After three long months of judging the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition, the dust is settling and the results are in! Philip Smith considers whether the winning images are 'stunning' - or altogether more interesting than that...
Way back in December, way before I discovered my daughters had bought me a tartan scarf for Christmas (just what I wanted, girls - and no, I haven't left it on a train yet) , the judging panels for the International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition convened in chilly Oxfordshire to begin the long deliberations which have brought us to this point - the results of IGPOTY 6!
It's customary at this point to say, in true press release style - 'best ever' - 'stunning images' - (why do images always stun you? I think they should open your eyes - not shut them) but I'm not going to do that. First though, enjoy the winner, Dennis Frates' eye-opening shot of wild penstemon on a rock cliff face in Oregon.
Penstemon Sunrise (Photo: Dennis Frates)
Dennis tells me that he didn't intend to go out that morning. It seemed a long old hike up the mountain. Maybe the sun wouldn't be quite right, anyway. Maybe it would be warmer in bed. Maybe it would be kinder on his 60 year-old knees not to go. I am glad for us that he did make the effort. Along with all his medium-format kit. A wonderful moment, communicated to us all the way from that landscape, that distance, that time, that moment.
No such problems for Paul Debois in the Elephant and Castle in south London. He just had to hop on a 133 bus. But his winning shot in the 'Greening the City' category opens our eyes to the way we need plants and trees in the city - not only for our visual enjoyment, but for our sense of connection with the natural world.
City Trees (Photo: Paul Debois)
But here is another sunrise, and another big effort of preparation and the technique of being there at the right moment - by Nic Barlow - Sunrise at Ballue.
Sunrise at Ballue (Photo: Nic Barlow)
Commitment, effort, preparation, relationships. All here in this portrait of an inner city farmer in Ohio by Rich Pomerantz - winner of the 'Bountiful Earth' category.
Inner City Farmer (Photo: Rich Pomerantz)
And look at this one - specially for the gardeners among us. Our nemesis the common snail, treated as a film star - complete with lights and meticulous composition. A highly complex shot, full of clever techniques, bits of blue gel and a mate with a torch. Searching for Snails by Liam Marsh.
Searching for Snails (Photo: Liam Marsh)
So what do we learn? Are we stunned?
I hope not - I hope your eyes and imaginations are opened up. What we learn is that the winning shots are the result of patience, skill, enthusiasm, energy, and commitment. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing to do with fancy-dan cameras. Nothing to do with software magic. Nothing to do with stunning innocent people.
That's how it is. I'm so glad we did it all again for another year. Thank you to my fellow judges and to all who supplied us with vital supplies of tea and baked goods!
You can see the winning photos, along with my commentary, on the IGPOTY slideshow on the BBC website.
You can also see a wider range of winners, finalists, highly commended and commended images on the IGPOTY website.
IGPOTY has organised a rolling programme of exhibitions of the photos in the UK and around the world. Find out more about the competition exhbitions on the IGPOTY website.
And you can buy the book, International Garden Photographer Of The Year Collection 6, from the Kew online bookshop.
- Philip -
About Philip Smith
Philip Smith is a professional photographer specialising in gardens and plants with 15 years’ experience. His photography has featured in many magazines and books including The English Garden, The Garden (RHS) , and Gardeners’ World. His work has also featured in exhibitions at Kew Gardens and the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley and London.
As co-founder and Managing Director of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Philip is responsible for the world’s premier competition in the field, which culminates in an annual exhibition at Kew Gardens and other venues. Philip is the author of Better Plant and Garden Photography.
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