The winners have been announced for the second annual Natural Landscape Photography Awards. This new and refreshing competition exhibits landscape and nature photographers who are committed to maintaining authenticity and realism in their images
The creators of the NLPA wanted to create a community exhibition that showcases some of the best photographic work of the moment, all while establishing a new standard for post-processing that aims to avoid the deceptive digital editing techniques that have prevailed for years in the landscape photography community. It could be said that these images are more of a showcase of nature itself rather than the photographers who captured them, though the winners are certainly well deserving.
Below are the first prize-winning images per category. For the full gallery of finalist images, please check out the competition gallery on the NLPA website. If you missed this year's competition but still want to support the cause, please consider purchasing a copy of Natural Landscape, Volume 1, the beautifully bound collection of images from the 2021 competition.
Photographer of the Year, Winner: Brent Clark
The winner of Photographer of the Year, Brent Clark, had this to say:
I am honored and stunned to receive the distinction of the Natural Landscape Photography Award's Natural Landscape
Photographer of the Year! Last year's NLPA was the first photography competition I had ever entered, because most competitions seem to reward a style of image I prefer not to create and a mindset I do not have. What caught my attention with the NLPA was its esteemed judges and core values, rather than the prizes and recognition that come with winning. I felt like entering was to cast a vote for what I wanted to see more of in the landscape photography community - natural and inspirational imagery, grounded in reality. After viewing the results and the community reaction, I was emboldened to "vote" again, not remotely expecting to win. The images that rose to the top were a blend of awe-inspiring, quiet, and creative work that I knew I could trust because of the competition's rules and judging process (which includes raw file verification). As long as the competition remains true to its values, I will eagerly cheer it on! I would like to thank the NLPA founders and judges for their monumental efforts and vision, my very supportive friends and family, nature, and all the artists that I've learned from and been inspired by over the years.
Photograph of the Year, Joint Winners: Jim Lamont & Philipp Jakesch
The photograph shows the shadow cast by some peaks on the surface of the Lowell Glacier, in Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, Canada. It was taken on a July morning in 2022 from a Cessna 172 as part of a decades-long project on glaciers. With climate change the Lowell Glacier, like most glaciers in the world, is crumbling into ruin, its surface gradually disappearing beneath dirt and rubble as the ice melts. The image is intended to suggest the wave of destruction that will overwhelm us unless we stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere.
When I decided to visit the volcanic site on the Reykjanes Peninsula, I was uncertain how it would be and how dangerous it was. Luckily, we had good conditions and good filters to protect our lungs. The Image called “ardor” is one of my favorite images from the volcanic series because of the small fragment of this huge area. The blue hour threw ambient blue light on the background layers, with the orange lava standing out even more. The 1.100°C hot liquid earth is frozen in time. Even though my distance to the erupting volcano was about 500 Meters, I could feel the radiating heat with every outbreak.
Project of the Year, Winner: Daniel Mîrlea
One of the beauties of Romania is the virgin forests spread in the Carpathian Mountains. It represents one of the country’s natural treasuries, and even though some are parts of different natural parks, they are still endangered. The vision aims to get people closer to nature, raise awareness and help people not to see the forest just as an economic resource. Through this selected series of images, I wanted to highlight how well-adapted the conifers trees are to winter conditions and harsh landscapes. Nature is not as fragile as many thinks, but it’s raw and well-adapted. Even though for some people, this kind of forest in the alpine terrain or on a rocky ridge is not economically significant, it has enormous importance regarding biodiversity and the well-being of the ecosystem. As a parenthesis, most of these photos have been captured in the county I am currently living in and where I am now working on a project in which I am trying to raise awareness regarding the importance of nature in our lives and to show how diversity can be around us. Exploring and challenging myself with different themes helped me to understand how important it is to treasure the places near you – in this way, sometimes, you can find the story you want to tell near your house.
Grand Scenic, Winner: Kevin Monahan
For many years I used to get so caught up in capturing the scene I originally had envisioned that I would miss all these other opportunities around me. Once I learned to let go of that, photography became so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.
For this backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of the photographs I was hoping for was of these mountains reflecting in a calm alpine lake. After hiking 11 miles and climbing close to 5000 feet, I reached the top and realized the chances of capturing that were slim. We were engulfed in fog, couldn’t see anything around us, and there was too much wind.
Throughout the evening and entire night these mountains were hidden and no pictures were taken however during sunrise the clouds finally began to part, revealing these impressive peaks. I decided not to walk down to the lake but instead focus on these two mountains that really commanded the scene and my attention. The conditions were magical but quickly fleeting. Despite this being nothing I originally anticipated, I couldn’t have been happier photographing this scene out in the backcountry.
Intimate Landscapes, Winner: Spencer Cox
When I first saw this scene, the warm, earthy tones of the riverbed reminded me of 19th-century landscape paintings. Even the fierce rapids of the Yellowstone River felt like gentle brushstrokes when viewed from afar.
I knew that I could play with scale and perspective when I composed this photo, as the trees appeared to stand against a cloudy sky rather than a swirling river. It can be a difficult photograph to parse without a second look.
This photo breaks many of the supposed ‘rules’ of landscape photography. It uses midday sunshine rather than Golden Hour light. The main subjects—the spindly trees along the riverbank—are at the bottom of the frame near the corner. And, to take the photo, I pointed straight downward from the edge of a canyon, not forward at a classic scene.
These unusual factors, though, are what give the photo its personality. I’ve always loved searching for offbeat, intimate views of nature like this wherever I go. It can be the best way to tell the story of a landscape.
Abstract or Details, Winner: Mieke Boynton
Captured from above during a chartered light plane over the waters of Gutharraguda / Shark Bay in Western Australia, this abstract aerial photograph can be interpreted as the face and hand of a beautiful ‘Ocean Deity.’ Her peaceful countenance conveys serenity and calm, and she has the dignity and grace of a Geisha.
Aerial, Winner: Julie Kenny
Deserts, Winner: Peter Coskun
Environmental, Winner: Samuel Markham
Frozen Worlds, Winner: Brian Pollock
Mountains, Winner: Matt Jackish
Nightscape, Winner: Marley Butler
Rivers, Lakes and Waterfalls, Winner: Tom Shapira
Seascapes, Winner: Andre Donawa
Trees, Forest and Woodland, Winner: Stuart McGlennon
Please check out the full competition gallery on the NLPA website to see all of the finalists in each category. Orders for the 2022 book will open soon so keep an eye out, and in the meantime grab a copy of the 2021 book which, hyperbole aside, is one of the finest collections of landscape photographs ever published. The Natural Landscape Photography Awards are more than just a competition. For its creators, this has been a true passion project aimed at showcasing the state of the art in landscape photography. This shows in their dedication to transparency and authenticity in the administration of the competition. The awards and photo book give the community something to look forward to and convene over each year, and the results are always guaranteed to be an exhibition of the finest landscape photographers of the era.
All images used with permission, courtesy of Natural Landscape Photography Awards