IMAGES OF THE YEAR

From a chance encounter to a carefully scouted scene, from formal assignments to whimsical excursions, the circumstances behind great pictures are as varied as the people who shoot them. The winners of this years contest have one thing in common: the ability to recognize and capture a singular, shining moment.

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And hes not finished shooting the cathedral. "LANDSCAPE WINNER

JAVIER AGOSTA

Inspired by a published image of fog rolling over San Franciscos Golden Gate Bridge, Javier Acosta was determined to get a shot of it himself. "This beautiful scene only occurs a few times a year," he says. "I live about 50 miles away and for two years, I monitored the weather and traveled to the bridge to try to capture it." He dealt with numerous obstacles. "Often the fog was either too thick or too thin," he says. "I missed the sunrise or sunset several times due to commuter traffic. Other times there were heavy winds or cruise ships and cargo ships in the shot."

IMAGES OF THE YEAR

Still, Acosta persevered, returning again and again until January 17, 2011, at 6:34 a.m., when this sunrise unfolded. "This was shot from the Marin Headlands, located on the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge off Conzelman Road," he recalls. "It is a short drive from the Highway 101 exit and a 10 - minute hike to Hawk Hill, one of the highest peaks facing the bridge." Using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a 24 - 105mm f/4L lens and a Gitzo tripod, Acosta opted to smooth out the fog with a long exposure. "This required calculating how long of a shutter speed I would need for detail but at the same time not blowing out the sky or highlights. It turned out to be 30 seconds." While hes pleased with the pictures beauty, Acosta says that what he learned making it was even more valuable. "The perseverance and resiliency that came with capturing this image makes it special for me," he says. "One day Ill tell the story to my children as an example of why you should never give up."

WINNER

DEREK HEISLER

This shot, titled "Determination," was commissioned by fitness competitor and model Andrew Bambury for his portfolio. Based in Calgary, Alberta, commercial shooter Derek Heisler recently added fitness pros to his repertoire, which also includes fashion work and promo imagery for musicians. "I wanted this image to have a cinematic feel to it," says Heisler of the scene he shot in a Golds Gym, "like something youd see in a blockbuster film." To increase the cinematic feel, Heisler lit with Elichrom 500 BXRi strobes, a large rectangular softbox and standard reflectors on Manfrotto stands. 8L lens. Heisler points out that the subjects emotion and commitment bring this image to life. "Andrew is doing what he does best," he says. "But hes doing it in a gym, a place thats accessible to anyone. Hopefully that provides the viewer with inspiration and determination to work that much harder."

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MICHAEL CLARK

"This photo catches a moment at the top of his jump where Jon is hanging in the air," says photographer Michael Clark of this shot of Jon DeVores BASE jump from a cliff in southwestern Utah. "He is committed and really going for it." You could say the same of Clark. Shooting the Red Bull Air Force jump team was an exercise in limited opportunities. "There were three jumpers, and they only jumped three times apiece," Clark recalls. "One second after each jump, each one was just a dot in the sky. I had a remote camera set up so that each time, I got about 18 frames total from two different angles." This was captured at 1/2,000th sec with a Nikon D300 and 10.5mm fisheye lens.

WINNER

ROBIN MOORE

Washington, D.C., resident Robin Moore encountered this pair while visiting Giraffe Manor, a private wildlife refuge and tourism destination in the suburbs of Nairobi, Kenya. "Being able to get so close to a free - roaming Rothschilds giraffe —an endangered subspecies —is quite a surreal experience," Moore says. "I was making a shot of the girl hand - feeding the giraffe with the Manor in the background, trying to think of a creative way to represent this scene. The giraffe helped me out when its head obscured the girls."

The Scottish - born Moore is an accomplished nature and conservation photographer and an associate of the International League of Conservation Photographers. He shot this image with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 17 - 40mm f/4 lens. "This captures a unique moment of an unusual scene," he says, "and it definitely invites a second look."

WINNER

MEIVIN HARPER

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Melvin Harper photographed "Boy in Museum" as part of a larger series of street photography focusing on "the human condition." Influenced by the documentary work of artists such as Robert Doisneau and Garry Winogrand, Harper captured this on Kodak Tri - X 400 film with a Nikon FM 35mm SLR and 50mm lens. "Like the other images in the series, this has to do with the culmination of circumstances," says Harper, whose work often involves more vibrant colors and commercial applications. "The credit here goes to the content much more than my role in the process of producing it."

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GREG SULLIVAN

"A significant part of success in photography is showing up at the right place and right time," says Greg Sullivan of his portrait of a Great Egret made in Irvine, California. "How do you get a wild bird to stand before you and strike a perfect profile pose?" he marvels. "And with white feathers extended on its neck, a bright - colored beak with a small water droplet at the Up, a clear eye and a background that came out black without having to make adjustments?" Sullivan, who shot this image for his personal portfolio, used a Nikon D80 and 70 - 300mm zoom. It later won first place in an Orange County Fair photography competition.

WINNER

SHIZUKA MINAMI

How far would you go for a great shot? On assignment for the Village Voice newspaper, Shizuka Minami jumped into the frigid water at Coney Island, New York, to document the Coney Island Polar Bear Clubs annual New Years Day swim. "The weather was rainy, and both the air and water temperature were about 48 degrees Fahrenheit," Minami recalls.

Every year since 1903, hundreds of swimmers take the winter dip, and an additional throng of spectators cheer them on. "I wanted to capture their energy, emotion and excitement," Minami says. "When the winter came, I got in the water every weekend to get used to it. By the time I took the photograph, I was OK with the temperature and could concentrate on capturing the moment." She made this image with a Canon EOS 20D and a 16mm lens.

A native of Tokyo with a background in aerodynamics and aerospace engineering, Minami relocated to New York City in 2003 to enroll in the International Center of Photographys Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program and pursue her photo career. She likes to document celebratory scenes: "Im passionate about festivals, carnivals and music performances," she says.

WINNER

DUSTIN SNIPES

A Los Angeles - based commercial photographer, Dustin Snipes specializes in portraits and action shots of athletes for editorial and advertising clients including Reebok, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Elustrated. Though "Deep Freeze," his portrait of professional snowboarder Travis Rice, looks as if it was taken in darkest Siberia, it was actually made indoors, in decidedly non - frigid Santa Monica, California, during the month of August. To achieve its look, Snipes created a simulated layer of ice using an "ice crystal spray" on a sheet of plexiglass placed about three inches from the subjects face. He used a Nikon D3X with a 24 - 70mm f/2.8 lens and a multifaceted lighting rig. "I set up three Einstein 640 lights with one large octobank as the fill light overhead in the front," he says, "and two strip boxes with grids at higher outputs on the sides."

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CAESAR LIMA

"Every shoot starts with a concept that evolves into something else," says Ceasar Lima. Case in point: this assignment for jewelry designer Claudia Endler. Lima was at the end of a shoot when he asked his model, Guetcha Tondreau, to get creative. "Now lets have fun —everything goes!" Lima recalls saying. "Scream, cry, do something wild. And she did." He credits the work of makeup artist Veronica Hernandez for spicing up the image. Lima used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 85mm f/1.2 lens for the shot, lit with a Speedotron 4800 pack and California Sunbounce reflectors.

A Los Angeles - based commercial photographer, Dustin Snipes specializes in portraits and action shots of athletes for editorial and advertising clients including Reebok, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN The Magazine and Sports Elustrated. Though "Deep Freeze," his portrait of professional snowboarder Travis Rice, looks as if it was taken in darkest Siberia, it was actually made indoors, in decidedly non - frigid Santa Monica, California, during the month of August. To achieve its look, Snipes created a simulated layer of ice using an "ice crystal spray" on a sheet of plexiglass placed about three inches from the subjects face. He used a Nikon D3X with a 24 - 70mm f/2.8 lens and a multifaceted lighting rig. "I set up three Einstein 640 lights with one large octobank as the fill light overhead in the front," he says, "and two strip boxes with grids at higher outputs on the sides."

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