2021 Natural Landscape Photography Prize: the winners

Why does the world need another landscape photography competition? Well, the Natural Landscape Photography Awards, the first competition of its kind, aims to promote landscape photographers who seek realism and authenticity in their images.

This new competition established important parameters for input images that restrict certain digital editing and composition techniques. The result is an inspiring showcase of images from a range of talented photographers who aim to stay true to the natural beauty of the landscape.

2021 marking its inaugural year, the Natural Landscape Photography Awards were founded by Matt Payne, Tim Parkin, Alex Nail and Rajesh Jyothiswaran. As talented and acclaimed photographers in their own right, they wanted to create a place where the talent of the photographers in the field is celebrated and where post-processing is applied in a way that stays true to the scene being experienced.

One of the unique characteristics of photography is its ability to clearly represent the visual experience of
the world. The competitions we see online sometimes reward the technical skills of post-
processing, composition and graphic design on the challenges of working within the confines of the real world. -Matt Payne, Founder

The competition was a huge success in its first year, with 13,368 photographs submitted by more than 1,300 photographers from 47 countries around the world. The jury is made up of eight industry leaders, including world-renowned photographers Joe Cornish and William Neill, all of whom share the vision and values ​​of the founders of the competition.

Photographer of the year, Winner: Eric Bennett

Eric Bennett, Photographer of the Year winner, said this about the contest:

As a photographer who strives to show people the value of the wilderness, I have always enjoyed seeing and creating more subtle and personal photographs that represent nature realistically. As these types of images tend to have a quieter impact, they often end up being largely ignored in most photography competitions. This is why I haven’t entered many competitions in the past, as I felt that my work would be judged based on factors that I myself don’t like.

However, I decided to submit my photographs for the Natural Landscape Awards because I liked that the competition focused on rewarding images based on composition, lighting and originality as opposed to post-painting techniques. treatment or extravagant composition. I had no idea that I would end up receiving the Photographer of the Year award, as the intention behind my participation was only to show my support.

To receive this award from such a prestigious and respected group of photographers whom I have always admired is a great honor for me. I hope the Natural Landscape Awards can continue for many years to come, stay true to their values, and also inspire other photography competitions to recognize photographers based on similar artistic principles.

Photography of the year, winner: Steve Alterman

The landscapes are of several sizes. Sometimes the best pictures are literally at your feet! Fellsfjara is the black sand beach in front of the famous glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland. As the lagoon’s icebergs pour into the sea, many of them wash up on the beach, destined to melt. Early one morning, I encountered a small, fairly flat iceberg near the ocean. Small waves sometimes broke over it and disappeared into the black sand. After watching this particular scene for a few minutes, I noticed that the early morning sun was shining on the small pebbles on the beach and the tip of the iceberg, coupled with the small orange boulder and pebbles, created a graphic design. breathtaking. Maneuvering the tripod and camera into a position to capture the scene was a bit of a challenge, but luckily in the end it worked out well.

Large Landscape, Winner: Michael Frye

I have lived in or near Yosemite for over 35 years, so I know the park intimately and have photographed it every season, in almost any weather imaginable.

After so many years, it can be difficult to find new ways to photograph this place. I often photograph more intimate views of Yosemite, as there is an endless variety of subjects to work with. I have also taken many photographs of Yosemite at night.

But I also tried to photograph the great landscapes of Yosemite Valley from different angles. Classic views are classic for a reason – they work. But I thought there must surely be other places that would work too, where the landforms would fit together in a nice way – and the view wouldn’t be blocked by trees!

I had visited this view of El Capitan maybe a dozen times, hoping for exceptional light. Usually I would come home disappointed. But on that March afternoon, after a small squall of snow moved through the valley, I was treated to one of the most beautiful light and mist I have ever seen on El Cap.

Intimate and abstract, Winner: Franka Gabler

Each fall I make several trips to the eastern mountains of the Sierra Nevada to photograph the change of seasons. The mountain pass I use to drive there is usually open until the end of October when it closes for the season. The weather plays an important role and influences the development of fall colors, so the vegetation is slightly different each year.

One of my favorite scenes to photograph is where the aspens are almost bare – their light bark glows and the surrounding vegetation has a chance to show off its subtle hues. On this cool autumn morning, I was drawn to this tranquil scene, watching nature preparing for rest. I was alone, at dawn, waiting for the light to become bright enough to capture subtle colors and textures. Only a tiny amount of yellow foliage was left on the aspens, adding an understated touch of warm color, mostly contrasting the cool hues of the Sierra willow brush.

The scene made me melancholy – that’s why I titled the photograph “Autumn Blues”.

The 30 minutes spent taking this picture was unlike any other time with a camera.

I set up my tripod as thunder rumbled around me, hopes of getting a picture turned to excitement as the storm moved over the Matterhorn.

I was briefly frustrated with trying to focus and adjust in the dark. Occasional flashes of lightning nearby helped me recompose, fine-tune focus, and adjust settings. But I cursed each of them like a missed opportunity to shoot. Once I was happy with the camera setup, I was able to take the time to trigger many 10 second exposures and just watch the show.

Each love at first sight gave me chills. When these two made it to the top, I knew I had something special in the camera.

Excitement, fear, relief, pride. All in 30 minutes. This range of emotion is rare when taking a landscape image. I am very fortunate to have both witnessed the event and captured it with a camera.

There is something about getting on and off the regular plane you travel on that allows you to create a whole new perspective and a whole new relationship with the landscape around you, especially in the vast desert areas of Australia where this image was taken. It is the flattest continent in the world and from the ground it can extend in an almost featureless plane. As you ascend into the sky, all of its remarkable structures and hidden intricacies begin to reveal itself with increased complexity and depth. The true vastness of the landscape, the interconnectivity of nature and perhaps even an echo of the dreamlike stories of its creation are brought to light.

By removing the horizon and all sense of scale, as I have done here, the viewer is invited to move away from his more literal mind for more figurative interpretive paths. Positioning a fixed-wing aircraft at the right angle over your chosen subject can sometimes be a difficult task, with many factors involved, but it makes it all the more satisfying when all the elements are in place. . The image shown here, as you see it, has essentially come out of the camera.

Youth, Winner: Jai Shet

I took this photo in Joshua Tree National Park in May 2021. Among a cluster of Joshua trees, I noticed that one of them was missing a branch, making it a place perfect for aligning the moon. In my photo, the tree appeared to hold the moon like a lantern, using its ghostly light to reveal the landscape. The silhouettes of Joshua trees in the background seemed to subtly lean towards the moon as if they wanted to hold it themselves.

ASH documents unprecedented fires in Tasmania as of 2019. Areas photographed include Hartz Mountains National Park, Franklin Gordon River National Park, Great Lakes, and Tasmania’s east coast. The project documents the destruction of these fires, the thin line between survival and destruction, and the re-emergence of life, albeit affected by habitat that has lost many species vulnerable to the fires.

As you can see, the winning images are inspiring examples of how beautiful and surreal nature can be without the help of artificial and over-the-top editing techniques. That being said, the point of this contest is not to disparage any particular style or art form. Everyone has the right to create their art in the way that inspires them. This competition is nothing more than the founders’ attempt to recognize the incredible work of photographers who may have been overlooked on popular photo sharing websites due to a more subtle and understated style of processing. We should all be delighted to see the influence this competition will have on the art of landscape photography in the years to come. Be sure to check out the NLPA website for full competition results, including finalist and founders’ prizes!

All images used with permission

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