An abstract photograph by June Sharpe has won this year’s International Garden Photographer of the Year competition.
“The layered branches of this conifer reminded me of the dancing cranes often featured in Japanese woodcuts,” said Sharpe.
“Now, more than ever, it is vitally important to connect with nature and highlight the beauty and fragility of our planet’s ecosystems.”
In post-processing, Sharpe enhanced what she describes as a “sense of the ‘birds’ dancing in a fantasy woodland”.
Head judge Tyrone McGlinchey said: “When judging pictures we are hoping to be embraced, and taken on a journey, within a story.
“We are pulled into and beyond the symbolic dancing cranes, and embraced by their ‘wings’, to a place of hope and peace. It is rare that one can connect with nature and feel such compassion.”
Annaick Guitteny came first in the Portfolios category for a set of six photos with the title Evanescence, each one a close-up of a plant covered in water droplets.
“I love capturing these fleeting moments early in the morning, when these ephemeral little pearls adorn plants and illuminate them,” said Guitteny.
Annie Green-Armytage’s picture of a private garden in Suffolk won the Beautiful Gardens category.
“It’s easy to grow a border which looks good in June, but fewer people are able to create such a stunning display in October,” said Green-Armytage.
“The setting sun was the ultimate gift from our majestic natural world, a moment of beauty which I was privileged to capture. For a while, I even forgot my cold-numbed fingers.”
The Breathing Spaces category was won by Andrea Graham with a picture taken in Eryri National Park (Snowdonia) in north Wales, entitled The Lone Tree.
“This was a truly magical morning, we arrived to find the mist rolling across the lake (Llyn Padarn) and that we had the place to ourselves – it was almost spiritual and so incredibly peaceful,” said Graham.
“As the blue hour progressed before dawn we were blessed with these beautiful pink tones, before the sun finally rose above the mountains and kissed the famous, lone tree.”
Leena Roy took to the water in Bunaken National Marine Park, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, to photograph a mangrove tree and win the Plants and Planet category.
“The leaves of the tree are underwater at high tide,” said Roy.
“Mangrove forests not only act as carbon banks, they stabilise the coastline from storms and erosion as well as being a vital habitat for fish, crustaceans and hunters like sea snakes. Their above-water canopies are home to many birds and mammals.”
The Beauty of Plants category was won by Angi Wallace with a picture of a Nigella flower taken on her dining room table.
“My camera was placed on a mini-tripod and an automated focus stacking rail.
“I chose to focus-stack 43 images together to make the most of combining high details of the subject, with a soft and dreamy background.”
A 1mm tall slime mould was the subject of Barry Webb’s winning picture. It was awarded first place in the World of Fungi category.
“The Craterium minutum slime mould was found on decaying vegetation, at the edge of a compost heap in my garden, captured following a hard frost,” said Webb.
“I was surprised to see the unusually cube-shaped ice formations on the fruiting body of this slime mould. This shot is comprised of 87 focus-bracketed images, focus-stacked together.”
The Trees, Woods and Forests category was won by Drew Buckley, who captured a misty scene on the River Brathay in the Lake District.
“The cold blues of the frosty landscape offset against the warm, orange hues of the early morning sun – cloaking the trees in an enchanting light,” said Buckley.
Albert Ceolan won the Wildflower Landscapes category.
“I captured this vast wildflower meadow, which stretched as far as the eye could see, across a plateau of the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) – the largest high-alpine meadow in Europe, in the Dolomites, South Tyrol,” said Ceolan.
Fernando Avanka’s picture of a squirrel in Sri Lanka won the Wildlife in the Garden category.
“It was a bit of a cloudy afternoon, when I saw several squirrels moving across the green grass, playing and eating,” said Avanka.
“I located myself in a perfect place, expecting another good day of squirrel photography.
“I was lucky to photograph this smart-looking individual, standing on its hind legs, nibbling a grass seed head, thinking to itself ‘this tastes yummy’. Finally, I had captured the shot I wanted.”
All of these pictures and many others can be seen in an exhibition at Kew Gardens from 3 February until 10 March 2024.
All images copyright International Garden Photographer of the Year.