Entering the Lowland Photo Contest
Two months ago I have seen the Lowland Photo Contest and by looking at the winning photos of the previous three editions, I became very excited to join this contest. Especially that only a jury decides (blind) the top 5 finalists for every category. Would it not be fantastic to be among the winners with such high quality photos? In three days I decided which pictures I would submit to this contest. 9 pictures to the landscape category and two pictures to the abstract/composition category. Now the waiting starts and the 16th of November I got an email: “Dear nature photographer, Your image is selected for the final round of the Lowland Photo Contest.”
What?? Really?? Yes!! But which image? Ow yes, that is one of my favorites of this year.
What an amazing feeling. But now the nervous part begins, it is the final round. This means that 3 out of the 8 pictures will not be selected, but are a back-up if the others in the top 5 do not meet the requirements: “Please send us the RAW-file to check for reality and degree of post-processing”. Although I only changed the highlights, whites, blacks, contrast etc, and I was confident it would be good, you might still be out of the top 5. But then on 23rd of November: “Congratulations, your image reached the finals of the Lowland Photo Contest. Your image will be exposed at the contest exhibition.” YES, amazing, what a great feeling.
The Festival and exposition
So there I went, together with Julien Beyrath, excited and happy to Kinepolis in Antwerp. The ceremony would start at 19.00hrs, but we arrived around 15.00hrs. First we walked around and played a bit with too expensive tripods (carbon sirui) and camera’s (Nikon D850). We were pretty scared to get tempted to buy gear, but reasoning had the upper hand 😊. Then it was time to go to the exposition and what a special moment to see it between all the other pictures.
The print is amazing, maybe even better than on the computer screen! While looking at the pictures of the other 11 categories I met other photographers, who predicted a win for me…. and up went my heart rate, would it really happen? Sander… just relax, have some dinner, and then you will see.
The ceremony will be in the cinema itself with a very big screen. Wow, what a view and then you realize that your picture will be shown on this screen as well. At first we were sitting in the middle for the best overview but soon we were asked to sit on the first two rows. And then.. what?? That’s my picture!! Already shown before it all started? Is that a good thing? Oh who cares, man, look.. that’s MY picture they use to introduce the ceremony!
The ceremony started with a talk by Arno ten Hoeve, the Lowland Photographer of the year 2016. An inspiring presentation about vultures in Spain. He was able to capture them in a unique and inspiring way. Soon after he finished it was time to announce the highly commended, runner-up and winner of the category abstract/composition (heart rate increases). First highly commended: Johan Iven, second highly commended: Billy Herman… heart rate increases even more, would it really happen?? Third highly commended: Sander Grefte, shit no.. heart rate decreases… BUT that was not the end… “We as a jury and organizers selected this picture to be THE COVER of the yearly book Lowland Photo Contest 2017.” WAUW, that is amazing and an honor to be on the cover of this book.
In the end the runner-up and winner were Jan & Mart Smit and Jaap de Vries, congratulations. Having seen all the other pictures in the next 60 minutes they revealed Marc Steichen as the new Lowland Photographer of the Year with his amazing series and pictures of the beavers in the Belgian Ardennes, congratulations! It all ended with a group photo, congratulating the winners, talking to other photographers, and do you see the picture in the back? #proud 😊
On the way back, I was able to calm down and realize what I achieved. I did not only reached the finals and got a highly commended, my picture was used to introduce and end the ceremony and is on the cover of the photobook. What more could you wish for!