The USA Landscape Photographer of the Year reveals the country’s vast and sublime geography

Back in 2013, landscape photographer Charlie Waite decided to get another competition under his belt, following the mighty success of the UK-based Take a view: Landscape Photographer of the Year. Thus, USA Landscape Photographer of the Year was born, a competition dedicated to exploring the awesome terrain of America. We need not look far into the annals of photography history to see why such a country is considered a mecca for photographers. Figures such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Lois Conner have all shown just how diverse the country can be.

In 2016, there were five main categories and two special awards. A total prize fund of $45,000 includes $15,000 for the winner of the overall adult title and $2,500 for the young winner.

Halema’uma’u Crater by Raiatea Arcuri

Youth Winner, My USA

Raiatea Arcuri Halema Umau crater

Sony Alpha 7S, 24mm, 20secs at f/2.8, ISO 500. ‘This was captured along the Kilauea Iki trail in Volcanoes National Park,’ says Raiatea. ‘I hiked down into the crater to capture some timelapse shots. However, my lenses fogged up and, disappointed, I hiked back to the top. When I got there, I was greeted by an amazing spectacle. The smoke plume coming out of the active crater looked twisted like a hurricane.’

Sunrise Illuminates Mount Rainier by Alex Noriega

Overall Winner, Adult

Alex Noriega Sunrise Illuminates

Nikon D600, 35mm, f/11, ISO 100. ‘Mount Rainier in Washington dominates the landscape,’ says Alex. ‘I knew I wanted something with a mid ground, and not a simple mirrored reflection from the shore of a lake. I found that spot here, high above Upper Tipsoo Lake, where the trees seemed to perfectly cradle the distant mountain and display the autumn foliage.’

Fiery Sunset, Yosemite National Park, California Mark Basarab

Youth Winner, Environmental Value

Mark Basarab Fiery Sunset

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, 14mm, 1/400sec at f/3.5, ISO 160. ‘When my friends and I arrived at Yosemite Park, there was actually a forest fire,’ says Mark. ‘But that didn’t stop us seeing the park. On one of the days we travelled to Taft Point to see the sunset. We got there a little early so just rested until the lighting improved.. As the sun was going down it made the smoke light up in a golden hue. The model was more than willing to sit on the edge of this cliff and pose for the image you see here.’

75 Stages of Life by Jennifer Vahlbruch

Runner-up, Urban

Jennifer Vahlbruch 75 Stages of Life

Nikon D810, 70-200mm, 1/100sec at f/5.6, ISO 100. ‘There is a jungle of high-rise buildings in Miami, Florida,’ says Jennifer. ‘While the buildings are different, their fronts look similar. You have to look closer at the buildings to see the details. There are 75 nearly look-a-like apartment fronts here.’

Mammatus Makers by Terry Koyama

Winner, Environmental Value

Terry Koyama Mammatus Makers

Sony Alpha 7R II, 16-35mm, 1/4sec at f/4, ISO 100. ‘On this day there was storm activity in Kansas,’ says Terry. ‘Mammatus clouds could be seen for miles. The view from the wind turbines was surreal. As the sun set, the sky had an otherworldly red-orange glow.’

Waimea Bay Beast, Oahu, Hawaii by Terry Koyama

Winner, Black & White

Terry Koyama Waimea Bay Beast

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 200-400mm, 1/640sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. ‘Although Waimea Bay was breaking, it was not an epic day compared to its big wave standards,’ says Terry. ‘But as the swells rolled into the inside there was more than enough energy to bring the shore break alive. The conditions were ideal as these enormous waves crashed on the shore producing huge explosions of white water.’

Melting Glacier, Alaska by Don Jacobson

Highly Commended, Environmental Value

Don Jacobson Melting Glacier

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm, 1/320sec at f/16, ISO 400. ‘This photograph was taken over the Alaska Range, while travelling on-board a commercial airline,’ says Don. His image takes the idea of natural leading lines to an almost epic degree. ‘It shows a receding glacier, replaced by a huge melt-water lake,’ he adds.

Canyons of New York by Robert Bolton

Highly Commended, Urban

Canyons of New York Robert Bolton

Fujifilm X-E1, 18mm, 1/80sec at f/2.8, ISO 200. ‘I took a walk in midtown New York and came to the iconic Chrysler Building,’ says Robert. ‘I was struck by its reflection in the building opposite. I had no tripod so stood very still in the gutter. It wasn’t until converting the image to black & white that the image fully came to life.’

Endless, California by Michael Shainblum

DPReview Special Award

Michael Shainblum Endless

Canon EOS 6D, 14mm, 25secs at f/2.8, ISO 3200. ‘This is a self portrait taken in the Anza-Borrego Desert,’ says Michael. ‘It was about 105°F, so after taking a few exposures I would need to shut my camera off and let the sensor cool. The sky exposures were taken on a star tracker, then I shut the tracker off to take the foreground.’

Main Strike by James Menzies

Winner, Classic View

James Menzies Main Strike

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 17-40mm, 20secs at f/10, ISO 320. ‘For many years I have been travelling to Arizona for monsoon storm chasing for two weeks in the season,’ says James. ‘Until my birthday this year, I had failed to obtain any real lightning at the Grand Canyon. On this day an approaching storm started dropping a few bolts, so I got into position at Lipan Point on the South Rim just in case it lasted a bit longer. As the storm approached the canyon around sunset, the lightning increased. As it started rolling over the North Rim, it let loose with one of the most prolific lightning displays I have ever seen. I could feel the heat of the lightning as it was only striking one or two miles away.’

Coastal lava tubes by Raiatea Arcuri

Overall Youth Winner

Raiatea Arcuri Coastal Lava tubes

Sony Alpha 6000, 12mm, 0.4sec at f/11, ISO 100. This was captured along the Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii,’ says Raiatea. ‘What makes the Big Island special is the presence of lava tubes. Some of these tubes at the coast cause amazing water motion as the waves push water in and out. It can be an epic experience capturing it! The water can surge up to your waist and recede into the tube, creating a nice waterfall.’

A Mysterious Lone Figure by Az Jackson

Winner, My USA

Az Jackson Mysterious Lone Figure

Canon EOS 5D, 24mm, 1/40sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. In this image taken in Brooklyn, New York, we find the lone figure of a man holding an umbrella while walking from the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge. As you can see, the mist surrounds him and helps to create an image of atmosphere. It’s further assisted by the fact that Az has chosen to convert his image to black & white, emphasising the graphic scene.

The 2017 USA Landscape Photographer of the Year competition opens next year on 1 June and closes 1 September 2017. If you’d like to enter, or see more of the stunning images from the 2016 competition, visit www.usalpoty.com