My main attribute as a photographer is the good fortune to go to a lot of interesting places during a year. Sure, it helps that work requires me to have a half-decent camera and the editing software to go with it, and that I don’t mind lugging a lot of kit around. I live in Oxford, which remains beautiful despite the best efforts of its extremely dim and destructive planning officers; I have business in attractive cities like Hong Kong, San Francisco and Prague as well as London; holidays are either built around my travels or are in places chosen for their beauty.
I aimed to show one picture for each month of 2014. It became clear that it would be quicker to show three than to agonise over one. These are not necessarily the best in any technical sense, but the ones which summarise the year for me.
All 36 pictures appear here in wallpaper style and can be seen at the end of this page as a slide show.
Mary Ann and Saxon on Brae Hill, Trebetherick, Cornwall
This is the picture at the top of this article. Mary Ann has been going up Brae Hill since before she could walk; Saxon, thirteen and a half when this was taken, and still with us, should be past hiking up hills but keeps on going. I was more than half a mile away.
One building reflected in another, Atlanta, Georgia
It was bitterly cold in Atlanta and I was lucky to find this on my doorstep. The building behind me is where Iris Data Services, who were my hosts, have their offices. Chance made me look up at the very point where the curving glass captured a segment of the brick block.
Entrance to Metro station, Dupont Circle, Washington D.C
We weren’t meant to be in Washington, but there were no hotel beds in New York thanks to some sporting event. Flights are much cheaper if you include a Saturday night, so we went to Washington and took the train to NYC when the sports fans had left. At Dupont Circle is the Philips Collection – not just for the art but because it is one of the few places in the US where the coffee is good. The view up the Metro escalator is simultaneously industrial and artistic, with a hint of either hope or apocalypse awaiting you.
Saxon fails to show his age on Port Meadow, Oxford
I could fill this page with pictures of our old Labrador, Saxon. Heading for 14 when this was taken, he sometimes betrays all the conventional afflictions of age. Sometimes he does not. Here he runs out of the water on Port Meadow, Oxford, where he walks pretty well every day.
Stanley Military Cemetery, Hong Kong
Stanley Cemetery was the last resting place for the sons, daughters and children of Empire until the mid C19. In 1941, it was reopened for those who died in the defence of Hong Kong which ended on 25 December 1941, for those who died in Stanley Internment Camp, and for other war dead. The graves of service personnel are in the well-known style of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The others are in a range of styles including the half-cyclinders visible here. It is beautifully maintained. My son William and I spent hours here, filming and taking photographs.
Black Kite over Hong Kong Harbour
This was taken by William, and I played with it in Photoshop. The verticals are tall buildings in Kowloon. A ship passes by, and a Black Kite flaps across the harbour.
Looking down California Street, San Francisco at night
Within two weeks of that Hong Kong Harbour picture being taken, I was in San Francisco, having been home and taken in a conference in Phoenix, Arizona on the way. Mary Ann joined me and we stayed on California Street. I braved the trams to take this shot. I don’t know if the designer of Oakland Bay Bridge deliberately sited one of its towers neatly in the middle of the view, but it was good of him to do so.
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse near Mendocino, Northern California
With the San Francisco conference over, we drove north, as we have done before, to Mendocino, this time via Napa and Sonoma. I took many pictures of the sunset over the Pacific, each lovely and each almost the same as the last, but I can’t decide which to choose and which to discard. I have only one of the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, to the north of Mendocino, caught as the light was fading.
Evening light and a blazing fire near Inverness, Northern California
This “hotel” is a series of small cabins among trees at Inverness, above Tomales Bay. They were built for C19 gentlemen on fishing trips and, wifi and electricity apart, seem little changed since then. They lay the fire for you and bring you your breakfast (dinner too on some evenings). Mary Ann knits as evening light slants across the glow of the fire, watched by pictures of long-dead fish.
Vertical wonders looking west from Tower Hill
I had an afternoon meeting near the Tower and came out to a glorious evening light. This view is easily lost between tall buildings – I have never noticed before this juxtaposition of glorious verticals. On the left is All Hallows by the Tower; in the middle, the tower of St Dunstan-in-the-East (bombed in the war and now a public garden which I have never been into); on the right is the top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London. I am stuck as to the two points which lie beyond St Dunstan – not quite in the right line, nor quite the right shape for Cannon Street Station, not anything else which I can identify. More research needed, but who cares very much compared with the view itself? The plane passing overhead was a bonus. After this I walked along the river to Bank Station and will one day publish some of the photographs which resulted.
Hong Kong trams at night
William and I were back in Hong Kong in April and spent an evening wandering round Admiralty and Central. I lay in wait for this juxtaposition of smartly-decorated trams. These ones looked good enough in their original liveries, but I rather liked the effect of messing about with the colours.
Across Hong Kong Harbour to Kowloon at night
We took many pictures of Star Ferry boats, reflections on water and the bright lights of Hong Kong. This is the only one which is very different from any other. It was taken from a rooftop restaurant in Central and looks across the ferry terminals to Kowloon.
Cannon Street Station and St Paul’s at dusk
Successive mayors of London can easily be induced to let property developers throw up ugly tower blocks wherever they like, and open views like this will soon disappear. I was at an event organised by kCura at the south end of London Bridge and left as the evening light turned to darkness. At right are the twin towers of Cannon Street Station; in the centre is the dome of St Paul’s and then its western towers. Everywhere else, the cranes show that Boris Johnson’s vulgar spiv pals are hard at work ruining the skyline.
Buttercups on Port Meadow and a narrow boat on the Thames
I walk down here every day when not travelling – it would take two minutes from home but for the fact that old Saxon must sniff every blade of grass on the way. The meadow turns yellow with buttercups in May. Beyond them, the flood-plain water is receding before briefly turning to dust in mid-summer. A red canal boat heads south down the Thames – the wooden building beyond it is a sailing club. The village of Binsey lies hidden to the right and Wytham Hill rises beyond.
A rooftop party in Las Vegas
Next stop was CEIC, organised by Guidance Software in Las Vegas. Hidden within Caesars Palace is an elevator which takes the lucky few to a rooftop where food and drink is served overlooking the lights of the brightest city in the US. Las Vegas is best after dark, and even better if you can view it from height. There was nothing planned about this picture – I looked up from my food and saw the heads silhouetted against the light. The arc of the wheel was a bonus.
Looking out of place on a South Carolina Beach
William and I went to Techno Security at Myrtle Beach in South California at the invitation of Nuix. William was there to make videos and I was moderating a panel on cross-border forensics and discovery. The venue was right on the beach, which explains (partially explains anyway) why I was standing by the shore-line in my suit (I don’t do casual at events when I am on duty, whatever the local dress). An earlier picture in the series shows me walking purposefully seawards as if aiming to walk home; if I had known what the homeward flights would be like, I might have done just that.
Early morning at Stourhead
We were lucky enough to be lent a cottage on the Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire. I was just off a plane and my head was in a different timezone, which explains why I was up to watch the dawn. Among other rewards was the sight of a fox wandering home. I did not even have to leave the garden to get this view of early morning light through the trees.
Great Malvern Priory
An old friend (my oldest friend – we were at school together in 1968 and then simultaneously at Oxford) lives in Great Malvern and we went to his birthday party. We had a look at Malvern while we were there. This is Malvern Priory, also the Parish Church of St Mary and St Michael. I have taken liberties with the colour of the stonework – another version is blue – to draw out the colour variations in the stone and glass.
A Red Kite eyes us up
Saxon and I were given a close look-over by a Red Kite. These occasional visitors to Port Meadow are magnificent in flight, big enough to cast a substantial shadow over the ground as they flap or glide overhead.
Saxon on Port Meadow
Yes, I know we have already had one of our old dog, and there is another one coming shortly.
St Pancras Station, London
The frontage of St Pancras Station is the former Midland Grand Hotel, designed by George Gilbert Scott and opened in 1873. Its near-neighbour, Euston Station, was destroyed in the 1960s but St Pancras survived through years as offices before being abandoned. It was restored in the 1990s and now houses the Renaissance London Hotel, some apartments and various rail services, including the Eurostar terminus. The Sedona Conference WG6 (cross-border discovery) annual Programme was held here in July which gave me an excuse to stay there.
Saxon cools his tum in the Thames
Last one of Saxon, I promise. The old boy has never liked swimming, but he does like to stand in the river and cool himself.
The River Thames looking north up Port Meadow
Many of my pictures of Oxford’s Port Meadow show sunsets, dramatic clouds, birds or the University’s appalling buildings (behind me in the picture). This just shows perfect stillness in the water and the wide open spaces. Saxon and I were the only beings in sight that morning. Being able to walk here with a dog almost every day is a greater privilege than any other I have known. We used to live in Wolvercote, at top right in this picture, just to the left of the tall tree and with a view straight down the meadow.
A Lancaster flies across the moon
This is, of course, two pictures. Only two Avro Lancaster bombers remain airworthy, and the Canadian one flew across the Atlantic to join the British one this summer. There was also a supermoon – the conjunction of a full moon with perigee, the point when the moon is closest to Earth. The two things together, plane and supermoon, help define August in my memory. Whatever your views on the wartime bombing campaigns by both sides, the Lancaster combines many things – it contributed heavily to victory in the war, it is a fine piece of the engineering for which Britain was once famous, and many of the thousands who died flying them were younger than my own boys are.
Detail from the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand
Another day when I walked westwards from an event in London. In years of walking past the RCJ, I had never noticed this figure standing on a pedestal above the entrance. King Alfred? The man who has just missed the Clapham omnibus? The man from Shropshire, resorting to desperate measures to get the Chancellor’s attention? [Bleak House if you find that reference one step too obscure]. Lot’s Wife, the encrusted salt giving her the appearance of a beard, looking back on Sodom (though it is Middle Temple on which his/her gaze falls). What fantastic detailing for a point so high above street level.
Boat on the Camel Estuary at sunset
We were back in Cornwall in September. The house (not ours, alas) looks westward across the estuary of the River Camel, and I have more pictures of boats and of wonderful sunsets than I know what to do with. This one combines the two, as a speedboat heads up-river to Padstow in the evening.
Daymer Bay and the Camel Estuary at low tide
Storms and shifting sands have stripped away much of the sand at Daymer. If that spoils its perfection as a beach, it presents interesting patterns for a photograph. Trebetherick lies to the left, with Brae Hill (see the top picture above) beyond that and then the curve round to Rock. To the right lies Padstow, once a thriving port, now famous for a chef. The mist hides the old railway bridge, now part of the Camel Trail, and the bloody wind turbines which litter the hills above.
The city looking east from Fetter Lane
This is the view from Taylor Wessing’s rooftop balcony. The bright red crane stands out nicely against the dark sky. The dome of the Old Bailey comes next, and then the cluster of buildings which mark the city proper. Only one of them, the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe to give its proper name), has any grace or style; the rest are just ugly bulk, thrown up by spivs to plans by designed only to maximise floorspace, and approved by biddable politicians. Canary Wharf lies below the white crane. Most offensive of all, the shape of St Paul’s is ruined by a building of such bulk and gracelessness as to make you wonder what, er, induced the authorities to give it their blessing.
Oxford University flats at Roger Dudman Way, as seen from Port Meadow
“Following careful assessment, it has been concluded that the development will not be visible from the majority of Port Meadow”. Oxford University Planning Statement, October 2011.
Well, here we are, three years later. What do you think? It breaks my heart every day.
Detail above a window at Prague Railway Station
Built between 1901 and 1909, the Art Nouveau Prague main railway station is a place of faded beauty, with the most wonderful decoration inside and out. This is but one example of the carvings and statues which decorate the old buildings. Some, like this couple, are slightly sinister in their strange beauty.
St Paul’s Cathedral across the Millennium Bridge, London
I had a dinner engagement south of the river, which, in my imagination, remains a place of Bob ‘oskins, Jaguar 3.8s, and flick knives. No more, it seems. Walking back in light rain, I came upon this view, one of several riverside pictures I took that night. Part of the magic here was opening up the vista to St Paul’s; the other nice touch is the partial lighting of the dome; for all I know that was a mistake or an economy measure, but it is much more effective than a perfectly-balanced gleam all the way round.
Derelict Georgian house, Henrietta Street, Dublin
Parts of northern Georgian Dublin have some of the saddest-looking buildings in Europe, like this once grand, now crumbling, house in Henrietta Street. There are whole streets like this which can neither be restored nor demolished.
Peewits circle over Port Meadow in the early morning
Of all the many birds which visit Port Meadow, the peewits, or lapwings, are the most dynamic. They rise in clouds, fly to and fro for a bit, then settle together, before repeating the exercise. This was early on a November morning, facing north-west across the flooded meadow; the sun behind me had brightened the sky but not yet risen high enough to touch the trees which lie beyond the River Thames. The few survivors of an older generation of trees stand in front of the next generation waiting to take their place. The stillness is palpable.
Turl Street, Oxford
To the left is Exeter College. Jesus is to the right. In the middle is what is now Lincoln College Library. It was completed in 1720 to the designs of Dean Aldrich of Christ Church – those were the days when a cultivated don could turn his hand to architecture in his spare time. It is plausibly thought that Nicholas Hawksmoor designed the tower. This is the sort of view one is able to take for granted if lucky enough to live in Oxford.
Winter sunset on Port Meadow, Oxford
When I first published this, I captioned it “It was as if someone opened a box of light and all the birds flew out”. This was a late afternoon walk at a time when days were short. You can watch the sun go down here – “watch” in the sense that the trees allow you to notice small changes in the height of the sun above the horizon.
A plane catches the dying light
At 30,000 feet, the plane was caught by sunlight which had disappeared from the ground. It is heading westwards, probably for the US. It looks more like a missile than a plane.