The 2012 Amateur Photographer of the Year winner Dan Deakin has taken second place in the 2013 competition. Oliver Atwell finds out how Dan's experiences of the competition have changed in the past 12 months

Dan took 14th place in round 1 Portraits in Artificial Light with his image ‘My Seven-Day-Old-Son’

It seems that awareness of the

Amateur Photographer of the Year competition is building. This year saw some of

the strongest entries we’ve ever had in APOY, which is perhaps a result of the

fact that the competition is on the radar of photographers both at home and

abroad. In 2013, we saw a number of entries appear from across the world to

slog it out against our very own home-grown talent.

Round 2 Life in Motion saw Dan’s image

‘Rainfall’ take 13th place

While Dusica Parpapovic of Bosnia

and Herzegovina has taken this year’s coveted top spot and £5,000 worth of

Panasonic prizes (see our interview with her in AP magazine dated 4 January 2014), it was

2012’s victor Dan Deakin of Bristol who took a very respectable second place.

In fact, it’s so respectable that there was only one point between him and

Dusica – but at least he receives £3,000 worth of Panasonic kit to ease his

frustration.

‘I think that if I had to identify a

change in my approach to the competition this year, I’d say I was a probably a

little more carefree with my entries in 2012,’ admits Dan, from his temporary

home in Vancouver, Canada. ‘I took a few more risks with my interpretations of

the briefs in 2012. This year, I’d say I’ve been a little more conservative.

Maybe that wasn’t the most sensible approach on a couple of rounds, but I

wouldn’t say that winning the competition last year changed how I took the

images.’ 

Dan shot this image

called ‘Bee Warming’ for round 3 The Animal Kingdom

Taking the risk
It’s interesting to hear Dan refer

to his entries for the 2013 competition as ‘conservative’. While his

photographs were just as strong as last year, he feels a lesson can be learned

by people looking to enter APOY in the future.

‘Say you have two images – one that

is experimental and one that is safe that you think the judges will like,’ says

Dan. ‘It’s very tempting to go for the safe shot to try to guarantee some

points. You’re trying to second-guess the judges, which is probably not a good

idea. I made that mistake in round seven, Black & White World (monochrome

landscapes). It was a very conservative shot and, as a result, I scored no

points. In hindsight, I should have taken more of a risk and done something a

little more challenging. If in doubt, go with something bold. If you take a

look through the shots that come first in each round you’ll see how that point

is made clear. That’s why Dusica was able to take the APOY crown. Her images are

very much their own thing. I’m really impressed with her work.’

This nicely lit shot called ‘Two Flowers’ took position 25 in round 5 Floral Still Life

To be fair to Dan, his reliance on

conservative shots is in part due to a hectic year. Dan has had to relocate to

Vancouver, Canada, for his job as an orthopaedic surgeon. Add to that the fact

that he has just had a second child and you can understand that maybe giving

over his days to taking images wasn’t top of his list of priorities.

‘As busy as I have been, I really

enjoyed the APOY rounds this year,’ says Dan. ‘I guess the only one I really

struggled with was round three, The Animal Kingdom (pets and wildlife), simply

because that’s not a subject I’d naturally go out and look for. One round I

particularly liked was round nine, Going Abstract (textures, shapes and

colours), although I didn’t score any points. I’m not surprised, though. The

quality of images in that round was pretty extraordinary.’

Round 6 ‘People at Work’ found Dan taking 25th place again

Matters of interpretation
Everyone has a different approach to

how they enter into the spirit of each round of APOY. Some will go out and take

a new image each time, while some may realise that they have a perfect shot

sitting in their archives. Both approaches are valid and for Dan his method can

shift each time.

‘It’s variable for me,’ says Dan.

‘At the beginning of the round, you don’t really get much time – sometimes as

little as three weeks from the announcement. Beyond that, you can plan months

in advance if you need to as the rounds are announced at the beginning of

February. In that case, I can take a look at the images that I’ve taken in previous

months or years and see if anything fits the theme. But if I have a shot, that

doesn’t mean I get to rest on my laurels. I’ll still keep those rounds in the

back of my mind when I’m out and about in case I happen to come across a scene

that’s even better than the one I’ve already taken. It’s a matter of how busy

you are. Having shots already there just gives you something to fall back on.’ 

Dan’s shot for Round 7 Black & White World did not make it into the top 30. By his own admission, he says his entry was perhaps a little too ‘conservative

‘Like any good photographer, Dan is

out shooting simply for his own pleasure and, this year, he has found his tastes

have shifted into new territory.

‘This year has found me take a new

approach to photography,’ says Dan. ‘I’ve been producing a lot of street

photography, particularly in black & white. I’ve been meaning to get out

and produce some landscapes in British Columbia, but it hasn’t quite panned out

for me yet. I’ve just been too busy. That’s the plan for this year.’

Dan’s fluctuating tastes are typical

of someone with a real passion for image making. One month you can be shooting

portraits, the next you’re looking at architecture. 

Round 9 Going Abstract – This was another shot that failed to reach the top 50

‘Last year, I was shooting

completely different subjects,’ says Dan. ‘I was focusing a lot on macro

images. I’m sure this time next year I’ll be looking at something entirely

different, but for now it’s a matter of circumstance. As I’ve been so busy in

the city, street photography is the thing I have the most opportunity to shoot

on my daily commute. It’s about making the most of your situation.’

Close to home
Family is another subject that Dan

has found himself shooting, perhaps even more than his street photography.

Looking through some of his APOY images, Dan has taken an interesting approach

to this idea. A handful of images from this year and last year have shown his

young children, but rather than taking snapshots Dan has produced images that

are artful, contemplative and relatable to anyone who has children. Just take a

look at his image from round eight, Wideangle World (wideangle/pan stitch), and

you’ll see what that means.

‘Not many of my family shots appear

on my Flickr account, but I have a substantial number of images,’ says Dan.

‘All the street and landscape images are nice to put on the wall, but it’s the

family stuff that really means the most to me. Those images are priceless. I

was looking back at some of the images I shot of my child who was just one at

the time. It hit me that those images are unique. I’ll never be able to repeat

them. I’m finding the same thing with my new child.

Dan’s final shot round 10 Under the Weather, taken in Nottingham City Centre, saw him take 25th place

‘I’m actually doing something

similar with my grandfather,’ continues Dan. ‘I’m producing a little project

about him and taking images as I walk around with him in his daily life. It’s a

way to preserve memories. In this way, I can produce some nice images of my

grandfather for posterity and communicate a story and a narrative about who he

is. I’ll also include some text with the images that will detail some of the

stories he tells. There will be about 20 images. It’s a personal project and

one that will improve in personal value as the years go on.’

It’s a nice note to end on. Competitions

are not the be all and end all of photography. Sometimes it’s enough to make

images that have personal resonance, images that are there to keep memories

alive. But then, entering a competition has its own rewards – usually lots of

shiny new camera equipment. Keep an eye out for AP 1 February 2014 to find out

how to enter the Amateur Photographer of the Year 2014 competition and to see

what you’re in with a chance of winning.

Dan Deakin finished in the top 40 in

seven of the ten rounds of APOY. His highest position was eighth

see the APOY 2013 gallery for the top 30 photos in each round

               Round Position Points
1. Portraits in Artificial Light 14 34pts
2. Life in Motion 13 33pts
3. The Animal Kingdom 0 0pts
4. Interior Architecture 11 36pts
5. Floral Still Life 25 26pts
6. People at Work 25 26pts
7. Black & White World 0 0pts
8. Wideangle World 8 40pts
9. Going Abstract 0 0pts
10. Under the Weather 25 29pts

To see more of Dan’s work visit www.flickr.com/photos/dandeakin

Read APOY 2013 winner Dusica Paripovic’s interview