sand dunes, there’s something comforting about it, and I will always regret not taking better advantage of the gorgeous photo opportunities that lay right in front of my nose for three years. But for that reason, I could think of no better place to take my camera for its first trial run. The photograph speaks for itself – and that’s not even the best one. The sky was on fire for a mere 30 minutes on that chilly January morning, and at that moment I fell back in love with the art of photography.
2. Simon’s wedding – I Do Too
February brought a unique job proposition to the table – I was to be Dog Sitter at my old manager’s wedding, who were ‘Dogs of Honour’ at his wedding! As he had no official photographer, my camera skills came in handy too, but my favourite shot of the day was of course my gorgeous Pixie in her best wedding dress. Mabel, Dog of Honour number two, was of course every bit as cute, but sadly lacked Pixie’s ability to sit still for the camera!
3. Photography at work – Fabulous Fashion Teas
Naturally, I wanted to play with my new toy as much as possible, so not only did it become something I used in my spare time, but it also became my most valuable tool in the workplace. It upped my social media game at work to no end – suddenly my photos were nice and glossy, and I felt so much better about my work. My favourite days at work were those working at the Fabulous Fashion Teas, which may have entailed a lot of frantic posting, live tweeting and rushing about behind the scenes trying to be inconspicuous, but also meant hanging out with the photographers all day and capturing great shots like this one.
4. A Photography Adventure – Belfast Maritime Festival
By now I think we have established how much I love photography, but sometimes finding the motivation to get up and explore the great outdoors all by yourself is a mammoth task. Often it can be relaxing and even restorative, but that’s if you actually make it out the door. At times like this, you need a trusty photo-buddy ready to grab their camera and explore along with you, which is precisely how I ended up visiting the Maritime Festival this year. This was a fantastic day of photos and bouncing ideas off another like-minded friend, which left me with some of my favourite photos of the summer, as well as a pair of very sunburnt shoulders.
5. A spontaneous family trip – Glenveagh National Park
This year, family time has been precious in our house, which is why we jumped at the chance to take a completely unplanned drive to Donegal on what could have been a boring Bank Holiday weekend. Admittedly a round trip to Donegal and back in one day was a little ambitious on the driving front, but for the sight of the valleys of Glenveagh National Park and the incredible photos I took from the top of the hill, it was so worth it.
6. It’s All Coming Up Roses – Lady Dixon Park
I have always been pretty clued into events in Belfast, but my current job has been a font of knowledge on those little gems that may escape your notice. One of these was Rose Week, at Lady Dixon Park, a world-renowned rose garden. What started as a slightly rainy summer’s day turned into a gorgeous walk, brimming with photo opportunities – and, as an added bonus, it did wonders for my steps on the Fitbit too.
7. I have a thing for sunsets
I have always had a thing for sunsets. There’s something incredibly magical about watching the colours of the sky manifest in front of your eyes, knowing that you will never see exactly the same combination again, that just captures my heart. I have photographed some magnificent sunsets this year – some by stopping the car in the most ridiculous of places, some by climbing my garden fence, and some by simply being at the right place at the right time. But this one was kind of special – in retrospect, I realise it was also a sunrise and not a sunset, but the premise is the much same. I got on the bus on a very stormy day, and as the bus pulled away, the storm subsided, and I knew it was going to be a beauty of a sunrise. I watched this beauty the whole way down the M2 motorway, before finally realising that the sun would be up before I got to work, and taking a last-ditch attempt at capturing it from the bus. Turns out this is one of my favourites from the whole year.
8. A little birthday walk – Cave Hill Country Park
When my best friend asked me, “How would you like to spend your birthday?”, a hike up Cave Hill wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. As we got halfway up a particularly steep stretch of the hill, I’m also fairly sure that she was cursing me and my 24th birthday, but all was well when we reached the top and she got some Insta-worthy material. I, on the other hand, was in photographic heaven, bursting with inspiration from the crisp, rusty tones of Autumn. And don’t worry – I bribed her with lunch and ice-cream once I had taken all 400+ of my photos.
9. The sunset of the year – Belfast City Hall
Picture the scene. I’m sitting in work, on a regular Monday afternoon, and I get a text saying “Look out the window”, followed by a photograph of a gorgeous sunset. Our office has no windows and I had just resigned myself to the fact that I had next to no chance of seeing the sunset… unless I chanced my arm and ran outside for a moment. Best. decision. ever. That sky says it all, but the best part is that this photo isn’t even edited. The sky was alight with deep pink and purple tones, so magnificent that it took me a good 15 minutes to realise that I was outside in December, dressed in a sleeveless red dress without my jacket on. Thankfully I didn’t catch my death, and we had some great shots of the first week of the Christmas Market for work’s social media. A happy Monday indeed.
10. Walking in a winter wonderland – Antrim Castle Gardens
This year, I had my heart set on visiting Mount Stewart’s Festival of Light, only to find that it wasn’t on anymore. Thankfully, Antrim Castle Gardens saved the day with an Enchanted Winter Garden. Coincidentally Antrim Castle Gardens is one of my favourite places to go when I want to clear my head or just enjoy some peace and quiet, so seeing it lit up in enchanting festive lights was nothing short of magical. I was like a kid in a sweet shop photographing every inch of the place and I’m pretty sure I’ll have festive snaps to spice up my Instagram for years to come!