Welcome to Amateur Photographer of the Year 2010 in association with Canon. Last year?s contest was one of our closest and best yet, and we have no doubt that this year?s competition will be just as thrilling.

Round one – Islands in the Stream

Just as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton crossed genres when their country song Islands in the Stream became a pop sensation, so land and water seem unlikely partners, but in fact they work very well together. Often a still, reflective lake can be the perfect complement to a stunning mountain scene, or the rhythmic movements of the tide over a longer exposure are contrasted nicely by the defined edges of pebbles and rocks on the coast.

In this first round of APOY 2010 we want you to explore the relationship between water and land. How do they work together as visual elements? Perhaps you stumbled across a sweeping vista along the Pembrokeshire coast and the mist over the water enhances the feeling of solitude. Maybe you captured a heavy rain shower over some Suffolk farmland. Even the Thames leaves its mark on the urban landscape as it winds through London.

You don?t have to sail away to another world to get a stunning shot of these elements together. The great thing about it is that this beauty is everywhere ? often right outside your door. Below we?ve offered some tips and information to help get you started.

Directional light

Finding the right lighting for your scene is crucial when creating the look and feel of your image. Frontlighting shows a lot of detail, but sometimes you may want to change your position and explore the effects created by side or backlighting.

Sidelighting can give your subjects more contrasting tones, adding extra shape and enhancing the colours within your frame. Meanwhile, backlighting, or shooting against the light, as was used in this image of an island in Penzance Harbour, can be used to create silhouettes and dramatic skies. Often, a silhouette can rescue an otherwise bland scene and transform it into something special.

Contrasting tones

Choosing the right background is crucial when photographing outdoors. If your subject is a similar colour to your background, it will be lost and your image will be flat.

If you look for a strong, simple colour in your background and a contrasting tone in your subject, however, your subject will appear to jump out of the frame and give your picture more punch.

In this image taken on a mountain lake at sunset, you can see how the bright orange of the background forms a nice simple palette resting against the bluish yellow of the water, and the boat silhouette leaps out of the frame.

Patterns in nature

It?s not too difficult to find patterns in nature so long as you look closely at your surroundings. The finer details can often transform an average scene into something intriguing.

If you start by looking at textures and how the light falls, these patterns start to reveal themselves. You might find them in the parallel lines in a stand of trees, the ripple designs on the surface of a pond or the jagged patterns created by the tide retreating in this picture.

Not only do these form an interesting symmetry, but collectively they also serve as a leading line that draws your eye towards the cliffs in the distance. Without these sea-foam shapes, this would be a scene that we have all seen numerous times before. However, this pattern makes it unique.

1st prize

Our first-placed winner will receive Canon?s 15.1MP EOS 500D. The EOS 500D features continuous shooting at up to 3.4fps with up to 170 JPEg burst, as well as nine-point AF and a maximum ISO of 12,800, making it ideal for low-light conditions.

The EOS 500D also boasts a 3in Clear view LCD with Live view mode and the ability to record High Definition videos. The winner of this round will also receive an EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens with a magnification of approximately 11x. Weighing just 595g, the EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens features a four-stop optical Image Stabilizer and coatings to protect against aberration and ghosting. Together this kit is worth £1,399.99

2nd prize

Our second-placed winner will receive Canon?s PowerShot D10 compact camera, worth £319. Boasting 12.1MP, the rugged D10 is resistant to water, shock, dust and cold, making it perfect for your summer holidays. With a 3x zoom, optical IS, and Scene, Face and Motion Detection Technology, the D10 covers all your photographic needs.

3rd prize

Our third-placed winner receives Canon?s 10MP PowerShot SX120 IS, worth £249. This easy-to-use digital compact is capable of capturing enough detail for poster-size prints or creative cropping, and boasts a 10x zoom with optical IS and a large 3in LCD. Other features include face and motion-detection technology, making this the perfect all-rounder.

This round closes on 26 february 2010

For the competition rules and how to enter by email please click here.

In association with Canon

For more information on Canon products please visit www.canon.co.uk