Our photo contest is over (but you knew this, right?) and our grand prize winner has been declared! Adam Schallau took home the top prize in our annual online photography contest. Schallau’s image of rain falling from a summer thunderstorm at the Grand Canyon wowed our judges, including Editor Robert Stieve, Photo Editor Jeff Kida, Creative Director Barbara Glynn Denney and Art Director Keith Whitney. Schallau is a full time professional photographer, living in Flagstaff; and though he’s spent time in other parts of the Southwest, Arizona is where his heart resides.
“I love this state for its stunning landscapes, the weather, which is beautiful one minute and dramatic the next; and the people are just amazing,” he says. “The earliest memories of Arizona that I have come from flipping through the pages of Arizona Highways and dreaming of living here one day. I love the magazine not just for the fantastic photography inside it, but for the stories they tell. Together, they provide a window with a view into the soul of Arizona.”
Below, Schallau talks about his big win, how he captured this spectacular photograph and why his win is a game-changer:
Congratulations. How does it feel to be the winner of our annual online photography contest?
Thank you! It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to be honored as the winner. I’ve admired the photos in the magazine and the photographers who created them for many years now. It is truly a privilege to be included among them!
You have a lot of images of the Grand Canyon on your website. Why did you submit this image? Did you know it would, or could, be a winning image?
I do have quite the collection of images of the Grand Canyon, it’s a place that means a lot to me and I think I’ll never tire of photographing it. I consider the Canyon to be my artistic home. I submitted this image because I felt I had captured a truly unique moment, one that represents the intensity of the monsoon season at the Grand Canyon. I think it’s the eerie mixture of moon light and lightning illuminating the Canyon, with the dramatic star-filled sky, that puts this photo over the top.
How did you go about capturing the shot? What challenges did you face and, ultimately, overcome to get this image?
The storm in the photograph was quickly moving toward me and continuing to strengthen, which meant I was probably only going to have one shot at creating the image before I would need to take cover from the rain and lightning. With the only light sources being the moon, which was behind me, and lightning in the storm, I was going to need a long shutter speed combined with a high ISO setting and a fast aperture to give the camera’s imaging sensor an opportunity to absorb enough light. As I was shooting with a 14 mm lens, I knew that I could leave the shutter open up to 30 seconds with no apparent movement in the stars. Near the last 10 seconds of the 30-second exposure the gust front, which was pushing out in front of the storm, struck with high winds. If the winds get any stronger I’m going to give up a lot of sharpness in the image as the wind knocks the camera and tripod around. Just before the exposure came to an end, lightning erupted within the storm and illuminated the rain falling into the depths of the Canyon. Had it not been for that single lightning strike behind the rain, the photo would not have had the same impact.
What about the Southwest captivates or inspires you?
It’s the variety of landscapes, cultures, weather, and light here in the Southwest that continues to inspire me. I love laying down in a ponderosa forest, surrounded by their sweet aroma, listening to the wind through the treetops as they gently sway back and forth. It’s watching a distant storm move across the desert, listening to the rumble of thunder as the smell of rain permeates the air. It’s sitting on the edge of a remote canyon far from the sounds of modern man, staring down onto an ancient cliff dwelling wondering about the people that came before us as the silence is broken by the sound of air rushing over a raven’s wings as he soars past me.
Where do you love to shoot in Arizona?
I love to photograph the Grand Canyon. Once you get away from the handrails and start exploring you begin to discover the lesser known locations, places that aren’t often seen in photos. With its ever changing palette of color, light, shadow, and texture, it offers unique challenges and generous rewards for the photographer who keeps his eyes and heart open to the moment.
Do you think this win is a game-changer for you career-wise?
I believe that any opportunity to have your work seen by a larger audience, one which shares the same love that you do for such a special place, has the potential to have a tremendous impact on one’s career. So yes, I’m hopeful that winning the Arizona Highways photo contest is a game-changer for my photography career!
What advice or tips would you give to aspiring photographers?
- One piece of advice I received early on was that it’s OK to create bad photos, but it’s important to evaluate why they didn’t work. Continue to learn from your mistakes and apply what you’ve learned toward the next image.
- Get close to your subject. Attempt to know it on an intimate level. This will aid you in the process of learning to anticipate how light will play across the landscape and how it changes from season to season. This way you can be better prepared to take advantage of interesting light and weather as it happens.
- Keep your camera with you all the time. You never know when a photographic opportunity might present itself. If you see something that catches your eye, shoot it now because it may not be there tomorrow.
- Above all else…shoot what you’re passionate about!
What kind of camera did you use?
To create this image I used a Nikon D800e body along with the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens.
For more information about Adam and his work, visit http://www.adamschallau.com