A Belfast man has been crowned the winner of a global landscape photography contest for an image featuring Co Antrim’s famous Dark Hedges.
Paul Killeen’s picture was judged the best out of 8,655 entries in the 2022 World Landscape Photographer competition.
Titled ‘Souls Tied’, the black-and-white perfectly captures the moment two birds flew into the centre of the landmark site.
The meaning behind the shot is deeply personal for Paul, as he explained: “Last year a good friend of my wife’s sadly passed away.
“Lynsey was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2015. When diagnosed, she was informed that she would be lucky to see Christmas that same year.
“However, Lynsey bravely battled cancer for five-and-a-half years before she passed on April 11, 2021. This image was made on April 14, the morning of Lynsey’s funeral.
“As soon as I saw the two birds fly into my frame I was immediately reminded of Lynsey and her husband Simon.”
He added: “I am always surprised and occasionally I capture that amazing moment, but it is not often I capture one as beautiful as this. I can imagine the eerie quiet of the foggy woodland and then these two birds suddenly flutter into the scene.
“We would all be pleased with just the woodland shot, but to get these birds perfectly in the frame with their wings mirroring each other was incredible.”
Judge Mads Peter Iversen, a Danish landscape photographer with one million Instagram followers, said: “The wings of the birds have what I consider to be perfect blur for the situation.
“We get the motion of the wings, without losing the body of the birds. On top of that there’s a fantastic symmetry between the birds and their wings — it’s almost too perfect.”
Paul won a Nikon Z7ii camera and lens worth £3,500.
“I’ve been entering competitions since I took up photography, but I never thought one of the big ones would land on me. I’m over the Moon. It’s about the recognition for me more than anything,” he said.
The 42-year-old graduated from Ulster University with a degree in visual communications almost 20 years ago, but didn’t take up creative photography properly until 2010.
Last autumn he held a competition on social media in which he raffled off a large fine art print of what has now become his award-winning photograph. He created a JustGiving page for Brain Tumour Research in memory of Lynsey and the contest entrants made donations, eventually raising more than £1,700 for the charity.