A teenager’s image of a bird munching on an insect has been recognised at a prestigious competition for budding wildlife photographers.

James Pearson’s snap of a whitethroat bird blew the judges away at the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2023 and won him the 16 to 18 category.

The 17-year-old’s stunning photo was titled “Honourable Exception”.

“I was out one evening hoping to photograph some barn owls, however as the sun began to set I turned my attention to a pair of whitethroats,” said James, from Lewes.

“It became clear that they had a nest nearby as they kept returning to the same bush with a beak full of insects, so I positioned myself so the last few rays of sunlight perfectly illuminated the area.

“The dead trees in the background provided some lovely soft bokeh [out of focus background] and the low angle meant I could use the grass stems for foreground to provide a shallower depth of field.”


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James said it is important to learn about animals.

“We need to learn about how to protect them and negate the unfair stereotypes regarding certain species,” he said.

The Argus: Pet portraits winner - Curious George by Jamie Smart Pet portraits winner - Curious George by Jamie Smart (Image: RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2023)

Every year, the RSPCA Young Photographer Awards invites people aged 18 and under to capture the animal kingdom on a camera or a mobile device. Winners were announced at an award ceremony at the Tower of London which was hosted by TV presenter and RSPCA president Chris Packham.

This year’s awards were judged by a panel of experts, including Chris Packham, wildlife photographer Rachel Bigsby, former competition winner-turned-professional photographer Catriona Parfitt, professional wildlife photographer and photographic guide Ellie Rothnie and RSPCA photographers Andrew Forsyth and Emma Jacobs.

The Argus: Pet personalities winner - Not guilty by Jamie Smart Pet personalities winner - Not guilty by Jamie Smart (Image: RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2023)

“Seeing children and young people express their connection to the natural world through these photographs is always so heartening to see and this year I was blown away by how many superb photographs we received for the competition,” said Chris Packham.

“I hope everyone who entered continues with their love of animals and photography and they should all be proud of their achievements.”

Winners in each category were awarded trophies and a selection of prizes.

The RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2024 opens for entry in May and the charity hopes it will be an even bigger and better competition to coincide with the RSPCA’s 200th anniversary. The RSPCA will be celebrating two centuries as the world’s oldest and largest animal charity.