I feel so privileged that for the second year in a row I have had an image shortlisted in Landscape Photographer of the Year competition with my image 'Serenity in the Snow'.
Next to me, as I write, is a shelf full of the previous volumes of the Landscape Photographer of the Year books, and for me to even be considered amongst them is an achievement that I thought I could only dream of a few years ago.
With a reported 20,000+ images passing before the judge's eyes in the competition, I realise how lucky I have been to have had pictures published the book in both the years I have entered, especially when I see the quality of photos that did not make it from some extremely talented photographers.
What is particularly special for me this time is the location of the image. I live in Tamworth, in the centre of the country; there are no mountains here, it's over two hours to the sea and I must admit to occasionally grumbling about the amount of photogenic locations in the area. To thus have an image do so well that is only a 10 minute drive from my house just goes to show that as a landscape photographer, you don't need to live in Snowdonia, Scotland or the Lake District and that there are many opportunities on the doorstep.
Regarding the image itself: You may recognise it, as it stands prominently on a hillside alongside the M42 on farmland near Tamworth. I had taken a few shots of it in the past, but had long wanted to take a photograph of it in winter. This December the conditions were just right for the image, I drove as far as I dared before the car started slipping and sliding and walked the rest of the way to the tree.
The scene was just as I wanted - with a white snow-filled sky and elements of the ploughed field poking out above the shroud of snow. I captured some wonderful pictures full of contrast, but as I was cleaning my lens (the snow was still coming down heavily) a gull swooped into the shot. I quickly removed my hand and fired off a few shots. When I looked back, I smiled. The position of the bird was perfect and helped capture the peace and tranquillity of the scene - a peace that was strangely surreal. Normally the sounds of cars and lorries on the nearby motorway would feature prominently, but at this rare moment, the motorway was empty and silent.