Whatever the Mayans, and Nostradamus, might have had to say about 21 December 2012, we're all still here. Rather like the millennium bug. The sun rose this morning, bringing with it a new dawn and a new year. I thought it was a particularly beautiful sunrise too, largely because I was in my beloved Surrey Hills woodland long before 08.04 and ready with the 5D Mark II, tripod and ball head, filters, a meaty selection of L-series lenses and plenty of cold weather gear. In fact, I took perhaps more than a little pleasure in donning some Brynje kit - just so I could hit the pub afterwards. It was dead on freezing this morning but I was toasty warm as I sprinted through the forest along empty trails, basking in the golden hue of the shafts of lights arcing through the trees. Leith Hill bestows a wonderful perspective across the North Downs and the Greensand Way, which follows a ridge of greensand rock across Surrey and Kent, has some of its most dramatic vistas here.
I have included one of my favourites of the photographs I took too - this was all about personal growth. Each time I release the shutter, I am learning a little more. Depth of field and back to front sharpness, exposure in difficult lighting situations, composition, stock photography vs. artistic or personal photography, using filters - each time I undertake a project like the one I did this morning, I am trying to push myself to learn and experiment. I have to admit, it was the most fun I have had in a while. I've not been able to get out anywhere near as much as I would have liked to this year - so much has happened.
I enjoyed an overnighter in the Yorkshire Dales with Terry Abraham and Martin Rye. I spent two days in Jotunheimen, on the Besseggen Ridge, Gjendesheim and Memurubu. In Norway, I met two more bloggers - Helen Fisher and Thomas Gauperaa and found in them two people I have no doubt I'll board a flight for again. I spent plenty of time in the woods of the Surrey Hills - running, walking, photographing, testing kit and learning. I feel relaxed there - at home and complete. It's like my back garden and perhaps one day I'll do post on what it's like and why I love it.
I forged relationships with Arc'teryx, Brynje and Hestra. They send me kit and I am free to say what I like about it. But I also have the chance to speak to the designers and give them feedback, suggestions and discuss the future of the way kit is manufactured and from what.
And I joined Sidetracked - one of the most exciting, innovative and potentially genre-changing magazines around at the moment. In John Summerton and Jamie Maddison, I am working with two hugely talented people with whom I have a shared vision for my future and the future of reporting inspiring adventure travel, expeditions and exploration. I have interviewed some amazing people - Mark Kalch, Julia Immonen and Alex Hibbert to name a few - and the material we have coming up for Sidetracked in 2013 blows my mind.
And so to 2013...
What next? My relationship with Norwegians - whether they make kit or blog and hike - just gets better. I want to meet Joe Newton with Helen and Thomas next year. It's all about making it happen. I hope Hendrik Morkel will join us. I'll be doing some Arctic Expedition Training in Norway and writing about it for a couple of magazines (and Sidetracked, of course) - you'll probably know the editor of one of them but I'll tell you about that once it's published. Great education for me and, hopefully, a good read for you.
I'll be experimenting more with exposure and lighting. I recently bought a 10 stop filter to go with my 2 and 3-stop ND and ND Grad filters. And I'm getting into off-camera flash too. I've been chatting away to a superb pro who has donated a lot of his personal time, helping me see things differently - thanks Simon Tranter for all your help, advice and for freely giving me the benefit of your considerable expertise. After spending a day in the Surrey Hills during golden hour, I spent some time in Windsor Great Park at the Cascades Waterfall at Virginia Water experimenting with shutter speed. Here's one shot I liked:
I'll be doing the Laugavegur in Iceland. Andrew Skurka did it in about 10 minutes but I'll be taking my time and taking some photographs. I won't be the first and I certainly won't be the last but the opening sequence in Prometheus simply whetted my appetite for a dish I'd put to one side until I had the time. You know what - I'm making time.
I'll also be heading to the High Tatras in Slovakia and Poland. I like to go to places that aren't the honey pots everyone writes about and the Tatras have something that we Brits know little about. I'll think it'll be rather special.
And I'll be writing more. I've been lucky enough to forge relationships with the editors of some great outdoor and adventure travel magazines and I am getting regular commissions from them - making a living from writing full-time seems light years away but the mentality of long distance hiking bears some scrutiny here - it's a journey and rushing everywhere is not necessarily the best way to get there faster and so often you miss things on the way.
So, 2012 did not turn out the way I expected. In some ways it was disappointing - for you as much as for me because I did not get out as much as I had hoped and you perhaps had less to read. But it laid so many of the stones required to build the foundations of a career spent doing the things I love which must be more important.
So Happy New Year to all of you, thank you so much for reading, and I wish you my kind of happiness because, in June last year I got the greatest present of all: