So, it's that time of year again............ you'd never have guessed would you??
Yes, Landscape Photographer Of The Year.
This is my second year entering, and it's been quite interesting/amusing hearing people's responses and reactions to the subject on social media. I didn't really get to hear a lot of it last year as I wasn't on Twitter then, but i'll be honest it's provided me with a bit of entertainment this year, so I can only imagine how entertaining it will be come shortlist day! Opinions vary wildly, from (paraphrasing of course)
- "It's a load of shite, it's lost its way" (hate it)
- "I like it, it focuses me to consider what I've achieved over the year" (like it)
- "It's £35, where's the harm it's worth a punt" (somewhere in the middle)
For me, the notion that photography could ever be 'competitive' in any sense is absurd. Coming from a life in competitive sport, the line was usually crystal clear.
You didn't make the shot. You weren't fast enough. You made too many errors. You didn't get the result. It was measurable, quantifiable.
There were no iff's or buts, the result was black and white and not up for debate, this isn't the case in photography. I liked that in some ways, yeah you could bitch and moan about it for a bit if you lost, but when you really drilled down into why you didn't succeed, the answer was there. Rugby World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward (i'd love to go and see a talk from him, a brilliant coach and motivator) wrote a piece in The Mail recently which was fascinating and refreshingly honest. The bit that stood out for me was he said he never lost a game in his entire career due to bad refereeing. Despite all the guff after a game, in the cold light of day analysis would show the fault could be traced back to some failing of your own. Where I'm going with this is that if you assume only the best work is being submitted by entrants to LPOTY (so all the technical aspects of the shot are as good as they're going to be at the time) then the rest of it in terms of trying to pick winners from them in all likelihood comes down to a select few peoples taste, in it's simplest form. That isn't competition, not in my world anyway. How can it be? You did all you could. You got the technical bits right. There is no 'fault' in your image. It's as good as it's going to be.
It's subjective, it's an art. Yes, to a point technical proficiency with a camera can get you so far, but once you get to the stage of trying to judge the top landscape images (or the vast majority minus those who choose not to enter) from any given year there really is no better or worse - images are judged on intangible qualities and their 'impact' that could have been influenced by any number of factors - the conditions on the day, a fleeting moment in time never to be repeated, or hopefully in my case the fact my 4 year old gets me up in the middle of the night so I end up stood by a lake at 4am because I'm wide awake! The point i'm making is people shouldn't get too emotive about this thing - it's no yardstick to measure yourself against and it's not a reflection of you being a poor photographer if your images don't go over well. Just fire in your images and if they happen to be well received then great, if not, no big deal either. My stance on it is somewhere in the middle - I'll put my entries in and if they do ok, great. If not, no big deal. I can rest easy knowing when I look back across the images I've made this year I can see improvement from last year, which is the only real 'competition' I'll probably ever have in photography, with myself. Self-improvement is all you can ever really aim for and if accolades or awards arrive at points along your journey then all the better, but competitions such as LPOTY shouldn't be taking too much of your time up in the space between your ears, it just isn't worth it.
So, for what it's worth, here's the images I entered if you were interested in viewing. Some are probably guff, but hey ho, you never know.
Thanks for reading - if you've entered this year best of luck with your entries - but for god's sake don't take it too seriously!