A fellow of the British Institute of Professional Photography who shoots all over the world for National Geographic, Nigel Hicks, has been announced as the official judge for this year’s South West Coast Path photo competition.

Based in South Devon, his latest project is much closer to home, having recently published a stunning collection of work from the region in ‘Wild Southwest’.

Nigel says of the Coast Path: “The huge amount of work I’ve done overseas has taught me just how valuable our South West Coast Path is. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been prevented from accessing coastlines overseas by closed private property, my reaction to which usually varies somewhere between bewilderment and righteous indignation. By contrast, the Coast Path embodies a deeply held democratic principle that everyone, no matter how rich or poor, how famous or obscure, can wander at will along almost every piece of our coast. Not only is the coast itself priceless but so is this principle.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Coast Path is one of the world’s great hiking trails, not just one of the UK’s. Though some sections offer gentle walks, much of the terrain is surprisingly rugged and challenging even for a seasoned hiker, and along practically every yard of its 630-mile trail, dramatic and incredibly beautiful vistas continually unfold. This is one of Britain’s wildest natural frontiers, quite a surprise to many people on such a crowded island.

“Whilst it’s true that the great majority of both visitors to the South West and the region’s residents don’t walk vast stretches of the Coast Path, I’m sure it’s also true that the great majority do walk at least small fragments of it, making the Path quite central to the region’s tourist – and hence its principal – economy, enabling large numbers of people to get close to and enjoy the region’s principal attraction – its coastline.”

The South West Coast Path’s annual photo competition closes on 1 December 2017 and is open to budding photographers of all ages and abilities; prizes include a £250 voucher to spend at Cotswold Outdoor for the overall winner and a place on any of Nigel Hicks’ one-day photography workshops in the South West, plus a signed copy of his book. All calendar winning entries will receive membership of the South West Coast Path Association, a Cicerone guidebook, as well as the chance to grace the official 2018 Coast Path calendar.

For more information about the South West Coast Path Association visit

Photographing the Exmoor Coast

Here are some of Nigel Hicks’ top tips for taking great photographs on the Exmoor coast:

Exmoor offers some of England’s most dramatic and stunning coastline, so it’s no wonder that everyone wants to get the best possible photos of the landscapes and seascapes. Of course, great photography on Exmoor’s coast follows essentially the same golden photography rules as anywhere else, but there are a few issues specific to this coastline. Paramount among these is the fact that the great majority of Exmoor’s coast faces north, and so for much of the year the cliffs have no sunshine directly on them.

So, with that little conundrum in mind, here are my top tips for Exmoor coastal photography:

  1. Generally speaking, shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening, times when the sun is low, giving good shadows and bathing the landscape in a golden light. That said, in mid-winter there’s no need to stick rigidly with this rule as you’ll get this kind of light all day long (if there’s any sunlight at all!).
  2. When photographing coastal cliffs try to choose those sections that face east or west (rather than north-facing cliffs) and which, as a result, receive sunlight at least for a few hours of the day. If you’re shooting a west-facing cliff, photograph it in the afternoon/evening. Photograph in the morning if you’re looking at an east-facing cliff.
  3. Keep your compositions simple and containing a single strong subject that dominates (but doesn’t necessarily fill) the image frame. Most people try to cram too many elements into their photos, with the result that they look cluttered and lack any impact. Shoot those scenes that contain a strong subject, make that the main subject of your image frame and then try to compose it in such a way that the rest of the frame is free of clutter and distractions. Easier said than done, but this is the crux of great photography.
  4. When photographing a view in which you have to have some foreground visible, make sure it’s an interesting foreground; not just dull, rough grassland or tangled brown brambles or bracken, which will distract from the final photo. Select your viewpoint carefully so that your foreground contains something interesting, such as an angular rock that points towards your subject further into the frame, or a meandering stream or track, again ‘leading the way’ towards your subject.
  5. If photographing at dawn, dusk or on a very dull day when light levels are low, put the camera on a tripod, and let the camera use a long exposure. It is very hard to hold a camera still enough to get a sharp, high-quality image in these conditions, so don’t even bother trying!

Sticking to these golden rules will help you generate some great photos of Exmoor’s coast, so this coming autumn and winter get out there with the camera and get shooting!

To see some of Nigel’s work, pick up a copy of Wild Southwest, his latest book about the landscapes and wildlife of South West England. It is available through all good bookshops and online at both Amazon and at