So, the time is nearly here for entries to the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012 competition. I’ve entered photos for both the 2010 and 2011 competition previously, and was very happy when three of my entries from last year were selected for the final round and two ended up being published in the book and being on display in the National Theatre (poppies and bluebells, see portfolio). Each year the competition gets more intense, so who knows if I’ll be so lucky again this year.
I have great appreciation for LPOTY as a company and a competition. They provide an incredible base for some of the country’s finest landscape photography to be displayed in the capital, as well as having the publicity pull to have some shots in the Sunday Times. The book they produce each year is very professional and I own one from every year the competition has been run (although last year the printing was too dark by about a stop). In addition, having the photos in a free exhibition at the National Theatre is a great idea, and is pretty well executed. It lacks the polish and grandeur of the corresponding Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum, and I wish it could be presented in the same way, however seeing as you don’t have to pay £10 to see the photos at LPOTY the production values are understandable.
I’ve seen numerous debates on the internet about the competition, in particular its direction in recent years in terms of the photos that make it through to the final. In this respect the actual name of Landscape Photographer of Year seems to become less and less representative of the photos that are selected. Now I’m not going to sit here and judge each photo, criticising the shots of other people and claiming some of my shots are better. That’s a pointless debate as photography is so subjective. To the same end, what comprises landscape photography is also subjective. however, how far you can justify the inclusion of some photos in the final competition selection is beyond me.
There seems to be an increasing willingness from judges to include the obscure, with the Urban View and Your View section growing in size each year at the expense of the Classic View section. I’m all for photographic diversity, and often love some of the shots that appear in these sections. In contrast, some should not be there at all. Landscapes don’t HAVE to have trees, sunsets, rocks with swirly water and so on, but to me they should have some kind of view of the natural earth in them (in general). Wikipedia tells me this:
“Following a lengthy analysis concentrating on the German term landschaft, Richard Hartshorne defined landscape as referring to “the external, visible, (or touchable) surface of the earth. This surface is formed by the outer surfaces, those in immediate contact with the atmosphere, of vegetation, bare earth, snow, ice, or water bodies or the features made by man.”
Notice that “features made by man” is seemingly thrown in at the end, rather than the main point of definition. Urban landscapes are great. I like shooting them and I like looking at them. In this competition however, they should play a supporting role in my opinion.
I remember from a few years ago there was a black and white shot of a group of kids sitting by a fence in Belfast estate (or somewhere). The kids took up about 50% of the photo, with a fence taking up the rest. Good photo? Yes. Landscape? No.
Similarly, a close-up photo of a person in a wheelchair race. Good photo? Yes. Landscape? NOOOOOOOOOO.
See what I am getting at? Neither of these photos fit Hartshorne’s definition, or really come close to it. Nevermind Hartshorne, they don’t fit 99% of people’s definition.
Where the organisers of LPOTY look to take the competition this year is up in the air. I just hope they head back towards the initial remit and stay true to the name, with the CLassic View section making up >50% of the book and the Urban View and Your View categories included as supporting pieces.
And with that, on to my entries. Last year I entered as many photos as possible…25 or something. This year I’ll be doing the same. I was surprised last year at my entries that actually made it through. Out of the 3, I thought 2 were some of my weaker images. Do I try and go for something more obscure this year in the hope of getting in to the Urban/Your View which seems to be a bit less competitive? Or do I tough it out with the big boys in the Classic View section? Classic view I think. I’ll certainly be entering some shots from my recent Scotland trip, such as Beinn Alligin, and will also try and compete with the 5212342 other shots of the Black Mount (Buchaillie Etive Mor) by entering my own version, which I think is a bit different. Aside from that I have a shot of some opium poppies (see Flickr for now) that I took this weekend that I think is going to do well. A bit last minute, but so was last year’s entry. I might see if I can carve out a niche as a poppy photographer following the previous poppy photo success!
Then again, if I win £10,000 I don’t really care if my shot is a landscape photo or not…