The Historic Photographer of the Year is only in its second year but it is quickly securing a place as one of the most aesthetically exciting and intellectually stimulating photographic competitions on the increasingly crowded annual calendar. This year's incredible winners celebrate a medieval island commune in France, a surreal WW2 anti-aircraft sea fort, and an ancient Scottish stone circle.

There seems to be a photographic competition for every kind of niche interest these days –drones, underwater, iPhones, panoramas, astronomy, and Instagram all have their own dedicated awards. And while on the surface a photography competition centered entirely on historical and cultural sites around the world may seem as niche as they come, in reality it has generated one of the more compelling collections of images delivered in the past 12 months.

The competition is pretty straightforward, with the main category covering images illustrating any historical site around the globe. This can include everything from spectacular castles and ancient prehistoric stone structures, to more modern historical images such as decaying vistas of Chernobyl and brutalist architecture from the 1970s.

"Historic and cultural sites are among the most picturesque places on the planet and the very best shots demand not only time and patience but also a willingness to get off the beaten track and frame their place in history in a unique and personal way," explains Dan Snow, one of the judges. "This year's winning entries and submissions perfectly showcase just how stunning the history all around us can be and will doubtless encourage people to get out there and see these amazing places for themselves."

Snow, famous for numerous BBC history documentaries, and the rest of the judging panel came up with three winners this year, alongside an expansive and impressive shortlist. The overall award went to Daniel Burton for a gorgeous shot of a medieval island commune in France called Le Mont Saint-Michel (pictured above).

Two new sub-categories were introduced this year. The Ancient History category, covering subjects primarily dating earlier than 500 CE, was won by David Ross for his remarkable shot of the Callanish Stones at sunset (above). The mysterious stone monument is thought to have been erected some time between 2900 and 2600 BCE.

The English History category was won by Mark Edwards for his haunting image of the Red Sands sea forts. These historic forts were built for anti-aircraft defense in the Second World War.

"They were operated by the army and destroyed several flying bombs," explains Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England and another member of this year's judging panel. "Built 76 years ago at Gravesend, the forts bear witness to the ingenuity of these building defenses along our coast in wartime Britain."

Alongside the obvious aesthetic and technical proficiency of the photographs, a vital judging criteria in the competition is the historical story behind each image and how the photograph evokes that narrative. This excitingly novel aspect to the competition makes the Historic Photographer of the Year Awards a little more interesting than the average photo competition.

Take a trip through our gallery for a closer look at all the amazing shortlisted images encompassing thousands of years of compelling human history.

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