The winning images of the Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year 2019 competition.
Now into its sixth consecutive year, the Leica Fieldsports Photographer of the Year competition has cemented itself as the industry’s most hotly contested photography competition. With seven categories – Big Game, Fishing, Game Shooting, Gundogs, Hunting to Hounds, Miscellaneous Sport and Scotland – and the largest ever prize fund of £7,500 (including cash), we saw entries surge past previous records.
However, with an increased number of entries comes an even harder challenge for our judges when selecting a wining image from each category, an overall winner and a runner-up. It is important to note that all of the files are listed anonymously when shortlisted – for example “gundog 15.jpg” or “fishing 21.jpg” – so the judges are completely unaware of who took what photograph.
This year the panel comprised of Leica Camera UK Managing Director Jason Howard, top photographer Tarquin Millington-Drake, and Fieldsports Journal CEO Simon Barr. “It is my sixth year of judging the competition and for the first time ever each category had more than one image that contended for the top spot which is fantastic,” says Tarquin. “It’s been without doubt the hardest year to judge.”
The judges are looking for so much more than technical brilliance and post-production wizardry – does the image capture the emotion of a day’s sport, bring back memories of fond days out or inspire the next adventure? Does it capture the respect and relationship with the hunter and his/her quarry or a connection with their four-legged or winged companions? “We all know that pulling the trigger or whetting a line is only a tiny part of the enjoyment in participating in fieldsports,” says Simon. “The views and wildlife spectacles that we are subjected to are so unique to the part of the world we are hunting, shooting or fishing in. And often, the very best images are taken when you least expect them and with whatever camera you have on you at the time.”
We hope that over the next six months the competition prompts you to get out into the field with not just a rod, gun or rifle but with a camera too. We look forward to seeing your entries in the spring.
"This image, for me, sums up the joy of game shooting and documents that blink of any eye moment when both the Gun and his loader have to pause, watch agog and marvel in disbelief as that stratospheric 'bird of the day' comes down. Their reactions are priceless, and the fact the loader is still concentrating on the next shot as he stares skywards, just finishes off the image for me," Sarah explains.
"The enjoyment on those guys' faces makes this image fantastic," admits Tarquin. "I also love that they are young and that there is so much happening; there are cartridges going into the gun, smoke coming out, and so much expression. If ever there is a photo to sum up fieldsports, I believe this is it."
Sarah wins a pair of Leica Noctivid, 8x42 Binoculars worth £2,130 and £1,000 in cash.
"During a day's shooting photography for Roxtons last season I decided to spend a drive or two with the beaters to document their side of the day too. This spaniel caught my eye as he wouldn't stop looking under the beaters' wagon door, completely focused on his owner, the gamekeeper. Evidently this little spaniel was worried he was missing out on all the action!"
"Structurally it's pretty simple, drawing focus to the dog's partially obscured eyes alluding to the days sport they have had. Often dogs are the true heroes of the shooting field," says Simon. "A wonderfully composed, story teller of an image. As the husband of Sarah this year's winner, I'm sure coming second place will also be bittersweet!"
Adam wins a pair of Leica Trinovid Compact, 8x20 Binoculars worth £390 and £500 in cash.
"This photo was taken last year on a blisteringly cold dayís trout fishing on the Lake of Mentith in Scotland. At below freezing and snowing hard, the fishing was surprisingly good with a lot of action just below the surface. This particular image was taken using a drone and offers a totally different perspective to anything else captured that day. I love the composition of the boat in the centre with the drogue ropes disappearing into the dark waters of the lake and the movement of the line."
BIG GAME WINNER
"This image was taken of Harlee Manning, 15, who was out hunting with her dad. We came over a hillside and saw the herd, but two deer that were lying down in the willows besides us jumped out and scared everything. We ran over a few more hills until we caught back up to them again. I knew Harlee would call me if she got her elk. She told me her location and I waited until she was coming down the mountain and shot this image crossing the river."
GAME SHOOTING WINNER
"To say that it poured with rain throughout this shoot day would be an understatement. But during this particular drive the sun tried to break through the storm clouds to create this wonderfully interesting light which I utilised to back-light the Gun and his loader as he reached for a high pheasant on this epic drive. I love the solar glare on the lens, how the raindrops glint in the light, and also that there are a few lucky birds heading for cover in the background."
HUNTING TO HOUNDS WINNER
"This image was taken in Morebattle in Kelso, Scottish Borders, last December. Whipper-in Shaun Anderson of The Duke of Buccleuch Hunt rides past the rising moon while flushing foxes from cover to Guns near Morebattle village. As with all fieldsports activities there is often an air of unpredictability. Many times it is about being in the right place at the right time, and this is an outstanding example of just that."
"This photograph was taken while on the way to find a stag on the North Coast of Scotland and captures the beautiful moment of the calm before the storm. Trying to decide whether to fly the drone in these moments is always a tricky decision, knowing that you only have about 10 minutes before things may get very, very wild. The Scottish weather waits for no man, but on this occasion I decided it was worth the risk. While on the road that crosses the Kyle of Tongue, I looked across to the beautiful Ben Loyal and Ben Hope which were disappearing into the oncoming rain. It was one of those moments when taking a picture with my normal camera wasnít doing it justice, and the drone revealed what I couldnít see; the stunning sea with the waves of sand beneath showing through. It is better than I could ever have hoped for."
"It was three days before Christmas when Simone and her labrador bitch Sally (FTW Davina of the Klifflinie), together with friends and their gundogs, let the year end with a little dummy training. The year was a special one for Simone and her Sally: the first litter; and the first place in a Novice Field Trail. This picture was taken at the end of the training session on the way back to the cars. It seems as if Sally and Simone talked about the training and about the past year. There is a lot of intimacy and togetherness in the cooperation of the two. What they said exactly will always be their secret."
MISCELLANEOUS SPORT WINNER
"This photograph is the epitome of Martin and his passion for his falcons. The bird in this picture is Dawn, his best crow hunting falcon. It was taken during a mounted falconry day where you learn and experience the thrill of flying falcons from ex-racehorses. I kept quietly out the way and tried to capture some of these special moments. The ex-racehorses do not bat an eyelid when a falcon comes to land on them and itís amazing to watch. These falcons are used actively for hunting, primarily alongside foxhounds, but also alone. Flying from horseback they are a magnificent sight."