The final standings for the fieldsports industry’s most hotly contested photographic competition
It’s that time of year again when we build up our anticipation for what we hope will be yet another wonderful shooting season, filled with many a great day in the field – whether beating, loading, picking-up, possibly documenting with a camera, running the game cart or, if you’re really lucky, standing on a peg with gun in hand. But for us at Fieldsports HQ, when we would love to be donning tweeds and heading for the grouse moors or for the first days on the partridge, it’s also the time when we have to sit down with our panel of judges and go through the arduous yet highly enjoyable task of selecting the winners from the annual Fieldsports Photographer of the Year competition, now into its 7th consecutive year.
With five categories to enter – Big Game, Fishing, Game Shooting, Gundogs and Miscellaneous Sport (hunting to hounds, falconry etc.) – we saw a flurry of entries to the competition from day one in April right through to the close at the end of June, coming to a final total of a little over 1,800. There were no surprises that the Gundogs category was the most hotly entered, followed closely by Game Shooting and Big Game categories.
What was encouraging to see for all was the number of images focussed on the next generation – whether on horseback taking their first steps into hunting, bringing down tall pheasants or casting a dry fly onto the water for the first time – and the large amount of new names entering the competition and competing for the top spots.
This year not only saw a change in the sponsor to leading sporting optics brand Swarovski but also our judging panel. Joining long-standing judge, top photographer and former Guest Editor of Fieldsports Journal, Tarquin Millington-Drake, and publisher of Fieldsports Journal Simon K. Barr, were Country Manager and Rep of Ireland for Swarovski Optik Peter Antoniou, and two-time winner of the competition and a highly published industry photographer Sarah Farnsworth.
“Having judged a range of photo competitions before, I always find it a challenge to pick just a few favourites from such a good selection of images,” admits Peter. “I was particularly impressed with the Miscellaneous Sport entries, turning some everyday sports such as ferreting into beautiful masterpieces, and I very much look forward to seeing what the future competitions reveal.”
“It was an absolute honour – although a little daunting – to be asked to judge such a highly regarded competition that I have enjoyed entering so much over the years,” adds Sarah. “The competition is a great platform to boost one’s career, and it is also exciting to see how many female entrants and winners there are in a male-dominated industry.”
In line with all previous years, the competition is judged completely anonymously with shortlisted images renamed to “game shooting 20.jpg” or “big game 11.jpg” – therefore there is no knowing which photographers took what images at this phase. “We are not just looking for pin-sharp images that have been taken with the best photographic equipment. Rather, we are looking for the all-important composition and storytelling characteristics in each photo, questioning if the image evokes a special memory, promotes important values and captures the essence of the respective category,” Simon explains. “This year has been really tough to judge, but the final seven images – Overall Winner, Overall Runner-up and five Category Winners – really express something intrinsically linked to our sports or convey an important message”
From all of us in the Fieldsports Team and the judges, thank you to everyone who entered the competition this year, and we look forward to seeing your entries in 2021.
GAME SHOOTING WINNER
‘Hard work pays off’
This young man’s confidence has grown so much since becoming part of the shoot, not only out in the field but as an individual. He helped out with the shoot maintenance during summer and never missed a week beating. Beaters’ Day was his day, his hard-earned reward and what a pleasure it was to capture it. We’re fortunate he’s part of the next generation. The man behind Henry is his uncle, who jointly runs the shoot alongside another neighbouring farmer. It’s such a wonderful family shoot.
BIG GAME WINNER
After a wet, windy day on the hill we spied our stag. In helpful wind we stalked in to 150 yards and took the shot. Ghillies brought the ponies up and we made our way off the hill, the late afternoon sun appearing briefly, casting light across Quinag and Loch Glendhu. A ‘seize the moment’ photograph capturing a memorable day.
It almost never happens; your shot of the day on the first drive. I wanted to capture something special for the owner of this young cocker still learning the rules of the game. The sliver of sharp focus on the eye staring through the fan of feathers puts you right there with the dog; feeling what it’s feeling, anxious to please and determined to do it right.
MISCELLANEOUS SPORT WINNER
Ferrets are all-too-often the ‘unsung hero’ in fieldsports. They are integral to rabbit control, and I wanted to portray the harsh and unrelenting situations they find themselves in through the black and white. This particular ferret is enjoying a pre-graft stroke!
A lone Mayfly leaving the water at the end of a beautiful chalk stream day. Such photographs require a lot of patience and perseverance. First, you have to wait for a mayfly to be in the right place and secondly, you need the timing of the focus and the fly lifting to be perfect, which is rarely the case. Photographing the English chalk streams is always a spectacle when the mayfly begins to hatch! There is nothing better than witnessing them take their first flight.
Squirrels love gnawing on deer antlers as they’re a great source of calcium for them. I’ve waited months to capture a red squirrel on these red deer antlers which I pinched from my husband’s collection. Once there was a bounty on the red squirrels’ tails, but today they are a protected species after being in danger of extinction. The non-native grey squirrel is their biggest threat because they carry a virus which is fatal to them and can kill a red within two weeks of becoming infected. This image was taken in the Scottish Highlands where the reds have returned in the past couple of years after an absence of 40 years. Fortunately, there are no greys in the Highlands at the moment and there are big efforts being made to keep them out and allow this beautiful species to flourish.
“Firstly, this image is wonderfully sharp and has been edited beautifully by the photographer, and is an image that requires extreme patience and perseverance to get right. Beyond that, the slightly obscure connection to fieldsports red squirrels have, being supported by estates who conduct clever management fundamental to this special species’ comeback sends such a good message to those who oppose our passions. What truly rounds this image is the presence of red deer antlers, another iconic Highlands element.”
~ Simon K. Barr
‘My first pack’
One boy and his pack all embarking on their journey of discipline, patience and commitment. This dedication to dogs and training is something quite special for such a young age. To have this young man as an owner, leader, shooting companion and a friend for life – what more could these labradors possibly wish for?
“This photo has it all – it is well processed and produced with good tonality. It has a fieldsports story in so many ways – the light, the connection between boy and adult dog is enough but the puppy and adult dog, particularly the way the pup is looking up at the bigger dog is huge icing on the cake. All this absolutely makes the photograph. One could argue it is luck that the characters did what they did, when they did, but it takes a good eye to see it and capture it in that instant and do it well.”
~ Tarquin Millington Drake