We chat to Neil Burnell, winner of our #WexMondays competition and Wex Photographer of the Year 2016
Week 32, Winner. All images by Neil Burnell
Neil Burnell doesn't always win competitions, but when he does, he does it early.
This year's #WexMondays winner was a frequent fixture in the weekly shortlists and amassed a healthy stack of points that saw him dominate the top of the leaderboard.
Our runner-up Tony Sellen didn't let it go without a fight, but eventually Neil was able to pull ahead far enough that he had the competition sewn up by the penultimate week.
Looking at his images, it's easy to see how he managed it. Neil's versatile shooting style and eye for a great landscape meant he was producing terrific images, week after week, and he honed a minimalist style of composition that was both striking and distinctive, becoming a firm favourite with the judges.
For his victory, Neil has won himself £1500-worth of Wex vouchers as well as the title of Wex Photographer of the Year 2016. We caught up with him to chat a little more about the competition and his victory...
Week 40, Second Place
Wex Photographic: Congratulations on winning the competition, Neil! What was your reaction once it became apparent you’d done it?
Neil Burnell: “Massive relief! I really didn't expect to win, I've always had it in my mind that I would be caught by either Tony Sellen or Tom Lowe, so my first reaction was relief. After a few hours it sunk in and I felt very proud of what I had achieved.”
Week 25, First Place
WP: How do you approach the challenge of getting out and shooting every week?
NB: “I try and shoot every week anyway but I found the way I approached photography change as the weeks to rolled on. I would spend a lot of time during the week planning which locations to shoot. Most of the seascape locations wore places that I had been fishing in the past, and I knew that some of these locations would make great photo opportunities.”
WP: Which other competitors produce work that you particularly enjoy?
NB: “I enjoy viewing all types of photography – Verity Milligan’s and Rich Jones' mountainscapes, Mark Horton's and Matt Doogue's macro, Lee Acaster’s and Matthew Dartford’s landscapes and Dani Colston's conceptual imagery.”
WP: Is there an entry of yours from this year that you’re particularly proud of? NB: “I have to say ‘Galactic’! it was only the second time I've tried astrophotography and I was really proud of the end result, and it’s certainly something I will do more of in 2017.
Week 32, Winner
“I'm always reading tutorials and watching videos about various types of photography in my spare time. Before I first tried astrophotography, I downloaded a tutorial by Mikko Lagerstedt, whose work I greatly admire. After taking in as much information as I possibly could, I headed out to give it a try.”
Week 37, Second Place
WP: You’ve developed a minimalist style in many of your entries that’s practically become your trademark – how have you honed and developed this?
NB: “It’s a look I’ve always admired and one I find very stylish. I particularly like minimalism in either mono or muted colour, and I’m inspired by Rohan Reilly, Vulture Labs and Bruce Percy to name a few.”
“I like most of my images to have plenty of space around the subject with little clutter, especially when considering minimalist shots. I prefer simple subjects which I can isolate easily, and I also prefer cloudy, overcast, misty or foggy conditions to help isolate subjects. These conditions can also help to minimise reflections on the water, which can often be a distracting element in an image.”
Week 29, Winner
WP: You often produce images in very different styles week-to-week. How do you approach this?
NB: “I tend to choose a type of photography each week, which then dictates the style of image. Obviously weather conditions also pay a big part in choosing what subjects and style I shoot from week to week.”
Week 50, Third Place
WP: What camera gear do you use?
NB: “For landscapes I use a Nikon D810 with a couple of lenses: a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8, Nikon 35mm f/1.8. For infrared I use a D7000 paired with a 16-85mm lens, while for macro I use a D7200 and a Tamron 60mm f/2.”
Final Week, Third Place
WP: What advice would you have for someone entering the competition for the first time in 2017?
NB: “Simply get involved and enjoy it! It's a great way to view brilliant photography every week which in turn should inspire any new participant to improve their own photography, I know that’s what it did for me.”
Week 43, Third Place
WP: And lastly… will you be entering in 2017?
NB: “I have such an enjoyable first year entering #WexMondays and became part of a great community of photographers. For this reason I will definitely be entering in 2017, and I hope to meet more great photographers and view many more great photographs every week.”
Week 38, Third Place
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About the Photographer
Neil Burnell is a graphic designer and self-taught photographer from south-west England. He enjoys all types of photography but his main passion is in Landscape photography. Neil has pretty much always owned a camera since college (more than 20 years) but it’s only in the last 2-3 years that he has started to take his hobby a little more seriously. His website is neilburnell.com and he tweets under @njburnell