Once again I was honoured to be asked to be a judge for the 2016 Fieldsports Photographer of the Year Competition. The competition goes from strength to strength each year and I just hope that even more photographers enter next year. As I commented in the magazine itself, the photographs represent so much that is good and we adore about fieldsports without really focusing on the end product of the quarry itself. To me that underlines the real reason we are all out there doing our stuff and leading the lives we do, dedicated to our love of fieldsports.
When asked to judge I am simply sent a set of JPEG images to look at so I do not know who took the photograph or the story behind the image. This is the best way for me because I try and ‘read’ the image and what story it tells about fieldsports without any outside influence. I also try and go through in my mind what it would have taken to achieve the image and I obviosuly look to ensure that the important parts, like eyes, are sharp. When Marcus sent me the results and revealed who took them and what their stories were I was delighted to see that Andrea Moffat was runner-up as I know her and had sold some equipment to her and tried to give her a guiding hand a few years back.
Below are the text and images reproduced from Fieldsports Magazine (copyright Fieldsports Magazine – reproduced with their kind permission), this edition is on the stands now (May 2016).
The Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year has once again unearthed some incredible talent, with images of truly outstanding quality and variation being submitted by fieldsports photographers from far and wide.
Across the five categories – Game Shooting, Fly fishing, Stalking, Gundogs and Other – we received in excess of 600 entries, making it the hardest year so far for our judging panel to pick the winners. For the third year running, the Gundogs category proved to be the most popular, accounting for over a third of the entries, closely followed by Game Shooting.
Beyond the key criterion of capturing the essence and allure of the respective sport or subject portrayed, the judges were also looking for photographs that exhibited outstanding technical skill and ability with a camera, a natural eye for composition and aesthetics, and attention to detail in the processing of the digital file.
“Every year, the quality of entries just gets better and better,” said Fieldsports Magazine editor and judge, Marcus Janssen. “We received dozens of truly exceptional photographs, each one deserving of recognition, so it really was a painstaking job for us to narrow them all down to just seven images. But, as I am sure readers will agree, each of our winning photographs displays not just great skill, attention to detail and an eye for composition, but, and arguably most importantly, tells a story about a special day in the field.”
“The moment I began to go through this year’s entries, I noticed a continued improvement in the standard,” added fellow judge Tarquin Millington-Drake. “This competition is becoming an important part of representing and appreciating the fieldsports that we so love and enjoy, and all the parts that make up great days on hill, river and field.
“What was particularly noticeable this year is that so few of the images were about the hardcore end result of what we do, and yet they captured so well why we love our sports so much. My hope is that one day this competition will result in an annual book, similar to other photography competitions, so all photographers out there, amateur and professional alike, keep the entries coming and keep showing fieldsports in such a positive light.”
WINNER: Mark Payne
Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikon 70–200mm AF-S VRII f/2.8
Focal length: 135mm
“This image was taken in February last year near Loggerheads in Staffordshire – a day that was particularly cold and bleak. I was attending a gundog training day where my friend and trainer Darren Lewis was setting up retrieves for a number of his spaniels and labradors. I don’t think the temperature got much above freezing and many layers of warm clothing was definitely the order of the day.
“The morning went well, and all of the dogs were enjoying it and getting plenty of exercise. But by around 2:30pm it started to snow. We continued training for a while, but at this point the dogs had just about had enough. Being tired and rather wet, Darren’s spaniel bitch, Autumn Willow Snap (pet name Ecko), decided the best place to be was in his arms. Staying ever alert, Ecko remained interested in what was going on and I was able to grab this shot just before we wrapped-up for the day.
“The image shows a very close and trusting relationship between the dog and trainer, and there was clearly only one place she wanted to be. The image is pin-sharp, and I love the soft bokeh effect of the background caused by the wide-open lens, and the falling snow has been captured distinctly. Whilst I primarily enjoy landscape and wildlife photography, gundogs are fast becoming a big focus as it is a real challenge to get something special. The inclement conditions, owner and spaniel connection, and the sharp focus of this image make it one of my all-time favourite photos.”
“This is an outstanding photograph in every respect,” commented Marcus Janssen. “It is pin-sharp, atmospheric and beautifully composed, but, most importantly, it perfectly captures the special bond that exists between gundog and handler, a dynamic that will resonate with anyone who shoots, goes beating or picks-up.”
Tarquin Millington-Drake agrees: “This image told a great story and I enjoyed reading about it once the judging was complete. It is also strong, technically. The fact that Mark is willing to take his camera out in such conditions is a credit – many would not. I am not sure if Darren was walking when the shot was taken but ensuring the eye of the dog was sharp was the key to the image – without that, there would have been no photograph. All credit to you, Mark, for seeing the story, bothering to take it, and doing it right.”
PRIZE: Mark wins a pair of Leica Geovid HD-B 10×42 range-finding binoculars worth £2,700.
RUNNER-UP: Andrea Moffat
Camera: Canon EOS 1D
Lens: Canon EF 70–200mm F2.8 L USM
Focal length: 200mm
“A few years ago, I decided I was fed up with being a shooting widow from August through to January as I do not shoot. So I decided to tag along with my partner and take photographs of the various shoot days he attends. And my love for photography and the unique British countryside – which is very different to that of my native Canada – has grown over the years since.
“I had been trying to capture an action-packed image for a long time. But on this particular late-autumn grouse day on the Phoines Estate in Scotland, the grouse were truly breathtaking – coming at us like swarms of locusts – and the energy and excitement along the line of Guns was electrifying. Add in the stunning topography of the surrounding land and the memories will last forever.
“In my view, this photograph captures the efficient, rhythmical sequence between Gun and loader on a grouse moor and, in particular, the energy at Phoines on this particular day. The Gun in the image is a one of my partner’s shooting friends along with his loader, and the weather could only be described as typically Scottish. I love this photo especially as the shot string, smoking barrels, and ejected cartridges are all visible; the Gun’s sight is firmly set on the going-away grouse; and the loader is fully focussed on his task, oblivious to all the action around him as he reaches for more cartridges. Exactly the action-packed image I was after.”
“I was truly delighted when I saw who had taken this photograph,” says Tarquin. “A few years ago Andrea was a keen but frustrated photographer and she came to visit me to consider buying one of my old cameras that has taken some pretty famous photos in its day. She did buy it and I tried to point her in the right direction. She has clearly blossomed, for this is a great shot and she is right – such a photograph might look easy, just point and drill at 10 frames per second, but I can assure you, you have to keep doing it time and again to get all the attributes of this image. There is interest and action everywhere: left, middle and right, and to achieve it takes persistence. It was also well processed, bringing out the grasses and mosses while maintaining true colours.”
PRIZE: Andrea wins a Leica V-LUX 25-400mm f2.8 compact camera worth £850.
OTHER: Andrew Wickens
Camera: Canon 5D MKIII
Lens: Canon EF 70–200 2:8L is MKII
Focal length: 135mm
“This image is of master huntsman Oliver Hill and his hounds from the Southdown and Eridge Hunt, one of the various local hunts I follow and photograph regularly. This photo is
a particular favourite of mine and was taken on December 31, 2015, a great way to see us into the new year.
“The hunt had left the meet and travelled cross country for a short while when I decided to skip my usual spot where they have to jump over logs and small fences, and try to get them as they come through a lane with the master and hounds in a tight formation, framed by trees.
“I found what I thought was a good location, a tight lane with no through road, and trees and undergrowth tight to the verge. As they approached, an unexpected downpour of heavy rain and hail drenched us through. As you can see the Master was fairly amused by the sudden downpour, although the expression of the hounds and other riders look less impressed, which I feel make this image all the more special.”
FISHING: Andrew Semple
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikkor 50mm prime
Focal length: 50mm
“This image was taken on the River Leny in Scotland in mid October, 2013. I have been lucky enough to fish this river for many years now and I even caught and landed my first salmon on the fly here when I was just 12 years old.
“One day, whilst visiting the beat owner, I cast my eye upon an old etching on the wall of a gentleman smoking a pipe whilst salmon fishing from Donald’s Rock, thought to date back to over a century ago. Fascinated, we attempted to recreate the shot, found the exact rock, hooked a fish, took the photo, and then came the often dangerous task of trying to land it!
“I love this image as it is so timeless, looking as if it was taken pre-1920s – not 2013. A special shot from a very special river.”
GUNDOGS: Emily Murdoch
Camera: Canon 7D MKII
Lens: EF Canon 70–200 F4 L USM
Focal length: 70mm
“This photo was taken at the Kingswood Shoot in Upwood, Cambridgeshire, in December last year. My brother-in-law is the gamekeeper there, and so I seized the opportunity to get some more photographic experience, paying particular attention to the relationships between working dogs and their handlers.
“The final drive had just finished and we were about to head back to the trucks. I hung around watching the people and their interactions afterwards when I spotted the dog’s owner Abbie taking the opportunity to praise her often difficult spaniel, Bill, after a very good day’s work. I tweaked my settings to a narrower aperture to capture more detail, dropped the shutter speed, crouched down and took the photo. Totally unaware of me, she continued her praise throughout. I remember checking the back of the camera on the way back in the truck and smiling – it instantly become my favourite image of the day.
“The photo is special to me as it captures that bond between working dog and handler which is my passion in photography. It still makes me smile every time I see it.”
Camera: Canon 600D
Lens: Canon 18–135mm
Focal length: 50mm
“This photograph was taken a few hours after midday in October, 2014. It was my husband John’s first and successful attempt at a Macnab on the Dalnacardoch Estate, Blair Atholl. I had planned to create a complete story of the day in the form of a photo album for a Christmas present for him – which meant getting up way before dawn! The salmon came first at around 10.30am, followed by the stag at 2pm, and lastly, the brace of grouse shortly thereafter.
“I followed Matthew the pony boy up the beautiful and dramatic glen prior to collecting the stag, taking plenty of photos all the way, when we heard three more shots in the distance – Macnab!
“The solitude, bleakness and sheer size of the glen, emphasized by Matthew and his Highland pony descending the hill with the felled stag on its back, is what I feel makes this photo particularly special.”
SHOOTING: Angela Waites
Camera: Canon 6D
Lens: Canon EF 24–105mm f4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24mm
“This photo was taken in January this year, before the second drive at Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire. I regularly beat on this pheasant shoot, along with other Rosedalians, and I am always armed with a flag in one hand and my camera in the other.
“On this particular day I focused my attention purely on the beaters. They are often the unsung heroes of driven shooting, turning up in wellies and waterproofs, hiking up muddy hills and through dense woodland in all weathers, waving flags and shouting for all their worth.
“Getting to this drive involves a tough, high-speed hike up a muddy field for the beaters to get into position before the Guns are ready. And, as normal, once we reached the peak we had to wait a while in the frost and blisteringly-cold wind for the Guns to amble across to their pegs in the sheltered valley below. This gave us all time to catch our breath, put the world to right and talk over important issues – the topic for debate was whether one thick pair of socks is warmer than two thin ones.”
PRIZES: All category winners will enjoy a day’s photographic tuition at Leica’s photography studio in London, and all shortlisted photographers win a year’s subscription to Fieldsports Magazine.