International Garden Photographer of the Year 2022

International photography competitions are not something that I would have thought I would have been entering, least of all writing about, when I bought my first DSLR camera years ago. That being said, I developed my love of photography from visiting the Natural History Museum on a yearly basis to view the best of the best wildlife images in the annually hosted Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I am still yet to enter this competition; I guess having witnessed the work of some of the best photographers on the planet puts into perspective my own images and I am nowhere near the standard required to be involved just yet.

Tiny Tightrope Walker (IGPOTY 2018, 'Captured at Kew' Commended)

That being said, I have entered a number of photography competitions over the years and, as you might be aware, have enjoyed some successes. The first ever photographic competition that I chose to enter was the International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY), which might come as a surprise to those of you who have followed my photography over the years given that I primarily focus on wildlife subjects, not necessarily plants and/or gardens. The competition is currently in its 13th year of existence as the world's premier competition and exhibition specialising in garden, plant, flower and botanical photography.

However, like most international competitions, the IGPOTY has a wide range of categories and one in particular lent itself perfectly to me as I began to dive into the realm of photographic competition; the ‘Captured at Kew’ category.

This category has been a part of the IGPOTY for a number of years now and started up following the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew working as a partner and sponsor of the overall competition. The winning images are often displayed within the gardens as an exhibition and a member of the gardens staff is always on the judging panel. The category is limited solely to photos taken within Kew Gardens itself and, given that the gardens are somewhere I have been visiting for years, this seemed like the perfect first step into the competition world for myself.

Over the past few iterations of this competition I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed some real success. Back in 2018 my image of a brown hawker dragonfly was awarded Commended and then in 2019 I had two images receive the same level of award; one of a Chinese water dragon and one of the iconic Palm House.

Alpine Sunrise (IGPOTY 2020, 'Captured at Kew' Finalist

My image of the Palm House was also published on the BBC News website in an article reporting the winning images from that year's competition. In 2020 I had another image win a Commended award but I also received a Finalist nomination for my shot of the Alpine House. This was made even more amazing when I realised that this photo was published in the IGPOTY Competition 13 portfolio book (which, unsurprisingly, I instantly purchased). That being said, and despite winning multiple awards in the Captured at Kew category over the years, I had never before seen my work displayed as part of the annual exhibition that is shown at Kew Gardens itself.

For the 2022 competition I again entered a few photographs and, having been notified that one of these had been shortlisted, I was very excited to find out that I was again an award winner!

This awarded image, entitled Standing Guard, was taken during a day trip to Kew Gardens a few years ago. It shows a Eurasian coot, who I had spotted standing atop an old nesting site, and the subsequent reflection cast in the water. Kew Gardens is home to a plethora of different trees and one of the most striking species can be found along the edges of the lake; the swamp cypress. Native to the southeastern United States, these deciduous conifers are noted for their impressive root structure and autumnal red coloured foliage. I took this image on an overcast summer’s morning and the dark shadows on the tree trunk helped to portray the idea that the small coot was standing guard over the ancient tree behind.

Standing Guard (IGPOTY 2022, 'Captured at Kew' Finalist)

Having found out that I had won another award I was a little disappointed to discover that there was no portfolio book being arranged for this year. I did however get to visit Kew Gardens a few days after the announcement of all the category winners, where I got to view the outdoor exhibition showcase. Little did I know what I was going to witness when I arrived.

Not only were all the winning images on display there, some of which are absolutely outstanding and taken all over the world, but there was my image! Printed and displayed amongst some of the best garden photographers of the world was my work and my name - a truly surreal thing to see for myself in person. To see my image as part of an international exhibition was amazing and certainly my biggest achievement to date.

The IGPOTY exhibition is on display at Kew Gardens, amongst the arboretum in front of the Temperate House until March 6th 2022 and, if you have not done so already, I highly recommend visiting to see all the amazing images (and my little coot photo).

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