The 2017 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest

Submission is closed on 2017 April 30. The winners will be announced in September.

The on-line “Earth and Sky” photo contest is open for submission by any photography enthusiasts of any age from around the world. International projects The World at Night and Global Astronomy Month along with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory are the organizers of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to an international effort in 2009-2010 during the International Year of Astronomy. The contest news is usually broadcasted by major science and art news media world-wide and the winning images are widely promoted. With the growing impact of TWAN on both photography and astronomy communities along with the efforts of Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), the organization behind the Global Astronomy Month (GAM), the Earth and Sky Photo Contest will have an even larger feedback this year.

The contest entries should be fresh images, taken since January 1, 2016. They must be created in the “TWAN style” — showing both the Earth and the sky — by combining elements of the night sky (e.g., stars, planets, the Moon or celestial events) in the backdrop of a beautiful, historic, or notable location or landmark. This style of photography is called “landscape astrophotography”. This is within “Nightscape Photography” but with more attention to the sky, astronomical perspectives, and celestial phenomena.

The contest theme, “Dark Skies Importance,” has two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” There will be three winners in each category. Photos submitted to the contest should aim to address either category: either to impress people on how important and amazing the starry sky is or to impress people on how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Both categories illustrate how light pollution affects our lives. Photographers can submit images to one or both categories. The contest organizers encourage participants to view examples of winning photos in the previous years: the
2016 winners,
and 2010. The winners of this year contest will be announced in early June 2017.

Photo Composite Entries
In the previous years the contest was not open to exposure blends and other “soft” photo composite results. However due to the increasing number of photo composite submissions, starting with the 2016 edition we do accept the composite images and judge them separately. Each of the two contest categories will have two winners to be selected from the composite images. At submission the technical information of each image should be provided to clarify if the entry is a single exposure or a panorama/mosaic of single exposures (the main stream of contest entries) or it’s a stack or blend of exposures. The accepted composite images include star trails (digitally stacked), HDR and other exposure blends, and multi-focus images (focus stack). These are considered “soft” composite imaging techniques. The contest is not open to more extreme photo composites where the frames are made at different locations, or with different lenses, or when they are digital blend of day and night. We also encourage you to avoid over-doing post-processing digital effects on yours submission such as selectively brightening a number of stars, extreme masking of the Milky Way, or adding effects such as cross or diffuser on stars.

Introducing Aurora category
In this year’s edition, we will accept and award entries with featuring the northern and southern lights (Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis) in a separate category.

Our Value for Natural Colors of Night Sky
The night sky is an essential part of our nature and night landscape imaging follows the rules of nature photography where presenting natural colors of nature is an important element of each photo. However most people are not familiar with natural colors in the night sky since most of these colors are not visible to our unaided eyes, but the camera is able to capture and we are able to enhance it in post processing or even alter it to an artificial level. We encourage you to avoid 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 criteria entries should be gently edited so they preserve the natural-looking sky and the originality of a photograph (compared to digital art).

Contest Judges

Jim Richardson
(National Geographic photojournalist for about 30 years, recognized for his exploration of environmental issues and advocacy for the night sky)

Jerry Bonnell
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center scientist and the co-founder and editor of Astronomy Picture of the Day or APOD, one of the most visited and globally influential astronomy webpages)

Connie Walker
(Director of the Globe at Night program; science education specialist at the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

Mike Simmons
(Founder & president of Astronomers Without Borders)

Alan Dyer
(astronomy writer and TWAN photographer in Canada)

Ajay Talwar
(TWAN photographer and coordinator in India)

Jeff Dai
(TWAN photographer in People’s Republic of China)

Babak Tafreshi
(Founder & director of TWAN)

Tunc Tezel
(TWAN photographer in Turkey, and the contest chair)


Each year the contest is supported by photography and astronomy equipment manufacturers for prizes to top winners in each category. The 2017 prizes will be announced soon.


How to Submit
The contest submission has the same procedure as sending images to TWAN Guest Gallery. Simply email up to 5 images to and write “CONTEST 2017” in the email subject. Some of the notable and winner images will also appear in the Guest Gallery. Even if you have already send an image for publication in the Guest Gallery, you can submit it again to the same email for the contest. Please note in sending submissions to TWAN contest you are obliged to be the author and copyright owner of the image(s) submitted. Each entry must have the following details (copy and paste this list into your email, for each image):

– Submitted file name:
– A single-exposure image or a photo-composite?
– Category of choice: (“Beauty of the Night Sky” or “Against the Lights”)
– Technical details:
– Name(s) of the photographer(s):
– Photographer’s web site:
– Photographer’s email address:
– May we link to your email address? (yes/no)
– Suggested title for the photo:
– Date the photo was taken (year/month/day):
– Location and country where the photo was taken:
– Describe what appears in the photo and why it is a valuable contest entry:
– Web site(s) relating to the foreground subject (if any):

1- Size and format:
– Only photographs in digital format may be submitted. Photographs taken using film must be digitized for submission.
– All entries must be accompanied by a short caption.

– Photographs must be submitted as high-quality JPEG files (level 10–12). The preferred color spaces are Adobe RGB (1998) and sRGB.

– Submitted photographs should be no larger than 2000 pixels across in their wide dimension and not smaller than 1200 pixels long (Extremely long panoramic images can be submitted up to 3000px long if necessary). File size should be no larger than about 2 Megabytes. Judges might request high-resolution or RAW files from finalists for final evaluation.

2- Number of submissions:

No more than 5 photographs may be submitted per person. If the contestant submits more images, only 5 of them will be randomly selected. Therefore extra submissions might result in removing your better images.

3- Date of Photographs and Submissions:

– The contest highlights the recent efforts of nightscape photography. Images must be taken since January 1, 2016. Photographs taken earlier are ineligible.

– Photographs must be submitted until the end of April. Winners will be announced in July.


4- Style and subject of the photos:
– Entries must combine elements of both Earth and Night Sky—i.e., landscape astrophotography. Before submitting your photo(s) first have a look at some examples that meet the criteria for TWAN-style photos.
– Entries must follow the contest theme of dark skies importance with displaying the beauties of starry skies or the problem of increasing light pollution.
– A pair or a series of comparing images to display the difference between dark and light polluted sky can be submitted as one entry. The comparing images can make strong public impression on importance of dark skies. See a TWAN example of such images here.
– Photographs may be taken through a telescope, but must combine Earth and Sky composed in the same photograph. Photographs taken through a telescope that show only the sky are ineligible.

5- Copyright and legal notes:
– The submitted photo must be the original work of the contest entrant. The entrant must be the copyright holder of the submitted photo.
– The Photographer retains complete copyright, but agrees to have his/her photograph published on TWAN website and on other online media in the reports about the contest.
– Model releases might be required for winning images that contain a person in the view.
– Submitted photographs must not contain provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit or otherwise objectionable content.

You can contact us for any further inquiry related to the contest.


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