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2018 – winners announced

Physical geography is all around and various aspects undoubtedly play a big part in students’ ‘regular’ lives. So, the 2018 Competition set the challenge for students to find places and situations where physical geography linked to their lives.

This year’s competition set the challenge for students to capture any aspect of how physical geography features in their life in a photograph. In the accompanying 250-word ‘tale’ they outline how the physical geography they have captured relates to them and what it means to them.

One of the key aims of the competition (organised by the Physical Geography Special Interest Group and sponsored by Páramo Directional Clothing) is to provide an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge of physical geography. It was apparent that most of the students who entered this year were inspired to observe and interact with physical geography by finding interesting landscapes and attempting to describe whatever landscape they selected through some form of story. The most informative developed their story by conducting some research.

‘The judges were on the lookout for entries showing an interesting, thoughtful or unusual observation of physical landscape. A photo should show some thought to composition so it is balanced and the focus of the selected landscape is clear. Additionally, the judges considered ‘authenticity’ – how a photo suggested it had been taken by the student. The story needed to be informative, reasonably accurate, and provide the reader with insights into how the landscape in the image had developed and been influenced by physical changes. As with any story, it needed to relate a sense of time, scale and sequence to the events that formed the landscape – and it needed to be worth reading!

The judging panel had the difficult job of whittling down the entries into a shortlist.

The most notable entries composed their picture effectively, often focusing on eye-catching physical forms. The best stories developed a narrative structure and concluded with an insight into the implications of their story – the equivalent of a ‘moral ending’ to their tale.

After much deliberation, the judging panel selected those entries they considered best reflected the spirit of the 2018 challenge, with the balance of a stimulating photo and a succinct story that helped to enrich the photo by revealing what is worth knowing in looking at this landscape.

Credit should go to all students who took up the 2018 geography in my life story photo challenge. It was very encouraging to see the great variety of interesting landscapes captured on camera. Clearly, students were inspired to get ‘out there’ to see what they could discover and it looks as though they had fun.’

Duncan Hawley, Chair, Physical Geography Special Interest Group

‘For me the competition’s major appeal is its simplicity – take a photo of a landscape, physical processes in your local area, etc. Yet at its heart lies some excellent and thought-provoking physical geography, as students need to get to the root of the physical geography in their image. It also opens their eyes to the landscapes around them. This encourages enquiry, independent research and promotes the subject and its enquiry approach. 

The success we have had in this competition is solely down to the students’ hard work and interest, and I thank the GA for creating such an engaging and inspiring competition.’

Nick Meek, Head of Geography, Monmouth School for Girls 

‘Yet again this great competition has energised and engaged students in geography, their local environment and into getting outdoors with a camera! It’s no surprise why Páramo continues to sponsor this competition with a selection of prizes – it ticks many of our boxes – better understanding of the environment, venturing outside and capturing what they find, that thrilling sense of discovery and realisation of what is ‘out there’ and how it relates to their life, all making geography accessible for students on their own terms. Páramo garments protect from the elements, whatever they throw at you; wild, wet, baking or biting! The ethically produced wind and waterproofs can also be easily repaired and will outlast conventional outdoor gear. We are delighted to be a partner in this competition and offer our products as prizes to students who have shown they have the ‘get up and go’ to find physical fascination in the world outdoors.’

Tom Willox, from the competition sponsor – Páramo Directional Clothing Systems Ltd (

The winning entries

11–14 category

1st prize

John Broadis, Berkhamsted School

Title: Cliff Erosion on the North Yorkshire coast

Location: Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire

‘I took this photograph in July 2018 of my family’s hut on the North Yorkshire Coast. This year, the corner of the hut was on the very edge of the cliff. Every summer I visit and notice that the land in front of the hut is gradually being eroded. The cliff at this point is made from boulder clay that was deposited during the last Ice Age. Not only is it eroded by the sea at the base but it also gets waterlogged from precipitation. When the clay is saturated it slumps down the cliff face. Also, as a result of more frequent storm surges (Dec 2013, May 2018), and a rise in sea level, the rate of cliff erosion has increased during my lifetime. Additionally, 200m north, in front of the village of Runswick Bay, a new sea wall has been built to protect the village and this has had the effect of pushing more water south and into the cliff where the hut is located. We had to move the hut backwards this summer in order to rescue it from the powers of physical geography. I am pleased because it is a very special place to me.’

Judging panel comments

A dramatic photograph that certainly gives a good sense of the interplay between physical geography and people. The image might have been better with more cliff visible down to the beach – as this is where much of the ‘action’ is. There is an informative explanation of the processes; it was nice to read about the role of precipitation and slumping (which is shown in the photograph) as well as the action of the sea. Moreover, there is a strong geographical moral here outlining how coastal management in one location is often at the expense of erosion at another – in this case with personal consequences. So, overall this photograph meets the challenge of this year’s theme and comes out top of our winners.

2nd prize

Brodie Brown, the Skinners’ School, Tunbridge Wells

Title: Sahara of the South East

Location: Harrison’s Rocks, Kent

And here is a picture of Brodie wearing his prize:

3rd prize

Sophie Danks, Monmouth School for Girls

Title: A lesson from the masters

Location: Lydbrook, Forest of Dean

14–18 category

1st prize

Joe Syer, Cheadle Hulme High School

Title: Weathered Away

Location: Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire

‘I captured this photograph to show the power of erosion and weathering. Whilst on a family holiday in Whitby I had spent the morning on the beach building sandcastles. Later in the day when walking along the coastal path by the Abbey I was admiring the coastal views looking across Sandsend Wyke towards the cliffs of Sandsend Ness. These cliffs were carved by the erosive power of the sea.

The headstone in the foreground shows the power that chemical weathering has also had on this landscape. It has weathered to such an extent that the names on the headstone are no longer legible.

Being able to see evidence of both weathering and erosion in action in one photograph reminded me that if it wasn’t for these processes shaping the landscape into the stunning one we see now, my family would not have chosen Whitby as a holiday destination.’

Judging panel comments

This photograph cleverly incorporates perspective, depth, time, scale and people to illustrate the significant but subliminal influence of physical geography on our lives; in this case the processes forming a landscape that provides key ingredients making an ideal holiday location. The caption is good on general context but would have been more informative with some more detail of specific processes (such as salt weathering). However, the reader is provoked into looking at the photograph again to pick out different features and remind themselves that there is value in just stopping to admire a view, drink in the landscape, wonder at the power of physical geography and consider how it influences us in life and beyond.

2nd prize

Lucy Creasey, Monmouth School for Girls

Title: Misty morning in Monmouth

Location: Lydart, Monmouth

3rd prize

Ben Candlish, Sheringham High School, Norfolk

Title: The reality of life on an active volcano

Location: Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

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