Squirrel snap wins wildlife photo contest

Newcastle photographer Jimmy McDonnell has taken the top prize in a wildlife photography contest.

is stunning image of a red squirrel was chosen as the overall winner in the RTÉ Eye On Nature wildlife photography competition.

RTÉ and the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland with the Office of Public Works launched this year’s competition in January 2022 on ‘Mooney Goes Wild’ on RTÉ Radio 1 and ‘Today’ on RTÉ One. RTÉ Presenter Derek Mooney announced the winner at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin during the ‘Today’ show.

All 12 finalists in the competition gathered at the National Botanic Gardens where they got to see their large-scale images displayed. Throughout the ‘Today’ show on RTÉ One, Derek spoke with each finalist about their image and how they captured it.

The competition celebrates the flora and fauna of the island of Ireland and received more than 3,000 entries.

The judging panel were Dr Matthew Jebb (Director of the National Botanic Gardens), Anne Sommerfield (award-winning filmmaker) and Mike Brown (award-winning wildlife photographer.)

The judges narrowed 100 photos down to the final 12 images before selecting the overall winning image. All these photographs represent the rich natural heritage that Ireland has to offer, showcasing the island’s rich and varied biodiversity.

After a difficult selection process, the judges selected Jimmy’s image as the overall winner as “it is the perfect combination of art and technique. Technically it is very well taken but has an artistic feel to it. Almost a painterly quality.”

Dr Jebb said “It’s the pose. There is a lot of character in that squirrel, and the beautiful colours, It’s sharp, it’s well composed. it’s got everything that a good photo needs.”

After he was announced as the winning photographer, Jimmy McDonnell said: “I’m delighted. I’ve had a wonderful day and it’s been fantastic chatting to all of the other photographers. I’m just over the moon. It’s the first competition I’ve ever entered so I’m thrilled to bits.”

Jimmy continued to tell Derek that he took his image “in a woodland close to home, on a cool April morning and I really have to thank the red squirrel for striking that pose because it’s all about the pose and the lovely light in the background.” “

Jimmy was presented with the RTÉ Eye on Nature trophy and a prize of €1,000 for winning the competition.

An online gallery featuring the 12 finalists’ photographs along with a further eight runner-up images is available at rte.ie/eyeonnature. A photo of a damselfly taken at the National Botanic Gardens in Kilmacurragh by Robbie O’Leary is among the runner-images.

The 12 finalists’ images will be displayed in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin until June 5. The exhibition will then move to Dublin Castle, where along with all 12 of this year’s final images, the final 12 images in the 2021 competition will also be displayed.

In the coming months, the exhibition will travel to other Office of Public Works sites across the country including Portumna Castle and Athenry Castle.

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