Apr 8, 2021

15 Amazing Finalists from the 15th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest

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Smithsonian has just announced the finalists of the 15th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest. This year, the contest received 48,000 submissions from photographers in 155 countries and territories. From dynamic portraits to breathtaking landscapes, these 60 images stood out to their photo editors as unique and memorable.

Voting for the Readers’ Choice winner is now open. Readers can come back each day to vote for their favorite finalist. Voting is limited to one vote per user per day and runs through 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time on March 26.

Smithsonian will announce the Grand Prize, Readers’ Choice, and six category winners (Natural World, The American Experience, Travel, People, Altered Images, Mobile); as well as open up their 16th Annual Photo Contest on Tuesday, March 27.








Niloofar is an Iranian nomad girl living in the Babanajm nomad region south of Shiraz city in Fars Province, Iran.





© Erika Valkovicova. All rights reserved.


A seal pup enjoys the morning breeze on Düne Island in Germany.



Ray of Zeus


© florent mamelle. All rights reserved.


On New Year’s Eve in 2016, a sea cliff collapsed near Kalapana on Big Island, Hawaii. A dramatic stream of lava, called a fire hose, started to shoot out of the cliff. Before the sunrise, I captured this dramatic picture, where the lava cascaded into the ocean, creating steam and lava bombs. The lava stream stopped in March 2017.





© Debashis Mukherjee. All rights reserved.


A boatman enjoys the leisure of reading a newspaper on his boat.



Pinnacle of Existence


© Oreon Strusinski. All rights reserved.


Energy travels hundreds of miles across the ocean and comes to a dramatic end when it reaches our shores.





© Thomas Chadwick. All rights reserved.


This is my favorite black skimmer photo that I have taken in all the years following a little-known colony. Every year I select a nest when the parent is on eggs, then follow that same nest until they fledge. I choose one nest because colonies are chaotic; you will miss some shots by pointing the lens at hundreds of birds. One morning I got into position and lay there for an hour until sunrise when a parent flew in directly to feed the baby. The baby was inches away from me, so I couldn’t get the feeding photo. However, after the baby gobbled down the fish, I captured it running up to the parent and displaying the behavior pictured.



Red Chili Pepper Pickers


© Azim Khan Ronnie. All rights reserved.


Countless chili peppers surround laborers in the Bogra district in the north of Bangladesh. More than 2,000 people work in almost 100 chili farms in Bogra in Bangladesh to supply local spice companies with chilies for use in their recipes. Chili peppers are a major part of the Bengali cuisine popular in Bangladesh and are used as part of a combination of spices for various meat dishes, including chicken and beef.



In the Desert


© Jassen Todorov. All rights reserved.


ATVs driving fast and furious in the deserts of Southern California. Aerial image (photographed from a plane at sunset).



Umbrella Market


© Thanh Tran. All rights reserved.


When I went to take photos of an apartment, I saw a woman through market umbrellas.



Sardines in the Sun


© Giacomo Marchione. All rights reserved.


Sardines emerge from a coral wall in cobalt waters just a few yards from the shores of Cebu Island in the Philippines. They move in a single undulating cloud of silver that twists, turns, shrinks, expands and wraps itself around any object that gets in its way. At times, it becomes a thundercloud, blocking out the sun or clapping violently as it suddenly flips its formation to evade a predator.



Making Incense


© Tran Tuan Viet. All rights reserved.


Decoratively dyed bundles of incense dry in Quang Phu Cau, a commune in Hanoi, Vietnam. In Buddhist countries like Vietnam, incense is an irreplaceable part of traditional festivals and religious ceremonies.





© ALEX VARANI. All rights reserved.


Hippocampus denise, one of the smallest seahorses in the world, clings to the branches of a gorgonia along with shrimp that are well hidden.



Breakfast at the Weekly Market


© Thong Huu. All rights reserved.


In northern Vietnam, people come to the weekly market to exchange goods and culture. They usually wake up very early to go to market and have breakfast here.



The Window


© Salvador Colvée Nebot. All rights reserved.


During my stay at a Costa Rican hotel, I noticed that red-eyed tree frogs flooded the gardens. As I approached this frog, it climbed into one of the holes in a leaf, as if it were sticking out a window.



Summit Eclipse


© Jason Hatfield. All rights reserved.


Mountaineers witness totality of the 2017 eclipse on the highest mountain in its path, 13,809′ Gannett Peak. Deep in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, reaching the summit requires two days of backpacking, a 12+ hour climb day, and crossing two glaciers.





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