From the mountains to the coast, and all the areas in between, we know our state is beautiful. That’s why we gave you the chance to share what you find captivating and inspiring about North Carolina in this year’s reader photo contest.

A panel of professional photographers judged the submitted photos. They chose a first, second, and third place from each category, as well as an overall grand prize winner.

Animals Category

Third Place

Bear Aware, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Chestoa Overlook, near Milepost 320. By Carol Haff.

Bear Aware, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Chestoa Overlook, near Milepost 320. By Carol Haff.
Judge’s comments: This image is about being at the right place at the right time, but also having the right lens and settings. The bear comes forward with the shallow depth of field. The light is nice giving texture to it’s fur. I feel a sense of fear for the photographer for sticking around this long. A 200mm lens doesn’t give much time to get out of the way.

Second Place

Striking A Pose, Colfax. By Elaine Moorefield.

Striking A Pose, Colfax. By Elaine Moorefield.
Judge’s comments: Bird shots take some skill. You need good timing and a long lens. In addition a quick capture, this image has a good sense of design with a diagonal line leading your eye around the image and back to the sweet face of this blue bird. The background is also not distracting as the photographer chose a good, shallow f/stop.

First Place

Hatchling Veiled Chameleon, Huntersville. By Michael Martin.

Hatchling Veiled Chameleon, Huntersville. By Michael Martin.
Judges’ comments: This photo is very well executed. The light gives detail to the chameleon’s small cracks, bumps and textures. The photographer choose a good f stop, allowing us to see those by makings and making them sharp. The chameleon’s size if featured by having it perched on the pencil eraser. It showcase the amazingly small size of this colorful animal.

Places Category

Third Place

Parkway Cabin in the Fog by Ted Alley

Parkway Cabin in the Fog, Mile Post 283.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. By Ted Alley.
Judge’s comments: The balance of colors between the glowing green grass and the purple hue of the sky make this photo pretty. But, the added element of the earie fog is what made this stand out for me.

Second Place

Amidst the Leaves, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Belmont. By Jean Leatherman.

Amidst the Leaves, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Belmont. By Jean Leatherman.
Judge’s comments: The whimsical feeling in this picture instantly separated it from some of the others. I like how the scraggly leaves a mimicked in the pattern of the girl’s dress. And I love that the photographer was able to convey a “sense of place” without needing to show a wide landscape.

First Place

Lake Lure Allure. By Seth Wilson.

Lake Lure Allure. By Seth Wilson.
Judge’s comments: I loved the thoughtful composition of this picture. The lines of the dock, the siding, and the bench pulling the viewer in, and nicely framing the subject and the landscape.

Black & White Category

Third Place

Ghost Trees of Fort Fisher. By Vicki Kohler.

Ghost Trees of Fort Fisher. By Vicki Kohler.
Judge’s comments: The light, composition, and tonal richness of this landscape photo are impeccable. I feel pleasantly transported by the ethereal atmosphere of sunlit fog and wind swept scrub oak trees.

Second Place

Bull Bowling, Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh. By Scott Luihn.

Bull Bowling, Hunt Horse Complex in Raleigh. By Scott Luihn.
Judge’s comments: This is a great action photo, and an excellent example of famed father of photography Henri Cartier-Bresson’s term “the decisive moment.” I am thrilled and captivated by the danger and excitement of this moment of man vs beast.

First Place

Leap of Faith, Earthshine Discovery Center, Lake Toxaway. By Liz Chancellor.

Leap of Faith, Earthshine Discovery Center, Lake Toxaway. By Liz Chancellor.
Judge’s comments: This is a fun and quirky photo with a unique vantage point and interesting subject matter that make it stand out. I love the square format, graphic symmetry, and slightly disorienting effect of the upside down looking figure suspended high in the trees.

People Category

Third Place

Helen Heading Shrimp in Varnumtown in southeast Brunswick County. By Vicki Kohler.

Helen Heading Shrimp in Varnumtown in southeast Brunswick County. By Vicki Kohler.
Judge’s comments: By rendering this photo in black and white, the photographer creates a photo that feels timeless. It also places focus on the lighting in the space. You see the wrinkles in her face and hands, and how the textures of her skin relate to the metal bucket. Makes you wonder just how much work those hands have done over the years.

Second Place

Fly Baby, Seaside Club Wrightsville Beach. By Cornelia Ruttkay.

Fly Baby, Seaside Club Wrightsville Beach. By Cornelia Ruttkay.
Judge’s comments: There’s a feeling of freedom, vitality, and fun all wrapped in this beautiful shot from the North Carolina coast. What makes this photo stand out is the photographer’s use of the sunset as a backlight to silhouette the subjects, which captures their body forms in an expressive, uncluttered, and easily understandable way.

First Place

When I'm Old, Wilmington. By Mike Melnotte.

When I’m Old, Wilmington. By Mike Melnotte.
Judge’s comments: This photo immediately grabs you because of the swimmer’s eyes. The limited color palette, the straight-on composition, and water-level angle that reinforces the swimmer’s gaze makes this one of the most captivating photos submitted in this category.

Landscapes & Nature Category

Second Place

Foggy River Sunrise, Lockwood Folly River, Supply. By Terrah Hewett.

Foggy River Sunrise, Lockwood Folly River, Supply. By Terrah Hewett.
Judge’s comments: Taken at just the right moment, this image really showcases a strong subject surrounded by some magical lighting conditions.

First Place

Harkers Island Sunset. By Keith Wall.

Harkers Island Sunset. By Keith Wall.
Judge’s comments: I love how serene this image is, it captures a scene you don’t see every day in a composition that makes the most of the conditions and really shows off that spectacular sunset.

Grand Prize Winner

Shackleford Island Water Trail. By Tomas Lonka.

Shackleford Island Water Trail. By Tomas Lonka.
Judge’s comments: This one has a great composition with a very strong sense of space, the classic blue/gold color combination, and is clean and sharp without being over-processed.

Thank you.
There were over 2,500 photos submitted into this year’s reader photo contest. Five professional photographers who regularly contribute to Our State magazine spent countless hours reviewing them all. We appreciate the time and effort of both those who submitted and our judges. To view all the entries, click here.

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Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.

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