While finalising my entries for this year’s photography competitions, I realised that I never look back on the year’s output other than during the hunt for prizes. In light of this, I decided to put together a somewhat belated collection of my personal favourite images from 2010. These aren’t necessarily the ones that I’ve entered into competitions but more a selection of pictures that I’m pleased with when I look at 2010. While some aren’t the most technically incredible or most breathtaking, I’ve tried to describe why they stand out to me as proud achievements. Some regular readers of this blog (bless your every pore) will have seen quite a few of these before in previous posts, but I guess you’ll have to suffer through the emotional turmoil of seeing them one more time before they’re locked away into the digital vault that is my 2010 archive.

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(Okay, I know it’s a bit late for a round-up of 2010 but I’ve been busy, okay?)

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My first picture comes from the Winter Olympics in Whistler, Canada. Following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili the previous day, I managed to spot some movement around the site of the accident as I was passing over a footbridge. After a few minutes, Kumaritashvili’s team-mate Levan Gureshidze appeared and spent a few minutes on the spot of his friend’s death. Alone, he didn’t say anything but touched and held the pillar that killed his team mate before simply standing, deep in his loss.

While covering the General Election in the UK, I was one of the first photographers to travel with the Conservative Party as David Cameron began his campaign to become Prime Minister. A combination of good luck, internal politics and my trademarked smile managed to get me the opportunity to spend a few seconds with Mr. Cameron after a speech to supporters at a college in Plymouth. At the time, I thought it would end up being something that was offered to each of the photographers but it turned out to be a one-off. Either I treated him so badly in the seconds that I had that I put him off for good or I managed to be rather lucky. Either way, it made a frame that’s made my selection.

With the election dominating the news, I was sent to follow Bridget Fox as she canvassed for support and votes in the borough of Islington South and Finsbury in North London. In the short time that I was with her, it was incredible to see just how little encouragement or hospitality she received from the people whose houses she approached. With some refusing to open their doors, others ignoring her knocking and a handful being either openly dismissive or offensive, I think this shot manages to sum up the strange situation that these people put themselves in, knowing that the person about to answer the door is very probably not a supporter, yet still being prepared to try.

With the power of hindsight, the next picture has become even more significant to me. At the time, a playful gesture by a child during a Liberal Democrat campaign event made me chuckle. However, with accusations of Nick Clegg selling out the party values in the current coalition, the lack of respect coming from the young boy seems to mirror the feelings of many young people who previously supported the party but now feel let down over tuition fee rises.

After weeks of touring the country and a few days of meetings and deals behind closed doors, being there at the conclusion was a good way to wrap up the story. As is the norm with stories of this size in Downing Street, a massive grandstand had been erected opposite the door of number 10 with news crews, journalists and photographers camping out for the big moment. When you’re shooting with such a large number of photographers, it’s hard to get excited about your pictures as you know that everyone is shooting from a similar angle. It just becomes a case of looking for that particular fraction of a second that captures the event. After doing the usual posturing that anyone would do when they’d just become the new Prime Minister, this little hug stood out as an unusually intimate move to share with the world’s media. Combined with eye-line from Samantha Cameron, it becomes one of my favourites of 2010.

On a slightly different tack, the World Naked Bike Ride Day presented me with plenty of pictures but not that many that most of the British papers would want to print due to the presence of naked middle-aged men. Nearing the end of the route, I’d reached Parliament Square and was just checking I’d not missed anything special when this paramedic cycled past. When it comes down to it, a naked official on a bike will always make the grade.

Not being a massive sports fan, it may seem odd that the one picture that I’ve chosen from Glastonbury festival is from the live screening of the England vs Germany match. The reason that this one still appeals to me is due to the fact that in a field of tens of thousands of England fans, there was a single Germany supporter who was quite happy to show off her pleasure at the disaster unfolding on the screens. In the groups all around her, some seriously big (and drunk) England fans were starting to get angry with the result with one guy tearing his team shirt off in disgust. Despite this somewhat threatening environment, whenever England let another goal in and the whole field groaned, this girl jumped into the air, cheering. Like the Cameron shot above, catching natural eye-line during the right moment got it a spot in my top sixteen.

Working in news, it’s actually quite rare that I get to work in a one-on-one environment anymore so when I was sent to shoot a feature on the BFI’s restoration of a Hitchcock classic, it was somewhat disconcerting to find myself in a room with a bunch of guys that were prepared to do whatever I wanted. After months of doorstep shots and long-range photography, it was decidedly disconcerting to have control over a subject! After playing around for a while, I managed to combine all of the elements of the story into one frame that captures everything that I wanted to say.

I may receive death-threats from a million bloggers across the world for this but 96%of live music photography is like shooting fish in a barrel. Controversial, I know, but when you have someone on a big stage, lit professionally as they perform for you, you’d have to be quite an eejit to not get something. Once you’ve got the basic rules under your belt, it becomes somewhat formulaic. With this in mind, my hat is truly doffed to those music photographers out there that manage to get something special. The longer that I work as a photographer, the more I want totally clean and neutral backgrounds in my images so this shot stands out for me. Unlike the majority of live music photography, it looks more like a portrait, even though it was shot on a 400mm f2.8 lens from about 25m away during Thom Yorke’s set at the Big Chill festival.

From the same festival, installation artist Spencer Tunick gathered festival-goers into a field, stripped them naked, painted them up and took their picture. Now whenever I suggest that to passing women, I just get blanked. Anyway, the PRs at the event were distinctly unhelpful and told the photographers that we would only be able to shoot the installation from a fixed position. Realising that this would be useless, I took a long lens and sat on the opposite hillside. With the shoot complete, the naked subjects dispersed from the field and just as I was about to move on, I noticed a final participant being helped from the area.

Wanting to take advantage of the make-up, I grabbed a handful of participants and found a black cloth backdrop on the side of Mr. Scruff’s Tea Shop to shoot them against. Again, my love of neutral backgrounds really allowed the subjects to be the only focus so with a little encouragement to out-perform the previous model, the expressions became more and more exaggerated. Myfi Baron was my particular favourite with her perfect example of the classic Goth/Smurf/Riotgrrrl look that never seems to be out of fashion.

Despite getting a reasonable selection of shots of the man himself, my favourite shot of the Papal visit came from his Mass in Glasgow where a cluster (flock? herd?) of bishops moved out into the park to allow the congregation to take Mass. Each bishop was assigned a teenager to hold a bright umbrella over their head as they walked. As they moved from the stage, the shot from above was quite strong but I realised that I should be taking advantage of the low afternoon sun so rushed down to ground level from the photo position and managed to get this frame.

One of the biggest stories of the year was Wikileaks with the website’s founder Julian Assange taking centre stage. On my second opportunity to photograph him, a press conference was held in the basement of a London hotel and, as expected, the world’s media was very evidently in attendance. During the event, I set up a remote flash gun off to the right of the stage and using a 400mm, waited for a decent expression or moment that would be relevant. Thankfully, while another of the guests was speaking, Assange went to touch his mouth and for a moment was covering it, which I think the US Government wishes he’d done from the start.

During a trip to Afghanistan with British Prime Minister David Cameron, I visited an Afghan patrol training college where I got the chance to see the latest graduates. The combination of them looking like an Afghan version of Dad’s Army in ill-fitting uniforms, along with the fact that at least one of them (2R) could kill me from a mile away, made it a favourite. Unlike others in this selection, when I came to choose which frame of this shoot to file, I went for the one where I wasn’t making eye contact with any of them, as I like the feeling of vigilance in these new patrolmen.

While the day of the student protests was owned by Matt Dunham’s shot of Camilla getting a good poke in public (with a stick), it was left to the rest of us to see what else we could find. My favourite image came towards the end of the day after a security hut was set on fire. With acrid smoke from the burning plastic filling the air, a guy came wandering through the plumes with a full gas mask on. “Be prepared”, as anarchist scouts will tell you.

One of the last jobs of 2010 for me was the appearance of Mr. Assange at the High Court in central London. Having only been able to see him in shots taken through the thick and darkened windows of a prison van, the nation’s media was out in force to catch sight of him. Thanks to some prime position marking by freelance AFP photographer Warren Allott, I managed to get a spot on the front row of the gathered photographers. Just as we were all ready for a nice easy picture, the security staff set up a partition wall so that we wouldn’t be able to see him. Now from this distance, there was only the thinnest gap when he would be visible. Thankfully, I decided to push my D3s to DX crop mode, giving me the faster burst rate of 11 frames per second and this was the only shot that I got of him. While I’m all for the “decisive moment”, sometimes a kick-ass motor-drive helps out.

So there you have it. Now let’s get this decade started…

13 Responses to “My Sweet Sixteen”

  1. So great to see your favourite shots of the year, and to have some background to them. Gorgeous, as always. x

    Posted by kirsten
  2. Happy New Year Leon. All stunning, but your first of Levan Gureshidze really got to me, as a capture of a truly personal moment without interferring of disturbing that moment. Thank you for your photographs and please continue. Nic

    Posted by Nic
  3. Great read Leon… as always cracking shots, love the first one of Assange covering his mouth, you are a talent!

    Posted by Michael
  4. The bishops shot is still my favourite followed by the previously unseen (for me) lit shot of Assange – perfectly sums up the story as you said. I like the last shot too as i’m impressed you got something (hoorah for motor drives and good positions!)

    Posted by Adam
  5. @Kirsten Cheers, honey!

    @Nic Cheers Nic! Happy New Year back at you. I’m glad the shot of Gureshidze works well for you. It was one of those fine lines of wanting to get a shot but not to intrude but as you can see, all of his thoughts were a million miles away from me.

    @Michael haha! Thanks, Michael. That was one of those shots that I liked when I filed it but just hoped the papers would agree and, thankfully, they did!

    @Adam Tell me about it. If I’d left it on 9fps, there’s a big chance that I’d have missed him entirely as on 11fps, I just got his nose in the one before and his foot in the one after!

    Posted by tabascokid
  6. My Liege!! Once again, I covet your gift!! Show me thy ways!! I loved all the shots, but the ones that really stood out for me was the Nick Clegg shot, the ‘black minstrel’ shot (that’s right, I said it!) and the Cam Portrait shot. As for the naked biker, way to make me nearly throw up breakfast. I don’t need to see that on a wet Monday morning!

    Posted by pixgremlin
  7. Top stuff as usual mate – Let’s hope this year brings some more great opportunities. Looking forward to seeing your pictures.
    Regards,
    Ian

    Posted by Ian Forsyth
  8. A really diverse set of interesting pictures. Like the commentary on the background of the pic as well, otherwise I wonder why Im looking at a bunch of yellow umbrellas.

    Im sure if they were entered into competition a group of bearded men would say “It doesn’t meet the rule of 3rds, Don’t like the contrast…”

    Just a quick question does the guy, in the Afghan soldier picture, 2nf from right, have a blue protesthic hand?

    Posted by Karen
  9. @Akin haha! Trust you… I heard Nick Griffin tried to buy that picture of Myfi from AFP for his family Christmas card. ;)

    @Ian Me too! Thanks, squire.

    @Karen Cheers! Yeah, I thought that I’d take the opportunity to explain a bit of back story as they were stand-alone images. Some of the pictures have been featured in previous blogs so I didn’t want to go over old detail though. Your eagle eye has indeed spotted a prosthetic hand on the chap with the tache. He’s not one to mess with though as it turns out that he’s currently the deadliest sniper in the Afghan patrol, one-handed or not! Full details on that job can be found on the previous blog post.
    As for rules of thirds, I’m a firm believer in learning the rules then forgetting about them. Sometimes pictures work using rules of thirds, golden circles and magic flip-flops but sometimes it’s just down to the individual frame and situation.

    Posted by tabascokid
  10. Really good set of pics. That portrait of Cameron is so strong. Excellent work!

    Posted by Jack
  11. Cool post – always very interesting to read the stories behind the pictures. Love the ones of Gureshidze and the bishops; and the Afghan soldiers one is genius.
    ps – shooting gigs is just the easiest way to get to the front of Brixton Academy, and for shorties to actually see the band!

    Posted by christine
  12. oh so many good pictures, I thought your Churchill and Hooligan classic would have made the top 10. Have a good year and look forward to some great pictures

    Posted by Paul thurlow
  13. Fabulous set of pics – every one a strong shot that is worthy of any photography book. Thanks for taking the time to share with us mere amateurs an insight into what it is like at the sharp end of photographing. Totally engaging.

    Posted by Gary Roberton

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