For our fourth annual reader photo contest, titled “Elemental,” you submitted stunning shots of Arizona in all its earthen, blustery, rust-hued glory. We selected the top 10, and our readers voted for their favorite.
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Michael Wilson, a geotechnical engineer from Prescott, captured this image of Jack's Canyon southeast of Sedona after waking up early to start his hike in the dark – expressly to bag a great sunrise shot. Wilson, a serious amateur photographer, said he used a small aperture on his Nikon D7000 equipped with a 10-24 millimeter lens. “My biggest challenge was getting there before the sunrise,” Wilson says. “I didn’t know exactly what I would find when I got there, [but] I wanted to get that starburst effect from the sun when it peeked out above the horizon.”
Photographer Stacy LeClair is an avid storm chaser. When a monsoon struck in July 2013, LeClair couldn’t resist pulling out her camera and taking a drive from her Scottsdale home. She captured this image of Elvis Chapel in Apache Junction caressed by heavenly tendrils of lightning with a Canon 5D Mark III. “It’s really fun to capture lightning with great foreground,” LeClair says. “I love the beauty of the Arizona storm combined with a historic church (and) with the Superstitions.”
Scottsdale resident Jessica Richter was heading home on the 101 from her nanny gig when she saw “that beautiful sunset" in the rearview mirror. Like many of us armed with a next-generation smartphone camera, she couldn’t pass up the photo op – but hers turned out better than most. She snapped this tricky composition with an LG G2 phone, using the Instagram application to add the X Pro II filter and enhance the light, bolstering the blazing dual-view effect created by the rearview mirror. “I absolutely love that the photo captures both front and back views,” Richter says. “It shows an amazing effect of the clouds and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it came out.”
New York-based film student Sam Livm and his partner/model Jenna Lipps took a 22-day travel adventure through Arizona and California, capturing moments on photo and video for an upcoming autobiographical documentary called Paracosm, funded by money raised through Kickstarter. The two stopped on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon during their journey, where Livm took this shot with a Sony A7 digital camera, using a 35-millimeter lens to fully exploit the canyon's breathtaking dimensions. “Taking the risk of being on the edge of this rock was our biggest challenge, as both of us were very afraid of heights,” Livm says. “But it was one of the views you had to work to get.”
“Great Day to Climb a Mountain”
One cold weekend in February 2011, amateur Mesa photographer Rick Vincent and his friend Dean Harvey decided to hike Flatiron, a strenuous trail in the Superstition Mountains. Unbeknownst to them, snow had fallen on the summit the night before. Vincent and Harvey slogged on through the ankle-deep powder, their vision obscured by fog, until they finally reached the summit. As they descended, the clouds broke, offering a striking study in contrasts. Desert and forest. High and low. Snow and sun. “The clouds ahead of us parted momentarily, and lit up the landscape below us,” Vincent, who snapped the image with a Fujifilm point-and-shoot, says. “I like the way the fresh snow stacked up on the branches, rocks and cactus.”
“Cutting the Sun”
Amateur photographer Jason Tayles says his north Scottsdale home is the perfect place for peeping stunning sunsets. He snapped this molten solar spectacle with a Nikon D7100 just as the sun dipped behind a layer of clouds, seemingly splitting in its retreat to the horizon. “I haven’t seen cloud cover like that before over the sun, and being able to capture it on camera was a bonus,” Tayles says. Tayles takes photos for fun and likes to snap action shots of his daughter playing softball or golf.
“Arcadia Watering Hole”
Scottsdale sales manager Francisco Lopez was out for a morning jog when he stopped dead in his tracks over a manhole cover. The sunrise light fell across the lid for the old water main, casting a golden glow across its rusty patina. Lopez pulled out his iPhone and snapped a photo. “I’m a very spiritual person and it was just one of those moments where I felt everything waking around me and I needed to capture it somehow,” he says. “Water is incredibly important here in Arizona and our ability to get it here really makes Phoenix what it is.”
“Milky Way Rising”
A speech pathologist and photographic hobbyist, Jody Tanner photographed the Milky Way on a clear night in June 2011 with a Nikon D300S, capturing a wondrous tableau of star stuff – the basis of all elements. Tanner set up the 17-second exposure on Garland Prairie in the Kaibab National Forest. “I live in Flagstaff, so once you get away from city lights, the night sky is brilliant with stars,” Tanner says. “You can even see the Milky Way, but a photograph brings out the details even more.”
Retiree Roy Forbes of Kingman was out in Walapai Valley when he saw the clouds. Looking north at the Music Mountains, the smashed-egg-yolk sun was setting and the sky was clear, with the exception of the incoming mottled gray stormclouds. Forbes rushed to set up his Nikon D7000; he could lose the perfect moment in two minutes. But everything came together perfectly, down to the forked cracks of lightning dancing across his wide-angle zoom lens. “You can shoot a thunderstorm, but other than their location, they’re all the same,” he says. “To get a thunderstorm in front of a setting sun is one of the most difficult things to do; that’s what I’m most proud of.”