A kissing couple at a bonfire site at Ballymacash last year was just one of the snaps that helped Star freelance photographer Cliff Donaldson pick up a prestigious title in the Northern Ireland Press Photographers Awards (NIPPA).
Cliff was named Provincial Press Photographer of the Year at the event held at Ten Square in Belfast on Tuesday night. He also took second place in the news category for his image of a man taking a selfie at police lines in Ardoyne last summer.
His winning portfolio also included shots of a field full of tractors on the Hill Hall Road, a picture of footballer Kyle Laverty who scored against Hungary in a recent Euro match as well as a picture of the lead singer of the Vamps.
Cliff said that he was surprised at winning anything at the event and was ill prepared when the judges finally made the announcement.
“I was sitting after the meal enjoying a cup of tea and had my ear to the ground because I was keen to hear who won the Provincial Photographer of the Year - not ever thinking that it would be me,” he said. “I never believed I would win anything, I can honestly say I was so unprepared when the announcement was made.
“The good thing about the Northern Ireland Press Photopgrapher awards is that anyone has a chance to win. It could be someone who has just started as a press photographer or someone who has many years behind them.
“I was genuinely shocked,” said Cliff. “I’m not just saying that now but I really did not expect to win anything. I never expected my name to be called out.”
Keen to tell his nearest and dearest, Cliff texted his wife who was at home with their young son with the good news. He texted her and even sent her a picture of his prized trophy that had his name engraved.
“I was competing against a lot of really good photographers,” he said.
Cliff explained, “When you take a picture, you don’t have alot of time - you take the picture and you never think the picture could end up winning you an award. Its only afterwards when you have time to look at it again you might think it has potential.
“When I went to the bonfire site at Ballymacash I thought I was just going to take a picture of the sheer size of the bonfire. I had seen a couple having a snog close to the bonfire and I thought I must capture this as it would make quite a nice picture. I looked at it afterwards and was pleased with the results. Often pictures that are unplanned and unexpected are the best ones”
“What I like about the NIPPA award ceremony is that it highlights the importance of weekly local newspapers.”