9th Annual Nature’s Colors Photo Contest Winners
Grand Prize John Mariana
Morning At The Elk Rut—Cataloochee Valley
The Cataloochee Valley is a portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in North Carolina between Knoxville and Ashville. Once a farming community, it was acquired by the National Park Service, and historic frame buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been preserved, surrounded by 6000-foot peaks. Elk were released in Cataloochee Valley in 2001 as part of an experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park. The herd can be seen regularly in the fields of the valley, especially during the Elk Rut from mid-September to mid-October in the early morning and evening hours.
Early on an October morning, I drove along the valley road and was struck by the sun rising over the nearby mountain and casting rays. The tree on the left was lit from behind, making it stand out from the background. As this bull elk roamed the field, I kept shooting and waiting for a strong composition and back light. The final image is a three-image panorama. The panorama provides the scale and the breadth of the scene that was just awesome.
Nikon D600, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR at 170mm. Exposure: 1/640 sec., ƒ/14, ISO 640.
Second Place Brian Waddell
When I took this late-autumn photo of Latourell Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, I wanted to get off the main trail and away from people, so decided to walk along the old Columbia River Highway to look for a way up. I found a small game trail and started hiking it, being careful not to disturb the fragile moss and ferns that are part of the beauty of the Gorge. I hiked as far as I could until I got to a cliff wall. I then traversed over a couple hundred yards of slippery rocks at the bottom of the cliff until I found this perfect vantage point.
Nikon D7100, Tokina AT-X 11-16mm F2.8 PRO DX at 11mm, Singh-Ray polarizer. Exposure: 1/13 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 400.
Third Place Arif Abdullah
Living in the San Francisco Bay area, I have the privilege of enjoying California’s Pacific coast quite often. No matter how many times I visit this majestic stretch, it never ceases to amaze me. The rugged beauty of Big Sur’s McWay Falls overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park always takes my breath away irrespective of time and season. But surely, the magical sunset in autumn of 2016 that I tried to capture in this shot was unforgettable. The golden-yellow shades of the sky, the translucent turquoise waves, the shimmering waterfall and the evening mist juxtaposed so perfectly as if painted on an artist’s canvas. This image is composed of two exposures blended manually to bring out the wide dynamic range of the actual scene.
Sony a7R, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM at 19mm, Metabones adapter, Breakthrough Photography X4 polarizer, Vanguard Alta Pro 254CT tripod. Exposure (sky): 0.6 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100. Exposure (foreground): 5 sec., ƒ/20, ISO 100.