September 17, 2021

Countryfile viewers cry foul over John Craven photo fakery storm

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Countryfile viewers have reacted with fury after John Craven revealed a winning image of its £1,000 photography competition had been taken in a studio. 

Michelle Howell’s ‘An apple a day’ – which shows a harvest mouse nestling inside an apple – was the overall winner of the programme’s annual calendar competition, which raises money for Children In Need. 

Craven visited Howell’s house in West Yorkshire and showed viewers how to set up the shot. At one point he began whispering to the mouse, ‘Go on, get into the apple’. 

Scroll down for video.  

Michelle Howell’s ‘An apple a day’ – which shows a harvest mouse nestling inside an apple – was the October finalist in the programme’s annual calendar competition, which raises money for Children In Need. Pictured: John Craven next to the winning image 

Craven met the winner – and revealed her photograph had been taken in a specially built studio inside her house 

Many fans of the show were furious to learn it hadn’t been taken in the wild with some even accusing it of being a ‘cheat’ entry 

Some of the critics may have been entrants would were annoyed their genuine wildlife images had lost out to a staged one 

Introducing the winning shot, Craven explained that is was permissible to submit staged photographs as long as this context was explained

One viewer mocked the decision by posting a photo of a stuffed toy badger and joking it was his ‘2020 entry’ to the competition 

Many fans of the show were furious to learn it hadn’t been taken in the wild, with one writing: ‘I was quite shocked that the #countryfile wildlife photography competition was won by a photo of a mouse shot in a studio. Surely if it’s not out in the wild it’s not wildlife?’ 

The 2019 competition was called Beauty and the Beasts and asked photographers to contribute images of Britain’s ‘landscape, wildlife, agriculture or recreation’.  

‘An apple a day’ won for the month of October, and was also chosen as the best image overall, meaning it will grace the calendar cover. Mrs Howell also received £1,000 in vouchers to spend on photography equipment as a reward.  

Introducing the winning shot, Craven explained that is was permissible to submit staged photographs as long as this context was explained. 

‘To take this photo she used a studio so she could get up close to her subject,’ he said. ‘Taking photos in this way is in the rules, as long as it is declared as such.’

Explaining why she used a studio, Howell said: ‘There’s just no way you could take this picture in the wild. You’re not going to come across a harvest mouse in an apple while you’re walking along a path.’

But critics were not convinced, with viewer Emma Poulton writing: ‘Dear @BBCCountryfile Your winning photo is a cheat! Surely the whole point of the calendar photo competition is to capture natural shots in the bloomin countryside, not in a contrived studio?! #countryfile #calendarcheat.’ 

Another outraged fan, Claire Sandison, wrote: ‘I have to say I am nicked off that the #countryfile calendar winner was a staged shoot with a captive harvest mouse and backdrop. 

‘People have sat for hours in nature to capture their pics in all weathers only to have a staged photo win. #unfair #disappointed.’  

The 2019 competition was called Beauty and the Beasts and asked photographers to contribute images of Britain’s ‘landscape, wildlife, agriculture or recreation’. Pictured: Michelle Howell’s studio 

Explaining why she used a studio, Howell (pictured) said: ‘There’s just no way you could take this picture in the wild. You’re not going to come across a harvest mouse in an apple while you’re walking along a path’

Karen Statham added: ‘And the winner is a photo of a poor mouse in captivity placed in a rotten apple in a fish tank on someone’s table. Is that fake grass there too? Oh #countryfile.’  

The rules state: ‘Farm animals are allowed, but photos of pets and zoo animals are not eligible. Images of UK wildlife in captivity must be declared as such. 

‘The BBC’s decision as to the eligibility of individual photographs will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.’    

A BBC spokesman said: ‘All entries for the 2020 Countryfile calendar adhere to the terms and conditions of the competition. It was made clear within the programme how this particular photograph was taken and all the winning entries are ultimately selected by the audience.’ 

The other 11 images selected for the calendar: 

For more information about the Countryfile calendar, visit bbc.co.uk/countryfile.

JANUARY: Ponies in the sunrise at Beachy Head by Ashley Hemsley. The theme for this year’s photographic competition was Beauty and the Beasts

FEBRUARY: The Tide is High. Seaham Harbour in County Durham by Neil Rutherford. There were more than 42,000 entries which were whittled down to the final 12

MARCH: Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow. Hares in woodland in Euxton Lancashire by Bernard Noblett. He captured these March hares going mad in sun-dappled woods near Euxton, Lancashire

APRIL: Here’s looking at you, kid. A tender moment between a nanny goat and her youngster preserved for ever by Laura Ellis in Temple Newson, near Leeds

MAY: A badger pictured by Trevor Hupton sniffing a bluebell in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. The pictures were voted on by Countryfile’s audience

JUNE: A pony grazing on the sand dunes at Luskentyre, Isle of Harris, by David Brown. The calendar will be sold in aid of BBC Children in Need

JULY: A damselfly is snapped by David Lain in the dew on a closed bloom in Bolton on Swale, North Yorkshire

AUGUST: An almost surreal study of oyster catchers above Alnmouth, Northumberland, posing the question: How did photographer Richard Armstrong get so close?

SEPTEMBER: When we’re dancing cheek to beak: A jackdaw and a deer getting close in Bushy Park, London, are put in the frame by Paul Abrahams

NOVEMBER: A rather mournful looking seal at Ravenscar on the Yorkshire coast, photographed by Mark R. Duffield

DECEMBER: A mountain hare emerging from the snow at Cairngorms National Park by Jane Deville

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