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17 September 2014
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Photo competition by Chris Packham


Frog

Thanks for your many photographs for our nature competition. Chris Packham trawled through the giant mail box and picked his winners and highly commended favourites.

Visit the photo gallery

Peter Allen's 'Frog' was one of our winning photographs


Roll of honour

Our four winners are John Doherty, Ros Wood, Keith Jones and Peter Allen.

Also highly commended were the following snappers:

A. Bainbridge, Charles Kinsey, Claire Wood, Anne Michaelides, Margaret Holland and Richard Tibbles.

You can find a selection of images from the competition in our autumn photo galleries

Chris on your photos

Amongst the thousands of interesting photos that people sent in, there were many good pictures and our shortlist of finalists ran to a couple of hundred in itself.

Kestrel by Claire WoodThere were some obvious favourites in terms of subjects:

- swans, because they are big, approachable, common and attractive,

- foxes, because many people are lucky enough to have them as visitors to their gardens,

- Great Spotted Woodpeckers, because they are so striking and regularly visit bird tables and...

- literally loads of… dragonflies!

I found this really refreshing because along with plenty of spiders, butterflies and a spattering of others, it's great to see the lens being turned onto some less cuddly subjects!

It’s a crass old cliché but once I'd got the finalists down to the last 24, choosing the top 10 was tricky.

Nevertheless, here are my winners and highly commended runners up.

Winners

I'll be honest with you - that’s the way I am. I had identified my five top choices and was struggling to throw one out.

Then I looked at the names of the photographers and discovered that two of them had been taken by the same person.

Yawning SwallowSo I thought, let's give John Doherty one prize but let you decide which one of his two wonderful images you like best.

His 'Yawning Swallow' is a lovely portrait of one of our most popular species, it has a little twinkle of light in its eye which brings it alive.

You can see all the detail in its gaping beak, even the tiny veins.

It looks like a very content bird and it’s a warm and pleasing picture.

His 'Butterfly', a Small Tortoiseshell, is altogether different.

This is a very bold and graphic, and slightly cheeky, picture which I was immediately drawn to through its clean simplicity.

I expect you’ll prefer the happy Swallow but for me it was a tough call!

Spiders and flowers

I really liked Ros Wood’s 'Nursery Spider'.

The pose is just so dynamic, its legs stretched into a sprung 'X' which gives it a real tension, and the composition that Ros has framed is perfect.

The background is nice and neutral, which means you can see the animal properly, and the colours of the stone complement the spider - all in all, it’s a very striking image.

As is Keith Jones’s 'Passion Flower', an almost dizzying abstract view of this very familiar plant.

Making something out of nearly nothing is always something I admire photographically, and all too often we allow familiarity to breed contempt and only wish to point our lenses at exotics.

Top marks to Keith for getting such a startling picture in his garden!

Flower by Keith JonesAnd the same can probably be said for Peter Allen's 'Frog', a sparkling portrait of this character which, like the spider, is in a great pose.

I don’t know what it is resting on - it might be a bucket or it might be climbing out of the loo, but it looks like Peter has made an effort to take a new angle on this old favourite.

We had plenty of Frog photos in far more natural surroundings, but none were as clear or striking, none were as good a picture as this!

Highly Commended

We had quite a few really nice bird portraits, but for me three stood out.

Kingfishers were well represented but the beauty classically perched on a Bulrush taken by A. Bainbridge was the best composed, exposed, and it's nice and sharp.

KingfisherWhen they do stop these birds do sit still, and that helps, but you still have to make sure that your camera is stable too.

A good tripod can often be a wildlife photographer's best friend, or a bean bag thrown over the car door - any firm support to ensure your image is sharp.

Puffins, not my favourite birds, too gaudy for me, were also a popular subject and separating the best of these was more difficult.

Charles Kinsey’s won through largely because, aside from the fact that it is technically sorted, it's got that tuft of grass to give it some other interest other than just being one of most people's avian pin-ups.

I liked the little bit of confusion that the grass gave the composition too.

More striking images

Claire Wood’s 'Kestrel‘ is the opposite, a very neat picture with a nice plain background which sets the falcon off a treat.

And an altogether more dignified species as well, says Chris!

Puffin  by Charles KinseySometimes we are able to grab pictures of rare events and because we are not allowed the time to make as many creative choices as we’d like, or take any control, they often become photographs of an opportunity rather than great photos themselves.

This doesn’t mean that they cannot be interesting and Anne Michealides ‘Stoat' is a case in point.

I’ve never seen this scene in real life, indeed I’ve never photographed a Stoat at all.

Anne’s snap is an amazing little tableau of a remarkable moment.

Spiders and bugs

Margaret Holland’s ‘Sand Wasp‘ and Richard Tibbles’s ‘Garden Spider‘ are both well worthy of mention, again because of the subjects featured.

Sand Wasps are devils to get to grips with - they dash about maniacally and very rarely stop moving, even when they are near their burrow like this fine insect.

Sand wasp by Margaret HollandThus, capturing a decent image is not easy. It's not a problem but if you look closely at Margaret’s picture, you can see her wings quivering, a bit like Margaret's nerves I should imagine!

Garden Spiders often live by their name and hang around in our gardens.

This makes them very accessible subjects to all of us, year after year, so they are perfect for us to work with until we get some really good pictures.

Richard's was probably the best we had, really showing this plump lady off to her best !

 

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