10 utterly glorious images from the South Downs National Park photography competition

An image of horses enjoying a peaceful stroll on the South Downs was voted the best picture in the national park's annual photography competition — but the others on the shortlist are just as worthy of celebration.

April 1, 2020 marks 10 years since the creation of the South Downs National Park Authority, which runs Britain’s newest national park: a 628 square mile stretch of wonderful hills and downland stretching across Hampshire an Sussex, from Winchester to Eastbourne.

Each year, the park runs a photography competition, inviting anyone — young and old, amateur and professional — to submit their pictures. One of those, taken by Joe James and entitled ‘Pony Heaven’, was named the winner in the People’s Choice competition.

Overall winner as chosen by the judges was Andrew Gambling’s ‘Into the Mistic’ (which you can see below) but it was Joe who took victory — which he said ‘really means the world to me’ — in the public vote, with almost three-quarters of the voters choosing the picture he took at Cissbury Ring, near Worthing in West Sussex.

‘The picture was just a bit of fun initially – I was trying out my new camera,’ explains Joe. ‘We went up to Cissbury Ring and saw these ponies gathering around the tree. I just thought it was a perfect moment so I captured it straight away.

‘As the sun went down my son and I listened to “What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong on Spotify.’

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Joe, a 38-year-old security guard from Horsham, is autistic, and credits his condition with giving him fresh eyes.

‘I’m autistic and proud,’ he said. ‘Being autistic means I learn differently – so when I first got into photography, I looked at amazing photographs of landscape. I didn’t know what the composition was, but I was looking at what other photographers were doing. So I basically learned photography by looking at photographs…

‘Taking pictures is my version of mindfulness – I find it calms me and relaxes me.’

The South Downs National Park will be running the competition again this year — details on how to enter will be published in the next few weeks on their website, www.southdowns.gov.uk.

And if you need a bit more inspiration, here are the overall winners, runners up and other highly commended images from the competition:

Into the Mistic by Andrew Gambling – WINNER, overall

The Theory of Everything by Ismail Mungul – HIGHLY COMMENDED

The Mindful Walker by Gary Hider – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Take Flight by Lloyd Lane (www.lloydlane.uk) – THIRD PLACE overall

Surprised Water Vole by Dick Hawkes – RUNNER UP, wildlife category

Stedham Common Sunrise by Mark Couper – RUNNER UP, overall

Startled Skylark by Sara Humphrey – HIGHLY COMMENDED

Hare in wildflower margin by Adam Huttly – WINNER wildlife category

Female Chalkhill Blue heading to roost by Thomas Moore – HIGHLY COMMENDED

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Winning photos and honorable mentions were selected from 2,253 entrants from all over the United States, Washington D.C. and 10