2016 Annual Readers' Contest: The Winners and Finalists | Popular Photography

2016 Annual Readers' Contest: The Winners and Finalists

A truly amazing collection of work by our talented readers.

Grand Prize Winner

Grand Prize Winner!

During one of his frequent work-related visits to the Northern California coast, Aaron Feinberg noticed that he had once marked a location in Google Maps and the Photographer’s Ephemeris, two apps he uses to keep track of shooting locations. “Driving there I had forgotten what had made me mark the spot, but, upon arriving, I had an idea,” he recounts. While the scenery was breathtaking, Feinberg wanted to do justice to the architectural form of the cave. “The sweeping walls of the cave draw the viewers into the frame, and the light and sky do the rest,” he says. To make his image match more closely what he saw, he made two exposures—one of the starry sky and one of the cave and surroundings—and composited them in post. “This twilight image was taken as a way to get enough depth of field using a lower ISO before the light dropped too much, and the sky image was taken with star-shooting settings.

TECH INFO: Nikon D800 with 14–24mm f/2.8 Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor lens at 14mm. Sky: 30 sec at f/3.5, ISO 3200. Cave: 4 sec at f/6.3, ISO 800. Edited in Lightroom 5 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4.

Aaron Feinberg

Exploring the woods of Canada with a snow-dusted fox, watching the stars from under a cave on the Northern California coast, cheering front row at an action-packed Arizona rodeo, or unearthing the inner workings of a family heirloom, this year’s prize winners captured mementos of lives well lived—and well photographed. Read on to find out the creative ways our readers used their cameras to skillfully depict their worlds.

ANIMALS

Animals Category Winner

Animals Category Winner

During an afternoon walk in early spring through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, Christopher MacDonald spotted a fox perched on a snowbank. Having already set up with his tripod-mounted camera to shoot a pine marten hurrying up a tree, the photographer was able to instantaneously transition to photographing the fox once it appeared in his line of sight. “I love foxes as subjects, especially in the winter when their coats are full and colorful,” he says. “When I looked at the scene I knew I wanted a portrait that showed both the fox and the snow accumulation on its head. With the dark background and falling snow, a tighter shot seemed appropriate to me.” MacDonald worked to make his furry portrait subject stand out against the darkened forest background by using Photoshop to adjust levels, use selective sharpening, remove sensor spots, and reduce noise in the background. “I wanted the forest to blend away in the snow and just give the tinge of the pine colors,” he says.

TECH INFO: Tripod- and gimbal-mounted Canon EOS-1D Mark IV with 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6L Canon EF IS lens at 300mm; 1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1000. Edited in Photoshop CC.

Christopher MacDonald

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

"A beautiful green sea turtle swimming, rising in front of a sunrise burst."

James Kashner

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

"A Humpback whale takes a dive down to the depths just off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. They make the journey to Hawaii every winter to give birth."

Lace Andersen

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

"Hummingbird Season in East Texas. Nikon D750, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, 28 - 300mm Nikon lens at 300mm."

Gary Hopper

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

"Courtship games of brown bears at Kurile Lake, Kamchatka, Russia."

Vadim Balakin

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

"Freedom", a beautiful Bald Eagle captured at the San Diego Zoo in 2016. The power and strength shown in this photo is a great symbol of our country. Shot with a Nikon Coolpix L840

Skylar Fernandez

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

My love of nature photography is strong. I shot this one recent afternoon at a local pond. Nikon D750/Tamron 150-600mm plus post-processing.

Melinda Garner

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

Taken outside at the National Zoo in Washington DC on a overcast day, this gorilla was quietly eating seeds and staring off into the distance. Shot with an Olympus PEN-F camera and 300mm f/4 lens. Exposure was 1/320 sec @ f/4 and ISO 1600.

Melinda Garner

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

Getting personal with animals is a privilege for me. This Cormorant was perched in low tree branch allowing me to capture this unique closeup shot. Photographed at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida, where animals in distress are well cared and loved for life. I volunteer my photography to bring awareness of their noble and silent work. - flamingogardens.org

Lorenzo Cassina

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

Pigs at a sanctuary here in CA. In 2015.

Breege Tomkinson

Animals: Honorable Mention

Animals: Honorable Mention

My dog 'jasper' just loves to swim so I followed her into the water with my camera and speedlight set up on a tripod to catch her bobbing around in the lake. She reminded me of a seal floating around in the ocean begging for fish.

Patrick King

CITIES AND ARCHITECTURE

Cities and Architecture: Winner

Cities and Architecture: Winner

On a trip to Portland, Oregon, with his local camera club, Raymond Klein found himself standing at a tram station looking northeast over the Marquam Bridge. To the right of his view stood beautiful Mt. Hood, and Klein could not resist attempting to include the natural sight in his shot. Though impossible to compose in a single frame, assembling the cityscape and natural surroundings became feasible through a composite image. Klein captured images of the mountain, the clouds, and the bridge separately, moving his camera and swapping lenses as the beautiful sunlight hit each element of the scene. He took several exposures of these three subjects, allowing him to pick the best when creating the composite in postproduction. “I brought each image onto the screen and turned each into an individual layer; once I had completed [the process]…I felt I had achieved an image worth preserving,” he told us.

TECH INFO: Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T5i with both 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6mm Canon EF IS and 75–300mm f/4–5.6 Canon EF IS lenses. Mountain: 75–300mm lens at 200mm, 1/50 sec at f/7.1 ISO 100. Clouds: 18–55mm lens at 18mm, 1/50 sec at f/4, ISO 100. Bridge: 75–300mm lens at 110mm, 4 sec, f/22, ISO 100. Edited in Photoshop Elements 12.

Raymond J. Klein

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

One person can make a difference. From where he or she comes is not important. As was said once, “nobody good comes from Galilee”, so .... don’t judge pedigree, judge the actions and the doings. It also helps to stay awake. *Mark Bowden, The Atlantic 7 January 2016, Nikon D7100, 50mm/1:1.4 Lens, 1/4000 Sec, ISO 100, Aperture Priority

Ray Britton

Brian Darnell

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

An inside shot of Roy's Motel and Cafe on Route 66

Brian Darnell

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

This photo is from an ongoing one year project where I shot images of symmetrical urban architecture during the Lunar Year of 2016. Each day I travelled the urban jungle going from neighborhood to neighborhood to explore the city’s history and culture. All of these photographs have been enhanced by mood, harmony, proportion and balance.

Edi Chen

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

The island of Burano is located in the Venetian Lagoon, and is known for its brightly coloured homes. The colours follow a specific system and if someone wishes to paint their home, they must first send a request to the government. Not owning a tilt-shift lens, I used the ‘Perspective Crop Tool’ in Photoshop to eliminate the backward lean of the houses. Nikon D800, Nikkor 16-35mm f4G ED VR (@26mm); f8, 1/250sec, ISO-100

Brian Christie

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Choi Hung Estate in Kowloon, Hong Kong is one of the oldest estates in Hong Kong. It is better known as the Rainbow Estate.

Paulina Klimkiewicz

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Conditions for this shot need to be perfect for everything to line up; from little to no smog/haze, recent snowfall on the San Gabriel mountains from a winter storm, and all of that topped off with a great sunset. There was a thin layer of haze around the base of the mountains giving this photo a softer and dreamier feel. I've been here many times looking for this shot and everything lined up in my favor this night.

Brandon Yoshizawa

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

This is the side of the Steel Worker's Union Building in Pittsburgh, PA. It was a cloudy day, which provided this smooth, even reflection.

Sarah Lenker

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Eiffel tower view from one of the legs

Alexander Kolbasov

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Street sign and birds

Aris Liem

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

Cities and Architecture: Honorable Mention

An amazing helicopter ride over Manhattan produced this incredible view of lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower. Equipment: Nikon D810 Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 lens Exposure: 38mm, 1/2000 sec, f2.8, ISO 5000

Rob Santeramo

LANDSCAPE

Landscape: Winner

Landscape: Winner

When Janne Kahila first saw a photograph of the Vøringsfossen waterfall in Eidfjord, Norway, he knew he had to go see it for himself. “The valley and the 
waterfalls from both sides made the scene look almost prehistoric, which really gripped my attention,” Kahila remembers. Visiting an hour before sunset on a September evening, the photographer composed using the flowing stream as a leading line for the viewer’s eye. Both overall and graduated neutral-density filters let him set a long exposure. “I was fascinated by the way the light diffused through the fog in the valley and reflected from the stream,” he says. Kahila crafted his panoramic final frame by merging in Adobe Photoshop three separate vertical images captured with the same camera settings, after editing each individually in Photoshop Lightroom.


TECH INFO: Canon EOS 6D with 16–35mm f/2.8 Canon EF USM lens with 8-stop graduated neutral-density and 6-stop neutral-density filters, mounted on a Velbon GEO E630 tripod. Exposure, 2 sec at f/9, ISO 200; edited in Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5.

Janne Kahila

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Cliffside views are all that remains of the abandoned pier pylons in Davenport, CA

Anya Arthur

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

These mushrooms form their own sense of peace and tranquility.

Alexandria Hill

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Apline crows circling around the iconic Wendelstein in Bavaria, Germany. It was hiking up to the weather station when suddenly all those birds arrived, dancing through the sky right in front of my eyes.

Florian Christoph

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Imperial Sand Dunes/North Algodones Dunes Wilderness, Glamis, CA. An incredible sight! Canon 5D Mark II.

Laurie Search

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

I snapped this photo in my yard after a rain shower. There were a number of spider webs among the foliage and they provided the perfect landing spot for the water droplets.

Jacqueline Cox

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Rolling Hills with Low Fog in Livermore, CA

Jay Huang

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

This image was taking in Lower Antelope Canyon near Page, AZ. It is a beautiful slot canyon that is unfortunately over-run with tourists. It was hard to get clean shots, so I pointed my camera directly upward and captured the walls of the slot canyon with the blue sky peaking through above. I like this image because I think it captures the feeling of being there, the beautiful light and the feeling of being deep beneath the earth

Kathryn Wallace Yeaton

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Shot on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. I shot this with a graduated neutral density filter.

Timothy Johnson

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Salt Creek Falls from within the Willamette National Forest in Central Oregon.

Vincent James

Landscape: Honorable Mention

Landscape: Honorable Mention

With the low tide in full swing at sunset on this day in La Jolla, California, it produced a bit of a shadow effect from one wave to the next, where it gave the appearance that the wave was floating above the sand.

Eddie Yerkish

PEOPLE

People: Winner

People: Winner

Some memories are just asking to be recorded, and for Keith Napolitano, his son’s first haircut was one of them. “One of my primary motivations to learn photography was to be able to document my family as perfectly as possible,” he says. So Napolitano had camera in tow when he accompanied his son to the barber for the first time. Taking advantage of the natural sunlight bouncing off a wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors, the photographer framed his son’s face mid-haircut. “I chose to zoom in tight to focus on his amusing expressions while still capturing enough of the surrounding detail to tell a compelling story,” he says. Napolitano made basic adjustments in Lightroom, then moved to Photoshop, where he converted to black-and-white and used the burn tool to minimize the chaotic background.

TECH INFO: Canon EOS 6D with 24–70mm f/2.8 Canon EF II USM lens; 1/160 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. Edited in Photoshop CC, Lightroom 6, and Google Nik Silver Efex Pro plug-in.

Keith Napolitano

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

This is a BTS photo I took while setting up a shot for a short film I was shooting as director of photography. There were no extra lights set up, only a single hanging bar light from above, a reflection shot of the actor from the glass wine cabinet. Shot on Canon 5DMKIII ISO: 500 Lens: Rokinon 85mm f/1.5 Shutter: 1/60

Willis Lai

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

The type of light you couldn't get with a million dollar budget. This image is part of a series I call "Mountains Of Thought" to symbolize the delicate, yet powerful, inner workings of lonesome thought. Climb mountains of thought; dive into freedom... Taken near the Oregon coast on Saddle Mountain. Zoomed to 125mm and blessed with amazing light, converted to black and white in Adobe Lightroom

Devin Tolman

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

Taken at Abiqua Falls in Oregon this December while it was a chilling 16 degrees. I used a Canon 17-35 f2.8 and a Circular Polarizer to clear some of the reflection. This image is part of a series I call "Mountains Of Thought" to symbolize the delicate, yet powerful, inner workings of lonesome thought. Climb mountains of thought; dive into freedom...

Devin Tolman

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

Children are the greatest gift to humanity and Childhood is an important and impressionable stage of human development as it holds the potential to the future development of any society. In a brick fields where migrant, poor workers from Bihar have to toil with their children in a very harsh and uncongenial work atmosphere. The Young Boys in a Joy full mood at the play time.

Sudipta Dutta Chowdhury

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

This man was waiting for a bus on a busy sidewalk across from the New York City library. He seemed to capture a long day at work while graphically fitting in with the store mannequins. Not getting other people in the photo was a challenge. Taken with a Canon T2i 18-55 kit lens handheld at full wide angle., 1/800 at f5.6, and 1600 ISO. Editing was done in Picasa. I am newly retired and enrolled in a local university's photography class. This was for a street photography assignment.

John Garvin

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

From the editorial “Opalescence” for Institute Magazine. The summer theme is conveyed by warm tones, dewy skin and wet hair. Small shaped glitter was added for a creative focal point. Featuring model Sally Roberts

Laura Bello

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

Carolyn's sweet 18th portrait in San Diego, California

Rochelle Cheever

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

Taken at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day. Canon 5D Mark lll & Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 set at 39mm / ISO 200 1/90 F5.6 / Handheld This photo was not staged or arranged. I was at the Wall early in the morning when this man was walking along the Wall looking for a name. He stopped, touched a name on the Wall, stepped back, removed his cap and place his hand over his heart. This is when I took this photograph. After a few moments he replaced his cap, saluted and walked away.

Rick Kramer

People: Honorable Mention

People: Honorable Mention

My son was taking a bath one day. I got my camera because I thought something might happen. The light was good so I waited and then he popped his little head up out of the tub and I got this photo.

Wendy Stone

SPORTS AND ACTION

Sports and Action: Winner

Sports and Action: Winner

Arthur Schwartz was taking in the excitement at a rodeo in Sonoita, Arizona, as the bull rider struggled to stay on the massive animal’s back. “Having shot rodeos for several years, I knew approximately where the action would be,” says Schwartz. “It’s simply a matter of getting into position, setting up, and hoping for something good.” Up to the challenge of mastering perfect timing, the photographer knew that the rider would attempt to stay on the bull for around eight seconds, and in his experience bulls generally turn to the right after leaving the gate. “Only one out of eight riders stay on for the full time, so you have to be ready to start shooting right when the gates open,” he says.

TECH INFO: Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 70–200mm f/2.8L Canon EF lens racked out to 200mm; 1/800 sec at f/10, ISO 500. Edited in Photoshop CS6.

Arthur Schwartz

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Air China welcomes it's newest flight addition at the San Jose Airport, California. Shot on Canon 5DMKIII ISO: 160 Lens: Canon 24-70mm at f/7.1 Shutter: 1/1250

Willis Lai

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

I took this during the cattle roping portion of a local rodeo event. I was using a Canon 60D with the 100mm 2.8 L prime lens handheld shot at 2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800th sec . I hungout next to the spotlights waiting for a rider to come by, hoping to catch the dramatic effect that I did, which took a lot longer then I wanted it to.

Mark Schoenfelt

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sipoo, Finland - Canon EOS-1D X 1/400s f/6,3 300 mm

Pasi Järves

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Helicopter Bell 206 approaches to pick me up after a long photoshoot in the Waddington Mountain range. Perfect skies and amazing weather made for some stellar images.

Patrick King

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

This shot was taken in Mayrhofen, Austria, during first powder storm. There is a great terrain for backcountry skiing. The powder wasn't deep and light, but it was great skiing anyway. Canon 600D + Sigma 8-16mm. 13mm, ISO 100, 1/640sec, f/10.

Jakub Pinos

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

US Wheelchair Curling Team Skip Mr. James Joseph mark the place for final kick on end(part of game). Sochi Paralimpic Games 2014. Olympus Stylus 1, 1/250s, f4.0

Mikhail Rassadin

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Running back for Homewood, AL powers through a Helena, AL defender.

Todd Lester

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Sports and Action: Honorable Mention

Football at its best on a hot, dry day. I had to wipe the dust off my lens after each shot. Nikon 810 80-400mm lens @350mm 1/800 sec at f/5.6

Colette Cannataro

STILL LIFE

Objects and Still Life: Winner

Objects and Still Life: Winner

In his basement workshop, Rodney Furgason went back in time by exploring the inner workings of his grandfather’s pocket watch. “I was attracted to the old-school technology and precision of the gear works in the watch,” he explains. “It’s the opposite of all the digital tech we are exposed to now.” The photographer shot with his DSLR, with a macro lens and a ring light mounted on a Kirk focusing rail in order to capture the beautiful details hidden within the timepiece. “I like the almost abstract design of the shapes and repeating patterns of the gears as well as the tones and colors,” he says. Furgason shot five separate photos of the gears with slightly different focal points, creating a final composite image that’s sharp all the way through by stacking the group together in Helicon Focus software.

TECH INFO: Kirk FR-2 focusing rail-mounted Nikon D800 with 90mm f/2.8 Tamron SP Di VC Macro USD 1:1 lens and GiSTEQ Flashmate Model F-60N ring light; 1/6 sec at f/11, ISO 100. Edited in Helicon Focus 6.7 and Apple Aperture 3.6.

Rodney Furgason

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

The unique Passion Fruit flower.

Lace Andersen

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Peony plant leaves, at that point in autumn, when the decaying process begins. Camera: Canon Rebel w/18 - 55mm lens focused at 41mm at f/20 ISO 100, at 1/3rd second exposure. Black card inserted behind leaves to separate from background before exposure.

Raymond Klein

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

The current through the light bulb was reduced using a dimmer switch, and two white foam-core boards were placed on either side of the bulb to create the reflections. The image was processed in Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik/Google Color Efex. Shot with a Canon 5D Mk III camera and Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar lens. Exposure was 1.0 sec @f/20 and ISO 100.

David Terao

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Green glass jar comes together with a railroad insulator to make a reflective backlit photo.

Elena DiCio

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Flower Market in Hong Kong, November 2016

Paulina Klimkiewicz

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

This image was shot as part of a product series highlighting the color options for a line of watches. A mixture of compositing and retouching, this series focuses on the juicy colors comparing them to flavor options and presenting that idea in a fun surreal way. Shot with two Flashpoint 320A's- one with umbrella diffuser and the key light with a beauty dish along with a back reflector. Camera used was a Canon EOS 5D Mark ii.

Katelin Kinney

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Onion flower from my garden (Ithaca, NY). Canon 6D, Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro Planar, 0.4 sec at f/8. 35 images stacked in Helicon Focus 6, adjustments and background cleanup in Photoshop CS6.

Jon Bosak

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

Objects and Still Life: Honorable Mention

The photo was inspired by a hot pepper a co-worker gave me. After eating the pepper I remember thinking, I wish I had some ice to cool my burning mouth. Trying to figure out how to make clear ice and how to suspend the hot pepper just right was a lot of fun and sometimes frustrating. Setting up the photo and trying to get the lighting right was also a lot of fun and at times frustrating. The end result was worth all the effort. Nikon D5100, NIKKOR 40mm macro, f/6.3, 1/50 sec, ISO 100.

Tom Woods

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