The six breathtaking finalists in the South Downs photography competition

A competition to decide the finest picture of 2017 taken on the South Downs has unearthed six truly spectacular images.

The competition was run by the South Downs National Park – it’s a lovely way to celebrate the scenery of Britain’s newest National Park, which stretches across Hampshire and Sussex from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east.

The judges’ choice for the main prize was ‘Harvest Home’ by Ron De’Ath, which they described as ‘technically perfect’ and clearly tells the story of farmers as stewards, caring for the National Park.

Ron, who took the picture from Butser Hill in Hampshire, wins £250 for his picture.

There is a further prize to be awarded: a People’s Choice award. You can vote for your favourite of the six images below at the competition website,

Judges’ winning image: ‘Harvest Home’ by Ron De’Ath

‘Harvest Home’ by Ron De’Ath

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An extraordinary composition capturing the shifting seasons from summer to autumn. The judges agreed that this photo is both technically perfect and clearly tells the story of farmers as stewards, caring for the National Park.

The photographer has subverted what could easily have been a conventional harvest shot – making the unusual choice to frame the picture vertically and leave out the sky entirely.

The result is a wonderful winding journey through chalk grassland, ploughed earth and woodland, past farm house and field margins and on to freshly harvested crops, leaving no doubt that people live and work in this landscape.

2nd place: ‘Staredown’ by Dominic Vacher

‘Staredown’ by Dominic Vacher

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Meet the band! The judges were impressed by the bold, almost human, composition and high level of detail in the picture. Three of the cattle are Sussex Red, a traditional local rare breed, which been grazed in this part of the country since the Bronze Age.

This is a strong picture which brings out the individual personalities of these curious young animals ñ catching the light on their whiskers and uncompromising stares. A lot of time and thought has gone into this photo.

3rd place: ‘Rolling Down’ by Simon Verrall

‘Rolling Down’ by Simon Verrall

A subtle but challenging image. The judges agreed that this beautiful but not over-beautified shot tells an important story about how farmers manage the pressures on the land – with the South Downs’ chalk showing clearly through the bare winter earth.

This simple, modern composition captures a complicated tale of farming here in the South Downs. At first glance this image might look stark but here the light soil is everything and the farmer is carefully cultivating the ground using a modern practice called ‘conservation tillage’. Come spring, this field will certainly be a place that grows and hopefully home to rare farmland birds such as skylark.

Highly Commended: ‘Heathland Fire’ by Jamie Fielding

Highly Commended: ‘Heathland Fire’ by Jamie Fielding

A fiery sunrise invites you out onto the heath past bare earth and purple cobwebbed heather. This is a space where you can grow spiritually.

Highly Commended: ‘Fertile Ground’ by Benno White

‘Fertile Ground’ by Benno White

Subtle layers of curving green hills show the South Downs in a gentle muted light – but the more you look the more you see. This is a growing place where farm machinery, plough lines and tracks all take their rightful place in the heart of the landscape.

Highly Commended: ‘Sussex Farming’ by Tom Hard

‘Sussex Farming’ by Tom Hard

On a misty, golden morning a small flock of sheep are caught on a hillside, looking down across a wooded patchwork of fields. An atmospheric shot with great depth and light that completely captures the spirit of the South Downs as a growing place.