Photo of The Meadows in Edinburgh

Written by

Capturing our extraordinary Edinburgh

minutes reading time

The annual student photography competition winners showcase extraordinary images of the city.

Every year the University’s student photography competition attracts the talents of our international students and students who have had a study abroad or work away experience. The latest theme – Extraordinary Edinburgh – drew almost 300 entries with the winners of the final eight categories truly capturing our multifaceted capital.

Alison Sears – first prize

Alison’s home base is Atlantic Canada and she is studying public health at the University.

The winning entry, entitled Morning Sunlight, features commuters walking through the Meadows. It was “taken mid October on a crisp fall morning with a blanket of fog settled on the grass and the sun streaking through the trees” as Alison describes.

On winning the photography competition, Alison said: “I am on cloud nine; it was a great surprise!”

The photo received the following judge’s comment: “There’s great symmetry and composition in this picture and the light is lovely which conveys a sense of calmness. The inclusion of the people and cyclist silhouetted between the trees gives a sense of scale. There were quite a few entries that featured the Meadows, which shows just what an important space this is for students, but this image just had the edge.”

Photo looking over Edinburgh at twilight
Second prize winner by Junkai Zhang

Junkai Zhang – second prize

Junkai, A PhD student in engineering from Liaoning Province, China, took second prize.

The image shows Edinburgh’s recently opened St James’ Quarter retail and entertainment building, taken at twilight from the top of Calton Hill.

When asked about receiving an award, Junkai said: “I feel very excited to win the prize in this competition, which inspires me to take more beautiful and high-quality photos. I will continue to share the beautiful world with people through my camera in the future.”

The photo received the following judge’s comment: “A nicely timed shot from an unusual, elevated angle featuring the new St James’ Quarter. They’ve just caught the right time of day: the lights are on in the city but there is still some nice ambient light in the sky giving the overall image lovely orange and purple tones.”

Photo looking over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney at sunset
Abroad category winner by Daniel Planovsky

Daniel Planovsky – Abroad category prize

Daniel, who studies biological sciences at the University, is Slovakian but lived in Luxembourg from the age of five, and is winner of the Abroad category prize.

The image, which shows the Harbour Bridge surrounded by a sky of orange, was taken during Daniel’s exchange at the University of Sydney in Australia: “Sunset chasing with my exchange friends was a major part of my exchange experience, we sometimes used to plan our days according to what spot in the city we would be watching the sunset from. I happened to have my camera on one of these occasions and managed to capture the image.”

Daniel, who was “so surprised” and “really glad” to win a prize, received high praise in the judge’s comment: “Whether it’s sunrise or sunset, the colours in the sky have been captured perfectly and exposed well so as to silhouette the bridge and skyline.”

Photos of hills from George Square; the crowd as Queen Elizabeth's coffin leaves St Giles'; and the ceiling inside McEwan Hall
From left to right: The hills from George Square; the crowd as Queen Elizabeth’s coffin leaves St Giles’; and the ceiling inside McEwan Hall

Aleen Salman – People’s choice

Aleen, who is Pakistani but lived in Dubai for 12 years, is studying business management and won the People’s Choice award for a shot that highlights both urban architecture and green spaces: “Captured from 40 George Square. The Edinburgh city maze beckoning hills for an easy escape and temperamental skies.”

When asked how it felt to win this category, Aleen said: “So good! Thank you to everyone who voted.”

Rui Wang – People category prize

Born in Taiwan and raised in Beijing, Rui is a second-year film and television student at the University.

“Taken on 13 September 2022 this photograph captured the crowd gathered to watch Queen Elizabeth’s coffin leaving Saint Giles’ Cathedral,” Rui said. “This photograph is a reminder that the life we live in order to photograph mustn’t become a commemoration of itself.”

When asked how it felt to win a prize, Rui said: “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get any prize from the competition; but a small ego boost can never be bad.”

The photo received the following judge’s comment: “I like this shot because it makes you think of lots of questions? What is everyone in the scene looking at?  A nice record of a moment in history and very telling of the times with almost everyone in the scene holding a phone. It fits the brief for the People category perfectly.”

Rathanon Phattanakovit – Campus category prize

Rathanon, from Thailand, is studying for an MSc in Management and won the Campus category prize for a photo described as showing “the beautiful pattern of the motif and aesthetic sequence within shapes colours and textures around the corridor inside the McEwan Hall”.

“This photo inspires and boosts my energy. When you feel tired you will find beautiful things around you; head up and do your best,” said Rathanon, who was very grateful to win a prize “which gives me more passion to continue capturing all the memorable and beautiful moments further”.

The close-up detail was admired in the judge’s comment: “Nice asymmetric composition showing just a quarter of the interior of the McEwan Hall giving a nice abstract view of the University’s most iconic building. The exposure and focus is perfect.”

Photo showing a person crossing an Edinburgh street in the mist
City category winner by Elizaveta Belkina

Elizaveta Belkina – City category prize

Elizaveta, who won the City category prize with an image entitled “Ghost town”, is from Germany and studying biological sciences.

“I love the photo and I am really happy that I got to share it with others,” Elizaveta said on winning a prize. “I love to capture moments and I think that people make a city, so this photo, to me, really captures both.”

The photo received the following judge’s comment: “Lovely observed atmospheric moment of a man walking along Waverley Bridge in the haar. Even though the picture has been taken in colour it looks almost monochrome and is typical of one of those dreich days that many Edinburgh residents would be familiar with.”

Photo of Edinburgh at night showing the lasers in the sky from the military tattoo performance at the Castle
Principal’s choice category winner by Dominique Ferreira

Dominique dos Santos Ferreira – Principal’s choice

Winner of the Principal’s choice prize, Dominique is Portuguese, born and raised in Germany, and was visiting researcher in Comparative and European Private Law (LLM) at Edinburgh.

The photo was taken during a military tattoo performance on a summer’s evening in 2022 from the vantage point of the Salisbury Crags: “It is a great place to watch the fireworks. I took the picture because I was mesmerised by the interplay of spotlights, city lighting, and the clean, starry sky. The picture is not faithful to the sentiment you will experience up there when it gets calm and dark. And I guess that is why I chose this photo: as an invitation.”

On winning a prize Dominique said: “Frankly, I had forgotten about the competition and did not expect to win any prize at all. So this was quite the surprise, a sudden burst of glee! I am happy to have shared something that at least one other person seemed to enjoy as well.”