Misty sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Misty sunrise from Tunnel View, Yosemite

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new photography competition called the Natural Landscape Photography Awards. It is, in their words, a competition “celebrating the artistic achievements of landscape photographers who dedicate themselves to capturing the beauty of the landscape in a realistic manner.”

Now let me say up front that I don’t think art should have any limits, and people should be free to create anything they want, in any manner they want (as long as they’re not harming anyone or deliberately deceiving people about how an image was made).

But in my own work I try to celebrate the beauty and variety of nature. I think the natural world is wonderful and amazing, and I try to show that without enhancing my images in an unrealistic way. Plus, for me, part of the fun of landscape photography is trying to put myself in the right place at the right time to see some of the most beautiful places in the world at their most beautiful moments. It changes the game – and for me, decreases the enjoyment – if I can just add in a different sky later.

So this contest is an idea that resonates with me. I hope it will foster more appreciation for natural, realistic landscape photography, where the photographer’s art lies in their eye for light and composition, and their creativity behind the camera, rather than their Photoshop skills.

I hope this competition will also encourage people to think about why they pursue landscape photography, and about their own personal boundaries when it comes to image manipulation. The contest rules, spelling out what is and isn’t acceptable for this competition, are, I think, well thought out, and a good place to start thinking about, and talking about, those boundaries.

There are a variety of categories, including Grand Landscape, Intimate and Abstract, Nightscape, Aerial, and Project. There’s also a special Youth category, with free entries, for people 17 and younger. They’ll be handing out $11,000 in total prize money to the winners, plus a Canon EOS R5 and other gear.

The judges for this contest will be Joe Cornish, William Neill, Sarah Marino, Alister Benn, Alex Noriega, Adam Gibbs, Stefan Forster, and Sandra Bartocha. These are all highly-accomplished photographers who I know either personally or by reputation, and who’s opinions I respect. The organizers are all passionate and talented photographers, and also people I respect.

If you’d like to learn more about the ideas and motivations behind this contest, David Johnston conducted an excellent interview with the founders on his podcast.

And if you’d like to enter, you can use the code FRYE15 to get 15% off the contest entry fees. (I won’t be getting any commission for this.) The deadline for entries is September 1st. Here’s a link to their website:

Natural Landscape Photography Awards

I look forward to seeing the final selections!

— Michael Frye

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.