Photo Contest Tips from Past Showcase Winners, Part 1

Sunrise photo of a mountain with flowers in the foreground. Penstemon and Paintbrush Tapestry, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington, 2018 Showcase, Judges' Choice, Scapes© Geoffrey Schmid
“Penstemon and Paintbrush Tapestry,” Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington, 2018 Showcase, Judges’ Choice, Scapes © Geoffrey Schmid

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

NANPA’s 2022 Showcase photography competition is in full swing, with entries accepted right up until 11 p.m. EDT September 20, 2021. It’s one of NANPA’s most popular offerings. Why? Because you get a chance to see how your work measures up to your peers, have your images seen by potential clients, influence people and causes, and maybe win some of the $6,000 in prize money.

Sounds good, right, but where to start? We asked several nature photographers whose images have placed in the Showcase Top 24 in multiple years what are their secrets. How do they approach Showcase? What do they look for in the images they enter? Here’s what they had to say.

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Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve

Brilliant peach-colored sunrise over water. There are grasses in the foregroun and trees in the distance. Clouds streak across the sky. Sunrise in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve, Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, Delmarva, Dorchester County, MD. © Jerry Ginsberg
Sunrise in Blackwater National Wildlife Reserve, Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, Delmarva, Dorchester County, MD. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

National Wildlife Reserves

While our National Parks, the crown jewels of federal lands, often receive the lion’s share of our attention, the wonderful creature sanctuaries known as National Wildlife Refuges provide an immeasurable benefit to wildlife in these days of ever-expanding development. This human expansion inevitably results in ever shrinking habitat and more and more pressure on the wild creatures who rely upon that habitat.

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New River Gorge National Park

Photo of the New River Bridge, a long, tall, arched bridge spanning a large tree-covered canyon at dusk. Not exactly a Nature subject, the New River Gorge Bridge spans this wide river with a huge central arch framework and is a featured calling card of the new National Park. © Jerry Ginsberg
Not exactly a nature subject, the New River Gorge Bridge spans this wide river with a huge central arch framework and is a featured calling card of the new National Park. © Jerry Ginsberg

By Jerry Ginsberg

America’s 63rd and newest national park was created earlier this year when the Congressional resolution authorizing it was buried deep in the text of legislation intended to address financial issues related to the COVID pandemic. Not one to look a gift horse in the proverbial mouth, I am just grateful that these 73,000 scenic acres have been awarded the nation’s highest level of protection. Just 10% of this territory is included in the actual national park. The remaining 65,000 acres make up a national preserve. So, what makes this area special?

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Showcase 2021 Winner: Naona Wallin

Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancements, image by Naona Wallin
Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancements (STEVE), Ketchikan, Alaska, 2021 Showcase Judges’ Choice, Scapes © Naona Wallin

Artist’s statement

Photographing STEVE was on my photo bucket list. Although I’ve seen the northern lights many times this was the first and only time, I’ve seen this rare astro-phenomena. It was bright at first then faded very quickly. I feel extremely fortunate to have squeezed off eight frames. This image of STEVE reflects my goal of capturing wildlife and wild lands few people see first-hand.

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Lunar Gunsight: How I Got the Shot

Photo of a full moon rising between two peaks. "Lunar Gunsight" © David S. Johnston
“Lunar Gunsight” © David S. Johnston

Story and photo by David S. Johnston

“Lunar Gunsight” is an image of the nearly full moon rising into and through Gunsight Notch in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Seneca Rocks is part of the resistant Tuscarora quartzite formation that has been folded vertically and exposed at several places along the River Knobs which run along the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. The rocks are very thin fins that rise dramatically about 300 feet above the surrounding slopes and 900 feet above the river valley.

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Photographing High-Key Winter Wildlife and Landscape Images

Montana Cowgirl and Horses in a Snowstorm © Debbie McCulliss
Montana Cowgirl and Horses in a Snowstorm © Debbie McCulliss

By Debbie McCulliss

As a wildlife and nature photographer who loves winter photography, photographing high-key images is a favorite technique. A high-key photo is one in which the main subject is isolated against a pure (or almost pure) white background. Maybe it’s because of my background in nursing or maybe it’s simply because the color white intrigues me. Regardless of the reason, I believe high-key photos have a unique aesthetic that set them apart from other photography techniques.

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Weekly Wow! Week of November 23, 2020

Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Rialto Beach Sunset, Olympic Peninsula, Washington” © Don Larkin
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Rialto Beach Sunset, Olympic Peninsula, Washington” © Don Larkin

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 16, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Young Photographers to Follow: Ryan Reynolds

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Ryan Reynolds has lived in South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine (his parents work for the US State Department). Currently, he’s back in the US and attending the University of Portland. His photography journey began when he was nine years old and living in South Korea. He had a little point-and-shoot camera and used to take photos walking home from soccer practice just outside an army base there. He loved framing helicopters above apartment buildings as the sun set.

Photo of helicopters flying over Seoul skyline at dusk. “Sunset in Seoul” - South Korea, 2013 © Ryan Reynolds
“Sunset in Seoul” – South Korea, 2013 © Ryan Reynolds

Ryan’s grandparents are both landscape and wildlife photographers and he’s always been fascinated by the images they create. His initial interest in photography comes partly from them and partly from his life-long interest in and enjoyment of nature. At first, getting outside was the draw and photography was a byproduct. Now, photography is a reason to go out into nature. “Almost every weekend, I’m out with my photography friends,” he says. “I do it because I love it.” Ryan enjoys most genres of photography, but his favorite images to make are long-exposure shots at night, when he does light painting or takes pictures of the stars.

“Polaris” - A single 20 minute exposure centered on the north star © Ryan Reynolds
“Polaris” – A single 20 minute exposure centered on the north star © Ryan Reynolds

He really got into photography while in Ukraine. He took photography courses, watched a lot of YouTube videos on photography techniques and started doing photography for his school yearbook. He also had the opportunity to photograph concerts at a large performance hall and some of his photos were chosen for exhibitions in Kyiv. Eventually, he branched out and started making portraits, starting a small portrait and event photography business. Ryan’s most meaningful memory in Ukraine occurred while he was a Boy Scout there. A part of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is to plan, develop, and lead a service project. Ryan’s project was doing family photo shoots of internally-displaced persons who had fled their homes in eastern Ukraine during the conflict between the government in Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists. He had to raise funds for printing and framing the photos and arrange visits to places where the refugees were learning English. Ryan says that it hardly felt like work because he was helping people and doing what he enjoyed. It was really moving to see the families’ reactions when he delivered the framed photos.

Backlit photo of young man playing a guitar in concert. “The Guitarist” - Taken at a Scream Inc. concert in Kyiv, Ukraine © Ryan Reynolds
“The Guitarist” – Taken at a Scream Inc. concert in Kyiv, Ukraine © Ryan Reynolds

His times in Asia rank among his favorite. “It’s just amazing there,” he says. “I have to go back.” He told us about one particularly memorable experience during a camping trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when he stumbled upon a hidden canyon. He had been out hiking when he leaned up against a tree and his hand was immediately covered by a swarm of weaver ants. He jumped, lost his footing, and slid/ran/stumbled down the side of a hill into this canyon. “It was midday and the bright light made visible every small sapling, every thriving piece of carpet moss, every leaf. I was surrounded by vivid shades of greens and browns. It was like I was in the midst of a painting.”

Today, the coronavirus continues to disrupt Ryan’s plans. He had hoped to earn some extra income while in college by running a small event and portrait business, but the pandemic has made that difficult. He did, however, land a job as a photographer for the university newspaper. Ryan has also gotten several chances to explore and photograph different parts of Oregon.

A view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake (left). Sunset at Yaquina Head Lighthouse (right). © Ryan Reynolds
A view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake (left). Sunset at Yaquina Head Lighthouse (right). © Ryan Reynolds

At the University of Portland, he’s an Environmental Science major hoping to eventually work in ecological research and conservation. Ryan is also in the Army ROTC program and expects to go into the army after college. Will photography continue to be important? Ryan says, “I hope it’s more than just a hobby. I definitely think I’ll always be interested in and passionate about photography.”

To see more of Ryan’s photos, follow him on Instagram @theryan_reynolds or Facebook at theryanreynolds

Weekly Wow! Week of November 16, 2020

Waterfall photo. Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Mysterious Spring Dreams, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania” © Vandana Bajikar
Showcase 2020 Top 100 Winner: “Mysterious Spring Dreams, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania” © Vandana Bajikar

All of this week’s Weekly Wow! images can be seen in the slideshow on the NANPA homepage at nanpa.org.

The following Showcase images have been selected to appear on the NANPA home page for the week beginning Monday, November 16, 2020.  To view all of the top 250 photographs from NANPA’s 2020 Showcase competition, see the photo gallery on the NANPA website. The 2020 edition of Expressions contains all of the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition as well as interesting and insightful articles. Order your copy here!

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Young Photographers to Follow: Jacob Eckels

Mountain Landscape © Jacob Eckels
Mountain Landscape © Jacob Eckels

Interviewed by Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Ten talented and promising young photographers were slated to enjoy—and be challenged by—an immersive field experience at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tennessee, in July 2020, as part of NANPA Foundation’s High School Scholarship Program. Since the week-long experience was postponed due to the pandemic, we are profiling the young photographers over the next few weeks. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jacob Eckels.

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