If you want to see Britain at its most enticingly magical, then look no further than the photographic wizardry that wowed the judges of the 2021 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.
The standard is, as always, sky-high. But after sifting through thousands of entries that ‘celebrate the richly diverse landscape of the UK’, the panel decided that actually it’s a photographer from America that has taken the wow factor to the highest height.
Mara Leite, who is originally from Seattle, has been declared the overall winner of this, the 14th edition of the competition, for her stunning shot of a tree-lined pathway in West Sussex.
Charlie Waite, the Awards Founder, says: ‘With the glorious ring lighting and splash of golden light at the top, there is a sense of security and protection as much as secrecy that emerges from this delicate photograph where we are beckoned to go forward. Despite the gate at the far end, perhaps there is an additional feeling that one would never wish to reach it.’
An exhibition of shortlisted and winning entries will premiere at London Bridge on November 15 until January 9, 2022, before going on a subsequent tour of the country. And an incredible coffee-table book – Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 14 by Ilex – containing prints of the winning and commended entries is out now.
Scroll down to see MailOnline Travel’s pick of the prize-winning pictures…
Behold, the overall winner of 2021’s Landscape Photographer of the Year. This enchanting picture – ‘Morning at Countryside’ – was taken by American Mara Leite. It shows Mill Lane, a famous footpath in Halnaker, West Sussex. Leite explains: ‘I was looking for a different composition when I decided to turn the other way and saw this beautiful sight. I love the gate in the background and how the morning light is hitting the leaves and softly entering the tunnel’
Photographer Andy Gray is behind this magical wintry shot, which is the runner up in the Your View category. It was captured near Gray’s Derbyshire home in Matlock in the Peak District. He says: ‘I first discovered [this spot] while commuting to work a few years back. It’s located just off a main road with no obvious parking so I only ever glanced at it briefly through the window while passing. In my mind’s eye I could sense it had potential.’ He finally made the trip to the pathway last winter with his camera in tow. Reflecting on the winning shot, he adds: ‘I liked the combination of snow, mist and light coming from the left’
This striking shot shows a street in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. Titled ‘Heading Home’, it was snared by Robert Birkby, and is highly commended in the Urban Life category. ‘I’ve wanted to visit this street in atmospheric conditions for some time, but on arrival was disappointed to see the fog wasn’t quite as dense as hoped,’ Birkby says. ‘I took a few shots in the rain anyway, as the cobbles and dark gritstone houses look dramatic in the wet. I was just about to pack up and leave when a friendly gentleman approached and we chatted for quite a while. As he walked away I noticed the fog had thickened somewhat so I quickly took this shot as he walked down the hill’
Commended in the History category, this breathtaking photograph puts a spotlight on the ancient Hardknott Roman Fort in Eskdale, Cumbria. Photographer Stuart McGlennon, who is behind the image, notes: ‘The Hardknott Roman Fort is a place that’s always intrigued me. The history behind this location is fascinating and I often wonder what life would have looked like watching the sun set over the Irish Sea in the distance from this viewpoint back in the age of the Romans. From a personal standpoint, I love the view especially in the winter when the low afternoon sun lights up the many intricate patterns in the walls’
LEFT: Describing this atmospheric image, photographer James Whitesmith says: ‘Traditional dry stone walls zig-zag across the fields beneath Malham Lings in the Yorkshire Dales, as the rising sun begins to light the scene.’ It is highly commended in the Your View category. Whitesmith recalls: ‘I arrived on location well before sunrise and the entire valley was filled with thick fog, but as the minutes ticked by it began to shift and retreat. This particular scene caught my eye and fortunately the swirling mist revealed the copse at the decisive moment with the first direct light washing over the landscape.’ RIGHT: A spectacular misty shot this time captured by Robin Dodd. His image wins first place in the Your View category and shows a runner in the dawn mist jogging along the towpath near Henley On Thames, Oxfordshire. ‘My nightly routine is to check my apps for morning mist or fog down by the river. I will take the camera down there before dawn if the conditions look right,’ Dodd explains. Describing these misty conditions as a ‘stunning light show’, the photographer says he likes to set up his camera opposite the towpath and start shooting ‘as the mist and sun play out their show’. Dodd adds: ‘Rowers, runner, cyclists, dog walkers – there are endless combinations to play with when it’s time to go home for breakfast’
This evocative shot shows what’s said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies – the Shambles in York, where buildings date back as far as the 14th century. It’s titled ‘Ghosts of York’ and was taken at 5am by photographer Ashley Groom, whose early rising efforts landed him a commended accolade in the Landscapes at Night category
Warwickshire’s Chesterton Windmill is the focal point in this stunning photograph, which is the winner of the Classic View category. Sharing the story behind the image, George says: ‘I was returning from Birmingham to Southampton, and as I was coming along the M40 Motorway, I decided to take a detour to Chesterton Windmill as the skies looked good. I have been there quite a few times before in the hope of getting a good sky.’ The shot was captured late in the afternoon
This ethereal picture of Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire is the work of photographer Tomasz Rojek. It’s commended in the Historic Britain category. ‘The photo was taken during my trip to Scotland in May 2019,’ the photographer says, adding: ‘The man in the upper right corner shows the scale of the landscape’
Photographer Gill Moon reveals that a ‘misty morning sunrise over the grazing marsh at Ramsholt in Suffolk’ is shown in this beautiful photograph, adding: ‘This area of marsh sits beside the River Deben and is one of my favourite locations in Suffolk.’ The picture is runner-up in the Classic View category. Moon notes: ‘I was particularly drawn to the light on the reeds and the way these two trees seemed to reach out to each other’
This photograph – appropriately titled ‘Enchanted Winter’ – is highly commended in the Classic View category. ‘This scene was taken as I really liked the contrast of the central softly lit frosted branches compared with the darker contrast of the trees off centre,’ says photographer Michael Allberry, who captured the image in the Peak District. He adds: ‘This scene really reminded me of a childhood fairy tale of an enchanted forest with its Narnia-like qualities. The branches helped frame the central tree, which I also thought added to the scene’
A view of Bat’s Head chalk headland on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset is seen in this majestic picture, which is highly commended in the Classic View category. Photographer James Ewer says of the shot: ‘After three visits on consecutive evenings I got the soft golden light I was hoping for’
First place in the Black and White category goes to this delightfully bucolic shot, taken by Miles Middlebrook. It shows mist rise from the River Brathay near Skelwith Bridge in Cumbria’s Lake District, half an hour after daybreak
An awe-inspiring shot of the Jacobite steam train crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland’s highlands (as seen in Harry Potter) is depicted in this picture, which tops the podium in the Lines in the Landscape category. Photographer Malcolm Blenkey says: ‘I decided on this viewpoint rather than using the usual vantage points as I thought that if the sun broke through the cloud as the train arrived it would be the best way to show the juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the location in contrast to the mighty man-made structure’
London’s Richmond Park is the setting for this magnificent shot, highly commended in the Urban Life category, and Daniel Langer the photographer who took it. Langer says that the photograph shows ‘two juvenile red deer stags developing skills of the rut in preparation for the real event in seasons to come’. He adds: ‘I got lucky with a combination of being at the right place at the right time during the right conditions. I noticed a small raised clearing within the bracken and several red deer nearby so I set up my tripod looking in the direction of the sunrise. These two stags climbed onto the mound and locked antlers for a practice rut. I couldn’t believe my luck.’ Langer compares the scene to ‘a street fight, with the deer entering the arena and the spectators watching on from afar’
An Alberta steam locomotive trundles over the Dent Head Viaduct in Cumbria in this sublime landscape shot, which is runner-up in the Lines in the Landscape category. Behind the camera was Matthew Turner, who says: ‘On a day of frequent torrential showers, I was lucky enough to capture this locomotive crossing the scenic Dent Head Viaduct during a fleeting dry spell. The conditions certainly played to my advantage and made for an atmospheric picture’
This otherworldly snapshot is commended in the Landscapes at Night category. It shows the Cumbrian village of Braithwaite enveloped in mist. ‘A pre-dawn climb up Grisdale Pike in the Lake District was the setting for this shot,’ reveals photographer Jason Hudson. He adds: ‘I noticed the light trails through the mist and thought it would make a compelling image’
Low mist and cloud tumble down from the hills of Fife behind a railway bridge in Scotland that needs little introduction – the Forth Bridge. It is commended in the Lines in the Landscape category and was captured by Grant Bulloch. The judges add that the yachts give the picture an extra dimension
A mesmerising shot taken on the Devon coast that earns Mark Bauer a commended accolade in the Black and White category. He says: ‘I’d hoped for a colourful sunset, but when the sun dipped into thick haze on the horizon, it clearly wasn’t going to happen. So I opted for black and white and a composition based around the strong shapes and textures in the bay’
A stunning drone shot of the incredible volcano-shaped mound of waste mining material in Somerset, near the village of Paulton, known as The Batch. It was taken by Henri Abbott and wins the Classic View Youth category
LEFT: Runner-up in the Historic Britain category in this priceless shot by James Rushforth of comet Neowise passing over Wiltshire’s Stonehenge. He says: ‘It’s fascinating to think that this historic site did not exist when Neowise last passed the Earth. The comet is due to return in approximately 6,800 years. I wonder if the stones will still be standing? This is a single-exposure photograph taken early on the morning of July 20. The orange glow is light pollution from the nearby villages of Durrington and Larkhill, and a passing lorry very kindly painted the rocks with light.’ RIGHT: Ian Asprey takes home the gold medal in the Landscapes at Night category for this ethereal shot of the lighthouse at Penmon Point in Anglesey, Wales. He says: ‘I wanted to get an iconic landmark with this extraterrestrial treat, so a lot of planning and app using brought me to Anglesey. I got the sky I was praying for and I took lots and lots of images and chose this one as I liked the way the cloud mimicked the land adding some sort of symmetry. It was a shoot at all costs situation as I knew my eyes would never witness this space odyssey again, marrying our world with the unknown’
Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 14 by Ilex is out now in hardback (£26)