We wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who entered photos into our OS Photofit competition this year. We were overwhelmed by how many of you wanted the chance to see your photos on the cover of our maps. From an enormous 15,000 entries we, alongside several guest judges, eventually whittled down the winners for each of the 615 paper maps that needed new cover photos.
Our most difficult task was to then choose our winner of winners, to win the grand prize of the Forest Holidays vouchers. Steve Burry at Dennis Maps (printers of our maps) did a sterling job of choosing Gareth Scanlon’s entry as the overall winner. Gareth’s fantastic photo of a red kite against the backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, features on the cover of our OL12 map. We caught up with Gareth to congratulate him on his win and find out more about him and his winning photo.
Tell us a bit about yourself Gareth – where are you from and what’s your background?
I was born and raised in Brynamman in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons. Being a proud Welshman and great admirer of my immediate locality I’ve invested a great deal of time investigating every nook and cranny of my immediate surroundings.
Being so in love with my home land I’ve tried, where I can, to ‘give as much back as possible’ by getting involved with the Red Kite Trust. For a short time, I held a Schedule 1 Permit allowing me to actively nest monitor and report sites back to the Trust to record and enrichen the study of the species. To a lesser degree I assisted with the ringing of a number of other bird species, particularly Dippers, my second favourite species. I became very good friends with Pete and Roz Faulkner who run a Red Kite Feeding Station nearby, who continue to do a sterling job of sustaining the local population through the incredibly harsh winter months through being totally committed to feeding the Kites every day over a number of years.
I wanted to support the Feeding Station and provided Pete and Roz with images that could be sold at profit to help sustain the feeding. When I’m not at home enjoying my family life with my partner Rachel, our two dogs and cats, I’m often found backpacking through the South Wales wilderness, photographing the breath-taking scenery and exquisite wildlife.
What made you enter OS Photofit?
A good friend, James Hill, posted a link on my Facebook page letting me know about the competition, saying it’d be worth entering a few of my pics…I did…the rest is history.
Where was the winning photo taken?
The photo was taken in a field near a hamlet rich in legend named Llanddeusant in the county of Carmarthenshire, Wales. The peak in the background is called Picws Du standing at 749 metres tall on the Bannau Sir Gaer/Carmarthen Fan Range. The peak has a special place in my heart, I’ve often walked it (in all weather conditions – see below!) and taken many of my friends and family on the long trudge to its summit. In good weather, I often walked the 12 mile round trip from my home in Brynamman to the peak and back climbing all of the peaks along the way. I’d often dreamt of capturing a Red Kite in the foreground with Carmarthen Fans in the background. Thanks to the excellent work of Pete and Roz at the Red Kite Feeding Station, they help sustain a very strong population in the surrounding area allowing the dream to become a reality. I spent a number of evenings over the course of a fortnight, waiting for the perfect weather, light and composition. The patience paid off in the end…
What makes that photo special to you?
As a keen outdoorsman with the perfect ‘playground’ on my doorstep, I feel a real connection to my immediate surroundings, and having such breathtaking scenery, flora and fauna on the door step, I thought I’d enter the photo, and see if it connected with those who voted in the competition. It sounds cheesy, but when I close my eyes and think of my home, the Brecon Beacons, I hear the call of Skylarks and see the gliding flight of inquisitive Red Kites with the yellow and greens of the grass and the red of the sand stone, for me – this images captures exactly what I see in my mind’s eye.
As you entered such a great photo, yo you have any top tips for taking great landscape or wildlife photography?
My top three tips would be:
1) Shoot during the golden hour – This is the best time to shoot atmospheric images when the sun is low in the sky shortly after sunrise or before sunset. This will give a much softer and warmer light resulting in less contrast and warmer tones.
2) Know your subject – I’ve spent years watching and interacting with Red Kites, as a result, I know how they fly and to a certain degree can predict their movement and flight path making it easier to capture the image I see in my minds eye. Do as much research as you can, know your species, what they eat, when they feed, what they feed on, preferred habitat and so on. When not out with the camera, note the times and places you see species you want to capture and revisit at those times and remember to be patient!
3) Don’t be afraid to experiment – I use an old adage, “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got” – experiment and try new things – this is where you’ll really learn. Learn to love and celebrate your own development and accept that things don’t happen overnight.
The new OS Explorer maps featuring the OS Photofit winners are in shops now. The maps also include a mobile download of the map area for the first time ever. The download works with our OS Maps app for Android and iOS.
The new OS Landranger maps will be in stores in spring 2016 and the OS Tour maps will be out in February.