Ben Shirk won the Gallery Elite grand-prize for his second consecutive year. The idea for his image was inspired by an interesting piece of graffiti that he found one day while doing urban exploration. The portrait, depicting a worn circus performer hanging off of an old carousel horse, was described by the judges as "haunting and creative" with amazing storytelling that "catapults the viewer into a journey within their own imagination."
For Ben, photography is the ability to build an image that begins a story. "Like a book half read, a great image leaves the viewers mind wondering possibilities and a million questions."
While talking to another photographer about an upcoming trip, Ken Martin was encourage to visit the White Pocket area near the Paria Plateau in Northern Arizona. He made plans to visit in October when rains are most likely in the high desert, which is when he captured this image. Judges in the competition described Ken's work as an "impactful, fearless composition" with "total control of texture." The image's exact exposure showcases beautiful color and exceptional tones.
For Ken, photography presents opportunities for new challenges, new sites to capture and new friends to meet along the way. "It's a blessed profession."
Minutes before the wedding ceremony was to begin, Robin Swanson saw the window and instantly knew that this was a priceless opportunity to capture a beautiful bride in a stunning moment of contemplation. Judges praised Robin's ability to retain texture throughout the image as the "mark of a true professional. The image features excellent symmetry and dimensionality.
For Robin, photography is the perfect combination of technical expertise and artistic expression. "Growing up, I envied people who could draw or paint. My strengths seemed to be in math and science. With photography a whole new world opened up for me. I realized that with a camera, I too could be an artist."
David Humphrey's inspiration for this image was based on his love and appreciation for the natural world and his desire to evoke feelings in his work that create an interaction between the viewer and the piece. David's tree tells the story of a life, challenged at times, but continuing to grow and inspire others. The image is perhaps best described by one judge's statement: "God designed a beautiful tree and the photographer captured it." The image has great exposure and depth resulting in a remarkable print.
For David, photography represents a universal expression. "As a visual artist and educator, photography allows me to tell a story. If we can see, we can feel."