Landscape and Travel Photography: My Top Ten of 2016

January 02, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

We have just said 'goodbye' to the historic 2016 and it is already the first week of January, 2017. It is a great time for me to once again reflect on the achievements of the last year. My photographic journey in 2016 was arguably just as interesting as the highly productive 2015, when I really struggled to narrow down the shortlist of my best 10 images.

In the search of the perfect shot I travelled both locally and internationally chasing the light, the weather, the seasonal, natural elements and man-made wonders. In May I was privileged to visit the arctic Iceland wonderland for the first time to photograph it's landscape and wildlife. In September I embarked on a 7 week road trip through the Central and Eastern Europe. It was a very special experience to see the different cultures, personally witness ongoing geopolitical issues and observe the contrasting landscapes and breathtaking architecture at the change of seasons. It is really hard to condense it all to just 10 images, however to compensate for this I am planning to expand on the subject in more detail in the successive blog posts. In this review, I instead solely focus on showcasing my very best work while at the same time highlighting the range of photographic subjects and locations.

All images below were made using the excellent Canon EOS 5D mark III camera with my trusty 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lenses and Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with the architectural 410 head and processed using Adobe software. 2016 was the year when I almost completely gave up using the resin graduated filters, instead where necessary opting for a more laborious manual exposure blending. I found the filters didn't provide as good level of control, particularly for landscapes with complex horizon features or the sources of bright light causing flare issues. Blending allows much finer level of control and significantly increases processing latitude. On the final note, I used to be strongly opposed to tone-mapped HDR images, however I must commend the new Lightroom CC HDR feature that creates very neutral unprocessed files, perfectly adequate for simple static scenes with no movement  and captured from tripod. The function may still have a long way to evolve and in many cases manual blending remains the most powerful and the cleanest tool.

10. Fiery Lavender Field Sunset

LavenderLavender

Sometimes the most colourful sunset of the year takes place close to your doorstep. The stormy evening sky turned intensely purple and orange as the sun was edging close to the horizon. Luckily, I knew a blooming lavender field in a farm nearby - the flower hedge rows provided the perfect foreground leading the viewer's eye towards the distance and painting the scene in a matching colour palette.

9. Gullfoss Waterfall Sunrise, Iceland

Gullfoss waterfall sunrise, IcelandGullfoss waterfall sunrise, Iceland

Iceland could be lately described as the landscape photographer's playground. My first and only trip to date of writing took place in the beginning of May. I stayed just minutes away from the majestic Gullfoss Waterfall waterfall for the first couple of nights, hence I was offered several convenient opportunities to bag the perfect shot. I struck gold on the second morning. The fiery sunrise sky created a beautiful backdrop to the roaring gigantic waterfall. I tested several compositions and finally settled for the vertigo inducing angle looking down the sheer cliffs. Multiple exposure blending was instrumental to creating a detailed, colourful and at the same time carefully balanced image.

8. Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, UK

Bedruthan StepsBedruthan Steps

Bedruthan steps is one of the finest examples of the rugged North Cornwall coastline. The giant sea rocks on the beach below are subject to numerous legends and look incredibly dramatic from the cliff edges, decorated with a carpet of late spring flowers. The evening golden light was perfectly suited for the location and illuminated the scene in a warm symphony of colours. The play of the light and deep shadows painted a dramatic picture, full of character, contrast and texture.

7. Autumnal landscape colours near Vilnius, Lithuania

Autumnal colours at Puckoriu atodanga, VilniusAutumnal colours at Puckoriu atodanga, Vilnius

Early in October I was staying in Vilnius. In a matter of just a couple of days the golden autumn arrived and there was a short spell of dry weather. It was a race against time to bag the ultimate autumnal image. I remembered I had previously visited an interesting woodland location with the panoramic view of a sharp river bend. Pleasingly, my expectations of a colourful forest scenery were confirmed later on that afternoon. However, the light was unfavourable as it left the whole valley in a deep shade. Next morning the dawn brought great conditions: the sky was still relatively colourful as the morning sun flooded the river bank with light; there was even some rising mist in the distance. Overall, it was a great start of the morning, and I was still able to shoot a few cityscapes before the sunlight became too harsh. The weather deteriorated the next day and never improved until the end of my stay...

6. The Bavarian Fairy Tale Castle, Germany

Schwangau, GermanySchwangau, Germany I spent undoubtedly the most time during my Euro trip researching the King of Bavaria Ludwig II castles in South Germany close to the Austrian border. The most dramatic shot of the iconic Neuschwanstein castle was realised on the second day against all expectations. The sky developed interesting colours late in the evening and the castle and the surrounding cliffs were side-lit by the setting sun. I knew the image could only look better in the autumn with fiery colours in the tree line. Unfortunately on the return leg of the journey the weather was particularly uncooperative.

5. LLanddwyn Bay Lighthouse, Anglesey, North Wales

LLanddwyn Bay Lighthouse, Anglesey, North WalesLLanddwyn Bay Lighthouse, Anglesey, North Wales

Isle of Anglesey is home to a number of spectacular Welsh landmarks. LLanddwyn Bay Lighthouse is one of them. Despite a relatively short distance from the North Wales expressway it may take around an hour reach the location. However, it is definitely worth the time and effort. 

The image above was made during my first visit. I immediately noticed the great views of Snowdownia mountain range across the bay. The iconic lighthouse was still going to be focus of the photograph. I made the decision to combine the best landscape features into one image using a longer focal length lens. Pleasingly the sky started to pick up fiery colours just before the sunset. The last rays of sunlight gently highlighted the lighthouse, the rocks and the mountains in the background. I found this combination preferable to the even more colourful, but considerably darker and less contrasty images after the sundown.

4. Blue Hour Reflections at Lucerne, Switzerland

Lucerne blue hour reflectionsLucerne blue hour reflections

I strayed deep into Switzerland in the middle of October in a hope of climbing Mount Pilatus and shooting the sunset across lake Lucerne. The weather was fairly poor for landscape photography with slightly more positive forecast. Unfortunately, the afternoon and the evening turned truly miserable as the rain started and gradually intensified. The hiking plans were off and I stuck around the city of Lucerne. Even before the sunset time it was dark and the street lamps were switched on. Luckily, the day was saved as I found the reflections of the medieval city buildings across the footbridge that would be ironically fairly non-photogenic on a dry day. Blue hour cityscapes can be just colourful, vibrant and lively even on a demoralising, wet day like this. A moderately low perspective helped to frame the image with the railings and their reflections on each side of the photograph while retaining the straight verticals in the buildings. A little bit of patience was needed until there were no people crossing over the bridge. Obviously, it was necessary to shield my lens from the intense rain with my coat as the raindrops may easily ruin the image.

3. Micheldever Woods Bluebells, UK

Micheldever bluebellsMicheldever bluebells

Bluebells is one of my favourite subjects. Every year the English woodlands are decorated with the nature's own purple-blue scented carpets and it makes the perfect excuse to get up before dawn and take in all this beauty. I wrote a blog post earlier this year on the bluebells photography discussing the progress of working the shot and also included several other images.

2. Salzburg at Dusk, Austria

SalzburgSalzburg

Salzburg is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque small cities in Europe. Secluded deep in an Alpine valley, the historic Austrian crown jewel boasts marvellous baroque architecture and cultural heritage. The birthplace of Mozart is guarded by the giant medieval castle perched on the dominant clifftop. A stunning view of the city and the castle opens up from the cliffs near the Museum of the modern art. After carefully scouting the location at night I planned to shoot there during a morning blue hour, but unfortunately the I found the city asleep in the darkness. This was actually a major roadblock in many other European cities including Bruges, Heidelberg, Wroclaw, Prague and others... The sun eventually rose above the hills over an hour after the dawn painting an interesting panorama. The travel arrangements took me deeper into Austria later that day, however I was set to come back a few weeks later on the return leg of the journey. In my experience, the panoramas of such special cities always look epic from an elevated vantage point at dusk. Eventually I came back to Salzburg late in October for the evening blue hour photography, and just as expected I was rewarded with a wonderful sight and great cityscapes.

1. Krakow at Dawn, Poland

KrakowKrakow

Krakow was the capital of the Polish kingdom until the 16th century and remains one of the largest and the most important cities in the country to this day. Unlike Warsaw, it escaped the total destruction during the WWII. Luckily, the medieval old town is very well preserved and boasts a variety of stunning architecture. The Main Market Square or Rynek Główny is jam packed with market stalls and restaurants; unsurprisingly it is one of the most popular destinations both between the locals and the crowds of tourists. During my short visit to the city I similarly decided to focus on the architecture of the market square. The location was incredibly busy during the evening, however the streets were still completely empty early in the morning until the dawn, which created a perfect photography opportunity. I decided to frame the Krakow cathedral in one of the arches of the arches of the Market Hall building using a wide angle lens. The city lights helped to balance the exposure with the pre-dawn sky and created an ambient atmosphere. Rynek also provided countless other compositions that I am planning to discuss in the near future.

These 10 images are just a small selection of my travel photography during 2016; if you loved it please also check out the top 100 compilation for a broader overview of the year. The race is already on to capture the most dramatic shot of 2017. I am planning to focus on Wales, Bristol, Cornwall, Scotland and the mainland Europe. At the same time, I will be working on the blog to write up the highlights of the 2016 Euro trip, and also focus on showcasing my Scottish Highlands collection.

Please support me and my projects by purchasing the artwork for your home or your business from the web gallery. There will be also plenty of opportunities for landscape and architectural photography workshops and 1-to-1 sessions throughout the year so please feel free to get in touch to discuss your needs.


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