How to win the Countryfile Calendar competition

Tips on how to take that winning photograph in the Countryfile Calendar Competition from previous winners, plus check out our expert guides

19th May 2017
Dean Mason

We spoke to the winner of last year's competition, Dean Mason, to find out how he captured that winning shot. You can read the interview with Dean here.

We'll keep you posted as we hear more from the TV team, but for now why not improve your photo skills with our series of expert features?

Here are three ways you could win the Countryfile calendar competition

Part 1: Get to know your camera

Part 2: Top tips

Part 3: Outdoor photos

Advice from a previous winner

Award-winning wildlife photographer Pete Cairns won the competition in 2010 and is now a professional photographer. Here he reveals how you can win the Countryfile Photography Competition without the need for expensive equipment.

Main image: Going Home by Pen Rashbass, 2010 winner
Main image: Going Home by Pen Rashbass, 2010 winner

If only I had a camera like yours…” I’ve heard those words a thousand times and do they raise my hackles or what? The implication being that if everyone owned professional gear, great images would come easily – it’s a bit like suggesting a few expensive pots and pans make you a top chef.

It’s not the camera that takes a compelling picture; it’s the photographer behind the camera. Vision, creativity, commitment and passion – these are the ingredients that will make a good image great; the camera is no more than a recording device (in the same way that pots and pans are simple receptacles).


So if you want to win the Countryfile Photographic Competition, you’ll need to embrace this year’s theme – announced in the show this Sunday, 9 June 2013. Get out into the countryside with whatever camera you own, breathe in the air, take in the landscape, relax and start taking pictures. Here are a few tips to get you started with taking great nature photos…

 

1. The early bird and the worm

Plan to get out early and stay out late when the sun is low in the sky as the light will be at its ‘sweetest’. Rivers, lakes and canals are often calm at either end of the day, providing a great opportunity to capture reflections. If your quarry is wildlife, most species are more active at first and last light, and besides, there are fewer people around.

Identify a potential subject and then return when the lighting conditions are at their best.

 

2. Work locally
It’s great to go off on holiday, but don’t overlook subjects close at hand. Ducks and geese in town parks, garden birds, canal walks and even landfill sites can all be productive photographic locations. It’s not the rarity of the subject or the exoticism of the location that matters; it’s how you bring it to life.
Return again and again to local places that yield great images – no two visits will ever be the same.

 

3. There’s no such thing as bad weather

Bad weather is good weather as far as I’m concerned. When it starts raining, or better still, snowing, don’t head for home. A carrier bag and an elastic band will keep your camera dry – the important thing is that you keep shooting in the most exciting conditions. Bad weather is not as common as you may think so make the most of it.

Contrary to popular opinion, a bright sunny day isn’t always the best for photography – bad weather can yield good results.

 

4. Less is more

We often look at a spectacular landscape and want to consume it all, but the camera doesn’t ‘see’ the way we do. Think about what drew you to the scene initially and focus on that; it might be a single tree on a ridge or the colours of reflected fishing boats.

A strong image is as much about what you leave out as what you include.

 

5. L.V.B.

Light, Viewpoint, Background. Say it to yourself over and over – I do. Before you press the shutter, ask yourself if you’re making the best use of the light – would your image look better shooting into the sun, for example? Viewpoint is critical; for wildlife subjects, getting down low gives a more intimate perspective, so don’t be afraid to lie on the ground. And don’t get preoccupied with your subject and forget about the background. Generally, clean, uncluttered backgrounds work best.

Avoid distractions in your shot by adjusting your position in relation to your subject.

 

Main image: Dean Mason's winning shot

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