El Capitan emerging from clouds, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

El Capitan emerging from clouds, Yosemite

I’m excited to announce that two of my photographs won awards in the inaugural Natural Landscape Photography Awards competition. The photograph above, El Capitan Emerging From Clouds, won first place in the Grand Landscape category. And my image of Stars, Mist, and Three Brothers (below) earned a “Highly Commended” in the Nightscape category.

Congratulations to all the winners and commended images! You can see all the award-winners here and here.

I was glad to see a landscape-photography competition designed to celebrate images that haven’t been overly manipulated. As I said before, 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.

I also love photography as an art form. In the long history of people making and viewing photographs, I think the viewing public accepts that creative photographs are not literal representations of reality – they’re interpretations of the real world. In fact we celebrate people who are able to interpret the world through their lens in unique, evocative, and interesting ways. But throughout this long history, we, as viewers, have also assumed that most of that interpretation is created by what the photographer does before pressing the shutter, not how they manipulate the image afterward. We marvel at how a skilled photographer can use light, subject, framing, and timing to create beautiful, interesting, thought-provoking, and moving images.

There is certainly room in this world for artwork that blurs the boundaries between painting or illustration and photography. I’ve seen many, many wonderful images that borrow from both realms. But as I said, I love photography as an art form, and especially in it’s most essential form, where the photographer melds real subjects in the real world with their eye for light and design, and their sense of timing, to create an image that surprises me, or moves me, or makes me appreciate the sheer beauty of the world we live in.

So kudos to the organizers and judges of the Natural Landscape Photography Awards for trying to do something to celebrate nature and that essential art of photography. It seems like that was overdue.

— Michael Frye

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Stars, mist, Three Brothers, and the Merced River, Yosemite

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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.