AMERICAN FORESTS’ ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOWCASE a wide array of forest scenes — from large wilderness areas to city parks — that are just as beautiful and diverse as the people who live among, enjoy and depend on them. A panel of six judges, including professional photographers, adventure seekers and individuals with an eye for nature, assessed photos on the criteria of originality, technical quality and artistic merit. After nearly 1,500 total submissions, these are the incredible photos that took home the top honors.
WINNER, GRAND PRIZE: “KINDRED SPIRIT”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Dave Shaffer (Wis.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PROSPECTIVE: “This beautiful bear quietly observed as I exited a darkening forest in Wisconsin. There was an indescribable connection. Her gentle gaze showed no fear or anxiety. It was simply two souls sharing a special moment.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Schaffer is a photographer whose work can be viewed at www.bearwitnessimages.com.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “‘Kindred Spirit’ is an extraordinary image in so many ways. Most notably, I feel it conveys the emotion present in this beautiful creature and our connectedness with nature. In terms of image design, it’s a wonderfully simple image with calming balance and flow.” — Scott Kranz
WINNER, FOREST LANDSCAPES: “ENDURANCE IN THE KENAI FJORDS”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Patricia Gilhooly (N.J.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PROSPECTIVE: “On a stormy day, my husband and I took a Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise, which brought us close to the coastal fjords and tidewater glaciers of the Hatfield Icefield. As we headed back to Seward, Alaska, the fog finally began to lift, revealing the stunning scope of the landscape at Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Gilhooly is an amateur photographer whose work can be viewed at www.PGimages.com.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “The photo ‘Endurance in the Kenai Fjords’ captures the dramatic beauty that Alaska’s forest possess. It showcases the powerful relationship between water and trees — which are intertwined at the deepest level. The contrast of colors mimics the weather, the feel, the energy — that IS Alaska.” — Brittany Dyer
WINNER, BIG, BEAUTIFUL TREES: “THE FAERIE TREE”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Bradley Joyce (Texas)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “There is something special about this tree, found in Hillsboro, Ore., that even this photo doesn’t capture. After many failed attempts over several days, this composition finally worked. The tree itself radiates a prescient wisdom that compels you to sit below it and wait for some kind of revelation.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Joyce is a landscape photographer whose work can be viewed at www.bradleyjoyce.com.
WHY WE LOVE IT: “This was one of my favorite images from the selection. The lighting perfectly complements the very dramatic and unique composition. The bright hanging moss lining the branches of the tree stand out in pleasing contrast to the dark pine trees in the background.” — Christopher Celentano
WINNER, FORESTS AND PEOPLE: “MAMA MAPLE”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Josh Clague (N.Y.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “We heard about Mama Maple from the proprietor of the Bark Eater Inn, in Keene, N.Y., where we were staying. Even from a distance, its presence, both inviting and protective, immediately drew the children under its canopy, where they continued to play for quite some time.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Clague is a natural resources planner for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “Mama Maple is such a memorable photo. The details of this photo tells a story. The warm contrast color makes you feel comfortable. The leaves reminds you of the season. And the suns rays remind you of joy and happiness. This photo could remind anyone of childhood: the peace, joy and innocence! Pictures are worth 1,000 words, but this one’s worth 1 million; to invoke such memory in a person is a gift.” — Eben Dente
WINNER, ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHERS: “BLUE HERON”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Kaiden Deck (Ohio)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “I was walking down a trail in Mohican State Park in Ohio when I spotted a blue heron through the trees. I quietly crept closer to get the shot. The heron went on with its business, dipping its head in the freezing water. When he looked up at me, I snapped the picture.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Deck, 14, is an upcoming sophomore in high school and aspiring photographer who is intrigued and inspired by nature.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “‘Blue Heron’ is a stunning image that conveys the elegance of the blue heron within its environment. The color and design of this visual is striking and provides a journey for the viewer.” — Scott Kranz
WINNER, FOREST CLOSE-UPS: “MOSSY MUSHROOMS”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Kathleen O’Neil (Mass.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “Rain poured onto the forest floor while moss crawled up the sides of trees and down onto their limbs on the Tonsina Point Trail in Seward, Alaska. Mushrooms and lichen peeked out of rocks and stumps. Surrounded by dynamic life in the rainforest, time stood still, and these mossy mushrooms posed for a close-up.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: O’Neil is an adventure seeker and amateur photographer.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “I have always loved simplicity in imagery. This image really defines a simple temperate forest scene, but on a tiny scale. The rich tones and composition really help put the viewer in the scene.” — Christopher Celentano
WINNER, CITYSCAPES SPLENDOR: “WILLOW IN THE CATHEDRAL”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Amanda Siedschlag (Ore.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “On my day off, I visited Cathedral Park in Portland, Ore., and decided to bring my camera. It was a rainy day, but during a moment of sunshine, this willow under St. John’s Bridge was illuminated bright gold in all its autumn glory.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Siedschlag is an amateur photographer who enjoys capturing nature.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “Faith, concrete and nature are the words that come to mind when I see ‘Willow in the Cathedral.’ Often, I see nature wrapping around cities and man made structures. This photo, frames the visual weight of the city wrapping around nature like a jewel. The willow tree is a great warm color and is excellent contrast to the cold, inorganic city around it. the intentional use of color directly addresses the themes of the magnificent features and qualities of nature existing in the city.” — James Foguth
WINNER, NATURE AS ART: “A GOLDEN WONDERLAND”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Robyn Wilson (Wash.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “The location of this tree, nestled in Seattle, Wash., felt magical to me, with so much bright golden color and a space within it where it felt as though I could step away into another world.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Wilson has spent 15 years passionately pursuing landscape and nature photography.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “‘A Golden Wonderland’ is a beautiful example of using shallow depth of field to create an interesting and artful image. The sharp focus on the tree juxtaposed with the blurred leaves, and the movement in the center of the image, keeps the eye moving around the image. That’s exactly what you want, for the viewer to want to stay in the moment that the image captures.” — Jenny Nichols
WINNER, FOREST WILDLIFE: “PENSIVE WOODPECKER”
PHOTOGRAPHER: Michele Walfred (Del.)
PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “With a major Nor’easter in the forecast, I set out some seed and suet in my wooded front yard, which this red-bellied woodpecker enjoyed. After a good meal, it seemed to anticipate the impending storm and stayed quiet, in this position for some time!”
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Walfred is a communications specialist for the University of Delaware, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
WHY WE LOVED IT: “‘Pensive Woodpecker’ is flawless in every way possible. I love the contrast of the dark, cool grey, and blues are all over the picture. The red steals the attention, giving notices to the subject. The use of space makes me feel like the photographer really knew what they were doing. It takes a certain amount of skill to take bird photos, and the clarity and focus shows the photographer’s experience.” — Eben Dente
“Sawtooth Sunset” by Douglas Keder
“From the Outside In” by Kinley Bollinger
“Looking Up” by Ruth Gitto
“Marvelous Marbled Orb Weaver” by Peggy Yaeger
ABOUT THE JUDGES
American Forests was honored to have the following six incredible judges on our panel for the 2021 Forests in Focus Photo Contest.
Scott Kranz is a Seattle-based photographer and filmmaker specializing in outdoor sports and landscapes, as well as an avid hiker, mountaineer and skier in the Cascade Range and beyond.
Jenny Nichols is a filmmaker, photographer and illustrator who thrives on multidisciplinary projects that act as tipping points in conservation campaigns.
Chris Celentano is an Idaho-based photographer who specializes in outdoor adventure and landscapes, while also being an active all-season climber, kayaker and hiker in and around the remote regions of North Idaho and the greater Pacific Northwest.
Eben Dente is an international freelance photographer and artist. He is also the founder of E De Media and CreativesOD, a multimedia platform and service provided for the community, which allows people to express themselves creatively through their art and media outlets.
Brittany Dyer serves as American Forests’ California state director. While she spends much of her time in the field helping American Forests expand the implementation of climate-smart restoration treatments, she also has a natural eye for photography, creativity and how to beautifully capture the forest environment.
James Foguth is a Navajo filmmaker and founder of Nizhoni Films. He grew up in Luckachukai, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation. Storytelling in Navajo culture is a way to teach spirituality and life lessons. Foguth has contributed to countless video and photo projects, including projects for ESPNU, the Audience Network, HBO and the Bahai Faith.