At the end of each year I find it's good practice to look back on photography assignments and review what worked well and what could have gone better. I'm not exactly appraised on performance so you have to be your biggest critic. Without doubt the main benefit is re-motivating for the year ahead and reminding yourself that there is so much more to learn. Then there is the personal gratification of picking out some favourites.
1. Probably the most animated golfer I photographed all year, I loved the dejection when the putts missed and the elation when they dropped. The Old Course St Andrews brings out emotion in every golfer no matter what hole, score or weather faced.
2. I love the symmetry, context and loneliness of Tom Coyne, author of the forthcoming book A Course Called The Kingdom, playing Fortrose and Rosemarkie. How the wind tugs at Tom's trousers as he rushes to assess his putt in the hope he can hole out and take shelter in the hut before another downpour.
3. Buddies out playing golf at Royal County Down - one of the most highly rated golf courses in the world. Rolling mist as a backdrop. I perhaps haven't taken a more picturesque golf photo when the course, surrounding landscape and golfers come together to form the complete scene.
4. On a cold summers day (only in Scotland can we say this) at The Renaissance Club, glorious light falls on the spectacular 9th green, white caps adorn the Firth of Forth and there is a still-like sense of anticipation as the caddy and golfer line up the putt.
5. When you get the chance to shoot an exclusive with Tiger Woods giving a masterclass to kids you do all you can to disembark from a cruise ship assignment in the Atlantic Sea (another golf story). Lots of nice photos of Tiger but my absolute favourites were those of the kids in complete awe at his presence.
6. A fairly uneventful shot but with the dust flying up and a short sleeved G-Mac, I couldn't help but think this should have been the linksy summer conditions (we wished) for this years Open - not from the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.
7. When Walker Cup star Jimmy Mullen was leading The Dunhill in his first outing as a professional, he was the story. I remember making a conscious decision to take a couple of steps away from the assembled photography media to create an angle so the Swilcan Bridge would be in frame. It helped add context for my client, and I knew that my shot would be a little different to what the other guys had captured. We’re all looking for something unique.
8. There are countless times when you photograph high fives or knuckle wraps but very rarely are they played out and executed against an iconic backdrop whilst capturing the essence of teamwork, winning and celebration. No matter what industry you’re in, we all know that feeling when you feel you’ve done your job.
9. No, I don’t do weddings but I just had to include this promotional shot, taken on the West Sands St Andrews back in April. Thanks to the timing of mother nature, we coincided the shoot with the most atmospheric weather I’ve ever witnessed - sea haar rolling in as four ivory clad model brides reenacted a very elegant version of The Chariots of Fire.
10. I captured the entire sequence of Liam Barn making a hole-in-one on the 8th at Kingsbarns Golf Links at VisitScotland’s Scotland Golf Day - it was an amazing moment and a joy to record. However, my favourite shot in the sequence is not the moment he holes out or subsequent celebrations but the split second before it goes in. The look of disbelief in their faces as they gradually realise they’re about to experience the ultimate shot in golf.
11. A favourite because it involved a good mate who scarily resembles US golfer Ryan Moore, especially given the campaign brief was to show that office professionals can nip out for a quick game of golf after a busy day. If only every golf shoot I did was at sunrise.
12. Scottish national squad member Robert MacIntyre playing his approach into the 18th at Castle Stuart. I like the panoramic perspective - it feels like Robert is playing through The Highlands never mind Castle Stuart. One of many favourite images I captured this year at Castle Stuart which is testament to it’s outstanding beauty and design.
13. Shane Bacon, perhaps the coolest guy I shot all year. He cuts an isolated figure on the 12th championship tee alongside an empty Eden Estuary and closed Royal Air Force base. So very different to the chaotic scenes at “the loop” when The Open comes around.
14. There are comedy moments that come along once in a while. Carnoustie has lots of spots to hide in amongst the pines and it was pure luck (from a selfish photography point of view!) that this golfers attempted bail out went straight left towards OB. The golfer’s reaction and caddy's expression tell the story. A perfect example of the Recounter philosophy to capture reaction and not just the action.
15. I was covering Nikon's Open Patron Day on the Old Course with Paul Azinger as Nikon’s host professional. Azinger has always been one of my favourite golfers, perhaps going back to following him and Seve competing Shells Wonderful World of Golf on the Old back in 1995. What I like about this shot was his intimacy with the Claret Jug despite his flat refusal to touch or hold it. I must look up how close he actually got to holding it.....
16. Whilst Zach Johnson was holing a putt to win the Claret Jug, I was going through the surreal experience of riding a golf cart with John Daly. If Carlsberg did corporate golf days……
17. Actually, this wasn’t a favourite as I was still finding sand in my mouth, nose, eyes and hair four days later. I should have really thought it through when I offered Carly Booth and Marc Warren the chance to cover me in sand as they helped launch Scottish Golf.
18. So that golf cruise I was on. The Beatles (it really was them!) playing to a packed audience in Liverpool Cathedral. What a sound, what a scene, and my favourite non-golf photo of the year. Check out www.perrygolf.com for their 2016 British Open Golf Cruise - pretty much the ultimate golf trip on a floating clubhouse.
19. As a child I regularly dangled a line off the “long” pier at St Andrews fishing for crabs. 30 years on here I am dangling over the pier as I shoot a feature for Golf Monthly’s Open preview edition. A favourite shot of GM contributors Jezz Ellwood and Fergus Bisset sharing a moment on the pier….for the fifth time.
20. Imagine bumping into a random guy in a bar who couldn’t quite believe he was going to play the Old Course, so much so he hired a photographer to record the experience. Certainly was a bizarre way to meet one of your clients! I have the shots of Carl making an up and down from the Road Hole bunker but my favourite shot was him towering over it wondering how he would do it.
21. Staying with the Road Hole, I remember thinking this moment was photography gold when in the final of the St Andrews Links Boys August Tournament, both finalists ended up side by side playing a ‘Miguel Angel Jimenez’ shot against the wall.
22. Thomas Pieters aka the Johnny Walker man at Kingsbarns during the Dunhill. If only we had weather and light like that all year round *sighs*
23. Anything you can do honey I can do better. This husband and wife team will probably contest to the end of their days what was the better putt. Thankfully they both have a record of THEIR moment at the home of golf.
24. You might not recognise this golfer but Gerd Schonfelder is one of the greatest Paralympian skiers of all time. He’s won a staggering 16 gold medals. Gerd played the Old Course on a freezing cold day when many a golfer would have preferred the warmth of the clubhouse. Gerd hits his tee shot into the kind of rough you know is unplayable - and that’s if you find it. With his playing partner’s declaring HIS ball lost Gerd walks on with them. He then hesitates, stops and turns back - on his own - with the full intention of finding his ball. He’s pulling a trolley and yes, it keeps toppling over in the high rough, clubs falling out the lot as a howling gale blows around him. Unperturbed, he uprights his trolley more than once and takes his allocated time to look for his ball. He finds his ball and after the second attempt, he advances it onto the fairway.
Not technically the strongest image but this shot is perhaps my favourite golf photo of the year given Gerd’s sheer determination to find and play his ball. I was truly humbled and inspired.
25. And finally, talk about taking liberties when you spend the day with the Claret Jug. The last model of the day was my sweet little girl Ellie who may or may not have been tricked into thinking the jug was filled up with warm milk.
By Kevin Kirk, founder of Recounter.co.uk. Happy new year and good health in 2016!