Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite thingsSongwriters: Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers
Picking favourites is never easy. People ask me, what is your favourite place you have visited, and I usually struggle to choose. If I’m permitted a top five or top ten it’s easier; but ask me tomorrow and I may come up with a different list. And ask me WHY it is a favourite, and I may find it hard to articulate why one place ranks higher than another in my travel memories.
The same is true of photographs. The Cambridge dictionary defines favourite as ‘best liked or most enjoyed’, but I feel simply liking or enjoying a photo is not sufficient for it to qualify for Tina’s Lens Artists challenge. So I’ve tried to select ten images that I feel are both well composed, shot and (in most cases) edited AND have some meaning for me.
Kamikochi National Park, Japan, 2013
When we arrived in the Japanese Alps low clouds covered the mountains. A storm was rolling in and we were instructed to remain in the hotel. The following day the storm had passed and we could go out to explore, but it rained all day and the mountains remained shrouded in cloud. The clouds lifted after dark, giving us a short window of opportunity the next morning to see and photograph the mountains before we had to catch a bus. Of all the photos I took in that brief shoot this is my favourite, because I love the light and the way some of the mist is still lingering over the water.
Monkey in Gambia, 2014
The monkeys at Bijilo in Gambia are lively and mischievous. This shot captures a rare moment of stillness. In the edit I increased the brightness of the lighter fur to give a high key effect. I like the way this composition mirrors a formal human portrait, emphasising our close relationship to these animals.
At Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2015
I took quite a few photographs of men in turbans on this trip as they were always happy to pose for me (or forgive a candid shot). This is possibly my favourite as I like the way the background matches his beard, allowing the vivid colours of the turban to leap out at the viewer. I cropped it following the classic rule of thirds. His eyes are at the upper righthand intersection.
From the beach at Puñihuil on the island of Chiloe, Chile, 2016
This photo illustrates the importance of making the best of things when your photography plans don’t work out as you’d hoped! We’d gone to Puñihuil with the intention of taking a boat out to the rocky islets offshore. We wanted to see and photograph the penguins that live there. But the weather was foggy and windy, and all boats were banned from venturing out. With no penguins to be photographed I turned my lens on to the seascape. The black and white edit emphasises the bad weather that had forced us to change plans.
In the Kerala Backwaters 2017
In the Kerala Backwaters life goes on much as it has done for centuries, with locals reliant on the water for transport, washing and (I suspect) drinking. Most of the traditional rice boats however have long since been adapted for tourists. I wanted to capture the timelessness of life on these waters. So I used filters to create a faded, old-fashioned effect. In placing the boat on the far right I’m probably stretching the composition rule-book, but I felt it adds a sense of movement and mystery.
The Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington State, 2017
I’ve mentioned before how much I am drawn to images that are both monochrome and colour; that is, very largely in shades of the same (‘mono’) colour. The Hoh was the perfect place for this style of photography, with so many shades of green wherever I looked. This was my favourite shot from our visit as the two women bottom left provide scale.
Lilac Breasted Roller, Chobe National Park, Botswana, 2018
I enjoy the challenges of photographing birds. But I can’t imagine how many shots I’ve taken with just the tip of a tail or wing when the bird flew off just as I pressed the shutter! So I’m thrilled when everything comes together, as it did with this beauty. He chose a photographically interesting perch, and one with no leaves or branches to obscure him. And he stayed put long enough for me to take several shots, of which this is my favourite.
Clearing weed from the Taedong River, Pyongyang, North Korea, 2019
It can be hard to take an original photo in North Korea. Tourists tend to be taken to the same sights and it’s not possible to just go off for a wander to see what you see! The opportunities for street photography and serendipitous finds are consequently rare. But one morning we were taken on a fairly long, albeit escorted. walk through the capital, Pyongyang.
As we crossed the river I saw a flotilla of small boats and asked one of the guides about them. They were clearing weed, he told me, after a storm the previous day. I asked permission to take photos which was granted. He probably expected me to take shots of the general scene, which indeed I did, but my favourite was this one looking straight down at a boat that had come close to the bridge. What makes the shot special is the man who has spotted me, looking up just as I pressed the shutter.
At the Terrace of the Leper King, Angkor Thom, Cambodia, 2020
When I travel I like to take photographs that tell you more about the place than just its famous sights. Who lives here and how do they live? Even when visiting those famous sights it’s worth keeping your eyes open for shots that show a different side, maybe through the eyes of a local. This driver will have visited Angkor Thom hundreds of times. To him it’s a place of work and catching up on some sleep is the best use of his downtime!
In the Plaza Botero, Medellin, Colombia, 2023
I love this shot for the pure serendipity that provided me with it. We were standing in the square listening to our guide tell us about Botero and his work. I like to learn about what I’m seeing when I travel, but when a guide is telling me something, however interesting, I’ll always have one eye out for interesting photo opps. On this occasion I turned my head to look around and spotted this guy leaning against a plinth with a sculpture that bore an uncanny resemblance to him!
So there you have it, my ten favourite photos. No, ten OF my favourite photos. As I said, ask me tomorrow and I’m sure to offer you a different set of ten! To prove my point, when I ran a similar exercise as guest host last summer I chose three other photos. Although I have to admit that the Kerala fisherman in that set would have made the cut today too had I not been deliberately avoiding repeating myself.