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.
“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.
“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.
CITIES AND ARCHITECTURE
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.
“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.
“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.
SPORTS AND ACTION
“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.
“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.