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Caithness photographer James Gunn shortlisted in Scottish Press Awards

By Alan Hendry

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CAITHNESS freelance photographer James Gunn could be in line for another accolade.

He is shortlisted in the sports photographer of the year category of Scottish Press Awards, having submitted five pictures that were published in the Caithness Courier last year.

They were taken at the multi-sport European Championships in Glasgow in August and the Highland Surf Festival at Thurso in October.

The awards will be presented in Glasgow on April 25. It is the fifth time James has been nominated, and he was runner-up in 2010.

Earlier this year James scooped the prize for top shot of the year at the annual Highlands and Islands Media Awards. His photography appears regularly in the Groat and Courier, notably action shots from local rugby and football matches.

Organisers have announced a record number of entries for what will be the 40th Scottish Press Awards.

Austin Lafferty, chair of the judges for the Scottish Press Awards, said: “For any person living in Scotland, the tides of politics, social engagement, crime, technology, sport and anything else we’re involved in seem to be ready to overwhelm us all the time.

"Just as well it is that we rejoice in a press and media cohort of the finest ability. Where would we be without the reporters and commentators to make sense of the world, taming its confusion and teasing out its consequences?

"The Scottish Press Awards is something of a feast for the judges – a wealth of the finest writing anywhere, but just happening to be made in Scotland."

The awards are sponsored by Clydesdale Bank, Law Society of Scotland, People’s Postcode Lottery, VisitScotland, Amazon, Johnnie Walker, Openreach, Scottish Water, SGN, BIG Partnership, Scottish Newspaper Society, DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central and Event Consultants Scotland.

Giving an insight into what it was like photographing the two events, James said: "When taking photos of the gymnastics at the European Championships in Glasgow, it was a bit daunting standing beside the full-time professional photographers as they are much more experienced than myself and they all knew each other.

"It was only my second time at gymnastics, the other time being the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the same venue – the SSE Hydro –and so it was quick learning curve on what the best position was for taking photos of each discipline. I often stood on my own and wondered if I made the right choice!

"Taking sports photos indoors is a whole new experience, but the lighting for the TV cameras made it easier than I expected. The biggest problem is getting the correct colour balance as all indoor lights give off different colour hues.

"The BMX cycling was surprisingly fast and exciting and it took a lot of concentration and wasted shots to get the effect I wanted. The technique of panning the camera as they whizz past is difficult to get right, but it is worth it.

"Getting the right conditions for a great surfing photo is quite rare and luckily Thurso East, with its excellent waves, is on my doorstep. Press photographers from the south rarely travel up and so my surfing photos tend to stand out among the other 'normal' sports photos of football and rugby."

Donna MacAllister, a reporter based in the Inverness newsroom of Scottish Provincial Press Media Group, has also been nominated.

She is shortlisted in the local/weekly reporter of the year section for a portfolio including an interview with a man who was knocked down by a drink-driver and left for dead; and a piece about a single mum and toddler who were temporarily homeless after a landlord changed the locks on their flat.

Meanwhile, the Inverness Courier is in contention for the campaign of the year title for a series of articles on alleged bullying at NHS Highland – a collection which won it the top story of the year title at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.

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