Smithsonian Magazine’s 10th Annual Photo Contest (50 amazing pictures)

Smithsonian Magazine’s 10th Annual Photo Contest has just announced the 50 finalists for this year’s competition. The contest received over 37,600 photo submissions from photographers in 112 countries around the world.

The five contest categories this year include:
The American Experience — Events, objects or activities connecting the American people to their history or their cultural heritage; photographs that tell us what it means to be an American and provide a sense of what it is like to live in this country.

The Natural World — Animals, plants and landscapes; geological or climatological features; and scientific processes and endeavors.

People — Individuals from all walks of life.

Altered Images — Photographs manipulated for artistic purposes by applying digital and/or traditional special effects (i.e. colorizing, toning, collage, photo composites, HDR, etc.).

Travel — Locales, peoples or activities in the United States and abroad that convey a sense of place.

Starting on March 29, 2013, the public can begin voting for the Reader’s Choice Winner on All winners will be announced in June.


The Natural World


A Pair of Bald Eagles Share a Meal

Photo by Don Holland (Dyer, Tennessee). Photographed in Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee, January 2012.


The photographer’s wife spotted these eagles perched in a dead tree feeding on animal remains in the state park’s Upper Blue Basin. “Bird photography is very challenging and often frustrating, but the reward is the satisfaction in recognizing when the elements come together and capturing a special moment,” says Holland, who captured this image with a Canon 7D with a 600mm f/4 IS lens.


Ants Holding Seeds

Photo by Eko Adiyanto (Bekasi, Indonesia). Photographed in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, April 2012.


The photographer, armed with his Nikon D70, was compelled to take this photo because he had never seen ants exhibiting their strength in this way. “It’s [a] unique and rare moment,” Adiyanto says.


Breeding Penguins

Photo by Neal Piper (Washington, DC). Photographed at Damoy Point, Antarctica, January 2012.


The photographer waited about an hour to snap this image of Gento penguins and their newborn chicks on Antarctica. “I have always dreamed of visiting all seven continents, and on this day that dream came true,” says Piper, who took this shot with an EOS 40D.


Mummy, I Am Down Here, and Hungry!

Photo by Bjorn Olesen (Singapore). Photographed in Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia, November, 2010.


The morning this photo was taken was unusually quiet, Olesen says. “I was about to pack my bags I heard this juvenile Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) calling ‘chi-chit, chi-chit,’ trying to attract the attention of its parents above while flapping its wings.” Olesen snapped as many shots possible before the bird flew away seconds later. “[It was] the highlight of my Borneo Trip.”

Taken with a Nikon D3.


Antheraea Polyphemus Caterpillar Striking a Rather Devious-Looking Pose

Photo by Colin Hutton (Durham, North Carolina). Photographed in Duke Forest, North Carolina, September 2011.


The photographer, who is always looking out for interesting insects, discovered this caterpillar while shooting footage of a jumping spider with a Canon 7D.


Baby Owl in Studio

Photo by Phillip Pilkington (Southport, UK). Photographed in Southport, UK, November 2012.


This image was captured with a Nikon D90 during a photo shoot at a local bird enthusiast’s home. “I was aiming to do a traditional studio portrait of an unusual studio subject,” the photographer says.


Visiting the Bronx Zoo

Photo by Vanessa Bartlett (New York, New York); October 2012, Bronx Zoo, New York City


This gorilla bounded up to the photographer as she was capturing photos of his enclosure with a Canon Rebel T3. The giant mammal remained in front of her for half an hour. “After returning home, I couldn’t stop staring at this photo,” says Bartlett, for whom photography is a new hobby. “I caught exactly what I wanted: the subject’s magnificence beyond the obvious.”


A Man-Made Ice Geyser

Photo by Nathan Carlsen (Duluth, Minnesota). Photographed in Duluth, Minnesota, January 2012.


“A water pipe in Duluth is ‘bled’ every year to ensure it doesn’t freeze,” Carlsen explains. “As the water freezes, it builds this amazing ice geyser.” Carlsen purchased several dozen LED lights, secured them to a rope with duct tape and hung them down the center of the geyser to achieve the lighting in this image. He then captured the shot with a tripod-mounted Nikon D70.


The Milky Way Galaxy Exploding from Mount Rainier

Photo by David Morrow (Everett, Washington). Photographed at Sunrise Point in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, October 6, 2012


The photographer captured this image of the Milky Way rising up from behind Mount Rainier with a Nikon D800. “The stars almost looked as though they were erupting from the mountain and I knew this was a moment in time that I had to capture,” Morrow says.


An Onlooker Witnesses the Annular Solar Eclipse as the Sun Sets on May 20, 2012

Photo by Colleen Pinski (Peyton, CO). Photographed in Albuquerque, NM, May 2012.


The photographer captures a person framed by the annular solar eclipse, watching as the sun sets. “I feel it can inspire so many people around the world, no matter what race, religion or gender,” Pinski says. “Anyone can look at it and feel touched by a ‘beyond this world’ experience.”





Alternating Rice Plots in the Bacson Valley

Photo by Hai Thinh Hoang (Hanoi, Vietnam). Photographed in Bac Son, Lang Son, Vietnam, July 15, 2012.


The photographer climbed up a mountain for two hours, reaching an altitude of 617 meters, to achieve this shot of an early fog floating over yellow rice paddies. The camera used is a Nikon D3S.


A Visit to Bagan, Myanmar

Photo by Han Tha (Yangon, Myanmar). Photographed in Bagan, Myanmar, January 2011.


The photographer captured this misty landscape with a Canon EOS Rebel T1i while visiting Bagan with her daughter. “I have been to Bagan several times,” Tha said, “But I hadn’t previously had a chance to take a photo like this.”


A Lone Hiker Viewed the Path Before Him as the Milky Way Rose in the Night Sky

Photo by Jason J. Hatfield (Lakewood, CO). Photographed in Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, May 2012.


A hiker looks onto the path before him in Bryce Canyon National Park in the middle of the night as the Milky Way stretches upward above. The photographer, who used a Sony A900, had been shooting the day’s solar eclipse.


River Ferry Operating in the Early Morning in Xiao Donjiang, China

Photo by James Khoo (Shah Alam, Malaysia). Photographed in La Pan Tan, Mu Cang Chay, Yen Bai, Viet Nam, August 2010.


A river ferry moves along Xiaodong River at dawn. “The red lanterns against the blue misty morning provided the contrast and strengthened the image as a whole,” says the photographer, for whom this was the first use of a digital rather than film camera, a Nikon D300.


Puli Kali in the Annual Festival Onam

Photo by Indranil Sengupta (Hooghly, West Bengal). Photographed in Thrissur, Kerala, India, August 2010.


A young boy participates in the “tiger dance,” a 200-year-old colorful folk art performance. Painting tigers onto performers’ bodies takes six to seven hours, according to the photographer, who used a Nikon D-300.


Monks Releasing Lanterns During Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo by Daniel Nahabedian (Chiang Mai, Thailand). Photographed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 2012.


Monks release glowing lanterns into the night sky during the Loy Krathong Buddhist Festival in Thailand. The photo, shot with a Canon 50D, captures “the essence of peace and serenity” of the event as the monks release their negative thoughts through the flying lanterns and focus on the future, the photographer says.


Musicians Arriving at the Bullring

Photo by Raul Amaru Linares (Bogota, Colombia). Photographed in Quito, Ecuador, October 2011.


Musicians arrive at the bullring before all other guests to secure their seats. “It was a magical, beautiful frame and did not last long,” says the photographer, who used a Nikon D7000. “Everything happens so fast. When faced with a beautiful scene, you are afraid of losing the moment.”


Rice Terraces Close to Harvest Season

Photo by Vo Anh Kiet (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Photographed in La Pan Tan, Mu Cang Chay, Yen Bai, Viet Nam, September 2012.


These rolling rice terraces are almost ready for harvest. The photographer, who says hundreds like him rush to the area each year to capture the life cycle of the grain, used a Canon EOS 7D.


Lone Acacia, Sossusvlei Sand Dunes

Photo by Bob Bush (Altadena, CA). Photographed in Namibia, May 2010.


A lone acacia tree stands in the burnt sienna sands of the Namibian desert against the rising sun. “The acacia tree provided a sense of scale and a sense of the beautiful desolation of the place,” says the photographer, who used a Nikon 300S.


People Harvesting Salt at Sunset

Photo by Hoang Giang Hai (Hanoi, Vietnam). Photographed in the Ninh Hoa District, Khanh Hoa Province, Vietnam, August 2012.


The sun begins to set as workers harvest salt. “The image of diligent women working the salt fields reflects the hardship of this job,” says the photographer, who used a Canon EOS 7D.




Christine, 20-years-old, with Her First Child a Few Months Old

Photo by Paolo Patruno (Bologna, Italy). Photographed in Mulungwishi, Democratic Republic of Congo, April 2012.


Mosquito nets like these help protect people in the Republic of Congo from contracting malaria. The photographer, who captured the image of this baby with a Canon 5D Mark II, was documenting humanitarian efforts by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which donated these nets to the Congolese villagers.


Worshipers at Charak Puja in Moulvibazar, Bangladesh

Photo by Md. Akhlas Uddin (Sylhet, Bangladesh). Photographed in Moulvibazar, Bangladesh, April 2012.


A group of worshippers celebrated a Hindu festival devoted to the deities Shiva and Shakti in Bangladesh. The photographer shot this image with a Canon EOS 40D.


A Farmer Drying Rice in the Hot Sun

Photo by Alamsyah Rauf (Sulawesi-Selatan, Indonesia). Photographed in Indonesia, August 2012.


A farmer dries rice in the hot sun, which helps drain moisture from crops when the harvest season arrives. The photographer used a Canon 5D Mark II.


Farmers Harvesting Salt

Photo by Alamsyah Rauf (Sulawesi-Selatan, Indonesia); Photographed Indonesia, September 2012.


Long droughts spell trouble for most citizens, but they also bring salt for farmers. The photographer used a Canon 5D Mark II.


Evening in a Barbershop

Photo by Abhijit Dey (Kanchrapara, West Bengal). Photographed in Bagbazar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India, June 4, 2011.


A barber interacts with a client at the end of a day, illuminated by a single light bulb. “The harsh single light source reveals the simple surroundings while retaining enough detail in the mirror to provide a multidimensional view of the subjects,” says the photographer, who shot the scene with a Nikon D90 with 18-200mm Nikon VR ED lens.


In One of the Small Churches in Nazareth

Photo by Ilan Fain (Haifa, Israel). Photographed in Nazareth, Israel, July 2011.


Three girls take a break from the day inside a small Greek Orthodox Church in Nazareth. The camera used is a Canon 3D.


A Day Laborer Works at a Chemical Drum Recycling Plant

Photo by Raihan Parvez (Dhaka, Bangladesh). Photographed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, February 2012.


This day laborer works at a chemical drum recycling plant, carrying 15-kilogram drums and piling them up.


Policemen Run Across the National Congress in Brasília During a Demonstration Against Corruption

Photo by Olivier Boëls (Brasilia, Brazil). Photographed in Brasilia, Brazil, September 2011.


Police officers in front of the Brazilian National Congress are summoned to contain protestors against corruption, who were attempting to invade the building with brooms for a symbolic cleansing. The photographer zeroed in on the officers for this shot to create mystery about whom they were chasing.


Rasta Daughter

Photo by Selwane Evodia Melamu (Johannesburg, South Africa). Photographed in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 2012.


The photographer took this self-portrait using a Canon 550D. “This image is important to me because of my Rastafarian culture,” Melamu said. “In my culture, females are known as queens, and the image I took represents me as a bust of the Queen Nefertiti in Egypt.”


Guardians of the Forest

Photo by Piers Calvert (West Sussex, England). Photographed in Rio Caqueta, Amazonas, Colombia, March 2012.


Four Yucuna tribesmen stand dressed for the Baile del Muñeco, or “puppet dance,” an annual event during which they celebrate the abundance of the chontaduro fruit. “They are standing strong amidst the trees, both its protectors and its guardians, in a time of enormous pressure on the environment,” says Calvert, who photographed them with a Hasselblad HD311.


The American Experience


Grandpa’s Helper

Photo by Jenny Braun (Hampton, Minnesota). Photographed in Hampton, Minnesota, July 2012.


The photographer lives and works on her family farm, where she captured this photo of her nephew helping his grandfather clean out the last of the corn from the previous summer’s grain bins using her Sony DSC-HX9V.


Kitchen in Abandoned Home

Photo by Cleat Walters, III (Charlotte, NC). Photographed in Bodie, CA, June 2012.


A thick layer of dust covers this abandoned kitchen in Bodie, California, captured with a Nikon D200. “The compelling part of the photo for me was the normalcy of the setting contrasted with the obvious time that has lapsed,” says the photographer. “It is important to me because I love to find beauty in age, and I found it that day.”


Apple Guy on Location in the Desert

Photo by Ron Henderson (Dallas, Texas). Photographed in the Dumont Dunes, California, May 2011.


This image captures the well-known spokesman for underwear company Fruit of the Loom taking a break during his own photo shoot. “I liked the very American and friendly image of the Apple Guy juxtaposed against a vast desert, creating the allusion of a stop on a long journey,” says Henderson, who used a Canon 5D Mark III.


Hopper/Rockwell Scene, New York City

Photo by Winston Hicks (Austin, Texas). Photographed in the East Village, New York City, September 23, 2011.


During his first visit to New York, the photographer was surprised by the quaintness of the East Village, where he snapped this photo of a busy barbershop using a Nikon D300. “It wasn’t until I was cropping the photo that I thought it looked like it could have been paintings by Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell joined to each other,” Hicks says.


Blues in the Streets of Chicago

Photo by Javier Arcenillas (Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain); Photographed in Chicago, Illinois, October 2010.


A man stands in the misty streets of Chicago, known for its jazz and blues scene.


Nighttime at Times Square, NYC

Photo by Doug Van de Zande (Raleigh, NC). Photographed in New York City, November 1, 2012.


This billboard bearing the American flag caught the photographer’s eye during a Thanksgiving visit to the Big Apple. Using a Nikon D200, Vandezande waited for an adjacent traffic light to change four times before he could successfully capture the light of the billboard reflecting off the moving cars below.


Eating Peach Ice Cream in the Summer

Photo by Ron Henderson (Dallas, TX). Photographed in Terrel, TX, July 2011.


The photographer and his mother took a road trip to the Ham Orchards, known for its fresh peaches, fried pies and towering cones of peach ice cream. This photo, taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, shows Henderson’s son trying to catch melting droplets of ice cream as they drip down his fingers in the hot Texas sun.


Liquor Store

Photo by David Egan (San Francisco, California). Photographed in Petaluma, California, September 1, 2011.


This image, captured using a 4×5 Shen-Hao field camera, is part of a larger series that recognizes the importance of the American Dream, California small towns and the photographer’s interest in past history.


Annual Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City, Montana

Photo by George Burgin (Billings, Montana). Photographed in Miles City, Montana, May 2012


Workers in cowboy hats try to wrangle a horse during Miles City’s annual bucking horse sale.


Snow Cone Stand at Dusk

Photo by Kelly Berry (Murphy, Texas). Photographed in McKinney, Texas, May 2012.


The photographer first stumbled upon this snow cone stand, which are as common in Texas as hot dog stands are in New York, several years ago. He captured the stand against the backdrop of dusk using a Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod.


Altered Images


Il Duomo di Firenze

Photo by Garret Suhrie (Los Angeles, California). Photographed in Florence, Italy, October 2011.


The photo is a composite from roughly two-dozen images, taken with an Olympus point-and-shoot, of the famous Duomo from various perspectives.


To Serve and Protect

Photo by Skip Hunt (Austin, Texas). A composite of images taken in New York City, NY, September – January 2012.


The photo was taken in Times Square with an Olympus XZ-1. The photographer was visiting a friend in Brooklyn around the time of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which prompted the picture’s title.


Hectic Mornings

Photo by Brittney Callahan (Strongsville, Ohio). Photographed in Strongsville, Ohio, April 2012.


The multiple shots depicting a busy morning in this image took the photographer, who served as the model, less than an hour to complete. The camera used was a Nikon D5000.


A Whimsical House Set in the Burning Clouds of a Fiery Sunset

Photo by Sonya Kanelstrand (Gjettum, Norway). A composite of images taken in Mandal, Norway and Helleren, Jossingfjord, Norway, May and June 2011.


This wooden house, constructed in the early 1800s, is nestled under a massive cliff in an area uninhabited since the Stone Age. The camera used is a Nikon D40.


The Last Pollen Spore Preparing to Leave a Ladybug Trying to Hold On, Because It Didn’t Want to Be Alone

Photo by Hiep Nguyen Hoang (Hanoi, Vietnam). Photographed in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 2012.


The photographer used a thin steel wire to support and attach a pollen spore to one of the ladybug’s arms. The camera used is an Olympus Pen PL-1 with a Super-Takumar 50 F/1.4 lens.



Photo by Katarzyna Widmanska (Kraków, Poland). Photographed in Kraków, Poland, September 2012.


This photo, meant to portray the models as androids by dressing them in futuristic clothing, was inspired by Polish costume designer Lidia Sajdak. The camera used was a Nikon D700.


Chasing Shadows

Photo by Violet Kashi (Giv’atayim, Israel). Photographed in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 2011.


The photographer says this montage of photos, captured with a Nikon D90, captures the “unique blend of reality and make-believe” that constitutes her childhood memories.


Grey Smoke Hair

Photo by Michal Baran (Trim, Ireland). Photographed in Trim, County Meath, Ireland, January 2011.


This edited image shows smoke from an electric cigarette looming behind a wooden mask. The camera used was an Olympus E-3.



Photo by Tim Wright (Omaha, Nebraska). Photographed in Mapleton, Iowa, April 2011.


The image conveys a sense of 3-D in the scene of the aftermath of a powerful Midwestern tornado. The camera used is a Canon 5D Mark II, and the photo is an HDR image using Photomatix HDR Pro and Photoshop CS3.


Under Construction

Pramod Shakya (Xi’an City, China). Photographed in Xi’an city, China, September 2011.


This image was taken of a building being constructed at Xi’an Jiaotong University where the photographer is a student. Shakya used a Nikon D7000 to capture the photograph before giving it a final touch in PhotoShop CS5.


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