The entries for our Great American Eclipse photo challenge came from all across the United States — we had them from every state touched by the 70-mile wide swath of totality and several places far outside.
Our overall winner is a stunning image of the eclipse created by Oleg Zinkovetsky who witnessed totality in Madisonville, Tennessee. Oleg wins a $500 award.
Though we received some fine “landscape” images, we decided to withhold that award and, instead, name two winners in the “documentary” category. They are: Mike Wardynski who was in Smith Rock State Park in Oregon when he captured a slack line walker, balancing right below the sun and moon at the moment of totality, and Robert Cannon who documented the scene inside Washington, D.C.’s National Air and Space Museum. Mike and Robert will each receive a $250 award.
And then, of course, there were many other images that, while they didn’t win the top prizes, will also appear in our book, Chasing the Great American Eclipse: Images and Essays from Totality. Some of those images are below, though the process of picking all of the images for the book will continue over the next couple of weeks.
Overall Winner | Oleg Zinkovetsky
Oleg, a Brooklyn-based photographer, traveled to Madisonville, Tennessee to see the eclipse. His winning entry is an HDR composite, which used 15 different images, each taken with a slightly different exposure. He digitally combined the frames to produce the final image, which shows the moon in stunning detail as the sun’s corona seemingly explodes behind it.
Three of the five members of our jury chose Oleg’s image as the best overall submission.
Jarob Ortiz, a photographer for the National Park Service who specializes in large format photography: “I’m picking this photo as the number one because I think it’s the best photo I’ve seen to date of the eclipse, itself. The solar flares reaching out around the shape of the moon while retaining the detail in the moon’s surface. Absolutely brilliant. Also, as a zone system photographer, I appreciate the overall contrast of this particular image. Not too flat; not too harsh, but just right for this situation.”
Sarah Gordon, a photography curator, lecturer and art consultant from Washington, D.C.: “The gradation of grays and blacks in the moon itself is remarkable, and not seen in any of the other photographs. The rays of sun emerging from behind it are clear and startling, and their volume and motion creates the illusion of both fire and fabric. The pink spots are subtle, but present. I think this is a quintessential eclipse photograph.”
Carl Juste, an award-winning photojournalist at the Miami Herald: “This image truly captures the rarity and the significance of this astrological event. Beauty, power, and detail all in a single frame.”
Best Documentary (tie) | Mike Wardynski
Mike packed up his truck with camping gear and made his way to Oregon from his home in Oakland, California. He ended up in Smith Rock State Park where he spent three days before the eclipse scouting locations. The day of the eclipse, his planning paid off when he arrived at his location and saw a slack line suspended high above the ground. Later, he would learn that the person who walked across the slack line was a friend of a friend. Amazingly there were two scenes from Smith Rock State Park that went viral from that day — the slack line walker that Mike captured and images of a rock climber (featured on our Kickstarter) who was higher up on one of the rocks that the slack line was connected to. We’re thrilled that both will be in the book.
André Chung, an award-winning photojournalist and portrait photographer from the Baltimore area: “This was an unexpected image that stood head and shoulders above the rest. The graphic composition works on several different levels. The clean uncluttered frame guides the viewer carefully across each element in the composition, first with the sun in totality, then to the figure with arms upraised in seeming celebration of the celestial event. The tightrope bisecting the frame anchors us back to earth. The unlikeliness of the photo testifies to the many different ways that people marked the event, and was the best example of an image that captured both the natural and the human reaction to this phenomenon.”
Juste: “The magic of this image is research, preparation, and execution all done with thought and knowledge. Dynamic!”
We received a lot of images of people staring up at the sky. But Robert’s photo in Washington, D.C. beautifully captured the excitement over the eclipse in one of the most appropriate settings you could find. Here the eclipse watchers stand in front of the Apollo Command and Service modules at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
Juste: “The best out of all the viewing images. Diversity in reaction and in participants. Solid execution, strong framing, and use of efficiency in depth control.”
Honorable Mention | Rebecca Stumpf
Rebecca, a Longmont, Colorado photographer, captured this scene in Wheatland, Wyoming.
Heather Goss, an editor at Air & Space / Smithsonian magazine: “This photo taken at totality is beautiful, but also captures some symbolism of the experience. As the sun disappeared, many of us watched while surrounded by people, but for just a few seconds it felt like a solitary moment. The way this watcher is standing on the car, getting just a couple feet closer to the event, creates a unique moment of sun worshipping.”
Honorable Mention | Amandala Photography / Amanda Senior
Amanda, a California photographer, took this shot at the Global Eclipse Gathering at Big Summit Prairie, Oregon.
Gordon: “The colors are gorgeous, the composition lovely, and the subject speaks to the range of people inspired and awed by the eclipse, as well as the near religious experience some describe having while watching. It is a great portrait on its own and a brilliant interpretation of eclipse watching.”
© Brett Davis in Cookeville, Tennessee.