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My best photos of 2019

by Ellie Hopgood

The post I shared last year containing my best photos of 2018 is currently the most read post on this site, and the most commented on too. Knowing this, I have been anticipating the 2019 version all year. In 2019, I worked harder on my photography than ever before, diligently marking my favourites as the weeks passed, imagining which pictures might make the cut and what people might think. I am so pleased with my photographs this year; I think I have improved tremendously since I got my first proper camera two years ago, learning so much about light, composition and technique. This year, in part due to my weekly Get Snappy series, the finale of which was published yesterday, I have experimented a great deal. I have tested out different lenses and settings and tried still life photography, portraits and landscapes. I am so proud of the leaps and bounds I have made with my underwater photography, helped in huge part by the enormous privilege of visiting an amazing marine park in Kenya and spending two weeks diving in Indonesia. I cannot wait to do more diving with my camera next year.

Portraits have also been a big learning curve for me. At the start of the year, I photographed mostly inanimate objects, nervous about the prospect of cajoling my family and friends to model for me, especially because they might not like the outcome. But some weeks, the people in my life were by far the most photogenic things around, so I started snapping away in earnest. Now, portraits are some of my favourite pictures to take, and there are many dotted through this post. Finally, I have spent a lot of time attending and photographing protests this year, which has taught me so much about thinking on my feet, storytelling and privacy. I can’t wait to see how my photography develops next year – I hope to not only take more great pictures and improve my skills, but to get paid for them too. For now, though, it’s time to look back. Here are, in my opinion, the best photos I took this year:

Tower Bridge will feature prominently in this post. I make no apologies for that, because it is beautiful from every angle and at every time of day. I took this photo at sunrise in January, almost a whole year ago. I love how the fountain, bridge and building layer, I love the pink light, I love the dolphin and the girl thrown up into the air together, adding more intrigue to well known London landmarks.

I absolutely love this photo, taken in January in Brockwell Park. I love how striking the black branches are against the sunset, especially because of the detail: you can see tiny little twigs poking out at the tree’s extremities. The sprawling branches always make think of veins, which makes me think about how connected everything is, and other mushy stuff like that.

Of course Ivalo was going to feature in this post. I like the band of pink sky across the back, the general colour palette and how the image is split into three distinct bands of interest.

Two more of my favourite landmark, taken in the same photography session. In the first picture, I like how the bridge’s blue accents match the sky, and how the shadows spread across the body of the bridge. The band of light illuminating the underside of the arch makes the second picture, especially when combined with the right angle of the blue support and the Shard.

These next few are from the Pirin Mountains, in Bulgaria. There’s something majestic about this picture, though I find it hard to put into words. I like the pristine snow, the shadows from the two peaks and the way the mountains fill the frame.

This photo grew on me as the year went on. I like the perspective of this image: how the trees in the foreground melt into the trees in the background, and how the snow melts into the clouds. I think it has a nice flow.

Unblemished snow always gets me (if not for that single skiers tracks in the middle, this picture would be perfect). For something so huge, so easy to disturb, the sight of a mountain’s worth of powder left untouched makes me smile.

One of the Tate Modern at sunset. I love the blue and pink tones in this and the gentleness of the colours.

Ah, I love this picture so much I hung it up in our flat. This one is of a field somewhere near Oxford. I love how the light pulls you in two directions, down the perfectly placed path into the unknown or off to the side, distracted.

I have always liked flower photography and there’s something about the depth of this picture that I really like. Springtime in Cornwall.

One from the Put in to the People march, back in March of this year. I love the ripple of the flags in the wind, and the perspective the three flags bring together.

The light in this picture is perfect! I haven’t seen anything quite like it since. The City looks amazing bathed in pink, green and gold.

Tower Bridge as a storm rolls in, slowly being enveloped by the dark cloud’s shadow.

One from Bruges, Belgium. The sky is a little washed out but I absolutely love the texture, depth and earthy tones of the houses in the foreground.

A simple picture of some flowers in Cornwall.

Taken in the sea at Bedruthan’s Steps. I love the clarity of the splash here!

Cornwall is endlessly beautiful. A perfect day walking along the coast, full of blue tones, the horizon stretching on forever. I like how the image is so busy in one corner and so simple in the other.

I like the contrast of the red, blue and white in this picture. I also just think it’s a really nice picture of Jake.

A nice candid of Mum in Cornwall.

Don’t these apricots look delicious?! I don’t take a lot of food photos but this one was too good to pass up. I like pictures where the subject is one item, filling the frame, so it looks like the picture could continue indefinitely.

Isn’t Iona beautiful? She’s camera shy but I managed to snap this one. The strands of hair in the wind give the picture a nice flow, and that’s a great smile.

This picture haunts me. The look in her eyes. This is from the Trump protest in June, which is where I saw the Red Brigade for the first time. This year has been full of political bad news and her eyes show the sadness I know many of us feel.

This picture has to be a favourite because it went viral on Twitter this year! This is another photo from the Trump protest. I remember seeing Elliott (we later connected after his friends saw the photo on social media) standing in the street perfectly still as protestors moved around him. He looked so sad, so resigned, but with a hint of quiet defiance. I still love this picture.

I can’t put my finger on what exactly I like about this photo, but I think it’s mainly the texture of the sky. The blue and white of the sky matches with the light grey and blue of the bridge and the composition fits well. I like the placement of the bridge in the picture particularly, and the depth of the clouds.

Maddie has been my most faithful model this year, for which I am very grateful. I took a lot of photos of her on this day, but this one is my favourite. I think it’s a good mix of vulnerable and hopeful, excited and nervous. Your twenties, eh?

My brother on his twenty-first birthday. He looks suitably wary of me – I am his big sister, after all – but also interested. The wisp of smoke climbing straight over his pupil is the finishing detail.

The light in this is perfect, and Imogen is adorable. I love the little curl at the front of her face and how the light flows into the darkness of her hair in the shade.

I have taken lots of pictures of this statue outside St Paul’s Cathedral, but this one was immediately my favourite. I like how the background is full of things to look at, but the ornate lamppost manages to hold your focus. I also like the yellow tones.

Ah, I had a lot of fun photographing this man at Pride in July. I have always liked this angle and the colours are fantastic.

I think he pops perfectly against the background, and looks peaceful amidst the intensity of the protest behind. Also that headpiece is to die for.

This one is a favourite for its crispness. I love nature pictures and these mossy logs gave me a lot to work with.

I was so thrilled to see this picture appear on my camera. Taking pictures in a choppy ocean is hard, but this one came out better than I could have hoped. The spray, the surfer, the silhouette – I love it! It had to be caught at that moment, too.

So much tenderness in this picture, taken in Kenya. The keepers in Ithumba have such a close bond with the elephants, shown here. I also like how the elephant emerges from the bottom corner and how the milk bottle pops in the picture.

Ah, elephants are majestic, and I think this photo communicates some of that quiet majesty. Elephants are so big that fitting them into one frame is hard, so focusing on smaller details is often the best move. I deliberately anchored the right tusk in the bottom corner, which I think gives the picture a nice flow as you follow down the trunk.

The colours in these two are what do it for me. I like the bright colours in the first picture and green, white and black palette in the second. I also like the scrub in the foreground of both, creating a separation between me and the animals. Zebras must be the most photogenic animals in the world.

How could this not make the list? Sunsets are always a winner, but the sunburst beneath the buffalo’s horns makes this particularly special.

I was fully obsessed with this picture for a few weeks. Look at the expression on its face! I feel like I captured some of its personality, as much as a clownfish could have a personality. It looks nervous but also curious. The iridescence of the anemone also shows up well, and I like the fish’s jaunty lean, held up by its fin.

After having already spent so many hours photographing Tower Bridge this year, I didn’t think I’d find a cool new angle in September. But this one jumped out at me immediately, reminding me that there’s always time to find a new perspective on your favourite places, and other embarrassing stuff like that.

From the Global Climate Strike in September. I think the presence of the man on the right highlights the sign even more effectively, by closing in your view.

Creepy, eh? Climate change is scary, and dark, and this was the best sign I found to communicate that. The darkness of the backdrop only accentuates the sign and the message further.

I just loved this sign and its slogan, and I think the other signs, the crowd and the dark backdrop help draw your attention to the focus of the photo, which is cool. Photographing protests has been one of my favourite things about this year.

That look. This Red Brigade performer at the Extinction Rebellion protests stopped to look at me for quite some time while I snapped away, an unspoken acceptance of my camera. The colours are obviously striking and his expression says everything.

I would never have expected this photo to be such a highlight, but I love it. The macro lens is gorgeous and I have loved experimenting with it this year. I love the delicate petals and the blurred flower in the background.

Again, this photo isn’t that special – but something about it just works for me. That main leaf, made a bright shade of orange by the sun, makes the whole picture. The autumn colours are so pretty and the endless layers of leaves and branches makes for a nice image.

Is there anything as amazing as watching a turtle swim toward the surface? This turtle, photographed in Gili Air, Indonesia, floated up to the surface to take a breath just ahead of me. I love the colour gradation as we sink further from the surface, the light on the turtle’s shell and the intricate patterns covering the animal.

I love the texture of the sea floor, which is covered in hard, colourful coral. The details of the turtle are captured well and the little diver in the top corner is in good balance with the main subject. I also like the red tones in this picture, because red light is a hot commodity underwater. Ah, turtles are amazing.

This photo is full of texture. The central figure is a lionfish, but its white spokes are well camouflaged among the rest of the coral. I like how busy this picture is – I hope it conveys some of the beautiful chaos of a reef and the endless array of things to enjoy.

I love this picture, taken of our instructor, Kelly, when we were diving in Indonesia. The lack of other contents makes this photo limitless, and she is perfectly framed by the spots in the water reflecting light into my camera. Her little ‘okay’ sign – a mainstay of diving – is a great final detail.

This photo. Small critters are hard to photograph well, because they are particularly skittish and often need a powerful lens due to their size. This little guy hung around just long enough for me to get this photo, which I like for the vibrant blue of the shrimp and the way the angles intersect. The straight legs and body emerging from the rock contrasts beautifully with the swirling antennae. A special find.

So much personality in this little fish. He was hiding underneath the coral, but stuck around long enough for me to snap a picture or two. I never would have guessed that not one but two pictures would make this list solely for how they captured fish emotion, but there we have it. The coral also has a nice texture too.

What a landscape! How special to catch rain falling in one spot, while the rest of the view remains dry. I like the broad view of Komodo National Park’s plentiful islands you get here, along with the light changing as the sun goes down. This is a very dramatic picture and I like that.

This is probably one of the least technically sound pictures of this whole post, because it’s a lot less sharp than most of the images. However, I think that lack of clarity works here. The orange of the fish is striking, as are the yellows and blues of the backdrop. Something about how the fish is entangled with the strands of the anemones shows the fish’s movement, which is important in dynamic underwater environments.

Look at this little cutie. The black sand in Amed was amazingly photogenic, as was the iridescence and gentle swaying of anemones. I think you can get a sense of how each strand of the anemone is waving independently, and of course, that little inquisitive clownfish is the detail this photo needs.

This photo still makes my heart jump. It is so much grander and bolder than most of my pictures, which is what I love about it. A good representation of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night.

And finally, this photo, which was taken in Oxford on Christmas Day. Shots where you are looking through something are always cool, and the colours – especially the gold decoration – are particularly nice. This makes me nostalgic for my university years.

I must have taken at least twenty thousand photos this year, if not more, so narrowing it down to this fifty or so is no small feat! Next year, I am hoping to spend more time on underwater photography whenever possible, along with more documentary/political photography and portraits, though photographing everything remotely interesting that crops up in my path is in the plan too. I am thrilled by how much London features in this blog post, a far cry from last year’s version. City photography has never been my favourite but given how much time I spend wandering around London, I’m glad to have snapped a few good pictures. Thank you so much to everyone who has looked at my photos this year, it really means everything. I would love to hear what you think of my work and which of these photos is your favourite – and of course, I hope to see you in 2020 too.

What do you think of this year’s list? Have I improved from last year?

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2 comments

Steve December 31, 2019 - 1:10 am

Beautiful photos Ellie. Your versatility is very impressive across so many different types of subject. My favourites? Your diving instructor suspended in the ocean and your brother looking so warily at you! But they’re all gorgeous.

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Ellie Hopgood December 31, 2019 - 6:48 am

Thank you! ❤️

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