20 of my favourite photos from 2020
It would be too easy to look back and say 2020 was a ‘bad year’. But it hasn’t been all bad. Not for me, anyway.
Personally, from a photography perspective, it’s been very different. Less live events – which I’ve missed; but more surfing – which I’ve loved.
If 2020 has given us anything, it’s time. Even though it’s not always felt like that for me, with a child under the age of one! Nevertheless, I wanted to take the opportunity to go through my photos from this year, to look back at a few of my favourites. Something I usually manage to regret not making the time to do.
1. Surfers Paradise at Cayton Bay
2020 started strong. I shot this during a session at Cayton Bay. I was actually shooting my brother surfing at Bunkers, down the other end of the beach. I was climbing around on the cliffs, playing with some different angles, when this wave came through at Pumphouse.
The shot was published in Carve Magazine, as part of their photography competition. A number of people have also purchased this from me as a print. It’s been so popular that I even created a black and white version.
2. In the water at Cayton Bay
2 February 2020 was the first time I shot in the water, with anything other than a GoPro. The conditions weren’t ideal for it. I spent the bulk of the session getting smashed about in a very peaky, rippy beach break. It was also very overcast and therefore dark. All in all, it wasn’t easy for learning how to use the camera and housing, but it was fun. This was one of my favourite shots from the session. The rest of the session is here.
Over the last few years, I’ve shot quite a lot of boxing photos. I’m lucky enough to shoot the full spectrum, from amateur events, to professional athletes. Little did I know it, at the time of shooting this event for Legions Gym in York, but it would be the last boxing I would shoot in 2020. Lockdown came in about a month later. It’s crazy to think how all of us crammed into that room, would be not allowed to do that, just over a month later. If someone suggested that at the time, I think I’d have laughed!
You won’t find this shoot on my website, as it’s one I did for Legions. But if you want to check out my other boxing photos, check out my combat sports portfolio.
4. Salt water appreciation
There’s a gap between my last entry, taken on 22 February, and this one on 16 May, that I’m sure I need not explain. If you’re needing an explanation, I expect that one word will suffice; lockdown. Not the half-baked November one, either. The original, brutal one, which meant you were barely aloud outside. It put a stop to all the things I love taking pictures of.
Not long after we were aloud to travel a bit further afield for exercise and recreation though, nature gifted us some waves. I was so excited for this session. I took a lot of shots of the waves, the sea and the sunset. My appreciation of nature, in particular the ocean, had definitely increased.
I owe Craig Hirst massively for this session. He bailed me out after my car wouldn’t start, by buying me some jump leads, as he passed York. Turns out cars don’t like just sitting redundant on the driveway for months.
I gave up football in my early teenage years when I got too busy with stupider sports, like surfing and skateboarding. Still, I enjoy shooting it. Especially this year; anything which brings people together in a positive way is a winner for me.
After shooting Wheldrake Football Club last year, playing at Bootham Crescent (the former home of York City Football Club) they asked me back again, to shoot their inter-club friendly at York Sport.
6. Small but perfect surf
As is often the case, towards the end of summer, I started getting desperate for surf. My brother was itching to be in the ocean too, so we went to Cayton Bay one evening in September, on a very small day. Apart from the small swell size, the other conditions were perfect. This was easily my favourite shot from the day. What was a set wave, for the day. Perfect for action men. Imagine it at 4-5 times the height!
Despite it being a small wave I still find it mesmerising to look at. A testament to the captivating nature of the ocean.
From another desperation session with my brother, at the start of October. This time the surf wasn’t so perfectly formed, but I knew the sunset and therefore lighting conditions would make up for that. I actually managed to squeeze a surf and a photography session in this time. For the duration of the surf there was a rainbow taunting me, forcing a mental battle of whether to wait for sunset or get my camera straightaway. I ended up waiting for sunset, given that was my intention at the start of the session.
Even though the surf was far from perfect, I love this shot of my brother, dropping in, whilst another surfer watches from the shoulder, under the setting sun.
8. Sunset Sessions
Another, from that same October session, with my brother. I had this shot in mind before the session, so was pleased to nail it. It’s always nice when I plan comes off. Someone paddling out, with the sunset setting behind the cliffs in the background. It’s a vision I’ve seen for years as a surfer, that have always wished I had a camera to capture, so to finally get it was great.
From that same, desperados session. This one has a lot of personal meaning to me. Too much for this blog, and one that I intend to write about in a lot more detail about, at some point. But in short, a few years ago I was suffering from regular panic attacks. During this time, not long before I began Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), I had an evening surf session which has been cemented itself in my mind. More because of the circumstances and feeling surrounding the session, than the surf itself.
I was in panic mode driving to the coast and back, but the time in the sea felt blissful. Even though the surf was small and mushy – similar to this session really. I remember feeling really peaceful just floating around under the setting sun.
Not long after, when I started CBT and had to designate a ‘safe place’. It was Cayton. In hindsight it seems like a strange choice given some of the beatings I’ve taken there over the years. But with this session fresh in mind, it made perfect sense.
With this shot, I wanted to capture a shot of the setting sun – similar to what I remember from my memorable session. I love the tumultuous ocean too though, it perfectly encapsulates the beauty and the beast of nature and the juxtaposition with my feelings, at the time.
10. Diamonds in the rough
Like many things in life, with surfing, you’ve got to be there to make it happen. This session was far from perfect. It would have been easy to write off the forecast and stay at home. But it was worth the trip, a few diamonds sneaking though. Diamonds that I wouldn’t have been privy to, if I had taken the easier option and stayed home and relaxed.
There’s something so captivating about the shapes nature throws and I love being able to capture these in the brown North Sea. There’s so many blue, crystal clear versions of these online, but having a brown version on my doorstep is a kind of blessing, as it’s a bit different to what you’re used to seeing.
11. Don’t be here
If you’ve read the captions for these photos right through, you’ll have gathered that I only got the water housing for my camera this year, and have yet to use it in particularly ‘good’ surf. It was far from perfect on this day, but the fact there were barrels was so exciting for me. I was super stoked to get this shot of a kayaker about to wear a wave in the face. I love the water in the foreground and the white water around adding to the chaos.
12. Over excited
I was very excited when I shot this. In hindsight, overexcited. I was hooting and hollering for my brother after this little barrel at Cayton. It’s from the same session as the last two shots, which as I say, I was super keen to shoot my first hollow waves. Being in the perfect place for him to get a diamond in the rough led to an overenthusiastic celebration. It was nice to get a good shot of him though, after the previous session being with my other brother.
13. Golden Daze
What can I say about this session… It was at the start of Lockdown 2: ‘COVID Strikes Back’. I had noticed that the surf forecasts had underestimated the swell height all week, leading to this day. Other than the swell being small, the wind looked perfect on this day. So I risked the early morning trip – hoping that they’d also underestimated this.
I usually head a little further up North on a small swell, but the fog was thiccc, and in places the temperature was only just above zero, so I didn’t fancy the trip across the Moors, at a time when some people would have disapproved of my driving anywhere in the first place.
So I headed to my old faithful, Cayton. I couldn’t see the surf from the cliff, since the fog was so thick when I arrived. But I was reassured by the sound of waves and hastily got ready and ran down. I was blessed by glassy, waist-chest high waves, under the cover of fog. Just myself and a seal in for the first hour, before I was joined by one other surfer. I love this barrel shot. Once the sun started trying to burn through the fog. I love the golden glow, and unusual angle of the barrel. Barrel shots are done a lot, so it’s nice to have one slightly different.
14. Perfect Conditions
The same session. The conditions were perfect. As the fog started to clear, it hovered ominously around the cliffs, as perfect glassy waves rolled though unridden. Dreamy.
15. It’s not just the act of riding waves
It’s probably not immediately apparent to non-surfers, but the majority of a surf session is not spent actually surfing. You spend much more time waiting for waves and paddling out. But, as long as you’re present, these moments are just as enjoyable. It’s visions like this you see, as you’re heading back out and I’ve really enjoyed capturing them on camera, for the first time, in 2020.
This was a busy session. I think lockdown contributed towards the crowds, by eradicating other responsibilities that usually stop people surfing.
16. Close up… Too close
I spent the majority of this session alone. My aim was to catch the waves and the sunrise, so this wasn’t too bad. But with only a quarter of my battery left, the Ireland brothers got in. I’ve surfed with them since I was a teenager, so it was nice to see some familiar faces. They were both on soft tops, so it was an ideal opportunity to get some closer angles. Unfortunately, I got a little close on this one and we connected. Whoops. Sorry, Chris.
17. Beach Boys
After a year where I shot the majority of my surf photos from the water, I was forced to shoot this session from the land. I had turned up excited to shoot the hollowest waves I’d had the opportunity to, with my water housing. Only for it to flood very quickly! I shot two waves, so got out and surfed the rest. I shot a few shots form land after my session though. Here’s a few people enjoying the late autumn sunset.
One of the most important things about surfing, to me, is that it reminds you of your connection to nature. Part of which is realising how small you are; insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. As someone who has anxiety, this this is paradoxically helpful to me. As anxiety inducing as the timescales and size of the universe can be, it kind of puts into perspective how insignificant your worries are too.
I like to use my photography to share ideas and concepts like this, in the hope that they reach people that they otherwise wouldn’t.
19. Boxing Day
Boxing Day has traditionally been a family day, in the Kendall household. We’ve always done a second Christmas, in effect. But Boris was having none of that, this year. That freed up me and my brother to go barrel hunting. It was different, but fun. Cold and quiet. Here’s a shot of my bro heading down to the sea. The sunrise flared up and faded super fast, but the surf was fun.
Bucking the trend of sports photos, but summarising really nicely how the majority of my year has been spent, here’s my little boy taking some of his first steps on the sand, at Cayton Bay. One of the best things about 2020 is the amount of time it’s allowed me to spend with him and my wife.