We received more than 1,700 submissions to our 2019 The American Landscape Photography Contest. The following slideshow displays our 25 finalist images, as well as the three winning shots!
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Photographer: Deb Snelson
Description: Anyone who has been to the Bear Rocks Preserve section of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area near Davis, West Virginia, knows that it’s a 45-minute drive up a narrow road to reach the high-altitude rocky plateau, then along a straight, narrow dirt road that never seems to end. The traveler is finally rewarded with sweeping views of the Allegheny Mountains, and in autumn, the glorious color of a mixed forest. To catch the sunrise, it requires an early departure in total darkness and, on this day of steady rain, a guess and a prayer that there will be a visible sunrise. This was my ninth attempt for that picture-perfect sunrise, and it appeared unlikely to be successful. Although I came alone, there were photographers already in place to catch the sunrise, so I scrambled through waist-high blueberry bushes that obscured footing and around and over boulders to my favorite location and set up shop, so to speak. As the time came for sunrise and the sun didn’t appear, most of my fellow photographers packed up and left the ridge. But I hung around, just waiting to see if anything happened. And it did—the clouds lifted from the horizon allowing a thin line of clear sky bathed in the yellow light of the sun, and then sunbeams began burning through holes in those clouds. I’m not even sure if I noticed as I was capturing multiple frames that one sunray pointed right at a water-filled hole in the limestone and the water reflected the sky. But I knew I had witnessed something special, and I was delighted I had waited for it. I actually grew up in the Allegheny Mountains although I moved away long ago. But I always feel like I’m "going home" when I plan a trip to the area and feel like I’m home when talking to the folks who live there.
Gear & Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-105mm f/4L lens at 32mm, Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod with RRS BH-40 ballhead. Exposure: 1/10 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100.