top of page

My 20 best photos of 2023 - maybe

I haven't written a blog for several months so I thought I should at least waft my hand vaguely in the direction of my website, given the weather has been poor of late and I have finally caught up with my editing backlog.

I took 27,080 photos in 2023, and according to Lightroom I must have thought 2,800 were worth spending time on. Assuming each image takes 10 minutes to edit, I dedicated nearly a full 20 days to just editing photos.........I'll leave the dots to emphasise quite what a boring bastard I really am! All this time editing might also explain why my partner starts furiously Whatsapping her angry wives group whenever I suggest I'll be spending the evening on my computer..

Lightroom also tells me that I took 20,000 of my 27,080 total images on my 24-120 Nikkor lens, and just 7,000 on my 70-200. It's clear I have a favourite. However I only took 80 on the big expensive 14-24mm though, so maybe it's time I considered shopping that in, or start to force myself to use it (at least I can say it's travelled with Thomas Heaton to Svalbard, as I can finally reveal myself to be the 'David' thanked in the Youtube video from his trip).

Shooting 27,000 photos in a year is no small feat and I used my camera a lot in 2023. Despite a 9-week hiatus during the summer when work kicked into overdrive, there were standout moments. In summary, the start of the year was rubbish, Spring was great for a 3 week period around Bluebell time, late September, October and November were fantastic (possibly the most productive time I've had with a camera) and December was pants. I continued to focus mostly on woodlands, but I did take a few trips to the coast. I am really pleased with my progress in the woods, and I feel that my eye for a composition in this environment is more refined than at the start of the year; I'm not quite there with the coastal photography though, and although I largely enjoy it, my tendency to run around like a cocaine bear with a chilli in its jacksie probably holds me back.

I got into printing in a reasonably big way this year and I am pleased to have finally found another interest as expensive as photography! That said, I made precisely 0 print sales in 2023, so I'll guess photography will remain a hobby rather than a career in 2024. My website traffic remains minimal, but the community on Instagram keeps me engaged, especially the network of like-minded woodland photographers. I also had an image shortlisted in the LPOTY competition (unfortunately when I was told I hadn't made the book, that was correct for me!) and I am awaiting news from a shortlisting in the other competition I entered this year (I would be surprised if it made any further progress as it's not really a photo I expected to do anything.)

Given the monumental effort poured into my editing, it feels only fair to myself to showcase 20 of my favourite images from the year. 'Favourite' serves as my escape clause if you find them less than impressive—after all, it's not just about the image itself but the experience of capturing it that elevates its significance to me...

They're also mostly from one wood in Dartmoor!

20 - Indecent exposure

I drive past this tree every day on the way to work and it is in a lovely situation where the sun rises directly behind it. Yet, accessing it poses a challenge—there's only a cramped spot to park and a trek through a muddy field, dodging a barbed wire fence, just to reach it. On most days that's too much effort, but on this occasion I saw an opportunity too good to miss - I got the photo, but sadly my work trousers didn't survive the trip, and I spent the rest of the day threatening to show my colleagues the tip of my old man (I was not actually threatening them with it, it was a circumcision, sorry cirumstance, that nobody, including me, wanted)

19 - Got wood

After the excitement of Bluebell season, the weather in the UK went meh for several weeks, and tiny violins played everywhere as woodland photographers took to Instagram to lament the lack of mist. Of course I was above all that (ahem) and I carried on regardless. On one morning, while hunting fox gloves (it's less political than their namesake), I found a tiny pocket of atmosphere and lined up my camera to take this shot. I didn't expect much after viewing it on the back of the camera, but I'll tell you what, this printed up lovely, and was one of the first images I successfully translated on to paper (and not just any paper, Hahnemuhle Matt Fine Art Turner at £2.50 a page, doncherknow). So, for opening my eyes to the financially crippling world of print, this image makes my 20..

18 - Life's a breach

After staring enviously at Photo friend Simon's Porthcawl images from Storm Englebert at the tail end of last year, I was keen to try and get my own images if given a chance. It's a long journey from where I live, but thankfully Photo friend Simon's scouting paid off (I had been sure he'd been making it up as he went along) and I was able to capture something. In reality the light could have been better and the waves higher, but it was bloody good fun taking facefulls of salty foam, grumping at other photographers to get out of the way, and shooting on instinct as it was so windy and cold my fingers stopped working!

17 - Panning for Gold

There are few better feelings than arriving at a scouted location and getting the conditions you had been hoping for, particularly on those mornings when it kind of teases you by being rubbish first thing but quickly getting better and better. The mist and fog stuck around for hours and I had one of my favourite woods to myself, however I only had a couple of minutes of light. Luckily I know this wood well and I was in position to take the shot I was after. Generally I don't take panoramic shots as they're a pain to display or print, but I liked this scene enough to give it a try. In reality the photo I took with just the tree on the left side of the image in is probably a 'better' photograph but this is my list and I'll show what I want dammit

16 - One for the road

Photo friend Simon knows me well enough by now that when I say 'let's go home' it's going to be at least another hour before we actually leave, as I get distracted by any of the shiny things I see on our way out. This scene is a particular example of one of those times. It was the colours that caught my eye and so I worked with the composition to try and present the various colour blocks in the cleanest way. This mornings photography probably accounted for at least 30 images I'd be happy to place in my portfolio, such were the conditions (or conversely, such are the limitations of my portfolio?!)

15 - Belle of the Ball

This is a scene that I love, which I have visited many times throughout the year. There's something about the way the trees appear to be interacting with each other that I can't ignore and for a Bluebell enthusiast like myself I can't help but want to rub my thighs and say phwoar.

14 - From tiny oaks mighty acorns grow

I had a similar composition of this tree taken in a hoar frost shortlisted in the LPOTY competition, so when I saw misty conditions in the forecast during the height of autumn, I thought I would give it another visit. Most of my locations are chosen more for their proximity to work/home as I'm usually on quite a strict time limit, so I'm very lucky I have a place as beautiful as this close to home.

13 - Heavy downfall

Biblical volumes of rain greeted me on arrival at my chosen location at Dartmoor, but I had come prepared with my waterproof clothing and massive umbrella, so I didn't mind. I guessed that in such conditions it was highly likely a section of this wood would be in thick mist. With the hoped for mist being present I just had to find a composition I liked. It was harder trying to manage a tripod, camera and umbrella at the same time - thankfully the still image doesn't transmit the choice selection of swear words (mostly f's and c's) that a casual woodland visitor may have heard on that day!

12 - The chase is on

This little section of the Quantock Hills is fantastic, and it's a lot of fun to spend time here when it's foggy, trying to find little scenes amongst the oaks. I felt like the main oak in the image looked like it was trying to make it's escape from the trees behind, and was looking back to see how close they were. And that's all it takes to get to place 12 on my favourite shots list it would seem...

11 - Grovely Good?

I have been trying to get mist at Grovely woods for years, so when the forecast suggested there was a good chance of it one Sunday in Spring, I knew where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, Photo Friend Simon hates this location with a passion, and a small photographers tiff ensued, with Photo friend Simon settling on a wood nearby that I had visited the previous week and was certain couldn't be captured any better. I will freely admit I was quite smug when I called PFS to tell him how much mist I had, but that smugness was quickly snuffed out when I saw the epic light rays he was seeing at his location. With all that said, this image is one I'd been after for a long time, so I'm probably glad that I probably made the right decision, but it would probably have been even nicer if I'd seen the light rays. Possibly.

10 - Frosty reception

I never check the conditions on a Saturday as that's the time when I'm thesole 'adult' in charge of my boys, who prefer immersing themselves in a game of Roblox than a misty wood. However on this morning, with hawfrost in adbundance, I did the only thing a self respecting woodland photographer could do, shove them in the car with a bribe of Macdonalds if they let me drive around for a bit first. Luckily I knew a little pull in spot at a local woodland that I could shoot from the car window - bon appetit!

9 - Michels divas

Finding a new wood to explore is always a delight, but it's even better when that wood is covered in Bluebells! A hint of mist hung about long enough to add atmosphere to a more traditional Bluebell scene than I usually share. It was tricky to find some order amongst the chaos but to my eye I think I just about achieved it..

8 - Handy Crane

If the swell is good and the wind is strong this is a cracking place to stand, as the water is forced into the inlet, explodes in the air, and then most importantly, blow away towards the crane, rather than into the face of the hapless photographer. On this morning, sunrise was a bust, but about half an hour later there was enough light to capture the scene I'd been chasing for several visits.

7 - Shaw's Prior

More from Shaugh. It's always worth the climb up the Dewerstone to this section of woodland, where there is pretty much always mist more often than not (that sentence may not make sense!)

6 - Boo!

Capturing trees that interact with each other can be an effective compsotion technique in the woodland, and there's clearly something going on here with these two. I would suggest there's some kind of acron mugging taking place here, and I was thankful to capture the photographic evidence should it ever go to court..

5 - Weeping photographer

In the last image it was all about how the trees were interacting, but sometimes it's as simple as finding some nice light and pointing a camera at it.

4 - Only me!

I've been to this wood hundreds of times, but I only recently found this compesition as the Bluebells approached their peak. There are some scenes that I fall in love with, and this was one of them. I was convinced everyone else would feel the same, but social media didn't agree (puke) and neither did any of the judges in the competitions I entered it into! At least it can take solice for being my 4th favourite image of 2023!

3 - Mr Anderson

Sometimes a scouted scene can take years to capture as you had imagined it - for this one I had to wait an agonising 4 days! I love it when a plan comes together!

2 - Bluebell Arch

Another scene that I absolutely love that causes a strong 'meh' reaction to others. I liked this so much that it sits with pride of place above my toilet - the most popular room, in my house at least!

1 - Sargasso Trees

As much as I talked about my growth as a photographer this year, it's somewhat annoying that my favourite two images from last year are my favourite two images from this year, in slightly different conditions.In conclusion, I'm full of sh*t

It will be interesting to see what's in store for 2024, and whether my favourite images will end up being the same as 2022 and 2023! (January hasn't been that productive if that's a clue..)

When I started this blog it was New years day and given I'm only publishing it at the start of February, I wouldn't expect that much from me in the way of blog content as I am not a prolific writer and i'm a little bit of an introvert when it comes to sharing my images. I will try and make more of an effort here though as I still feel uneasy about the number of photos I have that are never shared, many of which have a story to tell. It might also be nice if I got the confidence to do something with my prints - there's only so much floor space in my office after all!

Past blog posts would suggest I'm pissing in the wind, but if you have read this and have constructive comments/feedback I'd love to hear from you, and maybe I'll be inspired to keep writing (pah!)

Bye for now..


Hi Dave, I am very impressed by your photo skills and some immense compositions in your top twenty. I like the Porthcawl smash wave especially as well as the haunting dripping misted images in woodlands. Keep at it , you are very good indeed in my opinion. You take about 75 pics a day on average… a lot. Good dedication. I hope alls well with you and your family. Best John Stein…. Ps believe it not I was thinking about you the other day as a Skoda Fabia sped by… it wasn’t red though ….cheers

Dave Shaw
Dave Shaw
Feb 13
Replying to

Hi John - amazing to hear from you! It's been a long time - those days of boy racing around in a car I couldn't afford are way in the past - now I drive around in a people carrier I can't afford!

Cheers for checking out the site too - I'm a bit one dimensional with the old photography thing unfortunately, I used to be fun!

I'm at Sherborne these days so if you're ever near let me know!

bottom of page