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Winner of SWCP Photographer of the Year 2019

Nick Shepherd, a keen amateur photographer from Strete in south Devon has been named the South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year 2019 for a snowy shot of the Trail taken near his home last year.

The winning photograph, which beat over 800 other entries, shows a section of the SWCP between Slapton and Blackpool Sands blanketed by thick snow during a blizzard. Nick lives close to the South West Coast Path (SWCP) and uses photography as a way to unwind and connect with nature, capturing the ever-changing moods of nearby locations like Start Point and Prawle Point

As the winner, Nick takes home a £500 voucher for a luxury stay in Cornwall, courtesy of the competition’s sponsor Beach Retreats. Nick will also receive a Nikon School Photography voucher worth £149, as will the two runners up; Ian Lewis for his beautiful photograph of the Coast Path in Gwithian, Cornwall and Holly Auchincloss for her stunning photograph of the Crown Mines at Botallack in Cornwall.

On winning Nick said, I was so thrilled when I got the news. To be selected as a winner for this prestigious competition is a great honour and there is a certain irony that the image was taken so close to home and that it was not my intended destination for photography that day.

“The prizes couldn’t be better for me. I intend to go to North Cornwall with my wife and Collie to do some photography in one of my favourite coastal areas around Bude and Hartland Quay. I am also interested in learning more about street and architecture photography, so will use the Nikon Training voucher for that.”

Nick’s winning image was taken in March 2018, when snow brought mass disruption to Devon after Storm Emma. The South West Coast Path is on the front line when it comes to severe weather conditions and the cost of caring for it is on the rise. In the past five years alone, the average cost per mile has risen from £1,000 to £1,400. 

Director of the South West Coast Path Association Julian Gray said, “Nick’s photograph captures a view of the Coast Path showing the power of nature on our landscape, which is particularly relevant as we see an increasing frequency and strength of storms hitting our coastline through climate change. It’s a beautiful, yet stark reminder of how our local environment is impacted by this global issue.”

Nick explained how he captured this unique shot:

I woke up to snow and a howling gale and thought I would like to walk to Landcombe Cove near Blackpool Sands via the SWCP to photograph the large seas. This would normally be a 20-minute walk, but it quickly became apparent that there was no path to follow as it was completely covered in snow. I therefore thought it best to follow the field hedge, which was on slightly flatter terrain.”

“The wind was so strong that I took shelter in the lee of the hedge and then noticed the swirling snow in the sky. Bracing myself, I took a couple of shots and then decided it would be prudent to go home!”

Judging this year’s competition was adventure photographer, outdoor guide and journalist Ian Finch. Ian said, “I love how other-worldly this image is. Our natural inclination when thinking of the South West Coast Path is the majestic snaking paths and ancient coves within the coastal landscape, but this image stands out from a mile away, showing not only the coast in its rugged splendour, but windswept and snow driven. A sight we rarely see, and in such ferocity.”

“I can only imagine how cold this must have been at the time the image was taken. A stunning image that transports you into the depths of winter and the upturned collar of your down jacket.”

Andrew Easton, Managing Director of Beach Retreats who sponsored the competitions said, “We’re delighted to be involved in the South West Coast Path’s Photographer of the Year competition.  The entries have excelled in capturing our diverse and breath-taking coastline across the south west”. 

The South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year competition will be back for its 10th year in 2020. To keep up to date with news of this and the valuable work carried out by the charity, please visit www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk and sign up to hear more. 

1st RUNNER UP - Ian Lewis with 'Stormy Gwithian'

Judge's comment:
"This was an image that stood out from the minute my eyes drifted across its lush coastal contours. The light in this shot is sublime, the softness of the background brings the foreground into play wonderfully - you can almost feel the conditions, how the storm clouds and wind are permeating the image, maybe how the sun keeps all the conditions at bay and the photographer warm. This is everything a landscape image should be. Utterly beautiful."

2nd RUNNER UP - Holly Auchincloss with 'Long exposure of evening light at the Crown mines'

Judge's comment:
"Again a shot that somehow feels dreamlike, other worldly, due to the slow shutter speed creativeness of the photographer. The buildings give it a wonderful context and the soft colours make this a stunning image to look at in detail, utterly beautiful. This is also an image that begs the question: “Where is this, how can i see this for myself” That to me is what photography should encourage us to do - ask questions."

Published on: Nov. 30, 2019