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Thank you for entering Competition 11

Thank you for entering Competition 11
Thank you all so much to everyone who entered Competition 11, and thank you for your patience as we experienced unprecedented demand. The hard part is over, now sit back and relax whilst the IGPOTY judges get to work. If you haven’t entered IGPOTY this year the shortlisting procedure is as . . . follows: 1. Judging begins.2. Shortlist chosen.3. All entrants receive a prompt via email to login and check their account. This prompt will also be posted on social media channels. Your dashboard will indicate if you have been shortlisted or not.4. Shortlisted photographers upload high-res directly to website (and ensure all required photograph information has been entered). 5. Final places decided.6. All shortlisted entrants receive a prompt via email to login and check their account. The dashboard will indicate if your photograph has been awarded a place. We aim to begin shortlisting on the week commencing November 13 for around 1 week. Please be around for a small amount of time during this period to ensure you can respond to any shortlist requests. The sooner you get high-res images and information to us the better - this is much appreciated. We’ll be in touch again with all entrants via email and keep you updated at every step. If you still have questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly on social channels or via email. If you’ve been in touch already we will respond as quickly as we can. As ever, winners are made public when we launch the exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in February. We can’t wait to see the winners there. Also remember entries into the Humphry Repton Special Award will remain open until midday on December 31 2017. Best of luck and thank you again from the IGPOTY Team.
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Competition 11 will now close November 1 2017

Competition 11 will now close November 1 2017
It’s almost the end of October and that means the end of the competition year. We’ve been hard at work to make the competition better than ever, with more benefits for photographers than ever before. So If you haven’t entered, are wondering what IGPOTY is all about or are considering being part of . . . Competition 11, here are our top reasons why you should take part: Prizes Prizes are important. We know and recognise that you should be rewarded for your hard work. That’s why last year we raised the prize money from £5,000 to £7,500 for the overall winner. There’s also £2,000 on offer for the best portfolio, plus RPS medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place. Category winners also receive equipment prizes. It doesn’t stop there. We work with some amazing partners who offer unique experiences, exposure and cash prizes through our range of special awards. From bespoke exhibitions to €1000 - check out the available awards. International exhibitions Not only do we launch our exhibition of winners at the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in February we also have an ever-growing international exhibition tour as they are a central part of the IGPOTY mission. They are critical in communicating the beauty and importance of a green planet and the vital role photography plays in doing this. That’s why we endeavour to keep expanding the programme and share your work with an even greater audience. The programme next year includes venues in the UK, Germany, Spain and Amsterdam plus more to be announced. Global coverage Whether you’re just starting your journey as a garden photographer or are a seasoned professional, exposure and media coverage is critical to reignite or kickstart a career. We regularly feature in consumer magazines, national newspapers and some of the world’s most popular online news websites. As Richard Bloom, Overall Winner of Competition 9 said: “The publicity generated from winning IGPOTY has been huge and is itself a reward potentially worth more than the prize money.” Ethics and Community What does your photography say about you and what you stand for? Entering IGPOTY broadcasts the fact that you care about plants, green spaces and the environment and just how critical they are to our lives. A competition should align with your own artistic convictions and we care passionately about a green planet. We believe a competition should go beyond its definition and present a much grander vision. That’s what we offer. We’ve also just launched public profiles, which is the foundation for a more interlinked social community. Being part of a competition should be just that, and anyone is welcome to join. This element is set to grow, so get in early and make the most of the free exposure. Recognition We understand that competitions aren’t just about prizes. There are deeply personal factors. To be recognised by others for something you love is perhaps the most satisfying. And if you are a winner, whilst we can’t guarantee spiritual wholeness, we can guarantee a deep sense of lasting and profound recognition. Enter now
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Raising the Profile

Raising the Profile
Here at IGPOTY we have a competition vision that encourages everyone to creatively engage with nature. If we’re saying we believe everyone has the ability to be involved then everyone needs their own individual space to track their journey, publicise their achievements and expose their work to the . . . wider world. That’s why we’ve just launched updated public profiles. For winners, you will see your awards (we’re working on importing more historic competition data) and links to your winning images. Even if you’re not an IGPOTY winner there’s loads of reasons to create a public profile or update an existing one. It’s a public way to say you’ve joined the IGPOTY community, announce your presence as a garden/nature photographer and reinforce an existing career through the IGPOTY audience. If you have your own website and social presence it’s the perfect opportunity to increase your SEO and backlinks. You’ll also be ready for any media/public searches if you’re placed in any competitions. You’ll also have a searchable index of public profiles where you can find photographers just like you. We also feature recently completed profiles on the homepage to really amplify you and your work. This means more public exposure and another unique reason to take part in this competition. In order to take advantage of these benefits you’ll have to make your profile public and ensure all public data is filled out in full (sensitive information like telephone number, email address and home address will never be shown). You can even change the background image to further personalise the IGPOTY experience. Be ready for the end of this competition year and turn up your exposure to maximum. Head to your dashboard to edit your profile then enter Competition 11 before October 31!
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The Final Question

The Final Question
As we enter the last month of the competition year, you may be wondering what to enter, how to shoot your subject and in what style, but ultimately the final question you will ask of your image is, is it good enough to win? To gain some insight into answering this we caught up with the winner of the . . . Still Life Photo Project, Simon Schollum. The story starts in his local bookshop. “At my favourite bookshop in Christchurch I discovered and bought the 2012 hard copy edition of International Garden Photographer of the Year. Within its pages I found inspiration and instruction among the rich and exuberant images. IGPOTY is what led me to photograph flowers. Inspired to try my hand, subsequently my submission ‘Home Sweet Home’ received the award of ‘commended’ and was subsequently published in IGPOTY Collection 8. This was followed by a dried flower arrangement which was selected for publication in the IGPOTY Ten Year Anniversary book earlier this year." The importance of inspiration can never be understated, and this constitutes the first part of the answer to our question. Ask yourself does it further inspire me and can it inspire others? No matter who you are, what skill level, background, or what you're seeking to undertake, everyone at some point needs that vital spark, a breath of fresh air (inspire from Latin inspirare - breathe or blow into) – sometimes we don’t even know we’re looking for it. This moment that we call inspiration leads to a process of comparison, and finally self-belief. If others can create images like this, in this way, why can’t I? The IGPOTY books are essential springboards for connecting people, with their potential. Simon continues: “Artists such as Magdalena Wasiczek and Mandy Disher, together with the work of so many others continue to make the IGPOTY experience one to savour and return to over and over again. The well-designed IGPOTY website is responsive and full of relevant information and inspiration making it an essential source both for active gardeners and photographic artists of the genre. The image, ‘Pomegranate’, is a direct descendant of the passion for still-life photography ignited by the images I found in that first IGPOTY book. I retired as a Police Forensic Photographer last year and happily spend many hours between the garden and my residential photographic studio.  As a genre I believe Still Life offers the contradiction of appearing to be supremely simple to achieve but is one of the most difficult subject matters to master. Fortunately artists throughout time have been drawn to its form which makes available to the contemporary photographic artist a rich trove of interpretations to draw on. The subject motivates me to develop further abilities with lighting and composition and see where this can lead. Advice to other photographers would be to take time closely studying the work already promulgated by the many contributors to IGPOTY. If a particular subject or theme excites you, photograph, photograph, photograph and when you have done that photograph some more.” This then, is the second part of the answer to our question. Ask yourself have I studied the work of others? Not merely to copy but to advance, build upon, and progress the genre and your own interpretations into new places that are guaranteed to move judges. This is where a feel for originality is developed as well as most importantly, self-belief in both style and artistic approach. When we combine inspiration with knowledge, the stage is set. Both answers have led to self-belief as being a driving force behind the competition process. And when you find this, you may just discover, that final question has entirely disappeared. Enter Competition 11 now
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Outdoor Living

Outdoor Living
The category is both a core element and binding force for any photography competition. They should direct the flow of creative ideas and help channel thematic content whilst providing a sense of cohesion. Their central place within a competition means that organisers must find contextual and . . . contemporary homes for new categories they introduce. For us this translates into a need to track the ever-evolving relationship we have with gardens and green spaces and the kinds of ways we choose to interact with them. Outdoor Living is one such avenue which deserved a dedicated space for such exploration, as it meets the above criteria for what a new category should set out to achieve. We asked Chelsea award winning garden designer and IGPOTY judge, Chris Beardshaw about the changing ways we choose to live outside: “Over time the formal boundary between internal and external spaces has become increasingly permeable. Well designed spaces now harness the character and personality of the context that, with design flair, can create inspiring and evocative schemes rich in sensory delights.” This desire to harness the outside world as an indoor living space, reflects our growing need to feel closer to nature. This is why design is so important, but it hasn’t got to be grandiose and lavishly expensive. The personal aspect of these outdoor living spaces are important reflections of our ourselves and how we want to feel in these new spaces. When the balance is right, a great and natural harmony is achieved between the newly created man-made space and the organic, sometimes, untamed surroundings. What was once a desire to control, is now a necessity to preserve through sustainable attitudes. This behaviour demonstrates a gradually shifting pattern of rehabilitation and reconciliation with the way we impose ourselves upon the natural world. From this we are able to access the first theoretical pillar of this category, which is sustainability and responsible use of land. Within the task of bringing the inside, out, we must utilise both our individuality and that of the landscape we find ourselves in, and that is where photography plays a huge role. It has the ability to draw out these interconnecting stories that combine and contrast the expanse of nature with individual human agency. The stories that we’re looking for are ones that demonstrate the most empathy with nature. From a simple patio to an architectural aquatic marvel these constructions are becoming physical conversations rather than one-way dialogues. The second theoretical pillar then is individuality. There are multifarious ways to live in a garden and we encourage the inclusion of people within this category to tell a story and to explicitly show personality and character at work within a garden space. These pillars not only help to form the contextual and contemporary home we mentioned at the start, they also help us access a relationship that is both old and strikingly modern. Outdoor Living has the capacity to help us better understand our place in nature - both in our reaction to it and our acceptance of it. In this way both theory and photography exhibit the same parallels: sometimes even the most inspiring and evocative of schemes can only be recognised within the most elegant and meaningful of contexts. Enter Outdoor Living before October 31 2017.
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Doing the Opposite

Doing the Opposite
The winner of the Macro Art Photo Project was Stephen Studd, with his photograph ‘Giant Carrot’. Judges thought it answered the brief perfectly, whilst displaying technical excellence and superb use of shape, texture and colour, resulting in a captivating image. It’s important to share the fact that . . . Stephen has been entering the competition since 2010 and has been awarded with numerous shots over the years but this is his first time to win the award of 1st place. So what’s kept Stephen entering throughout the years? He said: “The competition is the pinnacle for showcasing garden and plant photography. It gives photographers great exposure to the world and has gained a reputation as the competition to enter.” The competition demands so much from photographers and every year they answer category briefs with originality, insightful approaches and new artistic definitions. For the judges, Stephen’s shot all starts with simplicity. Executing a simple idea to great effect can be difficult because it can easily fall short of expectations, here our expectations are challenged by a remarkable display of unusual form, complexity and colour.  Stephen said: “I like the abstract nature of the image and the series I photographed, taking ordinary subjects and photographing them in a completely different way. The idea was to focus in really close on the giant vegetables and create abstract art from them, concentrating on the different textures and patterns on their flesh.” But it’s not just the natural simplicity of the shot which underpins its philosophy. What’s interesting is that the image was produced from an artistic standpoint of doing what others are not. Stephen said: “I was photographing at the Malvern Autumn Show where they have a giant vegetable competition. People at the show were photographing the giant veg in their entirety, but to me the oversized vegetables look rather grotesque. This made me look at the subjects and interpret them in a different way, as on closer inspection they reveal patterns and textures that are not usually seen on ordinary sized veg.” As an artistic reaction to a dominant context, it’s worth noting that in order to produce the best results, it may be worth looking again not just at the subjects but the people and events happening around you. A giant veg show is certainly an apposite occasion to change this perspective, as Stephen says: “If you see the masses doing one thing, do the opposite, it will usually lead you to somewhere far more exciting.” Finding a style, or indeed taking a winning shot, can mean changing direction from a pre-planned journey and diverting the course of normality. Even if you discover it’s not the direction you were hoping to take, the rewards for personal growth are huge - crowds may have wisdom, but individuals have courage. Put it to the test. Enter the next Photo Project here.
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The European Garden Photography Award

The European Garden Photography Award
Drive south-west from Nuremberg for about an hour through pleasant Bavarian countryside and you will reach a splendid baroque castle and estate, belonging to the Barons von Süsskind for eight generations. The connection with IGPOTY doesn’t stretch back quite as far but has been growing in strength, . . . importance and enthusiasm for some time. The European Garden Photography Award celebrates the best photography of private and public European gardens and helps connect winners and the wider audience with diverse and beautiful green subjects across the continent. Working more and more with like minded European partners has been a particular focus for IGPOTY in the last few years and the European Garden Photography Award, run in partnership with Schlosspark Dennenlohe, is fundamental in developing this vision. From these clear macro objectives, we see positive and significant personal outcomes. As former winner, Annette Lepple puts it: “Winning is of course very exciting – it’s an important recognition which makes everything even more worthwhile. It has boosted my career in some ways but IGPOTY and the EGPA has also helped me grow as a photographer, and this is really important to me.” As an international competition which places importance on personal development, the breadth and quality of our transnational relationships help make individual growth possible. And this is what truly makes a competition international. IGPOTY is able to do this not just because we share a professional sense of internationalism with our partners, but because of the way nature and art cut across geopolitical boundaries. When behind a lens, waiting for a sunrise or the joy of discovering a new beautiful garden, one tends to forget the foment of division and tiresome machinations. But art should never exist in a vacuum. For a lot of photographers who enter IGPOTY, or indeed, artists in general, one of the most satisfying outcomes of the work is recognition. As Ulrike Adam, winner of the EGPA Competition 10 said: “I did not expect to win the European Garden Photography Award. For me, the victory is a great recognition of my work and I am able to find many new opportunities and offers. I have had lots of good press as well as discussions for future exhibitions of my work. Internationally I could certainly make a lot more of this as a career now - If only I had the time!” Just as recognition is important on the personal level it also stands for parallel sympathies between organisations and businesses. The results are often surprisingly effective and when it comes to cooperation and partnership, more can always be done. Annette’s parting advice to garden photographers can also be applied to the continued importance of supporting, seeking, and maintaining meaningful relationships, whether individual, national or historical: “Work hard, never give up and look for inspiration.” Upon leaving the Schloss, take a moment to appreciate the baroque facade, unchanged since 1734. It will become apparent this castle was never meant to keep people out. The EGPA award is now open for entries.
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The Ethos of Access

The Ethos of Access
All IGPOTY categories are meant to encourage positive and creative action with nature in a similar overarching objective. This is of course sharing the beauty and importance of a green planet in the most uplifting and inspiring way possible. In the last blog post we touched on the theme of . . . accessibility and why this is so important in achieving this aim. Accessibility is such a key competition tenet that finding new ways to engender this and the trends and behaviour of modern photographers becomes not just important, but necessary. It has therefore made perfect sense to fully support and encourage use of mobile phones in garden photography. The ubiquity of smartphones, their processing power, creative flexibility and increasing affordability means that capturing gardens, plants and green environments has never been more natural or more enjoyable. And that’s exactly how photography should feel - natural and enjoyable. This is also when we feel most creatively confident. So accessibility moves beyond mere descriptions of barriers, it starts describing a headspace for interpreting the world and our freedom to do so. The mobile phone has opened up new ways of communicating with each other in ways we never thought possible. Indeed, images are a fundamental part of this digital conversation and we’re determined to play an ever increasing role within it. In the coming years we want to take accessibility to new heights and give photographers even more opportunities to grow and be inspired. Gardens on the Go is just the start of this process. This means moving beyond the use of the mobile phone to better understand what accessibility in photography and competitions really means and implementing more future facing ideas to bring gardens, plants and people ever closer. To bring things together like this is not the preserve of individuals acting alone, but as a community. We’re much more successful when we have the support, encouragement and recognition of others. Competition ethos then is not just something we support or believe in, it’s a road map for the future and we can’t wait to see you there.
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Capturing Joy

Capturing Joy
A central tenet of the competition is about making photography as accessible as possible. Accessibility engenders engagement and engagement creates the environment needed to bring out a vast potential of creativity. And this creativity has a huge role in highlighting the wonders and importance of . . . the natural world. Similarly, gardening is also about accessibility, particularly as our lives become ever more sustainably viable and necessary. Just as we all have the ability to engage with nature on a creative level we also have the ability to engage with it on a horticultural level as well. Finding new ways to celebrate this relationship is central to our mission. That’s why our new special award with Thompson & Morgan is rather important to us. It neatly joins together various strands of gardening and photography which complement each other in so many ways. The new special award is all about the ‘Joy of Gardening’ and using the products of Thompson & Morgan as a gateway to explore our relationship with plants and gardens. If you’re a keen photographer but have never had green fingers, the special award may inspire you to plant a few seeds and discover the marvellous similarities for yourself. The expectation of planting a seed and envisioning germination has vivid parallels to pressing the shutter release and envisioning the potential of the final processed picture. The origin of that beautiful plant portrait becomes just as vital as its future capture. We’re also looking to uncover more of those brilliantly personal gardening experiences which can pass us by without full acknowledgement. As is often the case, we are tempted to travel to beautiful gardens with expertly maintained landscapes and borders (rightly so!) but we can forget about those little moments of green success stories we’ve had at home, whether on the windowsill, veg patch or patio and how we can use photography to tell a very compelling, visual story. This leads on to something that we want to promote as a competition and that is the recognition of positive emotion. It is sometimes the case that a photograph can be technically brilliant, but can fail to convey a real emotional message. This special award, ’The Joy of Gardening’ encourages an exploration of the emotions one feels in gardening and growing your own and how best to capture that within a photograph. That then is the challenge of this special award - how does one go about capturing emotion? Here are some key points to bear in mind when photographing that prized specimen or garden scene: -AttentionFocus on the part of the plant or scene, which best corresponds to how you feel about it. What do you want judges to see and why? -LightUse light to emphasise your choice of capture. Is it dramatic, uplifting or exciting? Don’t forget to use post-capture processing effectively to emphasise this choice through exposure, contrast and colours. -ContextWhat is surrounding the subject? What is in the background? Is the angle and composition original? Does it reinforce a feeling or detract from it? Watch out for unwanted objects in the frame. -FocusExperiment with different apertures. Where is the point of focus and why? -RepetitionBe self-critical and keep taking pictures until you’re happy. If you’re not, change one of the above variables and keep shooting! And the final key similarity between gardening and photography? Both are reflexive activities which force us to instinctively take account of our own presence, our own actions, and the consequences of what we create. It doesn’t get more emotionally relevant than that.
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A New Visible World

A New Visible World
“The first thing to be undertaken in this weighty work,” said Robert Hooke in the preface to “Micrographia”, an investigation of minute bodies published in 1665, “is a watchfulness over the failings and an enlargement of the dominion of the senses.” Hooke realised that our reason and subsequent . . . interpretation of the world can be misled by our fallible senses, but through technology “the footsteps of nature can be tracked” by “adding artificial organs to the natural”. Hooke’s discourse on the use of the microscope was to reveal a world which people had never seen before. Although we are now accustomed to many spectacular images of nature, on every level, the principal behind macro photography remains the same: to experience the wonder of enhancing our senses in order to study and celebrate the many and diverse forms of flora and fauna. Similarly, Hooke’s mission to improve our senses has not changed. We develop more accurate, more sensitive, more wide-ranging methods to record and capture the world around us. Macro lenses are testament to our fascination with wanting to find this place we know exists, and wanting to personally experience it. Indeed, it isn’t enough to just see these pictures, sometimes it is the process itself which leads to that feeling of discovery, of new meaningful knowledge. This sense of emancipation and reason was a trademark of the Enlightenment; it is also why macro photography as a sub-genre of photography is so loved and admired. It has the ability, or at least the potential, to invoke a powerful notion of sensory control. It is this sense of control that so inspired Enlightenment naturalists who used technology to confirm their dominance over an ordered and structured universe which could be named, categorised and systematised. This sense of control is still an important feature when analysing the relationship between art, technology and nature, and it continues to shift and change with our expectations and knowledge of the world. Although we know a great deal more today than in the late 17th century, it can be said that we still crave to have more experience of that knowledge, which escapes the ordinary realm of sensory experience ie the everyday. Macro photography is a way to bring this experience back into our fast-paced and knowledge filled life, the demands of which mean we lose the joy of self-discovery. As Hooke said: “So great is the satisfaction of finding out new things that I dare compare the contentment…which most men prefer of the very senses themselves.” We have the opportunity to reconnect with nature in a way that Hooke and contemporaries never thought possible, not just on a technological basis, but also on a spiritual. This longing to take part in a great exploration of natural discovery will never simply end, it will continue to present itself in yet more fantastic and wondrous forms. Macro photography represents a part of this journey in a new personalised natural enlightenment, which has been made possible by technology. The outcome for this future may mean even greater detachment from second-hand knowledge and an even closer relationship to the joys of self-discovery and first-hand experience. It is only then, that the “watchfulness over the failings of the senses” may finally come to an end. But there’s no need to wait for perfection. If we keep on looking, the power to realise a “new visible world” exists right now.
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Back to Black

Back to Black
Since Competition 5 we started the year with the Monochrome Photo Project, which became one of our two main annual Photo Projects, encouraging photographers to focus on a particular photographic skill. Fast forward to 2017 in Competition 11 and the IGPOTY team have decided to turn the Monochrome . . . into Black & White. Here’s why. Monochrome has produced some fantastic imagery but the overarching job of the photo projects, as stated, is to really ask photographers to focus on just one area of photography and make the task as elegant and as simple as possible, resulting in similar outcomes. Clearer objectives often result in clearer artistic expressions, which definitely helps judges when trying to work out the meaning and message behind an image. Indeed there are different skills involved in monochromatic photography than black & white, because of course, there is colour! The move to black & white seemed logical and relevant, particularly as black & white has so much more to offer the ever-growing genre of garden photography. To reinforce this message, it’s important to make a differentiation and champion the many qualities of black & white as an essential part of the competition oeuvre. Mark Bentley, deputy editor of Black+White Photography magazine, said: “Gardens and the natural world can often look stunning in black & white. When colour is removed from an image, the shapes, textures and patterns become stronger. And when the weather is grim, the light can play a crucial role in the mood of your picture.” This strength which Mark alludes to is present in many garden scenes and has the potential to produce potent images. Shoot for black & white with the intent on seeing black & white - don’t go for the easy conversion of a shot you thought looked good in colour. This is about tapping into an underlying presence that enhances an image and makes us feel something different. But don’t be scared to push the boundaries. Black & white isn’t the sole preserve of bleak winter scenes. The opportunity to develop a positive mood through the lack of colour still feels bold and refreshing. The underlying darkness of black & white is much too easy to associate with negative emotions; indeed it may take some effort to see through this darkness and feel uplifted by the subject matter. It is this effort which often gives us that sense of satisfaction and it is this sense of satisfaction that gives an image a winning emotional response. Black & white is rightly considered a classic way to present photography, yet classic garden and nature scenes both in print and online is still predominantly the realm of colour imagery. This seems natural and right, we are after all, a species which enjoys life through the visible spectrum of colours and enjoy having that full visual experience repeated back to us through imagery and art. So are we naturally biased toward colours in all visual pursuits? It may be that our biological origins reflect our current cultural and technological traditions. It is a shared responsibility to question these predilections and there is no better medium for this than photography. Black & white is more than the removal of colour, it has the potential to tell us about us who we are and the kind of art we seek to produce. You never know, the next true classic garden shot you take may very well have no colour at all. Sometimes black & white can dwell in the past, at other times it is a product of modernity, but at all times it has the potential for immense inspiration. And inspiration is what we’re all about.
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Of Birch and Belief

Of Birch and Belief
The winner of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition 10, Lee Acaster, entranced judges with his challenging yet beautiful photograph of autumnal birch trees, entitled Left. Its depth, detail, character and mystery, elevated a drizzly Snowdonian day into a scene with spiritual, . . . even religious connotations. Judges were impressed by how the photograph encourages us to perhaps spend a little more time than usual in order to understand its meaning and merits. This is not to say that striking summer colours or spectacular sunsets are no less valid or skilful, it just means that our normal associations with winning shots are challenged and this is a good thing. Susan Brown, Representative of the Royal Photographic Society said: “Those of us that spend our lives surrounded by photography see many competent and inspirational images regularly. IGPOTY submissions showed a wide range of potentially winning images, but sometimes a photograph just jumps out as being different, from a photographer who looks at the world in an individual way.” To express a distinct yet appealing individual style is more difficult than it may seem and can take a long time to get right. Lee’s work shows a commitment to his own style and the winning picture is a clear representation of this vision. The shot, whilst highly original remains extremely faithful to the subject matter: the trees themselves. There is a great sense of honesty about it, existing both on the surface and through an invitation for further exploration of nature’s truths. Its muted inky background tones may, at first glance, invoke curiosity, even scepticism, but then the dazzling leaves throughout the central plane impart an undeniable intensity which binds the composition together. As Clare Foggett, Editor of The English Garden puts it: “It demands closer inspection.” We realise the darkness of the lake acts as the perfect canvas for the birch trees to display a last defiant act of colour. And perhaps this is even why so many of us love autumn. Not because of the colours alone but because of what they represent: the defiance of death; and the assurance of new life and new beginnings. To reveal this level of meaning in a photograph is one of the joys of the competition, and part of this discovery of course goes beyond the immediate technicalities of photography. Indeed, there is a wider comment to be made here about how photography can remind us to take notice of the world in a different and more profound way. Above all, judges believed it answered one very important aspect of the competition criteria. Does it inspire others to go out and take photographs of plants, gardens and green spaces? Whilst located in Snowdonia, the subjects of the scene are very accessible and widely known, adding to a sense of familiarity. It just goes to show you don’t need to jet off to a far away location to capture something special. The answers may be much closer to home. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is a hallmark of any good artist, but so is the willingness to put in the hours, as Lee said: “I’m a big believer that practice makes perfect, and after countless hours in forests and knee deep in hedgerows I feel I’ve become much more visually attuned to the elements of a scene that appeal to me.” Even though the end product of our endeavours can be breathtaking, when it comes to anything artistic, we all have to start somewhere. It is from these beginnings we can develop a sense of belief in what we’re trying to achieve. So what are you waiting for? The hardest part is yet to come.
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