by Dr Julie Smith
‘My day job is tackling domestic abuse. Getting out with my camera to photograph our night skies and wildlife really helps me decompress. I live on the edge of the best Dark Skies National Park in the country (Northumberland) and there’s nothing better than capturing its raw beauty as simply as possible. Being up on Hadrian’s Wall for night-time photography is a tonic for the soul. September is one of the best months for the Milky Way as it appears vertically in the sky. The location was up on Walltown Crags, close to the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail. Sadly one of those trees was damaged in a storm just a few years ago so it’s bitter sweet that they no longer ‘dance’ like they used to. This memory of them is preserved in my photograph.’
“Dancing Trees” was taken with a Nikon D3300 on a tripod with a Tokina 11-16mm lens F2.8, 16mm, ISO 6400, exposure 10 seconds.
‘I went to school in Newcastle followed by seven years away at Coventry University. I came back to the North East in 1997 and for the last 12 years I’ve been working to tackle domestic abuse. It’s an incredibly rewarding but difficult job so my hobbies are a great way to unwind and re-charge. My photography experience started in 2016 when my husband bought me my first DSLR. Living right on the end of the National Park, I desperately wanted to photograph the Northern Lights and the night sky and so had to learn how to use the camera in full manual mode and in the pitch black. My Dancing Trees photo was taken with that first DSLR (Nikon 3300) and is still one of my favourites.’
On winning the award she added: “Getting the news that I’d won has quite honestly stunned me, especially given the high standard of the competition. To even be shortlisted exceeded all my expectations, but to win has blown me away and it’s a very humbling feeling. Seeing my photo framed and hung on the wall next to all the other shortlisted entries in the prestigious Biscuit Factory gallery gave me a real sense of pride and appreciation for everything that’s captivating about our region. Those of us behind the lens aim to elicit an emotion in our images and to have achieved that with my entry is deeply appreciated. It’s certainly given me a boost in confidence that’s been lacking for a very long time.’
Instagram – julieandmichaelsmith