The standard of photographs entered into the Trail UK Mountain Photo of the Year Competition 2018 was ridiculously, unprecedently high. The task of shaving over 800 entries down to a shortlist of just 20 final images to be seen by the judging panel was one that involved painstaking deliberation in the Trail office, with endless ‘umming’ and not a little ‘ahing’. Some mildly heated disagreements even broke out among team members but, in truth, hours of impassioned dispute was nothing less than the high quality of the entries deserved. Ultimately, though, there could only ever be one winner…
“It was close to midnight and I had been on the ridge for around an hour. The temperature was about minus 5 degrees Celsius but there was zero wind chill, a clear starry sky and great light. I had been planning this shot for a while but was holding out for the exact forecast and the conditions on that night were ideal.” Ideal indeed, Gareth Owen’s eerie self-portrait on Snowdon’s infamous Crib Goch ridge has been crowned the Trail UK Mountain Photo of the Year for 2018.
Gareth, who lives in the foothills of Snowdon in Llanberis, said: “Crib Goch is a place a lot of people have been to or at least know about and I think this image in the dark and under snow just offers a unique perspective on it.
“Everyone who has seen the image has been saying, ‘surely, being on Crib Goch at night is really dangerous?’. I can see where they are coming from but I actually think the opposite, I would argue it’s safer after dark. It’s quiet, there are fewer people on the ridge and you only have to concentrate on where your headtorch is pointing.”
An electrician by trade, Gareth only started taking his photography seriously as a hobby in 2016 after he was inspired by his friend’s landscape pictures on Instagram. Since then the 29-year-old has taken his camera all over Snowdonia, with particular favourite haunts of his being the Glyderau, Tryfan and the Snowdon range. But what he really loves is shooting in winter.
“I love photographing landscapes during winter when there is good snow coverage on the mountains – it simplifies the landscape and catches the light beautifully.”
With his back to the camera, Gareth took the winning shot using a tripod and an intervalometer set to remotely fire off a single frame every five seconds. As well as the star-filled sky and the ice blue light emanating from his headtorch and illuminating the ridge, another aspect of the shot Gareth is pleased with is the halo that seems to centres around Crib Goch’s pinnacle.
“I think that brightness in the sky is light pollution coming from the town of Colwyn Bay on the Welsh north coast.”
With his winning prize of a Fujifilm X-T2 camera, worth £1,499, Gareth is planning his first trip to the Isle of Skye. “With its technical capabilities, the new camera is going to be a huge help,” says Gareth. “I’m excited to see what it can do high up on the Cuillin.”
“This image was taken in August last year and I had been up Cul Mor the day before and camped on the top. The next morning, at about 7.30am, I was on my way down when I saw below me a tiny red tent and a small figure standing next to it with Cul Beag beyond. I dropped my bag, rushed to grab my camera and fired off a few shots.
“I like the shot so much because you have all these huge, magnificent mountains in the backdrop and then this small outline of a human stood next to his tent to give the landscape a real sense of scale.”
John McSporran, a former police officer living in Erskine near Glasgow, had been up early after a camp in the Assynt region. “I love climbing mountains and wild camping on them – it’s a real escape and it allows you to be out during dawn and dusk; the best conditions for landscape photography.
“I waved at the chap by the tent and he walked up to meet me. I showed him the image and we chatted for about half an hour,” says 60-year-old John. “The two of us are still in touch now and are planning to meet up to walking together this summer – a friendship forged through one photograph.”
John wins a Fujifilm X-T20 with XC15-45mm lens worth £879
Michael Eyton, a postman from Kirkcaldy near Fife, took this incredible shot on his descent from Stob Ban in the Mamores last January.
“As the sun was beginning to set, I had been watching this group of guys who had stopped for lunch on the top of Stob Ban” says Michael. “I was waiting for them to set off as I could see it would make a great shot with Sgurr a’ Mhaim in the background. I was making my way off the mountain’s south-west ridge and was about 300 yards away from the summit when I saw the guys start to move. I sprinted into position, pulled out my camera and started shooting – lucky I was using a camera with superzoom!”
“The walk I did in the Mamores that day was probably my favourite ever since I started climbing mountains about four years ago. There had been perfect winter conditions during the day and then this photo at sunset just capped it off. Thankfully, I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Michael, 28, has now pencilled hillwalking trips to Assynt and the Isle of Skye into his diary for this year, and also wants to tick Ben Nevis off his admittedly long bucket list.
Michael wins a Fujifilm X-T100 with XC15-45mm lens worth £619.