The 2017 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest Winners
Selected from images taken in 65 countries and territories (during 2016-17), the winners of the 8th Earth & Sky Photo Contest highlight beauties of the night sky and its battle with light pollution.
A stunning collection of nightscape photos (night sky above landscape) are selected as the winners and honorable mention photos of the 8th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest. The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere in the world; to both professional and amateur/hobby photographers. Organized since 2009 by The World at Night (TWAN), the contest is a collaboration with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) and Global Astronomy Month, a program of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB). The contest public message is to preserve last remaining natural night environments and night skies in the world, supporting efforts by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and other organizations in the field.
The Annual TWAN contest continues to attract a large number of entries.
This year more than 1000 images were selected for judging in eight
categories and sub-categories by nine experienced judges from a variety
of backgrounds. The judging process was lengthy and exacting, and we are
confident that the images we have selected represent some of the finest
night-time landscape photography anywhere. The winning images were
chosen on their aesthetic merit and technical excellence, and we believe
they accurately reflect the state of the art in
TWAN-style photography. The competition encourages photographers
with imagination to push their cameras to their technical limits, and to
produce eye-catching images that appear perfectly natural and are
The images were taken in
65 countries and territories including Algeria, Argentina, Australia,
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana,
Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England,
Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong
Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan,
Kenya, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico,
Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, North Ireland, Norway, Oman, Paraguay,
Peru, Philippines, Poland, Reunion (France), Romania, Russia, Scotland,
Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland,
Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and USA.
According to the contest
theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” the submitted photos were separated in
two categories: “Beauty of The Night Sky” and “Against The Lights”. The
selected images are those most effective in impressing public on both
how important and delicate the starry sky is as an affecting part of our
nature, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become.
Today, most city skies are virtually devoid of stars. Light pollution
(excessive light that scatters to the sky instead of illuminating the
ground) not only is a major waste of energy, it also obscures the stars,
disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.
The first prize goes to Camilo Jaramillo of Colombia. He photographed this stunning vista, “100 Steps Forward” in Huacachina Desert, Peru. “This photo talks for its own, a perfect moment with Venus, a crescent Moon hiding on the horizon and the always cosmic and amazing Milky Way. Person on photo is a friend of mine who I met in my trip around this beautiful country, Peru." says Jaramillo.
Contest judge Alan Dyer comments: "Here we see a great composition and lighting. Great juxtaposition of human, Earth and sky. And fine processing. A 'Wow!' shot for sure, my initial reaction was a key factor in making a judgment."
The second position goes to Yuri Zvezdny from Russia, with his wide panorama of the Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds over National Park Torres Del Paine in Chile. "To take this picture I had to risk my life and climb the steep slope. I was ready for this for the sake of a dream. Rising moon illuminates the landscape. Zodiacal light shine above the mountains. Bright Milky Way, Magellanic Clouds, emerald lagoon, thousands of stars, constant rockfalls and loneliness in the darkness... unforgettable night." says Zvezdny. The panoramic view titled "Starry night in Torres del Paine" was constructed from single identical exposures.
Third place goes to
"Playing With The Moon" by
Fernando Cabrerizo. This nicely planned view
of a big pine tree, a young moon, and a woman was recorded in
2 Against The Lights - Main Category:
An unorthodox look at
Brussels from an airliner wins this category in 2017 edition of TWAN
Contest. Ulrich Beinert is an airliner pilot in Germany and he describes
himself as a space photographer. In his own words: "Brussels, capital of
Belgium, the European country that to this day completely illuminates
many of its highways and main roads. From space and from the air, the
vast network of roadways stands out from the surrounding countries.
Here, Brussels is seen in the foreground from the cockpit of an
airliner, the soft evening twilight colors with the crescent Moon in the
background. Belgium has almost no refuges for those wanting to see the
night sky in its original beauty, human heritage of hundreds of
generations and inspiration to millions. Without our view of the night
sky, where would our literature, our science be today? We are the first
generations to live in a permanent twilight and I wonder what
consequences this will have in the arts and sciences!"
The second place winner is
Martin Mark, who photographed "The Oldest Tree In Estonia" near Urvaste.
"This is the thickest and oldest tree in Estonia: Tamme-Lauri Oak. We
went to photograph this tree with a friend on a clear winter night. The
night turned out to be quite special. It was 29th February and the sky
was full of stars. Suddenly we saw that a big cloud of fog was coming
and we found ourselves inside it. When just couple of minutes before we
saw thousands of stars, then now the fog covered them and additionally
it amplified the lights of a small village nearby. So now we only saw a
lot of light and the dark sky was gone. Soon this rare winter fog
disappeared and we were in the darkness again."
The third winner in the
Light category emerges as
Ziyi Stefanie Ye of China, with her work
"Moonrise" from Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Ziyi Ye is no stranger to TWAN
Contest, she was the
winner of Beauty of The Night Sky - Main Category in
3 Beauty Of The Night Sky - Composite Category:
In the photo composite submissions, where frames of various exposure or focus settings are blended, the winner in the Beauty category is "Raining Stars Shooting Down" by Haitong Yu from China, who imaged the enhanced activity of 2016 Perseids from Lake Duolin, Inner Mongolia, China. "I captured this composite of falling stars during peak hours of Perseid Meteor Shower 2016. Around 90 meteoroids and even the reflections of the brighter ones were recorded during the 3-hour period."
Runner-up of this category
goes to a different composition of the same Perseid meteor shower by
Alvin Wu from China, seen from The Four Girls Mountain near RiLong Town.
Wu was also a
previous winner of
TWAN Contest 2016 edition, in Against The Lights - Composite
4 Against The Lights - Composite Category:
The Light category winner
of photo composites is "The Climb" by
Nicholas Römmelt, photographed
from Lehner Wasserfall Kletterteig, Ötztal, Austria. "Climbing in the
night above the valley of Ötztal in Austria.You can only view the core
of our galaxy for several days in a year from that point." says Dr.
Römmelt. This panorama of 2x5 panels had to be photographed as exposure
series due to the lights of the village and the light of the climber,
making it eligible for composite category.
The runner-up of this
category is a big panoramic image, "Cape Town" by
Stefan Liebermann of
Germany. "This Panorama shows the night sky over Cape Town in South
Africa on the Lion's head. The world famous Table Mountains here covered
with clouds works beautiful as a separator of the untouched right side
with the Milky Way arch and the Atlantic Ocean in contrast to the
pulsating world metropolis Cape Town including the enormous light
pollution on the left side. It illustrate the dramatic disparity of a
beautiful sky full of stars with the Milky Way Arch over the ocean and
the by our mankind extremely light polluted sky without any star. We
have to take care about the preservation of our natural Night Sky."
5 Beauty Of The Night Sky - Time Lapse & Sequence Category:
In the photo sequence
submissions, that also include star trails, the winner in the Beauty
category is "The Missing Observer" by
Dario Giannobile from Sicily, Italy. "Once the courtyards of our
farmhouses were places where people met and talked about the strenuous
day of work in the fields. Maybe they stayed sitting, looking at the
clear and dark sky. Nowadays these places are abandoned and no one is
looking at the sky any more. That's the reason why the chairs are empty
and the mirror reflects the sky that the missing observers would have
looked at. A hoe remembers the farming vocation of such places while the
prickly pears on the chair represent the island where I live and the
period (summer) when this sky has been captured. Light painting creates
a surreal mood for a sky that can be seen but is not observed at the
same time." says Giannobile.
Runner-up spot goes to
Josh Merrill from USA, with his elegant star trail image over White
Sands National Monument.
6 Against The Lights - Time Lapse & Sequence Category:
For the judge panel, this
category turned out to be the most difficult one to evaluate, with many
outstanding images submitted.
The runner-up spot is held
by fellow Iranian
Majid Ghohroodi, who photographed his electric filled star trail
sequence "Storm Is Coming" from Maranjab Desert. Lights of Tehran add to
the scenery, even though the metropolis is more than 100 km away from
7 Beauty Of The Night Sky - Aurora Category:
The first ever winner of
the new Beauty - Aurora category is
Nicholas Römmelt, with his wide
panorama "Out Of This World" showing a sky full of green lights over
Senja Island, Norway. "It shows the wonderful aurora display from our
winter bivouac on the north side of the Island of Senja we were able to
witness. For me this picture perfectly shows what it feels like being
out in the night gazing at the beauty of the night sky." says Dr.
Revelations" showing a rich display of northern lights
over Lofoten Islands gets
the runner-up position.
8 Against The Lights - Aurora Category:
This is another new
category, whose first time winner turned out to be
Brynjarsson from Iceland. "Incredible weather conditions resulted in
magical moments during that night... Heavy rain clouds along with almost
a full moon and good gaps between the clouds resulted in lunar rainbows
and lady Aurora dancing hand in hand before us... On top of that you
have the light pollution from the town of Keflavik fighting to break
through the rain clouds but to no prevail." says Brynjarsson about this
image titled "When Lights Collide", which he photographed in
panorama of arching Aurora over Reine, Norway gets the runner-up spot in
Honorable Mention Photos
About 200 other outstanding images are also selected by the judges. Some of these images were voted by several judges and were competing closely with the winner photos. Many of these entries are awarded by honorable mention in the contest video (and on YouTube) and will appear on TWAN Guest Gallery
Notes on Original Ideas and Editing
Compared to previous years there were fewer entries with over-cooked processing where the natural colors of night sky were altered by extreme white balance shift or applying too much color saturation.
According to the contest founder Babak Tafreshi: "Digital processing is essential in any style of photography today, specially when dealing with challenging low-light conditions but its valuable to preserve the natural look and colors of the sky and the originality of a photograph (compared to digital art). I highly recommend avoiding the habit of saturated processing. Some of the entries shows the Milky Way central bulge in all colors of the spectrum, from romantic blue, to purple and red, compared to its natural pale-yellow color. This was not a major issue in the analog time where we were limited in processing and the night sky photography community was small and well informed about the nature of their imaging subject. If we consider night sky a part of our nature it should be treated the same way in photography. A photo of a blue sunset is clearly a wrong camera white balance or was taken on Mars! However due to our disconnection with the night sky in modern life most public and media are not familiar with natural sky looks and get excited with such exotic looking images and by sharing and publishing those the issue gets worse. The real winner images in our contest are not those with exotic colors and saturation but the creative and well planned photos captured in the right place at the right time, a scene which will not easily repeat with the same configuration of the Earth and sky."
- Winners of
Earth & Sky Photo Contest and the