Announcing: Chasing the Light “The Great American Landscape” Photo Contest Winners

FIRST PLACE by Michael Sherman

I look for photographs with strong composition, good use of the available light – be it dramatic or subtle, visual depth, and an overall strength that grabs my attention, that evokes a positive response in me. There were many images that met these criteria; but just as many that didn’t – they lacked compelling light, or the composition was not strong, and the image lacked depth, things that make the difference between an OK photograph and a great photograph.

There were also pictures submitted of iconic locations that were done very well, but those locations have been photographed and entered into competitions so much. While these images still have merit as a good landscape photograph, I selected photographs for the top spots that had the qualities I mention above, but that also showed the photographer’s ability to see well in places that were not iconic, or that captured the iconic location in a way that was fresh and exciting.

The first place winner’s photograph instantly got my attention. The spotlight effect of sun breaking through storm clouds draws out attention into the canyon, but framed well with the snow-covered branches on either side. I feel like I’m standing there witnessing this scene along with the photographer. The diffused light of the background with just a hint of light on two formations draws me further into the canyon and the mood of this moment. It’s a wonderful photograph.

-Brenda Tharp

SECOND PLACE “High Sierra Rainbow” by Sandy Follett


The second place of High Sierra with Rainbow is strong for several reasons. It has a very strong foreground that invites us, the viewer, to step into the scene, and enjoy the mood that the storm light created. The calm water space between foreground and background had enough reflections in it to hold my attention as I was moved to the background mountains with the light and the rainbow. The overall warmth of the colors bouncing off the clouds above added to the overall quiet beauty of this scene. This picture also is a good story-telling landscape – with the markings on the rocks showing just how low the water level is. It adds a story to the landscape.

-Brenda Tharp

Third Place “Cima Joshua Trees” by Dennis Fritsche


Third place was getting harder to select – there were many images that were worthy – but alas, I had to choose only one. I selected this Joshua Tree landscape because of the drama that the light produced, the way it skimmed the surface of the grasses, lighting up spots here and there, and enough of the foreground tree was lit to make it stand out from the moody background sky. The composition was good, creating depth in the scene, something that the light helped by the way it shaded and spot-lit areas. You can feel the energy of the light in this one – the lucky break in the clouds when the land lights up while the sky storms on…

– Brenda Tharp

HONORABLE MENTION: “Red Mountains with reflection in Crystal Lake, Colorado” by Kim Todd

Red Mountains No.1, No.2, and No.3 with reflection in Crystal Lake, Colorado.

Two Honorable Mentions were to be selected and I sweated over those choices. At this point, way too many pictures were worthy of the spot; so I walked away from it for a while, and came back and made more selections; did that about three times, as each time something ‘grabbed’ me more and I knew it was a stronger contender than others.

The Mountains reflected in the lake won out as the light was soft and beautiful and the reflection lovely, with a nice foreground of fireweed to ‘edge’ the frame. This photograph has such a peaceful feeling; I wanted to sit by that lake and soak in all the majestic beauty. The image proved that you can create wonderful landscapes with subtle light, too.

The Lone Tree in snow is a very popular, well-photographed tree in Yellowstone. Iconic, but in this case, what made the picture different was the subtle tonality produced by the dappled light, and the clouds above. The image is a gentle landscape and I like the feeling of it.
-Brenda Tharp


Bruce Beron,

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