15 Awe-Inspiring Finalists from Smithsonian’s 14th Annual Photo Contest

Morning Call
© Gunarto Gunawan. All rights reserved.
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a national park in East Java, Indonesia. To shoot this moment, I climbed the hills at the foot of Mount Bromo in the early morning with my horse.
Category: Travel

The 14th Annual Photo Contest remains one of our favorite photo competitions, and it recently revealed this year’s finalists. From a period of March 22, 2016 to November 30, 2016, there were over 48,000 submissions from photographers in 146 countries and territories. To say that the judges had their work cut out for them is probably an understatement. They pared the staggering amount of entries down to just 70!

The contest comprises seven categories that each reflect a unique view of the world. They are: Natural World; The American Experience; Travel; People; Altered Images; Mobile; and Sustainable Travel. The imagery is as varied as these groups, with photographers capturing a brave soul who walks on fire, Tokyo’s buzzing neon lights, and a clever octopus who hitched a ride on the back of a sea turtle. Each evokes its own emotional response, but the common thread is always awe-inspiring wonder.

The judges for the Annual Photo Contest have done the hard work of narrowing the submissions down. Now, it’s your turn to help. You can vote for the Readers’ Choice award until Monday, March 27, 2017 on The winners, including the Grand Prize, Readers’ Choice, and the seven categories, will be announced on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. That same day, the 15th Annual Photo Contest will be open for submissions. So, if you missed out this past year, now’s your chance!

View 15 of our favorite photos, below—and don’t forget to check out all of the 70 finalists on!

smithsonian photo contest

© Binh Duong. All rights reserved.
Firewalking is the act of walking barefoot over burning charcoal. In Ha Giang, a mountain province in northern Vietnam bordered by China, the Pa Then ethnic group observes this practice to wish for prosperity in the new year.
Category: Travel

smithsonian photo contest

Golden Monkey Surveying the Area
© John Beckman. All rights reserved.
Sustainable travel enables conservation of the things that make a destination desirable in the first place. Rather than denuding forests for a strip of souvenir shops and a tiny fenced reserve, places like Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park protect the native habitat for several rare species, including the golden monkey, mountain gorilla and forest elephant. Park tourism dollars employ guides, trackers and porters and also support community development projects that reduce the incentive to cut forest for illegal farms or set antelope snares, which can kill endangered monkeys and gorillas.
Many primate families in the park are comfortable with close human presence. I was thrilled to get within twelve feet of this beautiful golden when it descended from the trees to search for tender bamboo shoots. It paid little attention to me, but surveyed the area briefly, perhaps as a caution against eagles.
Category: Sustainable Travel

smithsonian photo contest

Lighting the Old Man
© Garry Ridsdale. All rights reserved.
On a stormy autumn day a fleeting shaft of light illuminates the Old Man of Storr and other pinnacles of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Category: Travel

smithsonian photo contest

Take Me Away, Deer!
© Kamil Nureev. All rights reserved.
Since ancient times, the Nenets have led a nomadic life. Reindeer harnessed to sleds is the most reliable form of transport on the tundra, and the people of the North make use of their navigational abilities. In severe conditions, such as a blinding snow storm, deer are not only loyal companions, but sometimes the only hope for survival.
Category: Travel

smithsonian photo contest

Father Calling
© Karthik AK. All rights reserved.
This night frog, endemic to the Western Ghats of India, exhibits a unique breeding behavior. The males call for females, the females come and lay the eggs, then the males fertilize them. In this image, the male has successfully fertilized a clutch of eggs from a female. He is calling out for other females to lay eggs.
Category: Natural World

smithsonian photo contest

© Jian Wang. All rights reserved.
Shot in Poly Plaza, Beijing, China
Category: Mobile

smithsonian photo contest

© Lina Samoukova. All rights reserved.
We were the very last to get on a small plane taking us from Sochi to Saint Petersburg. Little did we know what was waiting for us up above. I took the window seat not expecting to see much, as there was a light drizzle landing on the plane. But as we took off, it became clear I had the best seat on the plane.
Category: Natural World

smithsonian photo

​The Hidden Murder
© Swaroop Singha Roy. All rights reserved.
A spider with a housefly kill, hiding under the petals of a Madagascar periwinkle flower.
Category: Natural World


© Gareth Bragdon. All rights reserved.
I’m a street photographer. I search the streets of chaos and try to capture the beauty within that chaos. This is a candid picture and not posed. I was walking up the Royal Mile when it started to rain. People started looking for shelter. I found this subject hiding in a red phone box and caught them by surprise. I prefer viewers to interpret the picture for themselves.
Category: People photo contest

© Alina Rudya. All rights reserved.
A man bikes by an octopus statue at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada.
Category: Mobile

smithsonian photo contest

Turtle-Back Ride
© Michael B. Hardie. All rights reserved.
The thing that draws me to the ocean the most is that I never know what I’m going to come across on any given day. I count myself extremely fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to capture this image.
Category: Natural World photo contest

© Jim Mneymneh. All rights reserved.
Dance improvisation in the studio.
Category: Altered Images

smithsonian photo contest

© Nayan Behera. All rights reserved.
I wanted to capture the break on the rocks during high tide, but as I lost light I had to leave the shutter open longer, and the wave blended in motion.
Category: Natural World photo contest

The Beauty of Tokyo at Night
© Liam Wong. All rights reserved.
Shinjuku Nights / 新宿区 / 03:25:07 / Rain falls over Tokyo’s red light district. Taken as part of my photo series ‘T0:KY:00’ capturing the beauty of night. Taking real moments and transforming them into the surreal.
Category: Alter Images 14th Annual Photo Contest: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Smithsonian Magazine.

The post 15 Awe-Inspiring Finalists from Smithsonian’s 14th Annual Photo Contest appeared first on My Modern Met.

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