Mara Leite, Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021

Every year we catch up with the winners of the LPOTY to find out a little more about them and their winning image. Here we chat to Mara Leite, winner of the 2021 Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.
Mara Leite and Charlie Waite 2021
Nov 21

Huge congratulations Mara on winning the 2021 Awards with Morning at Countryside. Let's go back in time a little, when did you discover photography?

Thank you so much! Photography has always been a hobby for me; I never imagined turning it into a career. It was a pleasant surprise! Growing up, I was a curious and creative child. I was passionate about arts and natural sciences. It was hard to choose between the two in school. I decided to pursue a biology degree but always knew that I would stick to a form of art in parallel to keep feeding my creativity.

My mother is also very artistic. I grew up with film, disposable and point-in-shot cameras around the house. It was a fun and encouraging environment! In 2013, I bought my first DSLR. After years of living in Portugal, I had moved back to Seattle and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest scenery. I spent the following years photographing the region, learning photography on my own, and developing post-processing skills.

WINNER Mara Leite 42982

Which camera do you use?

My first DSLR was a Canon 6D, which I later upgraded. Currently, my primary camera is a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Where’s your favourite place to photograph?

It has to be the Pacific Northwest. Its waterfalls, forests, and mountain-scapes are stunning. It also has some lesser-known delights, such as the daffodil, tulip, and lavender festivals. I learned landscape photography in the PNW, so this part of the globe will always have a special place in my heart. Here in the UK, I really enjoy Dorset; it has a lot of magical places worth visiting any time of the year!


What’s your favourite image of yours?

All the images have a story and evoke different emotions, so choosing a favourite photograph is quite a challenge for me. At the moment, my preferred is probably a photo of the core of the Milky Way rising above a hydrothermal spring in Yellowstone National Park. "Humble Beginnings" was taken last year and includes everything I am passionate about, from astrophotography to biology and extreme environments.

Tell us about the day you photographed your winning image in Halnaker.

Since I moved to the UK, Mill Lane has been on top of my photography list. When Autumn arrived, I started monitoring the leaves' colour through social media. Once I saw they were beginning to turn yellow, I decided to head there. I had in mind to capture the tunnel during golden hour. Planning is critical in photography; I checked the weather forecast beforehand. The conditions were perfect that morning, and I walked to the entrance a little after sunrise.

I photographed it for a couple of hours as the light changed and hit different parts of the Halnaker tree tunnel. I also looked for different and lesser photographed angles. While I walked back and forward, I saw this composition with the gate at the end. It felt like an entrance to another world. It was a beautiful, peaceful morning with occasional smiles and small talks from locals on their morning walks, and that's the feeling I tried to emulate with this photograph.

Where is next on your list of places to visit to photograph?

I love traveling! I enjoy exploring new cities and photographing local architecture and scenery. I recently visited Iceland for the first time, and now I'm eager to go back. I always avoided repeating locations in such a short period, but I completely fell in love with this country's natural beauty. The Land of Fire and Ice offers an incredible variety of landscapes. I will go back to Iceland this winter to photograph some of its iconic locations covered in snow. I would also love to visit Japan and immerse myself in Japanese culture. In the UK, I’ve been enthusiastically planning my first visit to Snowdonia National Park.

Waterfll PNW

Huge congratulations to Mara! Mara was awarded a £10,000 prize and her photograph is included the LPOTY Collection 14 book, as well as on display in the LPOTY exhibition around the UK in partnership with Network Rail. Follow Mara on Instagram

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