The winners of the North East Wildlife Photography Competition 2017 were unveiled last night at The Great North Museum: Hancock.
As I stood in Newcastle’s own natural history museum, surrounded by 174 beautiful photographs of our region’s wildlife, I felt privileged that Durham Wildlife Trust, a main organiser of the event, had invited me along to capture the ceremony – now in its fifth year running.
The breath-taking photos that spread across the gallery walls had been shortlisted from an incredible 1,600 entries. These wild moments, which had taken place on our doorstop, would never have been seen, yet alone shared, if it wasn’t for the patience and dedication of the photographer. A patience and dedication I only fully understood after speaking to the photographers at the event. It was a joy to hear of their passion and enthusiasm for nature, which was as clear, natural and colourful as their photos.
As photographers and wildlife enthusiasts gathered to view the shortlisted entries, and to learn more from those who had launched the event (three Wildlife Trusts, the Natural History Society of Northumbria, Great North Museum: Hancock and Alan Hewitt Photography), large prints of the winning photographs remained covered. No-one, except the organisers, knew what photos were hidden underneath – creating a real sense of anticipation for the finalists.
I spotted one excited young lady having her picture taken beside one of the entries, it was clear from her smile it was her work. Amy Pringle told me that whilst trying to take a picture of a heron at Durham Wildlife Trust’s own Low Barns Nature Reserve she almost stood on her entry. It was turning her camera to that very colourful ‘Admiral Butterfly’ that gave her a place in the Young Person’s finalists.
Angus Reid’s shortlisted picture in the Wildlife in Action category was a lot less instant. To capture ‘Salmon Jumping’ at the Hexham Wear bridge, he explained, involved a lot of waiting.
Tonight’s competition had been entered by people of all ages and with all levels of experience. Louis Driver had only picked up his camera in January and was already critiquing his own shortlisted ‘Blackbird’ entry, and looking forward to submitting again next year.
As I entered the exhibition hall, seats were running out. It was a packed room for guest speaker David Lindo.
For those who needed the introduction, he is not only a writer, tour leader, regular television and radio presenter who has featured on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 but he is also ‘The Urban Birder’ – the man who launched the campaign to get Britain voting for its first official national bird. His talk titled ‘How the Other Election Was Won’ was a great example of how to run a successful campaign, alongside the general election. He literally did shout about it – from a jazzed-up Rolls Royce with speakers. The campaign, which resulted in over 226,000 votes, saw the robin become Britain’s first national bird. The Urban Birder’s first choice was the blackbird, which gets my vote too.
The awards ceremony itself, which was split into six categories with one overall winner, was presented by high flying business professionals including Durham Wildlife Trust’s very own senior reserves officer, Mark Dinning.
All of the winning photos were truly spectacular but a couple of entries that caught my eye included The Angel of the North – how could this entry not stand out? I was delighted to speak to the winner of the Wildlife in Action category. Photographer Mark Bowen had magnificently captured his favourite bird – the cuckoo. Three times a week Mark feeds the cuckoos in Northumberland. He also plans his holidays at work around his duties and love of photographing the bird. His dedication to the bird was award winning in itself. The cuckoo has declined so rapidly it is now rarely seen in our region. This remarkable photo deserves to be seen and remembered – just like the cuckoo.
The spectacular kingfisher was a runner up in this category too. Photographer Mark Fullerton set up his own perch in the River Don Valley in Jarrow to capture his photo. Mark explained to me that setting up perches to attract birds is now common practice to the wildlife photographer. His perch had astonishingly attracted five kingfishers at one time.
It was great to see our young winners receive recognition too which included Joshua’s ‘Perching Moorhen’. Proof that you’re never too young to be a wildlife photographer or appreciate the wildlife around you.
The Urban Birder ended his speech with a final thought: “Whenever you are in an urban environment remember anything can turn up anywhere at any time.” A lovely reminder for everyone who hadn’t received a prize this year, and for those that wanted to continue to see the Great North the way they had at the ceremony. I’m sure our region’s wildlife photographers are ready with their cameras waiting to capture next year’s entry.
The winners included:
Sleeping Orange Tips by Elizabeth Doley
A little Urchin by Trevor Richardson
Beach Toad by Tracey Laing
Nature up close
Migrant Hawker Dragonfly by Marcus Kidd (also Overall Winner)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Female scorpion fly by Gordon Porteous
Wildlife in Action
Angel of the North by Mark Bowen
kingfisher by Mark Fullerton
Displaying Goldeneye by Jonathan Gaunt
Wildlife in the Landscape
Little Gull and Huntcliffe by Philippa Maddison
North Cheviot feral goat (Capra hircus) by Nicholas Valori
Short Eared Owl in late light by John Taylor
Male Stonechat by Kyra-Leigh
Pheasant by David
Perching Moorhen by Joshua