David Speight Photography
2023 a review of my year in pictures
So, I thought it was finally time that I follow suit and put together a review of my year in photography. Although 2023 has been a tricky year to navigate from a business sense, it has also been very rewarding from a photographic point of view. I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but I’m going to make an exception for this year. To get out with my camera even more! Work commitments mean it is just as difficult for me to get out and take pictures for myself. And obviously the weather has just as much of an influence! I’ll often have a trip planned, but the weather looks poor, in which case I’ll usually convince myself that it was a luxury anyway, and I’m better off catching up with other jobs at home, and the day gets binned. My aim for 2024 is to just get out and explore even more, (whatever the weather!) and to do what I enjoy the most; discovering new areas, and maybe finding one or two new locations that I can use in forthcoming workshops.
I have already added a couple of new workshops for 2024. I’ll be running a day at Spurn Point in January. The first date sold out pretty quickly, so I’ve added another one for the same weekend. Let me know if you’d be interested in joining us, although if that date isn’t convenient, don’t worry as I will be adding more dates for later in the year. I’ve also now added the first date for a day in the Peak District (18th February) and I’m really looking forward to this. Again though, I will be running more throughout the year.
So, on with my retrospective look at 2023. Our winters are not looking very wintery at the moment! I’m writing this as I look out of our living room window. The rain is torrential. Let’s hope that changes soon. January of this year saw us travelling north to Glencoe, and it was unseasonally warm. Very little in the way of snow, even on the mountain tops. However, we were very, very fortunate in many ways. We avoided the rain completely and there was hardly any wind at all over our four days. Great for reflections, such as here at Lochan Urr, Glen Etive. The light wasn’t too bad either!
I hope I don’t come across as too repetitive, but onto February and winter still hadn’t arrived! I headed over to the Lake District hoping for some crisp winter conditions, and it really looked and felt more like autumn. A highlight though, was a visit to Buttermere and some gorgeous early morning light, and flat calm conditions. I’ve visited Buttermere so many times over the years, and believe me, those conditions (as fantastic as they are) are quite a rarity. Amazingly, we managed to avoid the rain, and the wind, for that day at least!
I absolutely love my visits to Northumberland! I’d go as far as saying, “I think it’s my favourite coastal area of all”. With the exception of 2018 and the ‘Beast from the east’, this area has been very kind to us regarding conditions. 2023 however, was exceptional! Just when I started to think winter had been cancelled for this year, it decided to turn up… in March! It was very brief, but the weather that coincided with the workshop was phenomenal. We awoke to snow covering the ground on two of our four days, and although it was great to finally see some wintery conditions, the snow wasn’t actually the highlight. It was the stunning cloud formations which were carrying the snow that really caught our attention. I don’t know if it’s still a thing, but I remember the forecasters warning of a ‘snow bomb’. Well the clouds we witnessed in March, were just that, and looked almost like a giant mushroom cloud, no more so than here, looking out from Amble towards Coquet Island at sunset.
The Yorkshire Wolds continues to surprise me with every visit, in just how different the same locations can look, throughout the different seasons and under different lighting. We visited my favourite field here, and it was staggering to see just how much it had changed in only a matter of weeks. I’ve probably shared this composition so many times now, you might be getting sick of seeing it! But I loved the tractor slowly working the field and providing a bit of scale for those giant land waves!
May is Bluebell season, but I’m always a little bit on edge until I’ve actually seen the Bluebells and new Beech leaves. I usually visit a few locations to check on them, a week or two before the workshop, as a late cold spell can delay the peak of the Bluebells, or the new Beech leaves, or both! Thankfully, this year was a fantastic one for wildflowers, and I also managed to recce one or two new locations which I might add in for this years workshop. We also managed some very nice light!
Speaking of wildflowers, the highlight for June was a visit to Swaledale, and the Hay Meadows this year were as vibrant as I think I’ve ever seen them! It really is a lovely time of year, with the longer days of summer, and new spring lambs zooming about and chasing each other around the meadows. Although the high temperatures and wall to wall blue skies are not great for many landscapes, the contrasting colours of the meadows against the sky works really well.
We visited Provence, southern France in July, and what a week it was! We stayed in Manosque, which is around a twenty minute drive from the stunningly beautiful Lavender fields of the Valensole Plateau. We crammed such a lot into our week-long stay, and as it was midsummer, there were some very early starts in order to capture the Lavender in the best light! As fantastic as the lavender is, it’s not the only subject we photographed during our stay. There are gorgeous hilltop villages, such as Lacoste and Gordes, the beautiful geology of the Colorado Provençal, and my own personal favourite, the mountain views and soaring Griffon Vultures of the Gorges du Verdon. I’m running another workshop here in July 2024, and you can find out more details about this on the website.
Yorkshire takes some beating when it comes to landscape diversity. One thing we do have lots of, is moorland! August is Heather time, and situated as I am, in West Yorkshire, I’m very lucky to have quite a few different locations within fairly easy reach. The standout location for me this year, was this fabulous group of rocks above the Nidd Valley, which we visited on the Nidderdale workshop. The Heather hasn’t really been at its best the last few years, but 2023 was a good year. We were very lucky to witness a gorgeous sunset, and golden hour light here, but all of the areas we visited that day produced great images for everyone.
September is always a good month in the Dales, but the Heather stole the show again. I ran a one-to-one workshop in the Peak District around the first week of the month, and the colours of the Heather were still looking remarkably good. We began the day over at Higger Tor, and conditions really couldn’t have been much better! The Peak District is very prone to mist inversions, and late August/September and throughout the autumn and winter period is probably the best time. There was a slight bit of a breeze that morning, but this only improved the scene as the mist rolled over the grit stone edge up at Burbage, looking like a giant, silent Tsunami!
Marking the beginning of autumn, October is always a very busy month, and for good reason too! This year, I finally managed to carry out my plans from before the pandemic, and run a week-long workshop over on the West Coast of Ireland. This actually then turned into two week-long workshops, and both weeks were highly enjoyable. As well as visiting the areas I had already seen, it was great to be able to do a bit of exploring and find some new locations that are real gems. The coastal landscapes along the Wild Atlantic Way are the most dramatic I think I’ve ever witnessed. Devils Hole at Malin Head, An Port, Horn Head and Fanad Head lighthouse are all fantastic examples, but a personal favourite was a visit to Maghera Beach and caves. Maghera beach is basically a massive swathe of pristine, white sand, fringed on either side by the most remarkable cliffs, caves and geology, some of them resembling actual pyramids! If there’s enough interest, then I will be running another week-long workshop in October of this year. Dates are available to book on the website now.
Peak autumn colours usually occur around the beginning of November, though it can depend on the location to some extent. The Colours of Calderdale workshop continues to be as popular as ever, and I ran another sold out day this year. Although we didn’t get the mist inversion of the previous year, it was however, still a fantastic day with some great light up on the moors to finish off with. As always, the woodland colours around Hardcastle Crags and Colden Clough were on fire, and it always surprises me that we don’t see more photographers out and about to capture them. Having said all that, it was Northumberland that stole the show, later in the month while running the annual four day workshop. The weather was just about perfect every day, and we saw some beautiful sunrises and sunsets, such as this one on our first morning at Bamburgh.
Finally, I cleared my diary for the first few weeks of December, so that we could spend two weeks exploring the Torridon and Wester Ross area. We ended up missing our first day due to some complete idiot, speeding through a red light, hitting and writing my partner, Belinda’s car off, and knocking her unconscious in the process! Luckily, apart from shock and a bit of concussion, her injuries weren’t too severe, and I think our time up in Scotland helped her get over it.
I’ve visited Torridon a few times in the past, so I already have reasonably good knowledge of the area. It was great though, to have a full two weeks to explore and check out some new areas. For me, the real star attractions of Torridon are it’s fantastically dramatic mountains, and you don’t have to climb them for spectacular views. We stayed in Torridon village, in a lovely three bedroom cottage with a gorgeous outlook over Loch Torridon. The weather could have been better, but at least it was fine for us most of the time, and our two mad Weimaraners couldn’t have cared less eitherway! We did get a couple of days with real crisp, winter conditions. Hoar frosted moorland and frozen lochans, which was a real treat to witness, let alone photograph! I did my best to make the most of them, even using my bike to reach some areas a bit quicker, so I could fit more into the day.
On the Monday before we headed home, I decided I needed a slightly more challenging walk, so after consulting the OS maps app, and various online resources, I decided to climb Beinn Alligin, also known as the mountain of beauty, or jewelled mountain. The forecast looked pretty good, and the OS recommended route described the walk as moderate, and that it would take just under five hours to complete. I wanted to be up there for sunrise, so I set off from the car park just after 06:00 am, in complete darkness. The path up there is reasonably good, and I made it up to the first summit, (Tom na Gruagaich) with a good 30 mins to spare until sunrise. The sunrise, although not spectacular, wasn’t bad. It would have been better though, if I could have seen it properly! Just as I reached a point near the summit, a raft of clouds blew through, obscuring the views out over Loch Torridon and beyond. Still, it was a beautiful view and it felt amazing to be the only person up there at that time. I grabbed a few more images from up around the summit, before heading off to tackle the second Munroe of the day, Sgurr Mor.
It’s a longer walk than it looks, but at a rough estimation, It probably took me another hour to reach the summit. The views from here are simply breathtaking, with the Horns of Alligin slightly beneath you, and Beinn Dearg just off in the background. Those annoying clouds were still doing their best to scupper all attempts at a decent shot, but there was some occasional light getting through now, and hitting the south facing slopes beneath the Horns. I managed a few more shots before heading off to tackle the walk over the Horns. At this point though, although I’d watched a few videos of people crossing the ridge, I have to admit I started to feel bit nervous. In truth, I’d carried too much gear up there, and I was already feeling quite tired. From the summit of Sgurr Mor, the ridge looks very narrow, and the climb up and over the first horn looks very steep! If I had made the walk down, only to have to turn back, and retrace my steps, it was going to be a very long day! With this in mind, I thought it was better to be safe than sorry, and I decided to make the walk back the same way I came. It’s probably a longer walk coming back over Tom na Gruagaich again, and I was completely knackered by the time I reached the van, back at the car park. What an absolutely brilliant day though, and I can’t wait to try it again.
I’m just at the stage of writing everything up for the website, but I’ll be running a week long workshop to Torridon in the New Year. The likelihood is that it will be the first week of December or thereabouts (in an attempt to get some wintery conditions!) If you’d be interested in joining me for what promises to be a fantastic week, in outstanding scenery, do get in touch and let me know as soon as you can.
Finally, I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support this year, it really is appreciated, and I wish you and your families a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Posted on 31st December, 2023