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Landscape Photographer of the Year is the publication that features the winners and other commended entries from renowned landscape photographer Charlie Waite's Take a View competition. The contest is run in collaboration with the AA, who publish this book. Both amateur and professional photographers may enter, and they do not have to be UK residents. All photographs submitted, however, must be taken in the British Isles. There is a separate section entitled Youth Class for photographs taken by children under the age of sixteen.
The competition gives photographers the opportunity to enter all or some of four categories. First is the Classic View, which should demonstrate the 'beauty and variety' of the British landscape. Second comes Living the View, where photographs must show people 'interacting with the outdoors'. The third category is Your View, which offers plenty of scope for portraying what the landscape means to the photographer personally. Finally there is Urban View, which allows for photographs to be taken in cities and towns, but they must be above ground.
In addition to the overall winner and the winners in each category, there are several other awards. National Rail offers a "Lines in the Landscape" award for the best photograph showing the present-day rail network within the landscape (not underground). Then there is the Sunday Times Magazine Choice award, and this year for the first time there is the Calumet Photographic "This is Britain" award. Prize money totals more than £20,000; as well as being featured in Landscape Photographer of the Year, winning photographs are exhibited in an eight-week-long show at the National Theatre. It is indeed a prestigious affair.
Landscape Photographer of the Year is printed in full colour on high-quality paper, which its contents fully deserve. The overall winner of the competition in 2011 was Robert Fulton for his Winter Field in Stirlingshire, a masterful study of snow-dusted trees at first light. In stark contrast, the Youth Class winner was Oscar Stewart-Packe's photograph entitled Armchair, in which the rotting but subtly colourful chair sits in a derelict London house. These two works alone give an idea of the scope that the competition offers and the range of photographs that are included in this book.
Tim Harvey's Rocquaine Bay During a Winter Storm was the winning photograph in the Classic View category; it has a painterly quality where sea spray seems to merge with the clouds in places. I would say I personally preferred this entry to the overall winner. In the Youth Class of that category, the winner was The Jetty by William Lee, taken in Risholme, Lincolnshire. The scene is bathed in a golden autumn light, and the strong lines of the jetty are tempered by the softer clouds and trees. Lee was also the Youth Class winner in the category entitled Your View, for A Frosty Tree in Nettleham (also Lincolnshire). Taken on midwinter's day, there is a dark, threatening sky, but the sunlight illuminates the hoar frost on the bare branches of the trees. In the Your View Adult Class, Peter Clark triumphed with his breathtaking photograph of Rawhead Woods, Cheshire. Taken on a bitterly cold winter's day, slender tree trunks are silhouetted against fog, and the sun just manages to break through.
Living the View has a very different set of photographs, with Baxter Bradford's Round the Island from Hurst Castle claiming the adult prize. Bradford took the photo at 6am, showing a line of yachts in the Solent with one prominent leader; the sky is a delicate shade of yellow, while the sea's black and white tones create a heavy texture. Jessica Nineham must have acted quickly to capture her winning shot in the Youth Class. Taken on Hayling Island beach, it shows a beach mat appearing to fly between two silhouetted figures. Over the other side of Langstone Harbour, Matt Woods photographed the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth from an unusual angle to win the Youth Class prize in the Urban View category. It is cleverly seen, but I'm afraid I've seen rather too many photographs of this particular landmark for it to make a huge impression on me. In the Adult Class of that category the winner was The Dark Square Mile, shot by Howard Kingsnorth in London. Buildings glitter under an almost night sky; Kingsnorth had to arrange security in advance and knew he had to take the shot on a certain date whatever the weather.
The winners of the special awards were not my personal favourites, but it was interesting to notice that they were all completely different in terms of subject matter and treatment. Apart from the winning entries, there are many other photographs in Landscape Photographer of the Year that are absolutely stunning and very deserving of their place in this book. A section on the equipment and techniques used in each photograph is included at the end of the book, and amateur photographers will surely find this information invaluable.
Most but not all of the eight judges on the final panel have strong connections with photography. As well as Charlie Waite himself, there was Nick White of Epson, Damien Demolder, editor of Amateur Photographer Magazine, Monica Allende, Picture Editor of The Sunday Times Magazine and Robin Bernard, Director of Bayeux. Also on the panel were David Watchus, Publisher at AA Media, the writer and actress Celia Imrie and John Langley, Director of External Relationships at the National Theatre.
Landscape Photographer of the Year would make a superb present for any landscape photographer but also for anyone with a love of British landscapes, including urban scenes. There is something for everyone here, from coastlines to rolling hills or city architecture, in all seasons and in all imaginable conditions of light. The photographs will inspire many a photographer and probably give lovers of the countryside plenty of ideas for new places to discover. It is quite simply a beautiful book that I know I could pour over for hours.
Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection: 5 (Photography)
by AA Publishing
Hardcover, 224 pages
Price £25 (Amazon £16 )
A book of winning and commended photographs from the Take a View landscape photography competition