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AGS Photographic Competition 2020

March 15, 2021
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The competition this year attracted a large number of entries – a total of 546 images from 45 entrants across the eight classes.  The high standard of photographs submitted meant that the competition was very closely contested and judging was quite exacting.

Because there were so many images of such high quality, the judges awarded one or more images in each class ‘Highly Commended’ status, where they had missed out narrowly on the prizes.

It has been a difficult year for photographers, and access to our usual mountain destinations has been more restricted than usual.  Many chose to use this as an opportunity to revisit past trips and to enter images previously overlooked.

We would like to thank the judges for their hard work (a long and grueling day of Zoom meetings), and of course all the exhibitors for entering such an impressive array of pictures and making the judges’ job so difficult.

Class One: (75 entries) An alpine or rock plant in a natural (wild) landscape.

Entries for this class should feature both a plant(or plants) and the landscape or habitat in which they grow.  The plant or plants should feature prominently in the photo, but be balanced by the landscape.  The scenery should support and not dominate the composition, but convey a sense of context and geographical location.

In this class, perhaps more than any other, good composition is key.  That is easier to achieve with a well-defined, compact clump of flowers rather than a meadow full of flowers, spreading out of the image on all sides.

First: Bob Gibbons – Cupressus sempervirens

Ancient Mediterranean cypress, high in the White Mountains, West Crete.  11th April, 2019.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (full frame DSLR) with a Canon EF 24-105mm F4 IS USM lens at 28mm: exposure 1/160sec at f11, ISO 500.

There is a wonderful contrast between the harsh, angular rocks and the natural weathered curves of the tree, and the muted colour palette focuses the attention on the brown trunk of the subject.  The judges loved the atmosphere of this image – it really conveys a feeling of being high in the mountains.  In the end that is what convinced them to make it the Overall Winner for 2020 – the best photograph from all eight classes.

Second: Liam McCaughey – Gymnadenia conopsea

Photographed 29th June 2013 above Dombai, in the Russian Caucasus – Greentours Trip 2013 led by Ian Green.

Camera: Canon EOS 600D with a Sigma 17-70mm lens at 44mm: exposure 1/200sec at f32, ISO 400, with flash.

Third: Liam McCaughey – Veronica gentianoides

Photographed 30th June 2013 in the Mukhu Valley, in the Russian Caucasus – Greentours Trip 2013 led by Ian Green.

Camera: Canon EOS 600D, lens unknown at 44mm: exposure 1/640sec at f18, ISO 800.

Highly Commended: Ursula Junker – Cerastium alpinum

Picture taken on 1st July 2020 on the banks of the Jökulgilskvísl river near Landmannalaugar, Southern Highlands, Iceland.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ91 compact camera with 24–720 mm (equivalent) lens at 24mm.  Exposure 1/1000sec at f8, ISO 400.

Highly Commended: Karen Gregory – Papaver rhaeticum

Val Venegia, Dolomites, Italy – 2013.

Camera: Nikon D60 with 18-55mm lens at 18mm.  Exposure 1/100sec at f18, ISO 100.

Class Two: (86 entries) Portrait of an alpine or rock plant in the wild

In this class the essential requirement is to feature a plant in its entirety, including all flowers, leaves and stems. The immediate scenery need only suggest a wild location.

First: Harry Jans – Ranunculus semiverticillatus

San Carlos de Bariloche, Cerro Catedral, 2060m, Rio Negro, Argentina: December 2017.

Camera Nikon D90 (DSLR) with a 50mm lens: exposure 1/160sec at f18, ISO 200.

This image had a fabulous level of detail, in the flowers and leaves, and indeed in the rocks and gravel.  The judges were impressed by the handling of the bright, almost harsh overhead sunlight, with beautiful texture held in the white petals, and yet no loss of detail in the shadows.

Second: Bob Gibbons – Pulsatilla vernalis

French Alps. Backlit by Evening light.  8th June, 2019.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (full frame DSLR) with a Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens at 340mm: exposure 1/800sec at f8, ISO 320.

Third: David Hughes – Cypripedium margaritaceum

Lijang, Yunnan, China: June 2009.

Camera: Sony DSLR-A100 with unknown lens at 105mm: exposure 1/10sec at f16: ISO 100.

Highly Commended: Rosemary Glos – Calandrinia colchaguensis

Cerro Catedral, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, Patagonia, Argentina: January 2018.

Camera: Canon Powershot SX710 HS with 25–750 mm (equivalent) lens at 25mm: exposure 1/200sec at f4, ISO 125.

Highly Commended: Steve Clayton – Potentilla brauniana

European Alps, June 2019.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100M3 compact camera with 24-70mm (equivalent) lens at 24mm: exposure 1/200sec at f4, ISO 125.

Highly Commended: Stepanka Hascovcova – Ranunculus glacialis

European Alps, June 2018.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 (bridge) with 25–400 mm (equivalent) lens at 245mm (equivalent): exposure 1/1000sec at f4, ISO 200.

Highly Commended: Liam McCaughey – Saxifraga longifolia

Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park in Catalonia, on the slopes of the mountain Pedraforca, May 2011.

Camera: Canon EOS 600D with 70-300mm lens at 180mm: exposure 1/400sec at f5.6, ISO 400.

Highly Commended: Frank HoyleThlaspi rotundiflorum

Eiger trail, Grindelwald Switzerland July 2019.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ72 (Bridge) with 20-1200mm (equivalent) lens at 20mm: exposure 1/500sec at f2.8, ISO 100.

Class Three: (94 entries) Close-up detail of an alpine or rock plant

Here the photographer should be trying to reveal the more intimate beauty of alpines by emphasising features of special interest, such as individual flower(s), groups of leaves or magnified floral structures. The picture can be taken in the wild, in the garden or in the studio, with natural or artificial lighting.

There were long discussions about the judging of this class.  The judges’ initial favourite photo, indeed one of their favourite images in the whole competition, was the beautifully lit picture of Pelargonium ‘Ardens’ by Steve Lobley.  However, after much debate they concluded that this plant was not sufficiently ‘alpine’, as it is not reliably frost-hardy.  Despite this, the judges wanted to make it ‘Highly Commended’ to recognise the quality of the photograph.

First: Bob Gibbons – Kalmia procumbens

Mount Njulla, Abisko, Sweden. 19th june, 2018.

Camera: Canon 5DS R (full frame DSLR) with a 150mm lens: exposure 1/140sec at f20, ISO 400.

At first sight you wonder whether the flowers in this picture are properly sharp.  On closer examination, it becomes clear that the image is perfectly focused, but many of the flowers are brim full with water, yielding the impression of softness.  The judges liked the gentle, complementary colours, the contrasting textures of flowers, leaves and the staghorn lichen, and the composition with the neatly contained group of flowers selected.

Second: Harry Jans – Stellera chamaejasme.

Between Kangding and Jiulong, 3700m, Sichuan, China, June 2011.

Camera: Nikon D90 (DSLR) with an 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens at 155mm: exposure 1/100sec at f20, ISO 400.

A wonderful pattern, carefully photographed to emphasize the geometry of these lovely circles.

Third: Celia Sawyer – Pulsatilla ambigua (?)

Own garden in Long Compton, Warwickshire, UK: April 2020.

Camera: Nikon D7100 (DSLR) with a 105mm f2.8 lens: exposure 1/160sec at f16: ISO 500.

Highly Commended:  Steve Lobley – Pelargonium ‘Ardens’

Own greenhouse: May 2020.

Camera: Canon EOS 450D (DSLR) with an unknown lens at 50mm: exposure 6.0 sec at f18, ISO 100.

Highly Commended: David Hughes – Erythronium dens canis

Own garden: March 2017.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-GX7 mirrorless camera with Lumix 30mm macro lens: exposure 1/80th sec at f9, ISO 200.

Highly Commended: Bob Gibbons – Galeopsis speciosa

Montane meadow, Switzerland. July, 2015..

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk III with ? Sigma 150mm macro lens: exposure 1/200th sec at f8, ISO 500.

Highly Commended: Stepanka Hascovcova – Homogyne alpina


Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 (Bridge) ?  No exposure information.

Highly Commended: Harry Jans – Pedicularis davidii

Wolong Valley, 2590m, Sichuan, China: June 2007.

Camera: Nikon D50 (DSLR) with a 50mm lens: exposure 1/100th sec at f8, ISO 200.

Class Four: (53 entries) An alpine plant in cultivation in a garden setting.

This can be in your own garden or a garden you have visited.  The plant(s) may be displayed in a close-up, portrait or wider view.  We tend to go out and take ‘snaps’ of the plants in our garden; it is well worth spending some effort to take better quality images.

In a garden, particularly your own, you have more control over the timing of your photo, so you should be able to take it when the plant is in perfect condition, the weather is cooperative, and the light is good.  You also have scope to use artificial light sources and backgrounds if you deem these to be necessary.

First: Chris Hansen – Gentiana acaulis

Photographed at Schatzalp Alpinum Botanic Garden, upper section at approximately 2000m, from Davos Platz in Switzerland. Handheld.

Camera: Nikon D5500, Lens: Tamron AF 16 – 300mm at 58mm: exposure: 1/100th sec at f8.0: ISO 200

This image was carefully cropped to focus attention on the gentian, and the flowers made a pleasing triangle within the frame.  The grey marbling of the rocks made an excellent, complementary background to the green and blue of the plant.

Second: Cedrik Haskovec – Tulipa greigii ‘United States’

Taken at Dendrological garden in Průhonice near Prague.

Camera: Nikon D7 (DSLR), Lens: Nikon 105mm f2.8: exposure: 1/160th sec at f4.5: ISO 200.

Third: John Dower – Sempervivum in tufa

Own garden: June 2018.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ330 (Bridge) with a 4.5-108mm (35mm equivalent 25-600mm) zoom lens at 15.5mm (equivalent 85mm): exposure 1/160sec at f4.0, ISO 100.

Highly Commended:  Hugh Meteyard – Crocus goulimyi

Own garden.

Camera: Canon EOS 760D with EF-S15-85mm lens at 63mm: exposure 1/250th sec at f25, ISO 800

Highly Commended: Roger Brownbridge – Campanula ‘Samantha’

Burnby Hall Gardens, Pocklington, East Yorkshire, June 2020.

Camera: Canon EOS 750D (DSLR) with EF-S18-135mm lens at 42mm: exposure 1/640th sec at f11, ISO 400.

Highly Commended: John Dower – Galanthus nivalis

Garden: February 2010.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ18 (Bridge) with a 28 – 504 mm (equiv) lens at 28mm: exposure 1/250th sec at f5.6, ISO 100.

Class Five: (36 entries) An alpine garden or part of a garden.

This class was originally intended as a view of a garden or part of a garden, and we hoped it would help illustrate how people grow their alpine plants,  showing features such as troughs, raised beds, crevice gardens, pots, screes, alpine houses and so on.  Such photographs would inspire others to grow and display their alpines in a myriad of different ways, from the compact and individual setting to the grand scale.

However, we have found that the class as described attracts relatively few entries, and we may need to reconsider the class definition.

First: Celia Sawyer – Erinus alpinus

Own garden, May 2020.

Camera: Apple iPhone 7 back camera at 3.99mm (28mm equivalent): exposure 1/430sec at f1.8, ISO 20.

Nevertheless, our winner ticks all the boxes.  It shows Erinus alpinus self-seeding over one end of a tufa rock garden, in amongst other plants (Aquilegia, Saxifraga, Ramonda), with a background giving a wider context, showing a dry stone wall, pots, troughs and plants spreading out across a gravel path.  The low wide angle works exceptionally well, and as with most photos taken on phones, there is exceptional depth of field.

Second: John Dower – Minigarden

Own garden: May 2020.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ330 (Bridge) with a 4.5-108mm (35mm equivalent 25-600mm) zoom lens at 10.5mm (equivalent 60mm): exposure 1/160sec at f3.5, ISO 100.

Third: Janet Hails – Exhibit at 3 Counties Showground

Malvern, Worcestershire: May 2013.

Camera: Pentax K-5 (DSLR) with a Pentax 18-55mm lens at 40mm: exposure 1/200sec at f11, ISO 100.

Highly Commended: Ilona Duffy – Sempervivum tectorum

Stockport, UK, June 2020.

Camera: Motorola Moto G7 Play (smart phone) with 26mm (equivalent) lens: exposure 1/140th sec at f2, ISO 50.

Class Six: (71 entries) Alpine fauna in the wild

Wild flowers are always accompanied by fauna from the mammoth to the minuscule.  The majority are an interesting distraction, and are popular subjects for many photographers.  Most of us, returning from a trip to view alpine flowers in the wild, will find at least a few photos of wildlife amongst our images.  If the background shows a mountain landscape or alpine plants, that gives a welcome context.

First: Harry Jans – Butterfly (Aporia sp.) on Stellera chamaejasme var. chrysantha

Ji Chou (Ugly Chicken) Pass 3750m, Sichuan: June 2011.

Camera: Nikon D90 (DSLR) with a 50mm f2.8 lens: exposure 1/125sec at f10, ISO 200.

It is hard to imagine how Harry got close enough to photograph this butterfly like this with a 50mm lens.  We can only imagine that he was focusing on the flowers when the butterfly appeared on an adjacent flower head.  The key parts of the butterfly are beautifully sharp, and the judges particularly enjoyed the yellow pollen on the exserted tongue.

Second: Stepanka Hascovcova – Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar (Hyles euphorbiae)

Parnon, Peloponnese, Greece.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 (Bridge) with 25-400mm equiv. F2.8-4 Leica lens: exposure 1/1600th sec at f2.8: ISO 125

Third: Chris Timmins – Emberiza citrinella (Yellowhammer)

Vallee d’Ossoue at 1680m 10th July 2019.

Camera: Canon Powershot SX540 HS (Bridge) with a 4.3 – 215.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 24 – 1200 mm) lens at 215mm (1200mm equivalent): exposure 1/500sec at f6.5, ISO 100.

Highly Commended: Bob Gibbons – Calliope hummingbird (Stellula calliope)

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. August, 2009.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk II (DSLR) with EF70-200mm f4L lens at 200mm: exposure 1/1250th sec at f5.6, ISO 800.

Highly Commended: Steve Lobley – Dall Sheep

 Alaska, USA, September 2006.

Camera: No information: exposure no information

Highly Commended: Steve Clayton – Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galathea)

No location information, June 2011.

Camera: Nikon D700 (DSLR) with unknown lens at 300mm: exposure 1/640th sec at f5.6, ISO 400.

Highly Commended: Liam McCaughey – Phonochorion cf artvinensis

Pontic Alps in North-eastern Turkey, near the town of Artvin (thence its name). July 2019.

Camera: Canon EOS 600D (DSLR) with unknown lens at 44mm: exposure 1/640th sec at f13, ISO 800.

Highly Commended: Bob Gibbons – Pontic butterflies

Mainly Pontic Blues – and a Marsh Fritillary.  Yaylalar valley, Kaskar, Pontic Alps, north-east Turkey. July 2014

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk III (DSLR) with Sigma 150mm macro lens: exposure 1/160th sec at f22, ISO 1000.

Highly Commended: Stepanka Hascovcova – Sympetrum sp.


Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 (Bridge) ? No exposure information.

Class Seven:  (81 entries) An alpine landscape.

This class is for an alpine landscape.  It need not necessarily show specific plants but should concentrate on the scenic beauty and/or geology of the setting. You should be inspired by unusual natural beauty, from the small and intimate to the grand panorama. This class always attracts a great diversity of images, and it is one of the most interesting, and difficult, to judge.

First: Ursula Junker – Zermatt, Valais, Switzerland.

October 2020.  Fresh autumn snow on yellow larches, Matterhorn in the background.

Camera: Nikon D7500 fitted with Nikon 18-300 lens at 50 mm (equivalent 75 mm), exposure 1/640 sec, ISO 200 at f13.

The judges loved the composition the photographer has found here, with the golden larches and hut leading back to the Matterhorn behind.  Enough detail has been retained in the snow, despite the sunny weather, the limited colour palette emphasizes the contrast between the gold and orange of the trees and the blue sky, and the mix of textures (snow, distant trees with a sprinkling of snow, and the rocky slopes of the mountain) contribute to a pleasing whole.  If the sky had been solid blue, there might have been too much of it, but there is just enough hazy white cloud.

Second: Frank Hoyle – View from Pic de Madamete

Central French Pyrenees July 2014.

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ72 (Bridge) with a 20 – 1200 mm (35 mm equivalent) lens at 20mm (35mm equivalent): exposure 1/600sec at f4, ISO 200

Third: Harry Jans – Autumn at Jiuzhaigou National Park

Five Flower Lake, 2465m, Sichuan, China, October 2010.

Camera: Nikon D90 (DSLR) with an 18-200mm f3.5-6.3 lens at 40mm: exposure 1/40sec at f9, ISO 200.

Highly Commended: Janet Hails – Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA. July 2014

Scanned from slide.

Highly Commended: Frank Hoyle – Reflections

Lake Bachalpsee, Switzerland. July 2018

Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ72 (Bridge) with a 20 – 1200 mm (35 mm equivalent) lens at 20mm (35mm equivalent) – exposure 1/640th sec at f4.5, ISO 250.

Highly Commended: Bob Gibbons – Panorama of Aspen and Spruce forests in autumn

Looking up towards Uncompaghre Wilderness around Uncompaghre Peak, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, USA. September, 2012.

Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III (DSLR) with Canon EF70-200L lens at 85mm: exposure 1/50th sec at f14, ISO 200.

Class Eight: (50 entries) ‘The Alpine Gallery’.

Here we are looking for a quirky, amusing or unusual image featuring alpine plants. Digital manipulation is allowed; in fact anything goes, and we hope to see some wildly imaginative images.

This class always produces a wild variety of images, which makes it an entertaining end to the hours of debate by the judges.  This year was no exception, and the final five images included two images which had been manipulated digitally, and three ‘straight’ shots of unusual subjects.

First: Steve Lobley – Galanthus ‘Titanica’

February 2017. Image reflected to produce symmetry.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, with Canon f2.8L Macro lens: exposure 1/320sec at f8, ISO 400.

In the end the judges selected this image as their winner.  It has been manipulated digitally; the left-hand half is reflected on the right.  The result is a curiosity with huge dramatic impact, standing out strongly against the gentle patterns of a cloudy sky.  Some people see a flower, others a face, perhaps of a sheep or alpaca.  The key thing is the sense of wonder, and the stimulus it provides to the viewer’s imagination.

Second: James Miller – Helleborus x hybridus ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’

In a vase of water at Ashwood Nurseries, January 2020

Camera: Olympus EPL-1 (Micro Four Thirds – Compact System) with an Olympus 30mm f3.5 Macro lens: exposure 1/250sec at f7.1, ISO 200.

Third: Bob Gibbons – An unusual cockerel-shaped lichen, Cladonia sulphurina.

Arctic Sweden, June 2018.

Camera: Canon 5DS R (full frame DSLR) with a 150mm lens: exposure 1/30sec at f13, ISO 250.

Highly Commended: Hilary Birks – Encephalartos friderici-guilielmi male cones.

July 2018. Kirstenbosch Garden, Cape Town, South Africa, September 2018

Camera: Nikon Coolpix A900 (compact) with a 24-840 mm (35 mm equivalent) lens at 495mm (35mm equivalent): exposure 1/100th sec at f6.3, ISO 400.

Highly Commended: Steve Clayton – Eryngium kaleidoscope

July 2016

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100M3 compact camera with 24-70mm (equivalent) lens at 24mm: exposure 1/500sec at f4, ISO 125.

Image of Jon Evans Jon Evans

Jon lives and gardens on the north side of the Hogsback on the border between Hampshire and Surrey, on a heavy clay soil. He is a long standing member of the Alpine Garden Society (AGS), and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is particularly interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and is progressing slowly towards his Gold Medal at shows, at the rate of roughly one first per year.

However, he is best known within the AGS as an enthusiastic amateur photographer; for about 10 years he was responsible for organising the artistic and photographic section of the AGS shows around the country, and also for organising the show photography at all these shows. During this period, he set up and ran the AGS Digital Image Library. He is still actively involved in plant photography, both at shows (he visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors), and in gardens both public and private, and he makes regular outings to view and photograph wild flowers in the UK.

If you have any comments or queries for Jon, you can contact him direct at