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The winners of the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year (ILPOTY) competition have been announced. And there are some incredible photos among the top 238 shots (we’ll explain the number in a second) so let’s dive in. 

About the competition

The ILPOTY is in its eighth year. From the 4,504 entries, the top 101 are chosen to be featured in an associated photobook. With a prize pool worth $18,000, it’s a big competition to win. 

To decide the winners, every photo is scored out of 100 by five judges. This year, to be included in the book, a photo had to get 85.2% or higher. However, there were an additional 137 photos that scored above 84% and, since space isn’t really an issue online, they’ve been included in the expanded gallery

The title of International Landscape Photographer of the Year (and the top prize of $5,000) is given to the photographer with the highest average score from the portfolio of their top four photographs in the competition. 

There are also awards for Photograph of the Year ($2,000), and five Special Awards:

  • The Monochrome Award.
  • The Amazing Aerial Award.
  • The Snow and Ice Award.
  • The Night Sky Award.
  • The Hand of Man (Urban Environment) Award.

An expansive take on landscapes

Max Rive came in second place in the 2021 International Photographer of the Year.
Max Rive took second place in the 2021 International Photographer of the Year Awards. © Max Rive/International landscape photographer of the Year

For a competition with “landscape” in the name, the ILPOTY uses an incredibly loose definition. In the terms and conditions, “no restrictions” are placed on post-production or photographic techniques used. 

Similarly, in the results announcement Peter Eastway, the Chairman of the Judges, declared:

Our philosophy is that all approaches to landscape photography are valid. It is not up to us to say whether an image is a landscape or not. As a result, in the 2021 International Landscape Photographer of the Year awards, you will see exponents of many different styles presenting their rare and carefully considered compositions. Some of the landscapes are straight out of camera, others are from the photographer’s imagination.

I find it quite compelling that what drives one landscape photographer can be so different to another. For some, the capture of nature at its most wonderful is reward enough. In fact, these are the moments photographers live for and being out in the landscape is often as enjoyable as shooting it with a camera.

However, the history of landscape art is much broader than merely creating a record of nature. It is interpretive, imaginative and inspirational. Other photographers take their captures and re-map the tonality; some take several captures to produce a landscape of the mind.

I’m not sure I 100% agree with everything he is saying, but it’s undeniable that the top shots are visually stunning. 

The International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Aytek Çetin won International Photographer of the Year for 2021.
© Aytek Çetin/International landscape Photographer of the Year 2021

Turkish photographer Aytek Çetin won the top prize for his series shot in Cappadocia. The “fairy chimneys” look like something from a sci-fi film. 

A landscape photo by Max Rive
© Max Rive/International landscape photographer of the Year

Max Rive from the Netherlands took second place for his portfolio. I’ve actually followed Rive on Instagram for years and am a huge fan of his work, so I’m delighted to see it recognized in a competition like this. 

A landscape photo by Andrea Zappia
© Andrea Zappia/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

And Andrea Zappia from Italy took third place. I particularly love his shot of the mountain refuge overlook the glacial moraine. 

International Landscape Photograph of the Year

A landscape photo by Tanmay Sapkal
© Tanmay Sapkal/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Tanmay Sapkal from the USA won the Landscape Photograph of the Year for his shot of comet NeoWise in the Marin Headlands. 

A landscape photo by Cédric Tamani
© Cédric Tamani/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Cédric Tamani from Switzerland took second place. The image looks like something from a Wes Anderson movie.

A landscape photo by Ben Goode
© Ben Goode/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

And Ben Goode from Australia took third place. (That cloud is so perfect).

Special Awards

A landscape photo by Heiner Machalet
© Heiner Machalet/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Heiner Machalett from Germany won the Monochrome Award.

A landscape photo by Chris Byrne
© Chris Byrne/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Chris Byrne from the USA won the Amazing Aerial Award.

A landscape photo by Mimmo Salierno
© Mimmo Salierno/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Mimmo Salierno from Italy won the Snow & Ice Award.

A landscape photo by Hans Gunnar Aslaksen
© Hans Gunnar Aslaksen/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

Hans Gunnar Aslaksen from Norway won the Night Sky Award.

A landscape photo by Chris Kirby
© Chris Kirby/International Landscape Photographer of the Year

And Chris Kirby from Australia won the Hand of Man Award.

How to enter next year’s competition

The 2022 competition hasn’t been announced yet, but, if it’s anything like last year’s, the deadline for submission will be some time in November. All shots will need to have been taken after 1 January 2020. Each entry will cost $25 and every fifth one is free. To win the top prize, you’ll need to enter at least four images. 

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