6th Annual Great Outdoors Contest Winners

First Prize Winner: Geoffrey Schmid

Title: Chinook Pass

“I tend to go back to favorite locations at different times in different seasons looking for special conditions that will elevate an image from ordinary to something uniquely interesting. This area on the eastern side of Mount Rainier National Park is popular for the still reflections in the lakes and tarns and abundant wildflower displays in the summer. I wanted to capture it in the changing conditions between seasons with golden, late autumn light glowing in the new ice as the lakes and tarns begin to freeze and the first snow blankets the meadows. The soft curves of ice and snow, the grasses breaking the surface of the tarn in the foreground, the mountain and its reflection were a joy to choreograph in this composition. As usual, I had to work fast as the light changed. Repeat trips are also necessary to attempt to time the weather. As it often is with mountain passes, the area is usually socked in with clouds and fog or offers the complete opposite—crystal-clear skies. Seems I’m one of the last guys to use optical filters nowadays. The look rendered with a polarizer, if adjusted correctly, just can’t be duplicated with software, and I find that graduated neutral-density filters help me to “get in the ballpark” and be more creative at the time of capture rather than just trusting in my blending abilities in post.”

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm ƒ/4, graduated neutral-density filter, polarizer, tripod

Second Place Winner: Gordon Magee

Title: Lonely Tree

“This photo was taken in February 2015 in Yellowstone National Park. We were riding in a snow coach along the Grand Loop Road when I spotted this “lonely tree” silhouetted against some snow-covered hills. It was a cloudy day and the clouds seemed similar in texture to the snow. The scene made me think of sand dunes. Taking the shot resulted in getting a contrasting edge to the hills and the dark tree. It was postprocessed in Lightroom with changes only to lighting and exposure.”

Sony A99V, Sony 70-200mm ƒ/2.8

Third Place Winner: John Fan

Title: Whisper Of Darkness

“I spent a few days in September 2014 photographing the Big Sur region of California’s central coast. A small waterfall at the beach attracted my attention. I decided to stay with it to shoot the sunset. Big Sur, however, is known for its constantly cloudy, foggy weather. The evening hour around sunset was predictably cloudy. The sunset was disappointing, but I still stayed a couple of hours after sunset, hoping the clouds would clear up so I could take some night shots. The magic didn’t happen. So I left the scene to drive back to my hotel in Monterey Bay. While I was driving on the twisting mountain road, all of a sudden I felt that there were some stars visible in the sky. I pulled over. To my delight, the sky was clearing up. I went back to my hotel, slept two hours, got up and drove an hour in the dark back to the waterfall. Now the sky was totally clear. It was so clear that I could see the Milky Way with my naked eye. I knew this was my lucky day. I spent so much time there the previous day, so the composition was straightforward, even in the complete darkness. I took two shots, one for the sky and one for the foreground. I tilted the camera upward slightly for the sky shot to include more sky while tilting it down for the foreground shot, with the intention to stitch them together for a 1:1 aspect ratio. After taking the shots, I realized that the foreground was too dark. So I left the camera on the tripod untouched and waited another two hours or so in the dark. At about one hour before sunrise, it started to have some light in the sky and the foreground became visible to the eyes. I took the third shot, just for the foreground. Back at home, I stitched the first two shots together and cropped the image to a 1:1 ratio. Then I aligned the third shot just to blend in the areas where I wanted to show more foreground details.”

Sony A99, Zeiss 16-35mm ƒ/2.8, Really Right Stuff TVC-24 tripod, BH-40 ballhead
Sony A99V, Sony 70-200mm ƒ/2.8

People's Choice Winner: John Duncan


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