2015 Review - Steven Martin

2015 Photography Review

It was always going to be difficult for 2015 to top the previous yearphotographically speaking. After my trip to India in November 2014 it was a long time until my next trip away, as I made plans to change jobs and cities. In June I finally got to escape from the hustle and bustle of London for two weeks in Greece - mostly on the island of Naxos but also with a couple of nights on Santorini. Both were fantastic, and I'll definitely be going back to Greece - maybe even next year. After a few brief and final weeks in London before upping sticks and moving to Birmingham, I left for a month-long trip to Indonesia, a watershed in terms of careers and also a country that I'd long been wanting to visit.

The islands of Java, Bali and Lombok were stunning, for very different reasons. Java was busy and built up, but the temples at Prambanan and Borobudur, plus the stark landscape of the Bromo National Park, were some of the most unforgettable places of the trip. On a train journey from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo, I saw five active volcanos. That probably sums up the volatile and verdant landscape of Java best.

Bali was totally different - a Hindi island in a predominantly Muslim nation, but a Hinduism of a totally different style to that I had seen the previous year in Northern India. Bali was beautiful but also quite developed as a tourist destination. Ubud was not quite the paradise I had been expecting, but during quiet moments away from the crowds it was obvious why it has developed in the way that it has.

Lombok was possible my favourite of the three islands - the Gili Islands were stunning, but it was the beaches near Kuta, on the southern coast of Lombok, that blew me away. Renting a scooter and riding to some of the most beautiful tropical beaches on earth was a memorable and deeply relaxing experience. I'd love to go back.

Below are my top ten photos from 2015, in chronological order. In general there are more landscapes than the previous year, and less portraits - while I did take some portraits in Indonesia, they didn't quite match my shots from Burma and India.

Sunset on Plaka Beach, Naxos

Sunset on Plaka Beach, Naxos

There were some stunning sunsets from this beach during our week on Naxos island, and this one  - with the Greek flags visible on the beached boat - sums up the lovely evenings here, eating Greek salad, tzatziki, fresh fish and grilled meat.

Sea on Agios Prokopios beach, Naxos

Sea on Agios Prokopios Beach, Naxos

The waters off Naxos island were probably more beautiful than the waters off the many tropical beaches of Indonesia (they weren't as warm though). We only spent one afternoon on this beach, but the swimming was fantastic.

Pink flower on green leaves

Pink flower on green leaves

The purchase of a new auto-focusing (on DX bodies) 50mm 1.8 G lens has led to two developments - more portraits of people in low light conditions, and more photos of flowers. This is one of my favourites, with a pleasingly in-focus pink flower on a complementary and nicely blurred green background.

Buddha at Borobudur, Java

Buddha at Borobudur, Java

I have lots of photos of the stupas of Borobudur, and some nicely silhouetted Buddhas too, but I wanted to choose just one image to represent the (very early) morning spent at Borobudur, and this is it. I've never had to fight so hard to get images devoid of people - we were surrounded, but you couldn't tell that from this peaceful, contemplative shot of a Buddha gazing at the volcano in the distance.

Mount Bromo landscape, Java

Mount Bromo landscape, Java

The dusty, desolate landscape around Mount Bromo and the Tengger massif on Java is otherwordly. We spent a freezing dawn watching the sun rise over the various volcanoes dotting the landscape, before walking down to explore the landscape and the active craters of the volcanoes.

Cat at dawn, Cemoro Lawang, Java

Cat at dawn, Cemoro Lawang, Java

The dawn light lit up this cat sitting on the back of an abandoned sofa wonderfully. The colours and textures are fantastic. 

Dancers, Ubud, Bali

Dancers, Ubud, Bali

We chose just the right moment to visit the Ubud Palace, as these kids were busy practising a traditional Balinese dance on the stage.

Hindu temple, Bali

Temple on Tamblingan Lake, Bali

One of my favourite images from our Indonesia trip, this beautiful Balinese Hindu temple was atmospherically covered with clouds when we visited the Tamblingan Lake, near Munduk.

Rice fields, Bali

Rice fields, Ubud, Bali

There was a perfect moment of peace and quiet as we sat drinking beer and watching the sun set over the rice fields of Ubud. At moments like this you can see why the area is so popular.

Rice farmer, Ubud, Bali

Rice farmer, Ubud, Bali

It frustrates me that the focus in this image is on the plants in the bottom right corner, rather than the women herself - I really should have switched to AF-C focusing rather than AF-S. Nonetheless, this image warrants a place in the selection I think - I'm pleased with the composition and the focussing issue doesn't detract too much from the overall effect.

Sunset over beach, Gili Air

Sunset from Gili Air

The beaches off Gili Air are bizarrely shallow. This makes it hard to swim, particularly as the surface is covered with a mass of broken coral. Overall this was one of the reasons why I much preferred the beaches on the south coast of Lombok. But in this case, it made a perfect reflective surface for the setting sun, with some very pleasing colours.

Football on Selong Belanak beach, Lombok

Football on Selong Belanak beach, Lombok

This was one of the best beaches I've ever visited - a vast, kilometre long beach of perfect white sand, nicely sloped, with large waves, perfect for trying out surfing. There were few visitors and no rubbish. It's a miracle the beach hasn't been developed yet - and I'm sure it will be in the future. It doesn't quite have the immediate wow-factor of nearby Mawun beach, but to my mind it's the best of a brilliant bunch of beaches accessible from Kuta town by scooter.

Kids playing on abandoned boat, Kuta, Lombok

Kids playing on abandoned boat, Kuta, Lombok

Play time for the kids of Kuta town, Lombok, involves leaping up, onto and around this huge abandoned fishing boat on the beach.