International Garden Photographer of the Year competition winners announced

13 February 2019


The winner of £7,500 and the title of the International Garden Photographer of the Year 12 is Jill Welham of North Yorkshire, England. Jill's work was selected from over 19,000 individual entries that were submitted from over 50 countries.

The winning image entitled, Fireworks, depicts the details of three Allium heads was produced using the wet cyanotype process resulting in intricate circular patterns and fluid shapes.

Copyright Jill Welham 224336
Fireworks by Jill Welham

Welham said:

“This image of three Allium heads was created using a technique known as wet cyanotype. Two chemicals, ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, are mixed together to create a photosensitive solution which is painted onto the surface of watercolour paper and left to dry. This process needs to be conducted away from UV light, and once dry the paper must be kept in a light-proof bag until it is used.

Photograms are created by placing a flat object such as leaves or flowers onto the surface of the treated paper with a piece of glass over the top to keep it in position. The paper is then exposed to ultraviolet light –either the sun or a UV light. When using the sun, exposure times vary, depending on the strength of the sun, time of day, weather, time of year and the object being imaged. Wet cyanotype is a modified version of the 19th century photographic printing process, introducing moisture, in a variety of ways, onto the treated paper before exposure. The chemical reaction produces interesting fluid patterns and colours not normally present in a traditional cyanotype print. The resulting pieces are unique and present botanical prints in a different and painterly manner. Each piece is created with plants and flowers from my own garden and exposed using only the North Yorkshire sun.

Wet cyanotype process, UV exposure, digital scanner. Post-capture: basic image management.”

Tyrone McGlinchey, Managing Director of IGPOTY said:

"Jill’s image has proven that even old techniques are still capable of relevance, originality and immense beauty. Her knowledge and passion for the process has resulted in an extraordinary exposure of the Allium, adding complex textures and colour profiles analogous to the pioneering botanical cyanotype prints by English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins in the first half of the 19th century.

The resulting exposure clearly draws from this rich and interesting heritage, but is unmistakably different in its approach and execution, making an image fit for the modern age in both its ability to communicate the beauty and importance of plant life as well as its capacity to represent the empowerment of women in art and science.”

The Portfolio category was won by Jocelyn Horsfall ARPS for her Tropical Wonderland project.

Horsfall said:

“I am a fine art photographer specialising in impressionistic images of flowers and foliage, so for me the prestigious International Garden Photographer of the Year competition is the Holy Grail, showcasing as it does the best photographers around the world in this genre. I have entered every year since 2011, and have been fortunate to get some Finalist, Highly Commended and Commended awards over the years, but a top place has eluded me until now!

I had been thinking about trying out digital infra red photography for a while, as I had loved the effects on film from the old days. Although I am a colour girl at heart, the ethereal foliage effect in monochrome was something I wanted to revisit. So this summer I bought a second hand mirrorless Fuji XE1 and had it converted to infra red. I went for the 720nm filter, where there is still some colour in the raw file, just to keep my options open, but was planning to convert to monochrome. I have a selection of Fuji lenses to go with my existing Fuji XE2, so was all set. 

Kew Gardens is on my doorstep, so I set off there to try the camera out, and ended up in the Palmhouse. I really liked the effects I was getting even on that first day, so kept returning to build up a body of work for a panel or portfolio. I used a selection of lenses from a 14mm prime, to the 18-55mm (be warned – has a terrible hot spot with infra red), and the 18-135mm. But it was when I started the processing that I really got excited about creating a unique look and feel. I discarded my initial plan for monochrome, and worked with the slightly sepia looking colour raw files, applying an adjusted Topaz cross processing filter that boosted the contrast and created soft apricot coloured highlights. The challenge was to match the tones across the series, as the colours were different depending on the direction of the light and the amount of infra red around.

The combination of the infra red and cross processing has an almost magical effect on the appearance of the plants and foliage. The result is an ethereal, dreamlike wonderland, with a variety of textures and forms that demonstrate in an almost painterly way the lushness, tranquillity and ‘otherwordliness’ of this tropical paradise.

I was completely over the moon to hear that I had been awarded 1st place in the Portfolio category.  Truly a dream come true. It is such an honour to be recognised among so many brilliant photographers, and the quality of the images this year is simply breath-taking.” 

The IGPOTY exhibition tours the UK and worldwide.


Top picture copyright: Jocelyn Horsfall ARPS