Picture This: Our 2023 Photography Contest

Grand Prize | A Light Breaks Through | near Echo Cliff, Piseco | William Adamczak | Ballston Spa, New York

Grand-Prize Winner

Friendly Mallard, Lake George
Amy S. Hunt Canton, New York

Between us, my fellow photography contest judges—executive editor Annie Stoltie and senior editor Lisa Bramen—and I have 57 years of experience gazing at piles of amazing entries. In that time we’ve gasped at thousands of gorgeous views, giggled at the antics of wildlife, pondered unexpected perspectives and, yes, analyzed and argued for hours and hours. There are a lot of factors that go into our decisions: quality and creativity among them, of course, but also an unnameable emotional reaction. Putting on our judges’ robes is one of the things we love about our jobs, though it can be difficult, and sometimes made even more so by the parameters of the traditional categories. So this year we went a little rogue and simply chose our favorites, regardless of which aspect of Adirondack life they documented. (We even settled on one tie—why not?) Our readers went a little rogue themselves, often shying away from million-dollar views and turning their lenses toward the beautiful creatures that surround us—especially paying tribute to our feathered friends. Our choices reflect that. Though, if I had gotten my way a handsome prince-in-waiting that his photographer, Susan Kiesel, and her kayaking partners named “The Bullfrog Boss” would be gracing this issue’s cover.

— Niki Kourfsky

The Winners of our Annual Photography Contest

Congratulations to all of our winners. Grand-prize, first- through third-place and runner-up honorees will receive a commemorative piece of pottery by Sue Young, of Jay. 

Runner-up Honorees

Click Here to see the winners of last year’s contest. 

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Photography Tips

Adirondack Photography Institute executive director John Radigan’s photo tips:

1. Shoot during the “magic hours.”

The times around sunrise and sunset provide the best light, with a range of tones that can easily be captured by a modern digital camera. Rapidly changing conditions make interesting lighting effects, and the wind is often greatly reduced in the early morning.

2. Keep horizons level.

Avoid tilted lakes. Unless you are trying to achieve an exaggerated effect, horizon lines should be level. Use the camera’s viewfinder grid lines or a hot-shoe mounted bubble level to make sure.

3. Steer clear of large, featureless areas.

Large areas without interesting details should generally be avoided, as they draw attention from other parts of the image. A blank sky, for instance, whether blue or overcast, is a distraction in an image. Wait for clouds to add interest to the scene.

4. Be aware of what’s going on in all directions.

Don’t be fixated by a small portion of the scene surrounding you. Conditions in nature can change rapidly. Always look behind, down and up to see if there are other things going on that you may be missing.

5. Include a foreground object to give depth.

Placing objects at varying distances within the picture plane can create a more interesting image. This helps to create a sense of scale in the image, drawing the viewer in.

6. Don’t be afraid of the rain.

Some of the most beautiful and usable light occurs during a light rain or drizzle. Extremes of contrast from light to dark disappear, allowing a tremendous amount of detail. This is the time to be in the forest or among the plants in a field.

7. Always use a tripod.

Shooting during the magic hours or in low-light conditions such as drizzle can require long exposures—a number of seconds, at least. A tripod is a necessity at these times.

8. Avoid centering the subject.

Placing your subject in the center of the frame will, instead of highlighting it, give equal importance to the subject and everything around it. By placing the subject significantly away from the center, the viewer’s eye is drawn to it.