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The sunny side of life

Entering an annual photography competition gave me the perfect excuse to capture some images from a memorable summer holiday

Earlier this year, I decided to enter the National Trust Handbook Photography Competition. It’s an annual competition that first came to my attention in 2018. Unfortunately, I was too late to enter images that year.

You see, they can’t be just any images: they have to have been taken at a National Trust location, in the year of the competition, and shot according to specific rules about subject placement and composition.

Finding our happy place

With a bit more notice, I was able to enter this year’s contest. And a family holiday to the Isle of Purbeck, where the National Trust owns a lot of land, gave me the perfect opportunity to capture some memorable images.

The theme of this year’s competition was ‘places that make you feel good’. For my family, this particular spot in Dorset does that in spades: it’s our happy place. Somewhere we return to time and again.

Each day for the best part of a week, we headed to Studland Bay with a picnic tea just as the sun was beginning to soften in the sky. As we arrived, the masses were leaving, ready to go home after a long day of building sand castles and swimming in the sea.

There’s a reason this time of day is known as the ‘golden hour’, and it’s not just because of the beautiful quality of light. With the beach pretty much to themselves, our children were in their element. After an hour or so of playing, and with their egg rolls demolished, they delighted in running up and down the sand dune paths behind Knoll Beach.

I knew that the joy and exhilaration they were experiencing was something I just had to photograph.

So I spent these blissful summer evenings photographing my children as they played, the sound of their squealing laughter filling my ears and the National Trust’s competition resting gently in my mind.

On my return home, I edited a few of my favourite shots and sent them off to the National Trust for consideration.

The shortlists

Towards the end of October I received the exciting news that, out of thousands of entries, two of my images had made it onto a shortlist of just 35. Then, last week, I received the even better news that both images were in the final 15.

To say that I was delighted is an understatement – especially when I realised that my images were being featured on the pages of national publications such as The Daily Mail and Country Life.

As I reflect on the photographs now, I realise that their success in the competition is only a part of the reason I love them so much. Mainly, they remind me of a happy summer break with my family: halcyon days in which the world seemed a kinder, gentler place, in which our most pressing concerns were where to eat our picnic and who would win the nightly family dune race (it was usually Daddy. His legs are longer than everyone else’s).

To help you share the joy, here are my two shortlisted images. I’ve loved looking at them again: it’s brightened up my dreary November day no end. I hope they have a similar effect on you!

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