Picture Perfect! RSPCA Youth Photo Comp

Poignant, striking and funny pictures of pets, wildlife & farm animals selected by expert judges in the thirtieth year of the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards

A powerful image of a deer ducking under branches as he goes through a gate has taken top spot in the prestigious RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2020.

‘Mind Your Head’ was taken by 17 year-old Jake Kneale from Pewsey, Wiltshire, whose winning photo – taken during lockdown in June – was singled out from a record 11,000 entries this year.

Youngsters aged up to 18 years old had been invited to capture the animal kingdom on camera or on a mobile device for this year’s RSPCA Young Photographer Awards.

Overall winner Jake had entered ‘Mind Your Head’ into the new ‘Small World’ category which was launched specifically to recognise how measures to control the pandemic will have limited how far young photographers could travel to take their photos.   His photo – which won first prize in that category – stood out amongst fierce competition from almost 11,000 photos to win the overall prize in this year’s competition.

Jake was also awarded first prize in the competition’s Portfolio category for his series of striking swan images.

Winner Jake said: “I’m so happy that the judges liked my deer photo so much.

“During lockdown I set up a camera trap on an area of farm land close to my home with the hope of photographing wildlife passing through the gate. I was delighted when I captured this roe deer buck passing through, seeming to duck its head to pass underneath an overhanging bush. I like how this image conveys the idea of wildlife having areas more to themselves during lockdown.”

This year’s awards were blind-judged online by a panel of experts in wildlife photography, including photographer and TV presenter and RSPCA Vice President Chris Packham. Also on the panel were award-winning wildlife photographer and filmmaker, BBC drone pilot and new judge, Sam Rowley, wildlife photographer and former competition winner Catriona Parfitt, professional wildlife photographer and photographic guide Ellie Rothnie, freelance wildlife, nature photographer Julian Cox and the RSPCA’s multimedia manager Andrew Forsyth and also new for this year, senior photographer Emma Jacobs.

Judge and awards host Chris Packham said: “Jake’s photo of a deer really stood out to all of us on the judging panel. We felt it was a powerful and poignant representation of how wild animals started to claim back their land and habitats during the lockdown.’

“The quality of entries this year as the competition celebrates its 30th anniversary has been astounding.  We felt that the lockdown ironically worked in all the young photographers favour; they really did enter fantastic pictures.

“I’ve been judging the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards since they started. It’s exciting to have seen it move with the times, with new options regularly being introduced.  This year we introduced a new category called Small World. We didn’t want our young photographers to feel limited by lockdown, so we devised this to inspire them to record what was close to home. We needn’t have worried though, as lockdown saw our entrants’ creativity and imagination soar.

“We’re also pleased that the Mobile Phone and Devices category continues, because as no separate camera is required, this has really opened up the competition to almost anyone.

“The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards is a true celebration of the animal kingdom and one I feel honoured to be involved with. Every person shortlisted should be proud of their contribution to a world that’s kinder to all animals.”

The winning images across nine categories, including three different age groups and an Instagram category, were announced during an online awards ceremony hosted by Chris Packham on Thursday, 17 December.  The ‘Overall Winner’ was chosen from the nine categories by the judges.  Earlier this year, a special social media ‘Instagram’ RSPCA Young Photographer Awards category took place online and in addition, a selection of photos from this year’s Mobile Phone & Devices and Picture Perfect Pets will be put to the public vote in the spring of 2021 to decide the ‘People’s Choice Award.

Other category winners and runners-up in the main Awards included Molly Tolson (14), for her winning picture in the 12-15 mobile category of her pet lamb launching himself from a hay bale; runner-up in the Picture Perfect Pets category Felix Maidment (12) for his photo of his new kitten with enormous bat-like ears and Thomas Easterbrook (12) for his Commended photo of a busy flying bee in the Small World category.

Reflecting on the strength of the competition this year, Chris Packham added: “I’m really pleased to see everyday, overlooked animals given some leverage here. It’s a new take on something very familiar that normally gets a bad press. From a wonderfully commanding image of a woodlouse that looks like an alien to the dynamic composition of two pigeons, one with a scabby foot, it’s nice to see so many creative photos of a range of wildlife and people’s pets in such a strong competition. It needs real imagination to make commonplace species interesting, and demonstrates that the photographer has been really innovative.

“Top work to all the finalists and thank you for sharing and inspiring us with your passion for nature and photography.”

For a full gallery of the winning images* please visit:  https://young.rspca.org.uk/ypa/home

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