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ILPOTY: the inside stories of the winning images

February 4, 2022

The winners of the 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year (ILPOTY) competition have been announced with Aytek Çetin from Turkey taking the top award.

The competition was open to both professional and amateur photographers and, from 4,504 entries from around the world, Çetin came out top (based on a submission of at least four images) with his portfolio of pictures. Çetin and the winner of the Landscape Photographer of the Year, Tanmay Sapkal, told us the stories behind their amazing images. Read on to discover more…

Expert judging panel

The ILPOTY 2021 Awards were chosen by an expert judging panel comprising David Burnett (co-founder Contact Press Images, USA); Tim Parkin (landscape photographer and editor of ON LANDSCAPE magazine); Kelvin Yuen (the 2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year); Kaye Davis (NZIPP Grand Master of Photography); and Jim M. Goldstein (Fine Art Photographer and Author, USA). The panel was chaired by ILPOTY co-founder Peter Eastway (who started the competition with David Evans).

The judges each gave photographs scores out of 100 with the top scoring portfolio, by Aytek Çetin, winning the overall title. The judges agreed that all of Çetin’s photographs, ‘have a wonderful excitement and a special mood surrounding them.’

Aytek Çetin: the newly crowned International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021

Aytek Çetin: the newly crowned International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021

The winning submission

Of his winning portfolio, Aytek Çetin explained, ‘The 60-million-year-old story of fairy chimneys and the fact they have been home to different civilisations for tens of thousands of years, makes Cappadocia extremely mysterious for me. If you are lucky, you can visit there during hazy, atmospheric conditions with a soft light pushing through at sunrise or sunset.’

These soft light conditions were present when Çetin shot his cleverly framed study of the three fairy chimneys at sunrise on a winter morning (shown below). ‘The reason I chose this location is because I love the excitement inside me when the sun first hits the fairy chimneys and how it makes me feel like I’m living in the bronze age.’

Aytek Cetin - Breaking The Time, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Cetin, The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin – Breaking The Time, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Çetin was born and raised in Ankara, Turkey, and revealed, ‘I graduated from the department of sales management at university and, for many years, I worked as a store manager for luxury Italian clothing brands. I used to go to the sea for my limited holidays, but after repeating the same kind of trips for years, it was starting to lose its meaning for me. Then I decided to do something different, to dive deeply into nature. I started to explore remote, mountainous regions and experiencing the energy of the mightiest entities of nature, left me deeply impressed and awakened a love for nature within. An interest in photography followed as a result and has now turned into a passion!’

Aytek Cetin - Story of Ages, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Cetin, The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin – Story of Ages, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin - Guardians of Nature, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin – Guardians of Nature, Anti-Taurus Mountains, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin - From Twilight to Light, Cappadocia, Turkey; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Aytek Çetin – From Twilight to Light, Kazbek Mountain, Georgia; part of a portfolio that won him the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Aytek Çetin/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 went to Max Rive from the Netherlands

Max Rive - The Dark Lord; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive – The Dark Lord, Vallée de la Clarée, French Alps; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive - Leading The Way; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive – Leading The Way, Monte Rosa Glacier, Zermatt, Switzerland; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive - Clouds Claw; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive – Clouds Claw, Chamonix, Mont-Blanc, French Alps; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive - Inhabitants Alps; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Max Rive – Inhabitants of the Alps; part of a portfolio that won him second place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Max Rive/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Third place in The International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 went to Andrea Zappia from Italy

ndrea Zappia - Road To Heaven; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia – Road To Heaven, Mas Palomas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spanish; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia - Above The Clouds; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia – Above The Clouds; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia - Epic Sunrise; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia – Epic Sunrise, Seceda, Val Gardena, Dolomites, Italy; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia - 3000, Gornergrat, Switzerland; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Andrea Zappia – 3000, Gornergrat, Switzerland; part of a portfolio that won him third place in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 title. Image: Andrea Zappia/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition


Landscape Photograph of the Year

The 8th International Landscape Photograph of the Year, which is awarded for a single image, was won by amateur photographer Tanmay Sapkal from the USA. Sapkal’s winning photograph was taken on Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, USA.

Sapkal revealed how he shot the image, ‘It is quite a special place for photographers as it stands above the local landscape, which is engulfed in low coastal fog almost every summer evening. After shooting there tens of times over the last four years, I realised that I really liked the way fog looks when it is lit from underneath. I also realised that the comet would become visible in the north west sky, so I started planning this shot. It wasn’t possible to line up the comet exactly above the foreground I wanted, so I decided to take two separate exposures. It took a couple of visits to get just the right amount of fog on the hills to create the dreamy setting and then I waited patiently for some cars to drive by and create a blanket of light under the fog. After shooting for more than a few hours that night, my friend and I hurried back down to the car. Little did we know that parking on the mountain after sunset meant getting a parking ticket! But now, in my opinion, it’s the best $80 I have ever spent on parking! Ha ha!’

Tanmay Sapkal - Comet NeoWise Setting, won the Photograph of the Year in the International Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. Image: Tanmay Sapkal/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Tanmay Sapkal – Comet NeoWise Setting won the Photograph of the Year in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021 category. Image: Tanmay Sapkal/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Sapkal, 29, works as a hardware design engineer for Apple and describes himself as an, ‘amateur landscape photographer.’ He spends most of his free time exploring the landscapes of the western United States and beyond.

He revealed, ‘I strongly believe that art should only be bound by the imagination of its creator. In landscape photography, there’s an ongoing debate about composites versus natural shots. I think there’s a place for all types of art and there’s no point wasting time and energy berating one or the other. The greatest joy comes from your own experience of creating a photograph, whether in the field or while post-processing it. As long as you are open about the creative process, it should be your choice what you want to create.’

Second place in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021 went to Cédric Tamani from Switzerland

Cédric Tamani - The Drumlins in Winter, Menzingen, Switzerland, won him second place in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021. Image: Cédric Tamani/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Cédric Tamani – The Drumlins in Winter, Menzingen, Switzerland, won him second place in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021. Image: Cédric Tamani/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Third place in International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021 went to Ben Goode from Australia

Ben Goode - Reflector, Lake Bonney, South Australia, won him third place in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021. Image: Ben Goode/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Ben Goode – Reflector, Lake Bonney, South Australia, won him third place in the International Landscape Photograph of the Year 2021. Image: Ben Goode/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition


Special Awards: the winners

The ILPOTY also gives out some ‘special awards’, which ‘change each year to keep things interesting.’ The 2021 special award winners were:

The Monochrome Award 2021 went to Heiner Machalett from Germany

Heiner Machalett - Winter Forest, Neunkircher Höhe, Hesse, Germany; winner of the Snow & Ice Award. Image: Heiner Machalett/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Heiner Machalett – Winter Forest, Neunkircher Höhe, Hesse, Germany; winner of the Monochrome Award. Image: Heiner Machalett/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

The Amazing Aerial Award 2021 went to Chris Byrne from the USA

Chris Byrne - Depths of Hell, Iceland; winner of the Amazing Aerial award. Image: Chris Byrne/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Chris Byrne – Depths of Hell, Iceland; winner of the Amazing Aerial Award. Image: Chris Byrne/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

The Snow & Ice Award 2021 went to Mimmo Salierno from Italy

Mimmo Salierno - The Winter of the Lake, Lago Laceno, Italy; winner of the Snow & Ice Award. Image: Mimmo Salierno/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Mimmo Salierno – The Winter of the Lake, Lago Laceno, Italy; winner of the Snow & Ice Award. Image: Mimmo Salierno/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

The Night Sky Award 2021 went to Hans Gunnar Aslaksen from Norway

Hans Gunnar Aslaksen - The Puzzle; winner of Night Sky Award. Image: Hans Gunnar Aslaksen, The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Hans Gunnar Aslaksen – The Puzzle, Ula, Norway; winner of Night Sky Award. Image: Hans Gunnar Aslaksen/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

The Hand of Man Award 2021 went to Chris Kirby, Australia

Chris Kirby - By Design Adelaide; winner of the Hand of Man Award. Image: Chris Kirby, The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition

Chris Kirby – By Design Adelaide, Underpass, Adelaide Railway Station, South Australia; winner of the Hand of Man Award. Image: Chris Kirby/The 8th International Landscape Photographer of the Year competition


Chairman of the judges comments

The chairman of judges, Peter Eastway, explained, ‘Our philosophy is that all approaches to landscape photography are valid. It is not up to us to say whether an image is a landscape or not. As a result, on the pages of the awards book you will see exponents of many different styles presenting their rare and carefully considered compositions. Some of the landscapes are straight out of camera, others are from the photographer’s imagination.’

Eastway added, ‘I find it quite compelling that what drives one landscape photographer can be so different to another. For some, the capture of nature at its most wonderful is reward enough. In fact, these are the moments photographers live for and being out in the landscape is often as enjoyable as capturing it with a camera. However, the history of landscape art is much broader than merely creating a record of nature. It is interpretive, imaginative and inspirational. Some photographers take their captures and re-map the tonality; others take several captures to produce a landscape of the mind.’

Awards book

The top 101 scoring photographers (the threshold for inclusion was a score of 85.2% or higher) from the competition feature in a book, which is available in a print format or an eBook can be downloaded for FREE from the ILPOTY website (where you can also view a gallery of 238 of the best images from the 2021 competition). The physical copy of the annual Awards book was printed by Momento Pro in Australia.

For all the details, winners, to download the eBook and to view the top 238 images, please go to: International Landscape Photographer of the Year


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