Night Sky at Hadrian’s Wall, Sunlit Portrait Earn Win Northern Photography Prize

Northern Photography Prize 2023

The Northern Photography Prize celebrates the best in amateur photography in North East England. A pair of amateur photographers from the historic region have been awarded the landscape and portrait awards in this year’s Northern Photography Prize competition.

Dr. Julie Smith has won the landscape award called The Spirit of the North East for her image, “Dancing Trees.” The striking landscape photo shows the beautiful night sky against a foreground of swaying trees at Hadrian’s Wall, one of the region’s multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Northern Photography Prize
‘Dancing Trees’ by Dr. Julie Smith | Northern Photography Prize

Smith explains that this image was captured using a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. She shot a 10-second exposure at ISO 6400.

“My day job is tackling domestic abuse. Getting out with my camera to photograph our night skies and wildlife really helps me decompress,” says Dr. Smith. “I live on the edge of the best dark skies national park in the country (Northumberland), and there’s nothing better than capturing its raw beauty as simply as possible. Being up on Hadrian’s Wall for nighttime photography is a tonic for the soul and offers some great nature foregrounds.”

She adds, “Getting the news that I’d won has quite honestly stunned me, especially given the high standard of the competition. To even be shortlisted exceeded all my expectations, but to win has blown me away and it’s a very humbling feeling.”

The Heart of the North East, the contest’s portrait award, has been won by Mick Fulcher for his image “Start of the Week.” Fulcher’s image shows a worker striding through a narrow Newcastle street as the rising sun hits the surrounding buildings.

“‘Start of the Week’ was taken just as the sun rays start to dip into the buildings around Monument. I said ‘good morning’ to this gentleman who was starting work and I decided to take a candid portrait of him going about his graft.”

‘Start of the Week’ by Mick Fulcher | Northern Photography Prize

“I’m blown away to be announced as winner — the shortlisted photographs this year are nothing but outstanding, and everyone who was shortlisted should be extremely proud of themselves,” says Fulcher. “With each photo, I’ve tried to improve, learn the craft and develop some sort of ‘style.’ To be chosen as the winner has pushed me to continue with this hobby and reminded me of the reason I started in the first place!”

Fulcher explains that he left school when he was 17 and after working various jobs over the years, he qualified to be a driver for the Tyne and Wear Metro in 2019. “I’m currently part of the testing and commissioning team for the new fleet,” he adds. He began taking photos a years back and became very interested in 2021. “I enjoy all styles of photography but find that I’m most comfortable with street and portraits.”

The Northern Photography Prize is now in its third year, and encourages amateur photographers of all experience levels to showcase the beauty of the North East of England through its people and places. For their awards, Smith and Fulcher each collected a £1,000 cash prize courtesy of international bestselling author LJ Ross, who founded and sponsors the prize through her publishing imprint, Dark Skies Publishing.

In addition to Smith and Fulcher, 16 photographers were shortlisted this year and their images will be exhibited at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle until October 15.

“Seeing my photo framed and hung on the wall next to all the other shortlisted entries in the prestigious Biscuit Factory gallery gave me a real sense of pride and appreciation for everything that’s captivating about our region,” says Dr. Smith.

“The Northern Photography Prize resembles everything I love and cherish about my native North East. Every single image that gets submitted — and there are hundreds — seems to capture a unique moment in time, a scene of breathtaking beauty or a heartwarming smile from a stranger, that portray the region perfectly. This year the competition was of an incredibly high standard with some absolutely stunning images submitted and our strongest shortlist yet, so I’d like to congratulate Julie and Mark for winning the top prizes with their sensation entries,” says LJ Ross.

Image credits: Images courtesy of the Northern Photography Prize competition.