2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest Winners
June 16th The winners of the 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance are announced. Organized by international program The World at Night the contest is a collaboration with outreach and education group of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Global Astronomy Month, the Astronomers Without Borders annual world-wide program in April. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to a global program in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy, and it is growing each year. According to the contest criteria the submitted images are taken during 2014-2015 and are all created in the “TWAN style”—showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set in the backdrop of the Earth horizon, often with a notable scenery or landmark. Known as nightscape imaging (or landscape astrophotography) this is similar to general night photography but with a special attention to the sky, astronomical perspectives, and celestial phenomena. The contest focus on preserving night sky as part of our natural heritage is to support global efforts in controlling light pollution.
A stunning collection of nightscape photos (night sky above landscape) are selected as the winners and honorable mention photos of the 6th 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. About 1000 entries were received and 839 of them were approved for the contest judging. David Malin of the judging panel, a world-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography, explains that “This 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 aesthetically pleasing. Hundreds of nightscape photographers from across the world rose to the challenge, and the panel of nine judges was ultimately faced with finding the best from over 800 images.” TWAN founder and the contest chair, Babak Tafreshi, adds “The sky above us is an essential part of our nature, a heritage for us and other species on this planet. The contest main goal is to present the night sky in this broader context that relates to all of us, while it is also astronomers laboratory to explore the universe. Perhaps from this perspective we can better preserve the natural night sky and reconnect it with our modern life.”
The images were taken in 54 countries and territories including Algeria, Antarctica, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France and Reunion island, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, and USA.
According to the contest theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” the submitted photos were judged 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 in Against the Lights category (and the overall contest winner) goes to Eric Nathan, who lives in South Africa and the UK, for his image “Star Trails Above Table Mountain” taken in June 2014 from South Africa. “The image juxtaposes a moonlit Table Mountain and the star trails above it with the artificial lights of Cape Town, a stack of over nine hundred 30-second exposures.”, noted by the photographer. Commented by contest judge David Malin “The view of Table Mountain from the summit of Lion’s Head is spectacular in daylight but is astonishing by night. In this beautiful image the mountain is framed by the southern suburbs of Cape Town stretching into the distance on the left and the beachside settlements of Camps Bay on the right. Overhead the stars circle the south celestial pole in a blue sky, lit by a slender moon.” Contest Judge James Richardson, a long-time National Geographic photographer, noted “The play of light patterns here, with the circling stars set against the urban labyrinths, makes this image a delight to explore, while at the same time showing the power of city lights to dominate the natural world.”
The photo wins a complete set of Advanced Polaris (AP) by Vixen in Japan, a new released portable star tracking mount for both astrophotographers and visual observers. The smartly designed and collapsible Advanced Polaris takes the simple equatorial mount to a new level where you can customize it for various purposes. The mount core can be used standing alone as an ultra portable drive for a camera while joining other segments it becomes a telescope mount.
First prize in “Beauty of the Night Sky” category goes to Lyubov Trifonova from Russia, for “The Enchanted Forest” captured in December 2014. The Moon and the northern lights (aurora borealis) lit up the snow-covered forest in Murmansk, northwestern Russia. Noted by the judge David Malin “This well composed and executed image captures the pin-sharp images of the Pleiades and Hyades through swirling bands of auroral light over snow-covered trees. The snow itself sparkles in the light of the moon and Lyubov has pointed her camera so the trees appear to reach for the sky. Beautiful!” Contest judge James Richardson noted “Light and winter snow are dancing in every corner of this image. The green of the Aurora is beautiful, but so too are the colors of the snow, crisp and white under the moonlight, tinged yellow where they are lit by some artificial lighting. And piercing through are the pinpoint stars.”
More selections can be found here