With over 17,000 submissions, it was tough narrowing these images down. With your help and the help of some guest judges, we're pleased to share some of the top images from this year's contest!
Red fox at Island Beach State Park, New Jersey. Photo © Jessica Kirste
"Every winter I go to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey to photograph the many red foxes that call this beautiful 10 mile long, preserved barrier island their home. It was an overcast day in February of 2014 when I spotted a fox resting on a small dune nearby. Quietly I lay flat on the ground in the parking lot some feet away from a large puddle, and the fox eventually woke up from its nap and started walking through the puddle in search of food. The fox took some interest and made eye contact as it walked through the puddle while I fired away. It was an incredible moment with a wild red fox. These beautiful small creatures are as interested in us as we are with them. Being an overcast day, the light was not a problem. With this being a wildlife shot you have to work quickly when the moment happens and hope that you get at least one great shot. Island Beach took a hit from Hurricane Sandy but these foxes amazingly survived and the island continues to recover. That photo shoot with the fox is a day I will never forget!"
Camera details: Canon 7D, 180mm, 1/1000 second exposure at f/5.6, ISO 500
First Runner Up
Yosemite at night. Photo © Kris Thornton
"Last summer, my best friend and I traveled through Death valley and Yosemite. We spent three days camping and hiking around, taking in what this beautiful world has to offer. We hiked around most of the day and decided to set up in this small meadow. In the distance there is a small campground and children were playing in the field with headlamps on. Before it got too dark we set up the gear on a tripod and focused on the gorgeous half dome. It was getting dark fast and I knew I likely had one chance to get a good shot. We sat for about another hour waiting for the night to become black as could be and the only light was from the stars, moon, a few passing cars and if you look closely a climber's head lamp on the side of the mountain. I used a trigger and had the camera set in bulb mode. I did this shot as a 30 min exposure. I wanted to go for 40 min, but with the passing cars, I thought the photo was ruined and decided to try again the next night. This was the result. We had a great time and it is a memory I will always have."
Camera details: Nikon D800, 17-35 1.8 lens. 30 mi
2nd Runner Up
Jumping Through the sunset at Carpinteria Beach, California. Photo © John Nordstrand
"This was captured during one of the more spectacular evenings from winter 2014. I live close to this spot, Carpinteria Beach in Carpinteria, California, and tried to find a good place to setup for the shot. I was fortunate to walk all the way down to the end of the beach where I saw the tidal pool. As the sunset unfolded, the reflections in the pool just got better and better.
I had originally liked the image just as a landscape. But there is a local guy who walks the beach every night, and he had come down and gone all the way around the point. On his return, he just happened to "jump through" the perfect spot."
Camera details: Canon 70D, a Canon EFS 10-18 Zoom Lens F4.5/5.6, and the settings were ISO 400, 10 mm, F 8.0 at 1/125.
People in Nature
Alaska Glacier. Photo © Nathan Lane
"Myself and a fellow glacier guide were approaching this ice cave in Alaska when a large portion of the cave entrance collapsed, subsequently causing a rock slide over the entrance. We decided once we could get past this point that the cave would be stable though, so we quickly rushed in to get under the solid ice. Inside the cave the water was roaring, millions of tons of solid blue ice was bearing down above us, and it felt like we just stepped into another planet. I wanted to capture this feeling, and I knew that I wanted a person positioned at the entrance to give a sense of scale to this otherworldly environment. I framed my shot while standing in an ice cold waterfall, which provided the foreground. I also had to battle the continually dripping water from the melting ice above as well. Keeping my lens clear and camera semi-dry was a huge challenge. Once I decided on the composition, I had my friend run to the cave entrance, hold still for a few agonizing seconds, while I fired off 3 bracketed shots. I'm very thankful he was such a willing participant. He made the shot!"
Camera details: Camera: Canon 5D mark II. Lens: Tamron 15-30mm 2.8 Di VC USD. 15mm 0.5 sec at f/11 ISO 320
Small World. Photo © Lauren Bully
"I was just in the backyard enjoying the evening when I saw all of the dandelions strewn about the grass and decided to do some macro. I used a spray bottle to get the droplet, and pinched the seed between my fingers. I held out my one hand grasping the seed, and shot with my other hand in manual focus. Macro is like shooting in another world, and has to be one of my favorite avenues of nature photography. Sure you can document a waterfall or gorgeous stars, but who really looks at the little dandelion seed and tries to find its beauty? Plus I can just go in my backyard and find all kinds of subjects! That's what I have tried to accomplish here."
Camera details: Canon 60d with my 50mm lens attached to a macro extension tube set with no contacts. Settings were f0.0, ISO 100 with a slight edit in Light Room.
Submitted via Mobile
Snail. Photo © Jason Byrd
"I was on a nature hike with my son and he found this tiny snail out near some old Indian caves in Ohio. It was so cute I had to try and capture it, so I layed down to get close. The snail was a little bigger than a nickel if I recall."
Camera details: Fuji X-10 on an automatic macro setting about 1/4 of an inch away.
People's Choice Winner
National Deer Key Refuge, Florida Keys. Photo © Kyle Miller
"This was one of my last opportunities to shoot the sunset while in the Florida Keys, and I came close to calling it off when a summer squall popped up just as I arrived on location in the National Key Deer Refuge. I decided to wait it out, and after a few minutes the rain stopped and the clouds cleared just in time for sunset. After wading about a half mile across a shallow mangrove flat (and through dense clouds of mosquitoes), I set up shop and tried shooting several different compositions as the sun sank into the horizon. Although I did get several “keepers”, I didn’t feel that I’d captured the shot that I’d envisioned, and started to make my way back to the car. After a few minutes, the sky lit up with beautiful pastels and I immediately noticed that a small red mangrove tree that I’d passed earlier from the other direction provided the exact composition that I’d hoped to find. This is the photo that I had set out to capture. To me, there is nothing more soothing than spending time completely immersed in nature."
Camera details: Nikon D750, 24mm, 1/5 second exposure at f/8, ISO 100
Does this inspire you to get outside? Explore volunteer opportunities in Florida or find a place to Connect With Nature near you.