South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year 2021

Christian Coan, a photographer from South-East England has been named the South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year 2021 for a beautiful image of Godrevy Lighthouse captured through a natural rock frame with rockpools reflecting the pink hue of dusk in West Cornwall. 

Photo caption: Rocks and Light at Godrevy Lighthouse, West Cornwall.
Taken by Christian Coan (South West Coast Path Photographer of the Year 2021)

The winning photograph, taken from the beach, beat tough competition from over 1,200 entries across the south west region. 

Judging the competition was critically acclaimed seascape photographer Rachael Talibart. On the winning photo Rachael said:

“This was actually a very easy choice – it is clearly the most interesting and well handled photograph. It fits the brief of finding a ‘different viewpoint’. Technically, the photo is well-achieved, and the processing is carefully handled so that it doesn’t detract from the impression of the image overall. This image rewards a lingering gaze – the composition draws my eyes to Godrevy lighthouse in the distance but then, after appreciating that, my eyes can get lost in all the wonderful detail of the rocks and pool in the foreground.”

We caught up with Christian to find out a little more about him and his winning image.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Growing up and living in the South East of England on a farm, I’ve always had an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Strangely, my day job is spent at a desk and so any spare time I get I will pick up my camera and get outside, even if it’s just going on a local walk. 

Photography has always been a hobby that I have enjoyed but it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I decided that I wanted to learn more and take that hobby a bit more seriously. Spending time watching the likes of Thomas Heaton, Nigel Danson and Simon Baxter on YouTube not only helped me improve my photography but also gave me a much bigger appreciation just how difficult it is to get a well balanced photograph. The online resource they provide is priceless and I really do want to show my appreciation for what those guys do for the community.

How does it feel to win?

I am extremely humbled to have been selected as the winner of the competition. I’ve had a deep admiration for Rachael’s work since I discovered it in 2019 and so to be selected by her is just amazing!

Can you tell us how you captured the winning photo?

My wife and I had travelled down to Cornwall for a week’s holiday with my parents for my mum’s 50th birthday. It was the beginning of September 2021 and I had already pencilled in a morning of photography. As I had visited Godrevy every year for the last 18 years, it was somewhere I wanted to photograph properly. I already had a number of areas I knew I wanted to explore with the camera. Having checked the tide times and the weather and arriving on location pre blue hour, I had plenty of time to wander the beach to find the best position.

The composition for the winning photograph, in all honesty, was a lucky spot. The little rock pool leading to the lighthouse was tucked away in a network of paths carved by the incoming tides, and happened to catch my eye as I wandered through them. As I had elements of the scene that were very close as well as elements that were in the distance, I decided to focus stack three images to achieve sharpness front to back. The conditions were perfect with a pinkish hue lighting the sky and reflecting in the rock pool below. The image still remains one of, if not my favourite image I have taken in the last 3 years. 

What do you like to photograph the most?

Spending a lot of my spare time outdoors, I really love to shoot traditional landscapes. Whether that be up a mountain, by the coast or in a woodland, I just love breathing in the fresh air and drinking a coffee somewhere beautiful.

The theme for this year’s competition was ‘exploration’ – what does exploration mean to you? 

Without my desire to explore, I wouldn’t be writing answers to these questions. Exploration is such an important part of life, taking a wrong turn will often lead to discovering areas that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken a second glance at. For photography, exploration is a crucial part of achieving unique compositions which others may have walked past.

What does the Coast Path mean to you?

Going on holiday with my parents each year down in Cornwall, my dad and I have walked a significant chunk of the South West Coast Path. Each year we would choose a section and spend a day walking it. Each time I visit Cornwall, all of those memories come flooding back. We are so lucky to have such a beautiful coastline in the UK.

The work that the South West Coast Path Association are doing is fantastic and will allow future generations to enjoy it just as much I have.

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