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Forests in Focus Photo Contest 2016 Winners

See the stunning photography that earned top honors in our second annual Forests in Focus photo contest.

GRAND PRIZE WINNER “An Ancient Bristlecone Pine”

PHOTOGRAPHER: Garret Suhrie (CA)

LOCATION: Methuselah Grove, Inyo National Forest, Calif.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest living beings on the planet, some of them living for more than 5,000 years, and this one is an elder of its species. Growing seemingly out of the rock in the Methuselah Grove in Inyo National Forest, this ancient giant has survived for eons in a place where it seems nothing should grow. Lit by flashlights and with a backdrop of the universe, this incredible photo speaks about the intricacies of time and survival. We knew this photo was something special from the first moment we saw it. From then on, even as we were getting excited about other submissions, it just seemed impossible not to come back to this stunning bristlecone. When Garret took this photo on his third trip to the Methuselah Grove, he must have been feeling the same sense of awe as we were.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Garret Suhrie has been a photographer for 15 years. He was educated as a painter, but as soon as he learned about long exposure and that he could paint with light, he never picked up a brush again. He’s been exploring the world by moonlight ever since. His focus has been nocturnal landscapes and travel images, as it allows such limitless potential for showing the world in a strange and different light. You can view more of Garret’s work at garretsuhrie.com.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “This scene of a time-worn bristlecone tree trunk against a starry night is a powerful image. It captures the eye of the viewer and refuses to let go. Gnarled branches reach for the sky as though seeking immortality. The picture speaks. It says ‘I was once a living tree, and now I am part of the everlasting universe.’ The photographer skillfully lit the tree and allowed the stars to light themselves. It is a magnificent composition and most deserving of the Grand Prize.” — Lou Mazzatenta, Former National Geographic Photographer

WINNER: FOREST LANDSCAPES “What Lies Beneath”

PHOTOGRAPHER: Bob Ross (UT)

LOCATION: Redwood National Park, Calif.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Breathing in the long, silent breath of the forest around us, time is suspended. Senses sharpen: the smell of leaf mold beneath our feet, the rough feel of the bark of a tree trunk, the infinitesimal unfurling of a fern’s frond promises new life next to the colorful death of another. And in the midst, the spider works steadily on, heedlessly framing the light for our pleasure, strand by strand.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Bob Ross is a nature and landscape photographer, based out of Salt Lake City.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “This photo has so many interesting elements that all coalesce into a beautiful and fascinating composition. At first glance, you’re pulled in by the spider web, but then you begin to notice the deep violet rays of light at the top guiding the eye down toward the web. The bright green ferns at the bottom become three dimensional against the dark shadows of the huge tree and bushes in the background. There is so much variety in this photo — it’s a feast for the eyes.” — Brad Latham, Latham Creative, Designer, American Forests magazine

WINNER: BIG, BEAUTIFUL TREES “For the Love of Trees”

"For the Love of Trees"

PHOTOGRAPHER: Amanda Joy Mason (MD)

LOCATION: Kings Canyon National Park, Calif.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Amanda captured this image while traveling on a two-month solo road trip across the country and back. The photograph was taken at Kings Canyon National Park, and the view is from inside of a fallen sequoia, looking up at the sky. The handmasked, HDR image, composed of 4-5 exposures, allows you to see detail inside of the dark, hollow tree as well as in the surrounding trees, still standing tall. The resemblance of a heart framing these magnificent giants truly embodies Amanda’s love for the outdoors.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Amanda’s photography encompasses a wide range of genres, but her passion remains in photographing nature, landscapes and advocating for environmental conservation. Amanda looks forward to continuing her career in visual communications, telling stories of people and places, and sharing her passion for the environment with others. To see more of Amanda’s work visit amandajoyphotographics.com.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “I fell in ‘love’ with this picture as soon as I saw it. How wonderful to use a heart-shaped opening in a decaying tree, a tree that through that decay bestows life to a forest, as a framing device to show a vibrant tree. This one picture shows the circle of life of a forest.” — Chuck Fazio, American Forests’ Artist-in-Residence

WINNER: FOREST RECREATION “Above It”

"Above It"

PHOTOGRAPHER: Adam Roades (NC)

LOCATION: Craggy Pinnacle, Blue Ridge Mountains, N.C.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO: When the clouds and sun play on the face of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the rays cutting through the distinctive blue haze, the connection feels visceral and spiritual. To find a moment alone at the top of Craggy Pinnacle, with its 360-degree views and the solitary thread of the Blue Ridge Parkway winding through the forests and peaks below, is a privileged experience.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Adam moved to North Carolina from Ohio to take a job with Kids in Parks, a program designed by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to get kids outdoors and excited about nature. He has nurtured his own relationship with nature, traveling across the country to see our amazing natural wonders and sharing them on his YouTube channel, Roades on the Road. Photography is not his profession, but it is his tool to try and share beauty and wonder he finds in the world.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “Through artful composition of light, color and depth, we are transported by this photo. The angle from which it is taken, the time and nature of the day and layers of distance convey a feeling that is dramatic yet peaceful, accessible yet magical. The photographer has given us a seat at the top of this overlook that we can escape to in a virtual moment, become one of those hikers and let our spirits commune with nature.” — Lea Sloan, Vice President of Communications, American Forests

WINNER: FOREST WILDLIFE “Roosevelt Congress in the Mist”

“Roosevelt Congress in the Mist”

PHOTOGRAPHER: Max Forster (CA)

LOCATION: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Calif.

ABOUT THIS PHOTO: The photo was taken last winter in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Max had been photographing a great gray owl earlier in the afternoon and was in the process of packing up his gear when he noticed fog creeping into the prairie and two young bull elk foraging toward the center. He quickly set up his tripod, cranked up the ISO on his camera and snapped a few photos before the light completely faded. These are two of three young bulls that can be found hanging out together in the park that Max has affectionately dubbed the Three Amigos. Just 100 years ago, the Roosevelt elk population in California had dropped as low as 15. Thankfully, protection of Prairie Creek has helped these majestic creatures rebound to more than 1,000 in the state.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Max moved to Humboldt County, Calif., in 2015, and spends his free time photographing and exploring the coastal redwood parks. Unfortunately, due to the internet, individual trees are becoming celebrities, with enthusiasts missing the forest for the trees. While the draw of particular champion trees is undeniable, there are large swaths of old-growth redwood that have yet to be explored and new discoveries are popping up every week. You could end up missing several trees that are equally impressive on your hunt for a single one. Max encourages everyone to find their own special place in the forest. You never know what you might find.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “A beautiful picture that stood out to the judges immediately. We loved the light. It is a very moody picture that evokes a wonderful sense of place, in addition to that sweet composition of the elk in the frame. A few judges wished they had shot this picture.” — Johnathan Newton, Staff Photographer, Washington Post

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