30 October 2012

Landscape Photographer of the Year

I told myself I wouldn’t post anything about the landscape photographer of the year competition this year but a few pictures have made me think twice. I’ll ignore the controversy over the winning image (Alex Nail has written well about this already here – however my one major doubt would come from looking at the direction of the god rays) so I’ll move quickly onto a couple of others that need some attention. Firstly we’ll look at Kersten Howard’s ‘Old Tree in Towy Valley’. All I’ll say for this one is flood plugin (and check out the gallery listing where there are other examples. However the particular category this image was in allows these sorts of modifications and Kersten did state her photoshop edits in the book.

The second image that I think deserves a little more attention is another of the original winners. This one is of a tree in front of Rugeley power station. The only problem I have with this image is that I think it’s a montage. However I can’t be sure so I need to do a little bit of detective work.

The main thing that makes me suspicious is that the chimney’s are all different heights. “well”, you might say, “They would be because of perspective!”. Ah yes! But the amount of reduction in height is proportional to the distances involved. For instance if I was 100 yards away from the first chimney and the second chimney was 200 yards away, the second chimney would be 50% shorter. However, if the chinmeys were one kilometer away, the difference between the chiney’s would only be about 10%. So what about the image? Well you take a look. My rough calculations from looking at the map below (confirmed location from Maria’s Tree group on flickr) is that the rear chimney’s should be 5% shorter than the front ones.  However, just look at the alignment of the chimney’s if you were looking directly at the chimney’s – oops! It appears that we should only be able to see two chimneys as the other two should be hidden behind them. Other pictures confirm a lack of power station in the background.

Anyway – the rest of my moans would all be about a bit of genre madness (quite a few I wouldn’t call landscape but that is up to the organiser) and the quality of the images that suffered rejection, etc etc.. you know the score..

As I’ve said elsewhere the issue isn’t the individual photographers it’s that we have two separate issues.

One is that one person has won an award with a very good image. There is nothing wrong with this at all and whether the image passes all of the criteria for the competition is a matter for the judges – they presumably have done their homework. The original winer is a very good photographer and he should be very happy that he has won such a prestigious award.

The main problem for most people is that the competition is billed as “Landscape Photographer of the Year”. If you care about landscape photography in the UK and the way it is perceived around the world this “label” is important. The competition has a huge amount of coverage and influences the whole countries perception of what great landscape photography should be. This is why it creates such high feelings.

If the competition kept it’s original title “take a view” then there would be no real controversy. I hope people can understand this when they start calling people who care about landscape photography and wish to discuss it openly as “bitter wierdos” and “prissy artists”.


Sadly any discussion of the competition ends up being taken personally by the people involved. I didn’t realise that the ‘your view’ section allows composite images and so the chimney’s picture is allowed to be completely made up. However the original winner has denied it is a composite. Having seen this google street map view which is within a hundred yards or so of the tree I can’t believe this personally. Whatever, it doesn’t really matter as, admission or not, the competition allows this – which is one of the things that annoys me; not that the image is manipulated but that the manipulation is allowed without any associated information.

However, the top prize doesn’t allow more than the minimum of manipulation and so I was quite surprised to see that the sky has been composite in on it. It isn’t immediately obvious and it was only when I payed a little more attention that I noticed the ‘god rays’ were converging at a point up above the two boatsheds and the shadows cast from the boats converge way to the right of the picture.

Add this to the composite of the chimney’s picture and the open admission of a composites in the original winner’s flickr stream and I am 99% sure the image doesn’t pass the criteria set in the competition.

Looking more closely, the area to the right of the boats looks a little odd too. I remember an anchor and various lobster pots here but more importantly I remember Budle Bay being over that side. For example if you see this picture from Robbie484 you can see that behind the boat should be the Budle Bay area..


A photographer tries to reproduce the ‘Marias Tree & Chimneys’ photograph click here for more


A quick look at photographers ephemeris suggests that the sun couldn’t be in this location according to the Exif on the image…


I’ve been told that shadow directions are not good evidence and I would agree. Moon landings and Lee Harvey Oswald go to prove that. However if you connect a point on the object casting a shadow with the actual point on the shadow that it is casting, these are a reliable indicator of light source direction. Take two of these and they will converge on the light source. However, in our case we don’t need more than one, we’re only interested in finding a difference between the direction of light source implied by shadows and direction of light source implied by crepuscular rays. A lot less rigorous level of proof is needed for this.


I was hoping that this was it for controversy but it appears that the Copse photo, which was in the Living the View which doesn’t allow modifications is also a composite [“.. in Classic view, Living the view and Urban view, the integrity of the subject must be maintained and the making of physical changes to the landscape is not permitted (removing fences, moving trees, stripping in sky from another image etc”].

Whilst browsing the talkphotography website for a reference I found this post. It’s fairly obvious that the copse is from the top of the hill in the first and second images. However it’s the repositioning of the gentlemen in these images that gives the game away. Resizing this gentlemen shows a perfect match for the Copse’s walker.


Both sadly and correctly, the original winner has been disqualified from the competition. We have no more information than what that means. He states

“I have to inform you after a conversation with Charlie Waite I have been disqualified from the Landscape Photographer of the year awards, unfortunately I didn’t read the regulations and certain editing like adding clouds and cloning out small details are not allowed, while I don’t think what I have done to the photo is wrong in any way, I do understand it’s against the regulations so accept the decision whole heartily.

I have never passed off my photographs as record shots and the only reason this has come about has been due to my openness about how and what I do to my images. The changes I made were not major and if you go to the locations you will see everything is there as presented”

Now regardless of what we think about the level of manipulation admitted to I think we should let the original winner be now – he made a mistake that was allowed to creep all the way through to the finals and he should not be persecuted for that. I left a message on the forum saying.

“Really sorry this has happened and I wanted to reiterate that the blog post I wrote about the competition was not intended to attack you personally but to try to point out that three out of the four images that were entered were not compatible with the terms and conditions.

I do feel truly sorry that you had to suffer for this because all of this could have been avoided if the competition organisers could have checked things thoroughly.

I should add that your images are very strong and whilst I don’t think they are the best landscape photographs I have seen – they are certainly very good and this situation should not make you think differently.

Don’t forget that if the images had been compatible with the terms and conditions they would still have won, they can’t take that away from you.

My personal favourite is the Delamere forest – a very nice, original image.

I really hope this doesn’t stop your enjoyment of photography and I’m sure you’ll get lots of support from the forum here.”

The forum thread has, rightly or wrongly, been deleted.

We should applaud the organisers for making the right decision and also the original winner for accepting it.

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104 Responses to “Landscape Photographer of the Year”

  1. On October 31, 2012 at 10:35 am