I’m very pleased to confirm that for the fourth year running I have been short listed for Take A View Landscape Photographer Of The Year. As always it’s a contentious competition but many landscape photographers in the UK want to do well in it nonetheless, myself definitely included.
This year the message for me was very much bitter sweet however, much more so than in previous years, because during the last year I’ve worked particularly hard on trying to build a portfolio of colour images and to that end a lot of time served in the landscape at dawn around my favoured subject matter of trees and woodland. As always, and an experience I’m sure others will reflect on for themselves, all best laid plans haven’t quite worked out as I had hoped. I’m writing this two part blog to provide a bit of a visual record as to what gets shortlisted to help other photographers judge what has an impact in this particular competition – I’m calling it The Elation and Deflation of Landscape Photographer Of The Year for good reason.
So first the elation…I’ve certainly always felt that trying to present something a little more unusual is definitely a strategy that works though being too abstract has not always worked for me, and I’m sure others, so this time of year is often a bit of a double-edged sword because inevitably we get incredibly emotionally bonded to our photography given its personal nature. The good news is I’ve had no less than six photographs shortlisted. By my own standard that was far more than I could have hoped for. In previous years I’ve never done better than two at this stage, but for the last couple of years I’ve made the final exhibition and book which I think is as much as most entrants hope for, I know it’s certainly my objective each year. Being at the Private View at the National Theatre is an excellent moment, I wrote last year how I was ‘addicted to the rooftop view’, making reference to the huge digital projection of your photograph which goes out across the Thames at Waterloo, a truly great experience.
This year’s Shortlist
First up is Refuge in the Your View category taken in June 2014 on Exmoor in North Devon. It was a pretty easy choice for me to enter this one – I knew instinctively that this was a rare opportunity and I love how the infrared worked so well with the sky and tree in particular. I think it makes a great character filled black and white depicting exactly what I wanted – it’s all about a baron almost desperate landscape made possible by the wide view and empty background.
The next selection was Backwater #8 also selected in Your View. A particularly proud moment for me regardless of what is to be next because this is my first colour image to receive any sort of competition recognition ever. It’s part of a series I’ve been particularly pleased with where I tried to bring out something of a compelling composition using the natural colours from my 720nm converted D800 RAW files, combined with the narrow depth of field afforded from my Nikon 85mm f/1.4G. Interestingly, half of my shortlisted entries this year are shot with infrared, hopefully indicating that trying to produce something different away from mainstream photography can be very much worthwhile.
The first of two Classic View shortlisted entries this year is The Cotswold Way. This is another mini milestone for me – at the fourth attempt I’ve finally got an image shortlisted for the Classic View category which was something of an objective for me this year. Originally conceived as yet another of my black and white images, I re-processed the original RAW file specifically for the Take A View competition, it was certainly an instant hit on Flickr, and that instinct for a colour composition turned out to be right. I’m sure the dramatic light and silhouettes caught the attention of the judges here, it was a truly magical late autumnal morning from last November in the Cotswolds, taken a couple of miles from Speak To Me further below.
Just to complete the infrared set is Two By Two in Your View, once again shot earlier in the year during April. I was bursting to get out during early spring with my newly converted D800IR and a warm bright spell of weather allowed me to take full advantage. It’s been quite a year for infrared possibilities so far with long sunny days providing perfect conditions for plenty of images. As with the whole of the Backwaterseries, Two By Two is another local photograph a mile or so from home following up my 2012 success of Departure which was taken in my home town.
The second of my Classic View shortlisted entries is Speak To Me. Another colour image I’m very happy with, though as you’ll read in Part 2 it’s certainly not a personal favourite of my entries this year. This is often the way with Take A View, it’s anyone’s guess what the judges are really looking for, they obviously have one eye on the end exhibition and book so picking images which contribute to an overall balance and interest is something they obviously have in mind. Clearly I wouldn’t have entered this image if I didn’t think it was worthy or lacked merit in some way and the fact it’s a colour image of my favoured subject matter from a Cotswold dawn fills me with a lot of joy…
Finally Colossus was selected in the Your View category. This is a pretty dramatic composition by my own usual standards – the deep mono contrasts and frame filling impact once again catching the attention of a judges eye that probably lingers over each image for no longer than a few seconds. I remember taking this at the time thinking I had to hold back the highlights and make the most of that wonderful misty halo effect – I can certainly see this on a page in the Take A View book in my minds eye but it will be months until I find out if that’s a reality.