Eight breathtaking photographs from the Outdoor Photographer of the Year award

The results of the 2018 Outdoor Photographer of the Year award were announced this week.

The task of whittling down the 20,000 images submitted for the competition to the very best must have been astonishingly tough for the judges, but the pictures which scooped the awards really are wonderful to behold – a celebration of nature in all manner of different forms.

A special mention goes to Robert Birkby, whose picture of sheep huddling together in a snowy Yorkshire scene earned him the Overall Winner prize.

We’re also going to single out Anya Burnell, who was named as a runner-up in the Young Photographer category. Her magnificent image of a common blue butterfly in Devon is featured at the top of this page.

Below is a selection of our favourites, together with a few words from each photographer on how the image was captured. You can see more of the winning images here, while the competition website www.opoty.com will carry details of next year’s competition in due course.

©OPOTY/Robert Birkby

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Overall Winner and Light on the Land – Winner: Robert Birkby (UK)

Taken near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England

‘Much of the higher ground in the South Pennines is relatively featureless, but these sheep had found shelter between a snowdrift and dry stone wall. The conditions during this storm were some of the worst I’ve encountered and the gale force wind was driving snow straight at me. I used my trusty 50mm lens with its small front element, cupping my left hand around it as a makeshift lens hood. Holding the camera still in the wind was difficult, so I used a fast shutter speed to keep things sharp and capture the falling snowflakes.’

©OPOTY/Anya Burnell

Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year – Runner-up: Anya Burnell

Taken at Berry Head, Brixham, Devon, England

‘I spotted this common blue butterfly perching on some dry wheatgrass ready to roost as the sun was setting. I set up low in the grass and cleared the area surrounding the subject so there were no distractions in front of the butterfly. Timing was crucial as there was only a brief moment when the sun aligned perfectly behind the butterfly. I really enjoy being among nature in the great outdoors, and this has inspired me to take many photographs of butterflies.’

©OPOTY/Olav Thokle

Wildlife Insight – Commended: Olav Thokle

Taken at Isfjorden, Svalbard, Norway

‘A few years ago I was part of a photo expedition by boat around the Svalbard archipelago. On the day of departure from the capital Longyearbyen, there was great light that created nice reflections in the water. Some birds followed the vessel out of the fjord and I saw an opportunity to take this sort of image. It was hard to handhold my 600mm lens steady on the moving ship, so I had to use my tripod with a gimbal head. After a couple of hours of trying I got some nice pictures, including this one of a northern fulmar.’

© OPOTY/Jay Birmingham

Small World – Runner up: Jay Birmingham

Taken at Wyming Brook, Peak District, England

‘I had gone to Wyming Brook in the Peak District to try to capture some landscape shots. Struggling to find any unique angles, I cast my eyes over the smaller features around me and spotted, in the middle of the water, a small mossy island with a solitary bonnet mushroom growing on it. Even better, there was a small waterfall just behind. I crouched as low down in the water as I could to position the mushroom in front of the waterfall, and then used a neutral density filter to capture the path of the water swirling through this beautiful micro landscape.’

©OPOTY/Chris Fletcher

At the Water’s Edge – Commended: Chris Fletcher

Taken on the Grand Union Canal, Olton, Solihull, England

‘This shot was taken handheld using the diffused sunrise light to soften the subject and surrounding woodland. This helped to bring out the colour of the autumn leaves and of the boat. I regularly explore the canal network in the West Midlands and in autumn the atmosphere and colour of the waterways offer fantastic scenes to capture. The composition was made easy by the diagonal positioning of the canal and towpath, which gave me a natural rule of thirds image.’

©OPOTY/Sven Tegelmo

Light on the Land – Commended: Sven Tegelmo

Taken at Lunsen nature reserve, Uppsala, Sweden

‘The summer of 2018 was very dry and this caused a lot of forest fires in Sweden. Some of these occurred around my hometown, including this one on an evening in July. The fire department extinguished the fire during the night and the next morning there were around 10 volunteers still working to secure the area and prevent the fire from starting to burn again. The ground was still very hot and there were some small fires visible from where I was. The fires cause a lot of serious damage, but at the same time I love the beauty of them.’

©OPOTY/Alison Perkins

Live the Adventure – Joint Runner-up: Alison Perkins

Taken at Sistema Sac Actun, Quintana Roo, Mexico

‘This image shows cave diver Cameron Russo travelling through the Sistema Sac Actun cave system on the Yucatán Peninsula. Photographing underwater caves is difficult. The immensity of the area to light up is a challenge, the water works against you and there are the complexities of maintaining diver safety while executing a photography plan. My partner and I have worked closely together for years to get to a point where I can start to take images like this. I wanted to give the viewer a sense of scale and capture the majesty of the cave, using the cave diver to lead you into the image, but not detract from the main event, which is the cave itself.’

©OPOTY/Daniel Laan

Light on the Land – Runner-up: Daniel Laan

Taken at Storvatnet, Flakstadøya, Lofoten, Norway

‘Stjerntinden is a sheer-walled 930m peak rising from the often frozen and snow-covered Storvatnet lake. Along its shoreline the ice is punctured by unyielding rocks, which create tiny ice caves. I decided to put my camera inside this particular one because its curvy roof and virgin snow complemented the inhospitable background so well. However, therein lay the main challenge. I put the camera in from the front, facing out, but had no idea of the composition. I carefully turned the focus ring each shot with a view to making a final focus stacked image. I then lifted the camera for the final frame to reveal more of the mountain and fill the entirety of the cave mouth.’

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