15 Incredible Finalists of the Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Female Leopard in Tree

“Picture Perfect” by Janine Krayer (All rights reserved). Finalist, Natural World.
This female leopard (Panthera pardus) was enjoying the last moments of golden sunshine before a storm rolled over the Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Each year, Smithsonian magazine's photo contest provides a platform for photographers to share their work with a global audience. For the 17th edition of the competition, Smithsonian magazine received over 36,000 submissions from 145 countries, making it a truly international contest. From that pool, the contest has announced 60 finalists across six different categories.

Travel, People, Natural World, Altered Images, Mobile, and American Experience are the diverse categories that photographers submitted their work to for the 2019 contest. This opens up the awards to a variety of subject matters and photographers of different skill levels. From images that explore cultural traditions to portraits of exotic wildlife, the selected photographs each demonstrate a high level of technical and aesthetic skill.

Janine Krayer's portrait of female leopard lounging on a tree branch pops thanks to her use of depth of field and the perfect framing of the tree to bring attention to this stunning animal. In the travel category, Natnattcha Chaturapitamorn perfectly frames father and son in a ray of light in a photograph that both spotlights their familial bond and the incredible natural environment. In contrast, photographer Matt Gillespie shows the heartbreaking reality of mother nature in his image of a lone house saved from destruction by a tornado.

See all of the finalists on Smithsonian magazine and vote for your favorite to win People's Choice. Voting is open until March 30, 2020. The grand prize, category, and people's choice winners will all be announced on March 31, 2020.

Enjoy some of the finalists from the 17th annual Smithsonian magazine photo contest.

Father and Son Fishing in a Cave in Vietnam

“Cave Fishing” by Natnattcha Chaturapitamorn (All rights reserved). Finalist, Travel.
Father and son catch fish inside a cave in south Vietnam during the monsoon season.

House in the Middle of Property Destroyed by a Tornado

“Home Survives Direct Hit From Tornado” by Matt Gillespie (All rights reserved). Finalist, American Experience.
This home was in the direct line of a tornado that hit Ellerslie, Georgia. Most of the trees on the property had fallen, but the house stood with minimal damage.

Penguin on an Iceberg

“Adélie Penguin on an Iceberg” by Conor Ryan (All rights reserved). Finalist, Natural World.
Ice-dependent animals are in perilous danger of losing their habitats. This photo shows an Adélie penguin standing on an iceberg off Devil Island, Antarctica. I like how the half-lit, sea-eroded iceberg gives the scene a sense of dichotomy. Perhaps the penguin's indecision on which way to go, or perhaps ours.

Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Finalists

“Nueva Venecia” by Javier Arcenillas (All rights reserved).
New Venice is a palafito town with an air of magic realism located between the Colombian cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta. Its 3,000 inhabitants live isolated from tourism and travel by boat, so the school buses are canoes and each house is an island. The town of Nueva Venecia has been resurrected in the two decades since a paramilitary slaughter.

Fair Goers Riding on Swings

“Attendees of the Michigan State Fair Ride the Swings” by Amy Sacka (All rights reserved). Finalist, American Experience.

Man Transporting Fish on a Scooter in Vietnam

“A Fish Seller Displays His Goods” by Jon Enoch (All rights reserved). Finalist, Travel.
A man poses with his scooter in Hanoi with a delivery of pet fish. The riders have an amazing ability to transport all kinds of goods in astonishing quantities. I spent a week chasing down riders and their cargos and convincing them to pose for the camera.

Train Going Through Morant's Curve at Bannf National Park

“Train Through the Mountains” by Lori Kupsch (All rights reserved). Finalist, Travel.
Photographers will wait for hours for a train to go through the popular Morant's Curve in Banff National Park. My friend and I were lucky enough to catch a train within about 20 minutes. Once the train had gone by, we did some long exposures to capture and blur the train as it went through the curve. The pop of the red car has really added interest to the scene.

Moraine Lake in the Bannf National Park

“Moraine Lake” by Timo Heinz (All rights reserved). Finalist, Altered Image.
A panoramic picture of Moraine Lake in the Banff National Park, Canada.

Portrait of Endurance Athlete Anders Hofman

“Portrait of Endurance Athlete Anders Hofman” by Jesper Gronnemark (All rights reserved). Finalist, People.
Portrait of endurance athlete Anders Hofman before his attempt to complete a triathlon at Antarctica.

Horses Racing Across the Snow

“Horse Racing” by Peng Yuan (All rights reserved). Finalist, Mobile.

Humpback Whale Breaking the Surface with Iceberg in the Background

“Two Whales” by Jim Guerard (All rights reserved). Finalist, Travel.
A humpback whale surfaces in front of a large iceberg that resembles the profile of a sperm whale off the coast of East Greenland, near Tasiilaq. It was late in the day, and I was a couple of miles offshore photographing icebergs from an open bow boat when we saw a humpback whale surfacing in the distance. We followed the whale for a good 30 minutes before we were finally able to align him surfacing with the iceberg in the background.

Baboon Holding a Baby

“Mother and Baby” by Tianyi Xiong (All rights reserved). Finalist, Altered Image.
Baboon holding baby.

Boy During All Saints' Day in the Philippines

“Palina Boy” by Philip Am Guay (All rights reserved). Finalist, Mobile.
A boy is setting up a grass bonfire to be used for palina during All Saints' Day in Cebu City, Philippines. Palina is a Filipino belief that after visiting a departed loved one in the cemetery, you should pass through a bonfire's smoke before going home to get rid of bad spirits.

Elephant at the Amboseli National Park, Kenya

“Dust Devil” by Jim Guerard (All rights reserved). Finalist, Natural World.
A lone bull elephant crosses the plain in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, on his way to Lake Amboseli for a drink and a swim as a storm brews and a dust devil spins in the background.

Smithsonian Magazine: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Smithsonian Magazine.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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