Vistas 2014 Photo Contest Contest Winners

Grand Prize Winner: Dave Drost

Title: Fire Above The Canyon

Since moving to Arizona six years ago, I’ve been fascinated with photographing the Grand Canyon. Since I live only two hours away, I frequently take many trips to the canyon. During the monsoon season, I watch the weather and a live webcam, and when it looks like storms are building up over the canyon, I make a point of running out to the South Rim in search of capturing lightning and the ever-changing colors that sunset gives.

After several seasons of trying, I was finally able to capture this image. The image looks as if it’s raining fire from the clouds. Many times, during the monsoon, the clouds build up, then dump rain and lightning, just to have the skies clear up as the evening comes. I was fortunate to have captured this lightning strike, as this multiple strike was but a few multiples I saw that afternoon. This image is a series of five vertical images, using a panorama bracket and then stitching them together as a panorama.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L, tripod, lightning detector

Second Place Winner: Esam Kabli

Title: The Lonely Tree

Since I was a little boy, I liked drawing with pencil and ink, and enjoyed making shadows for my drawings. While I always wanted to know more about color and how to use it, I discovered I’m much better with black-and-white, so that’s my focus. The work of Ansel Adams is inspiring. I love how he could keep the detail on every part of a photo, and how he dedicated his life to his photography. One winter weekend, I went to the desert, about 200 km from my city, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A lot of people come to the area to see the dunes. As I passed this lonely tree, the light was nice and there were some clouds in the sky. I had good luck. I wanted to enhance the idea that it’s really a lone tree in the big desert, so I used my 24mm wide-angle lens. There isn’t much postprocessing. I shot in RAW, then worked in CS6 to do some adjustment with contrast, shadow, color saturation and sharpness. Then I used Nik Silver Efex Pro, starting from natural mode. l try as much as possible to keep detail in all the Zones in a photo without too much editing that would make the photo look unreal.

Nikon D3, AF-S Nikkor 24mm ƒ/2.8D

Third Place Winner: Jon Gwyther

Title: Flowing

This shot was taken on a photographic trip around Iceland. I came across this beautiful waterfall while driving, and it just demanded that I stop and shoot it. A short walk to the lower side of the falls gave me a perfect spot to set up. I really love how Mother Nature has a way of making you feel very small. The post flow was easy because the shot just worked. I used Lightroom to find some details in the shadows, as well as make primary color adjustments. From here, it was over to Photoshop for a clean-up, and a bit of dodging and burning, as well as a final color adjustment.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 16-35mm, polarizer, neutral-density filter

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Bonafede

Title: Bridalveil Fall And Half Dome

On a planned trip to catch the elusive Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park, we had the great fortune to select a day with excellent weather conditions. Watching the weather closely, it was predicted that a storm would roll through the valley and then clear in the afternoon, just in time for the fiery glow on El Capitan. The trip was made with a good friend and my son. We arrived early, knowing that a morning clearing storm was a possibility. Setting up our shot in the light rain and darkness, we were the first people to show up at Tunnel View. This image has been a longtime goal of mine due to the challenges associated with catching the right storm. Just enough clouds to break up the rising sun and produce the luminescent glow with mist and low clouds scattered in the valley had often been my desired scene to capture. As the light came up, it was difficult to stay focused and contain my excitement.

Canon EOS 7D, Canon 24-105mm ƒ/4L, B+W XS-PRO KSM polarizer

Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Tan

Title: Aldeyjarfoss In Sky

This image was taken from northern Iceland, at Skjálfandafljót. I opted for a higher angle of view, exploring a few high spots around the area. The snow was thick, and it made it hard to move around. I was losing light fast as the sun was setting. Finally, I got to a spot that I wanted to work with. I wanted to evoke a feeling of the wild by showcasing the solid textures of the basalt columns that made up the walls of the waterfall, and at the same time, a sense of calmness from the water flowing down. When I finally got my gear ready and clicked, the sun was almost gone, leaving a beautiful afterglow.

Hasselblad H4D-50, 35-90mm HCD, LEE grad filter, Gitzo leveling tripod

Honorable Mentions: James Bodin

Title: Cook Meadow—Yosemite Falls

We were living near Yosemite at the time this image was made, allowing me to visit often when conditions seemed promising. On this afternoon, November 10, 2010, at about 3 p.m., breaks in the clouds were moving quickly across the valley, and I made 14 exposures using a tripod with the thought of HDR in Photomatix Pro, but that didn’t work out well. Yosemite, not surprisingly, has rapidly changing weather, so lighting conditions and opportunities come thick and fast. This image best represents the look, and feel, of that day.

Nikon D5000, Nikkor 18-55mm

Honorable Mentions: David Grenier

Title: Wild Nights

I was on my way to the gym on the evening of May 20, 2014, when I noticed the potential for a “good sunset” at a go-to location. I returned home to pick up my camera equipment and raced to where I needed to be. This magnificent rain cloud developed into an amazing umbrella shape over a lone oak tree, and I made a quick decision that the only way I could capture the magnitude of the scene was to shoot six vertical images that I could stitch into a panorama. What inspired me were the amazing cloud formations, which I had never seen in this location before—or since!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L II USM, Marumi DHG Super Circular Polarizer, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead, Gitzo GT2941LVL tripod, Canon remote switch

Honorable Mentions: M. Brian Hartz

Title: High-Country Pond And Marigold

I captured this moment at sunset, high up in the San Juan Mountains near Ouray, Colorado. We were shooting higher up on the old mining trails that serve as county roads in this part of the state and thought we had just finished for the day, as the light didn’t look like it was going to be interesting any longer. So we descended a ways, and then it just happened. The sky broke out into this fantastic display of color and clouds, and then I saw the pond and reflection of the sky. I jumped out of the Jeep® and ran down to the edge of this small pond, which is located at about 11,000 feet on the Black Bear Pass road. I didn’t have much time to think, but grabbing my wide-angle lens I knew would be right in this situation, especially with the small clump of marsh marigolds at the edge of the pond. I grabbed a few shots before the color went on its way, and then I started to breathe again. We went back to that same spot a couple of days later, but didn’t have the great sky we had on this special evening.

Nikon D300S, Tokina 11-16mm ƒ/2.8, tripod

Honorable Mentions: Sivani Babu

Title: Sunset At White Sands

I took this shot at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I was there that day for the full moon when the park stays open later, but the sunset proved to be equally wonderful. White Sands is one of my favorite photographic locations because of the otherworldly landscape. It looks harsh and beautifully uninviting in broad daylight, but as the sun sets, the dunes seem to transform into a warmer, more welcoming landscape.

Nikon D4, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, Gitzo Series 2 Traveler tripod

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