Picture perfect! Winning mountain hare image takes RSPCA youth photo award

Picture perfect! Winning mountain hare image takes RSPCA youth photo award

An image of a mountain hare at sunset has won the overall top spot in the prestigious RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2022. 

The striking winning photo was taken by 17-year-old Ben Harrott from Oldham, Greater Manchester, after being singled out from more than 4,000 entries this year. Judges were impressed by Ben's ability to capture this rare encounter with such a shy animal as well as the bravery of the near-abstract composition.

Every year, the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards invites youngsters aged 18 years and under to capture the animal kingdom on a camera or a mobile device.

As well as being named this year's Awards' 'Overall Winner', Ben's hare photo won the '16-18' age group category. 

Winner Ben said:

I'm so happy that the judges liked my photo of a mountain hare so much. 

Winter at my local moorland is often cold and this particular day was freezing! The winter sun was out which didn't help at all and after walking for hours I finally spotted this mountain hare. After an hour of steady approach, I was the closest I'd ever been to a mountain hare. The sun was setting and the mountain hare was fully relaxed in my presence, so I was able to photograph this individual up close as the sun was going down.

It's the second year Ben has won an award in the RSPCA's annual photo competition for young people. In the 2021 awards, he was runner-up in the Portfolio category for his series of fantastic images of red foxes. 

The judges were impressed by Ben's persistence and field craft in capturing this moment with such a notoriously skittish subject and then taking such a skilled picture, with an almost abstract composition. 

The image also highlights the issue of climate change. Mountain hares live at higher altitudes and are camouflaged with a white winter coat for hiding against the snow (though the low winter sun gave this hare's white fur a golden appearance), but warmer winters and little snow means it is harder for them to hide. This hare was attempting to hide as best it could.

Other prize winners included Lily Logan from Beverley, East Riding in Yorkshire, who was a runner-up in the 12-15 mobile category with her portrait of Angus the cat; Thomas Easterbrook, from Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, whose image of an orange tip butterfly was commended in the Small World category and Demmi Havenhand from Bedlington, Northumberland for ‘Baby Face', her portrait of puppy Carrie, which won the Pet Personalities category.

This year's awards were judged online by a panel of experts in wildlife photography, including wildlife photographer, TV presenter and RSPCA vice president Chris Packham; wildlife photographer Rachel Bigsby (a new judge for this year), former competition winner-turned-professional photographer Catriona Parfitt; professional wildlife photographer and photographic guide Ellie Rothnie; and RSPCA photographers Andrew Forsyth and Emma Jacobs.

Sponsors of the competition are Natures Images (wildlife photography holidays), Camtraptions (camera traps for wildlife photography) and Wildlifephoto.com (resources for nature photographers).

Judge and awards host, Chris Packham said:

This year's contest was difficult to judge as we received so many superb photographs, however, Ben Harrott's stunning picture of a mountain hare really stood out. Ben's a really worthy winner. 

We've seen a fantastic array of animals featured in this year's competition. Every year I'm impressed by the level and skill in the photographs that are submitted. This year's entries were magnificent - top work everyone!

The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards is a real celebration of animals and the natural world and I love taking part every year. I hope everyone who entered continues with their love of animals and photography and they should all be proud of their achievements.

This year, there were ten categories:

  1. Under 12 (taken with a camera)
  2. 12–15 years (taken with a camera)
  3. 16–18 years (taken with a camera)
  4. Under 12 (taken on a mobile/device)
  5. 12–15 years (taken on a mobile/device)
  6. 16–18 years (taken on a mobile/device)
  7. Pet Personalities
  8. Pet Portraits
  9. Small World 
  10. Portfolio

The winning images were announced during an awards ceremony hosted by Chris Packham on Thursday, 15 December 2022 at the Tower of London. The 'overall winner' - Ben Harrot - was chosen from the ten category winners by the judges.

Winners in each category were awarded trophies and a selection of prizes and as the Overall Winner, Ben Harrott receives a weekend photography 'Deer Rut Special' break with award-winning wildlife photographer Danny Green's team at Natures Images. This fabulous prize includes two nights' accommodation for the winner and a parent/guardian. 

In addition, the judges will shortlist a maximum of 15 images from the Mobile Phone and Devices; Pet Personalities and Pet Portraits categories that will then be put to the public vote for the People's Choice Award in the spring of 2023.   

View the full gallery of the winning images for 2022.