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South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year 2020

The South West Coast Path is simply a wonderful place. The border between land and sea, this incredible trail runs uninterrupted for 630 miles around the South West peninsula. It's often the best or only way to access our beloved ocean, so it made sense to us to protect and support it. 
That's why we teamed up with the SWCP Association charity to sponsor last year's Photographer of the Year competition, and after an incredible 1,300 entries and much deliberation, a winner has been announced... 


Freedom Flight taken by Lee Searle - Winner of the South West Photographer of the Year 2020

The Winning Image - Freedom Flight, by Lee Searle


Taken on a section of the Coast Path overlooking Pothrcurno beach, the breath-taking scene above was captured by Lee Searle of Penzance on a stormy winter's day - winning him the title of South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year. 

Beating thousands of entries from across the South West, Lee's stunning image also earned him a prize purse of Finisterre gear worth £500 to keep him protected against the elements while hunkered down to capture his next spectacular photograph. 

Catching up with Lee after his win, he recounted how he captured the shot;

“This particular day it was very overcast with a hint of haze in the air, massive rolling waves crashing against the rock and howling winds. I noticed that when I looked through my lens, I could see a massive gathering of birds all flying around the coastline. All it took one was big wave to come through smash against the rocks, this sent the seagulls off in all directions. For me the birds really pull this shot together, they add a sense of calm to the storm, beauty to the beast.” 

Judging the competition was a panel of professional photographers; Quintin Lake, Clare James and Ben McConnon. Commenting on the winning photo, here's what the judges had to say:

"A breath-taking scene, beautifully captured. The birds and waves' dynamic interplay makes for a captivating subject enhanced by a well-controlled tonal range and composition." - Quintin Lake 

“The energy, movement and wildness of this shot sums up the Coast Path for me and the way the birds are moving around the rock and waves.” - Clare James 

“Water is a notoriously tricky subject, but Lee balanced things perfectly - freezing the birds in flight yet allowing the power and pace of the waves to come through.” - Ben McConnon

Congratulations to Lee - we look forward to seeing where your new gear takes you and what images you'll capture along the way. 


Special Award Winner: Climate Crisis Capture Award 

This year's competition also presented a special Climate Crisis Capture Award for the photo that best communicated important issues that are threatening the Coast Path such as; coastal erosion, pollution, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, loss of habits and extreme weather.


SWCP Climate Crisis Capture Award - Storm Ellen at Lyme Regis by James Loveridge

Climate Crisis Capture AwardStorm Ellen at Lyme Regis, by James Loveridge


The stunning image above, captured during the violent weather of Storm Ellen, shows the raw power of the sea when it comes up against human existence. With rising sea-levels and stronger weather systems, the threat to coastal landscapes and communities will loom large in the coming years, and the inclusion of this award highlights the need to care for our oceans now more than ever. 

Judging the award was Matthew Pontin, Creative Director of Fotonow, who commented on the winning entry, saying;

“There’s something really explosive about this image. I love how the nature of the rising wave sits alongside the building, making it look so fragile compared to the sea. The brooding sky above is a reminder that the climate crisis is hanging over us, demanding we take action.”

The photographer who snapped this incredible image, James Loveridge, was also keen to highlight the changes he has seen to the Coast Path in his time, noting how climate change and increasingly violent storms are permanently changing some of our favourite coastal locations; 

“Living on such a dynamic stretch of coastline as the Jurassic Coast, I've seen the changes over the last two or three decades in many of my favourite locations and the increasing intensity and frequency of storms that shape the beaches and cliffs.”

We'd like to wish our hearty congratulations to all the winners on the South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year Awards 2020, and extend thanks to all those who entered the award.

Some of the entries were simply stunning, so we've included a small selection from the shortlist, for you to peruse below. Sit back with a coffee and take in some of these breath-taking images of the place where land meets sea...


South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year: More From the Shortlist


Blackchurch Rock, Westward Ho! North Devon. Photo by Miles Pinkney

"Blackchurch Rock" Westward Ho! North Devon. Photo by Miles Pinkney.



Golden Barrels Porthleven South Cornwall (Falmouth to Cremyll)  photo by Molly Wallis

"Golden Barrels", Porthleven South Cornwall. Photo by Molly Wallis.



Bossington Sunset Bossington Beach, North Somerset. Somerset and Exmoor (Minehead to Combe Martin)  photo by Jon Somers

"Bossington Sunset" Bossington Beach, North Somerset. Photo by Jon Somers.



Lundy sunset Woolacombe beach North Devon (Combe Martin to Marsland)  photo by Ester Spears

"Lundy Sunset" Woolacombe Beach, North Devon. Photo by Ester Spears.



Lone surfer Croyde Bay  Croyde north Devon  North Devon (Combe Martin to Marsland)  photo by David Shipway

"Lone Surfer" Croyde Bay, North Devon. Photo by David Shipway.



Porlock Posts. Porlock weir, Exmoor, North Devon. Lee Pengelly Photography

"Porlock Posts" Porlock Weir, Exmoor, North Devon. Photo by Lee Pengelly.



Rosemullion Crags  Rosemullion South Cornwall (Falmouth to Cremyll)  photo by Molly Wallis

"Rosemullion Crags" Rosemullion, South Cornwall. Photo by Molly Wallis.



Two lone surfers at dusk. Saunton North Devon (Combe Martin to Marsland)  photo by Alan Danby

"Two Lone Surfers At Dusk" Saunton, North Devon. Photo by Alan Danby.


Words and images courtesy of
the South West Coast Path Association

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