The International Garden Photographer of the Year competition is open to amateurs as well as pros, writes Harriot Lane Fox
In pictures: International Garden Photographer of the Year entries
Chelsea Flower Show 2008
In a scene stolen from a shaken snow dome, a couple with bright umbrellas hurry across a bridge through a flurry of snow at Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa, Japan. It is an ethereal, atmospheric image and it has won Claire Takacs the title of International Garden Photographer of the Year.
Winning entries: (clockwise from top left) Kenrokuen Garden, Japan by Claire Takacs; autumn leaf by Henrique Souto; partridge and reflection by Fergus Gill (aged 15); robin with worm by Andrew Bailey
This is a brand new competition, open to amateur photographers, who made up 70 per cent of the entries in its inaugural year, as well as professionals.
“The idea is to inspire a much wider audience to get involved in garden photography,” says Jane Nichols, one of the organisers who is also the business partner and wife of the leading professional photographer Clive Nichols.
“We want to do for plants and gardens what the Wildlife Photographer of the Year does for wildlife.”
Thousands of entries poured in – they won’t say exactly how many for fear of scaring off future competitors – from all over the world.
Claire Takacs is Australian and Henrique Souto, winner of “Best Portfolio” for his autumn leaves backlit on a black background, is an amateur from Portugal. And the best images in the five categories are staggering.
For “wildlife in the garden”, amateur photographer Andrew Bailey captured a hungry robin in mid-tussle with an elasticated earthworm, while semi-pro Chinch Gryniewicz won “Plant Portraits” with a shot of marguerite heads in the rain.
Young Garden Photographer of the Year Fergus Gill (aged 15) from Perthshire caught a red-legged partridge gazing at itself in a window.
Claire Takacs’ winning picture was in the “Garden Views” category.
“This is a deeply atmospheric picture, brilliantly achieved in conditions in which many photographers would have just gone home,” says fellow professional and judge Andrew Lawson.
“The pictures were anonymous when we judged them, but it turned out that several of Claire Takacs’ entries had done well. I think we’ve discovered an outstanding garden photographer as our first winner.”
The 11 judges included Clive Nichols, television gardener and designer Chris Beardshaw, Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins, Kew Gardens’ top tree man Tony Kirkham and Gordon Rae for the RHS. They looked for originality and for images that rewarded contemplation rather than being instantly appealing.
Competitors can use any camera (even a mobile telephone), digitally manipulate the images, and enter either single pictures or portfolios of six with a unifying theme. Entry fees start at £10 and there is no expensive processing as all images are submitted online.
The prize money is also an incentive. Takacs receives £5,000, Souto £3,000 and there are smaller cash prizes for category winners and runners up. The finalists’ work will be published in a glossy coffee-table book and exhibited at Kew.
Next year is Kew’s 250th birthday so the organisers have introduced a new category: “World Botanic Gardens”. “We hope to take the exhibition to botanic gardens all over the world,” said Jane Nichols. If they pull it off, the kudos for the competition, and for its winner, will be considerable.
How to enter in 2009
Daily Telegraph readers who enter the International Garden Photographer of the Year before the end of May can submit a set of four single images in any of the seven categories for half price (£5). Enter the code DTELMDSF when paying. The closing date is January 31, 2009. Visit www.igpoty.com for full details.
The ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year 2008′ exhibition is on at Kew until September 28 (020 8332 5655; http://www.kew.org).