Back in May, I returned from a largely unsuccessful trip to the Lake District to find one of the young foxes that had recently been inhabiting the garden, and been photographically frustrating subjects at times, sitting nonchalantly on our decking as if waiting for me to return. Thoughts of yet another ginger hindquarter disappearing into the shrubbery image crossed my mind as I slowly picked up my camera, battery almost dead, and really pushing my luck, lowered myself to the floor as slowly as my far from flexible joints would allow. 

Uncomfortably in position I looked up, quite expecting to see decking devoid of fox, and was greeted by quite the opposite. My new favourite orange mammal was still front and center staring directly at me, mid scratch, looking somewhat perplexed at my antics. 

Fast forward a week or so and there were a few posts on Instagram touting the Quilter Cheviot Capturing the Moment photography competition. Hmmmm, capturing the moment? For once I had something I was quite proud of that fitted a competition brief, so promptly posted the image of my little waiting fox, with the relevant tags and thought no more of it.

To say that I was surprised when I was contacted in July saying I was one of the 24 finalists would be an understatement. Don’t misunderstand me, I realised it wasn’t Landscape Photographer of the Year or the highly esteemed Countryfile calendar but I was well pleased none the less, and the main prize of a trip to Peru was nothing to be sneered at either.

Also, as the investment company running the competition are also the main sponsor of the BBC Countryfile Live show at both Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, and Castle Howard, Yorkshire, the finalists images would be displayed to the public at both locations. The finalists were also invited to attend as guests of Quilter Cheviot.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when my wife and I spent a day at Blenheim Palace last weekend having never really given the Countryfile Live show a second thought but it was a really enjoyable day out. Quite surprised how big it was, like the Goodwood Festival of Speed but more organic, although still the smell of petrol in the air from the timber sports stage where competitors were doing log cutting stuff with chainsaws. Who knew that was a sport.

Needing a break from the many many food stalls, there’s only so much small cubes of stuff I can eat before lunchtime, we headed off to find the photo display. What I hadn’t realised was there were three displays, two under cover gallery areas with the A3 size prints mounted and framed and an external display with much larger unframed prints on display. A little overwhelming but pretty cool nonetheless. 

Alongside the prize awarded by the judges there is also a prize based on a public vote, this I was aware of, I had subtly mentioned it on social media with an appropriate link (loose use of the word subtle), but I wasn’t prepared for the sight of lots of people wandering around the prints with clipboards casting their vote. There are some very strong images amongst the 24 and if I’m honest, there were at least two I’d have voted for before mine. That said, I did overhear some nice comments about my entry which was pleasing. I tried to keep a distance after that in fear of overhearing something that would gnaw at me for ages. 

My wife, Emma, on the other hand had seen my need of a temporary publicist and promptly appointed herself to the role. A couple of ‘would you like to meet the photographer’ moments later I felt lunch and beer was in order so we left the gallery with Emma pleased with her part in my uncomfortable squirming.

All in all, it was a good day out and as uncomfortable as I felt at times, I was really quite proud of myself. I can honestly say I don’t really care if I win anything, at the time of writing the show at Castle Howard is next weekend, and I’m not sure of the judging timelines, I’m just happy to have been a part of it.