The Buzz Magazines’ 2023 Photo Contest
Congratulations to all of the winners of The Buzz Magazines' Photo Contest and especially to our Grand Prize winner, Rilina Tran, who will receive a Panasonic LUMIX ZS100 Digital Camera from Houston Camera Exchange and a staycation package compliments of the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.
Grand Prize and Readers’ Choice, A Life of Shelter
Seventeen-year-old Rilina Tran noticed these two puppies while volunteering at the Petco Love Mega Adoption Event, where more than 1,000 dogs and cats were up for adoption. Rilina, a senior at Bellaire High School, helped walk the dogs, clean the cages, and showcase the puppies at the event at George R. Brown in September. When these two puppies refused to get out of their cage so she could clean it, she snapped a photo on her Canon EOS Rebel T6. “I took many photos of the adorable dogs and cats, but these two stood out to me the most. Although the goal was to get all these puppies a home, I felt the fear of separation in these two.”
This image immediately caught our attention. The light and shadows are beautiful. The choice to use black and white draws the viewer in, while removing color distractions and highlighting the strong vertical lines of the cage. The pensive look on their faces, the cage, and the way that one dog is hiding behind the other’s ear make this an emotionally resonant image. At a time when shelters are overcrowded, animal cruelty laws have finally gone into effect and pet abandonment seems to be at an all-time high, the title strikes a chord – A Life of Shelter. So many elements came together to make this a favorite; it’s excellent.
About the Photo Contest:
Although The Buzz Magazines’ annual photo contest is not for professionals, the quality of photos we receive astounds us each year. With any contest like this, the process is inherently subjective. However, there are basic principles of photography that must be met, such as lighting, focus, exposure, and composition. Each judge prioritizes different factors in their deliberation, but they all look for images that are purposeful, powerful, and stand out in terms of the uniqueness of the shot. The judges consider the level of skill required to capture each photo and take the time to scrutinize the smallest intricacies. And there are personal elements to consider, some difficult to define: a photograph’s essence, the emotions it evokes, the artful nature of its expression. Judging for the photo contest is blind, as the judges do not see names or information about the photographers.
Always, there are excellent photos left behind – we received more than 1,700 submissions this year. We’d like to thank all the talented photographers who submitted, and our expert judges for their careful deliberation.
And it’s not all about the experts: our readers have a voice in the contest as well. The top 60 finalists were posted to our Facebook page, and the photos with the most likes become our Readers’ Choice winners.
The Buzz Magazines’ annual photo contest is open to local amateur photographers. If you have a knack for photography, keep our contest in mind this upcoming year. Look out for our call for entries on our website, social media, and in our March 2024 print issue.
This year, in addition to being featured in this issue, online, and through social media, winning photos are displayed at a special pop-up gallery at River Oaks District, June 26-30, 12-5 p.m. Stop by to see these photos, and vote for your favorites, at 4444 Westheimer Rd.
First Place, Zebras
Dana Katz, 46, took this photo of zebras in Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania during a family safari in June 2022. “I thought converting the photo to black and white would help emphasize the zebras' distinctive and visually striking patterns.”
Second Place, Who's watching who?
Kelsey Ziegler, 29, snapped this shot of a bright green lizard sitting on a red tipped leaf on April 7 on the island of Kauai. “We spotted this bright lizard on the trails of the McBryde & Allerton Gardens Visitors Center. His bright, wise looking eyes caught my attention, and I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures of him.”
Third Place, Evil in the Shadows
Jennifer Welch, 38, thought this snake looked “comfortable, maybe a little too comfortable,” lounging on a branch at the Houston Zoo earlier this year. She noticed it “hiding in the shadows partially concealed by darkness. What evil could be plotted in darkness, I wondered? I took this photo because of what snakes and darkness represent, although I don’t necessarily believe that snakes or the mere presence of darkness are ‘evil.’ Mostly I was interested in the way most of the snake was shrouded in darkness, the way only the face was showing in the light, and the way the light portrayed the detail of the snake’s scales. I should give a shoutout to my 12-year-old nephew, Chris [Welch], who is a big fan of my photography and has an eye for it himself. He is the one who suggested I enter this photo, saying it was ‘really good.’”
Fourth Place, Hanging Out
Shazma Matin, 56, happened upon this lion in the Serengeti plains during a family vacation to Tanzania in September. “We came across a young pride of lions who were lazing around and looking very content after having a successful hunt. One of the lions from the pride moved away and we began to follow him in our vehicle. I was able to photograph him as he was strolling through the tall grasses, and eventually climbed up a tree. I took several portraits of him with a zoom lens. I asked our guide to move the vehicle to several different positions so that I could get a clear view and use the tree to frame him.”
Fifth Place, Reticulated Giraffe Trifecta
These rare and endangered Reticulated Giraffes are found only in Northern Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. David Holland, 68, was happy he caught a glimpse this February while in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya. “Just seeing them was a treat. This image was my favorite of the trip. I spotted these three ‘necking’ one another (smacking necks and heads) to establish dominance. They were quite active, but one stood still while two approached one another. I was hoping for some sort of unique behavior or alignment. The mountains behind and blue skies were a perfect backdrop. They crisscrossed in perfect symmetry right in front of the stationary one and I took the shot. ‘Did you get that?’ exclaimed our driver. A trifecta for sure!”
First Place, Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges
Mauricio Recinos, 52, snapped this picture from a New York balcony on a family trip last year. “The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges looked impressive: manmade structures that have lasted for decades. I decided to take a few pictures, and at that moment the sky was a great complement to the urban scene. Converting the picture to black and white was a must for me. All the shadows and light contrast make the picture more interesting.”
Second Place, Caddo Lake in Fall Color
When Ned Shimizu, 58, saw the bald cypress at Caddo Lake for the first time, he felt he had been “transported to its strange world, and it was difficult to return to the real world.” Since then, he has been kayaking in Houston swamps for the cypress. He snapped this photo of a bald cypress tree at Caddo Lake State Park in November. “The cypress in Caddo Lake is especially massive and conveys a strong feeling of peace. I’ve always liked the otherworldly look of the bald cypress covered with Spanish moss, and this time I managed to capture the autumn coloring.”
Third Place, Milky Way over Crystal Lake
David Holland, 68, stopped to set up for this starry night sky shot as he was driving along the “Million Dollar" Highway in Colorado in September. The shot was taken at midnight. “Crystal Lake is just outside Ouray, CO in the San Juan Mountain range. Designated a Dark Sky area, conditions for astrophotography were excellent. I set up at the far end of the lake to capture the reflection and then waited for the Milky Way to be perfectly positioned.”
Fourth Place, Addicks Park & Ride Connectors in Color
Chuck Martinez, 53, drives past this view each day on his commute home from work. He stopped to take this shot at the Addicks Park & Ride in early December. “I had originally planned to stop there one evening to take a very different photo of the Energy Corridor skyline at dusk, but when I arrived, I realized I could not capture what I envisioned due to poor angles and obstructed views. So I began looking for other opportunities for anything else interesting to capture, and I discovered this fantastic perspective beneath the connector ramps, just as they change direction, curving towards I-10 from the lot. I think the view shows the incredible precision that goes into the engineering and construction of what is otherwise a common sight around the city roads and freeways. It’s also a reminder that to be successful at photography, you must be open-minded. I could have just packed up my gear after not being able to get the photo I originally hoped for, and continued home after the long day. I chose to not call it quits, and didn’t regret it.”
Fifth Place, Meteora at Sunset
When Whitni Parker, 44, and her husband traveled to Greece for their 20-year wedding anniversary in August, they initially planned to go straight to the islands. But after some research, they decided to travel north and visit Meteora first. “This is a picture of the setting sun casting ethereal light over the cliff-top monasteries in Meteora, Greece. While at first we planned a day trip, we learned that to really do Meteora right, you want to stay overnight and take in the sunset. Meteora is known for its natural rock pillar formations whereon monasteries were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. We were amazed to learn how the materials were hoisted up by hand for construction. The two monasteries pictured are specifically the Monastery of Rousanou (far right) and the Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas (second from right). We settled ourselves on a high lookout point as the sun began to get low. I set up my tripod and snapped images over the next hour, in awe of the warm glowy light and shadow contrasts from the rock formations as the sun dropped.”
First Place, Synchronized Symmetry
This perfect match-up was captured by Loyd Dalton, 75, on a February trip with his son to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Driving on the trail, they noticed a small pond that was holding a large number of waterfowl. “As we got out of the car to survey the scene, we startled a pair of mallards resting on the near bank. I barely got the camera in position to be able to take the in-flight shot as they were rapidly getting out of range. I consider this image as one of those ‘lifetime’ shots that you don't get every day; it was pure luck that the pair just lined up perfectly in sync when I took the shot!”
Second Place, Amaryllis Bud on Black
This photo of an amaryllis bud was shot by Bonnie Davidson, 74, in the early afternoon on an overcast day. “This was taken at our house in Houston, in mid-April 2023. I'm drawn to flowers naturally, and went out to photograph some of the amaryllis blooms. Recently I took a course on using your iPhone for photography and had started practicing on just about everything. This image was taken using the lighting effect of ‘Stage Light’ in the Portrait Mode on the iPhone. I like this effect a lot because of the black background it makes. The new phones take amazing pictures.”
Third Place, Diamond Beach
Darren Inoff, 54, grabbed this photo showing the blocks of ice that break off from nearby glaciers and wash ashore in Iceland. “This photo was taken on August 1, 2022 at 4:30 a.m. on Diamond Beach in Iceland. We left the hotel at 3 a.m. to get in position for a beautiful sunrise. We were there in late summer during the time of the midnight sun. It was an amazing experience to photograph these blocks of ice as the shapes, textures and light are constantly changing.”
Fourth Place, Pretty and Pink
Chuck Martinez, 53, spotted these American (or Caribbean) Flamingos wading through a shallow water pond at a resort in Mexico. Peafowl and other native animals roamed freely on the Iberostar resort property in Playa del Carmen. “I spotted these beautiful birds from an observation deck above the water feature where they were wading. Besides the beautifully vivid colors of these birds, I was happy to capture the moving shapes of the group, with their straight long legs, pillowy feathers, and curvy necks that changed with each photo I took. I was also glad to have taken a telephoto lens with me, otherwise this photo and most others I took of the resort wildlife would not have been possible.”
Fifth Place, Ambushed – look closely
This split-second capture was taken by David Holland, 68, at Brazos Bend State Park in March. “Walking along the Elm Lake path, I spotted a green heron atop a nearby lily pad. It stood motionless, its eyes seemingly fixed on something. I decided to sit and wait for whatever might happen. After a few minutes I noticed a bug scooting on top of the water towards the green heron. I chose my camera settings for a quick strike and hoped for an action shot. Finally, the bug and the heron were both in the viewfinder and all I needed was for the heron to strike. Unexpectedly, the water exploded from below as a fish went for the bug and the heron simultaneously went for the fish. I fired away at 20 fps (frames per second) and was stunned at the result. Truly a once in a lifetime image.”
Category: People and Portraits
First Place, Paparazzi and Coffee
This candid may seem Hollywood-esque, but Ed Diaz revealed that it is actually a photo of his boss walking into a meeting. Ed, 51, took this photo in April, at Roland Artist Relations Office in Burbank, California. “I love taking candid photos, and my boss [Duane McDonald] tries to block me when I attempt to take one. In this case, although he was successful in blocking, I was able to capture something special. The photo was originally in color, but I decided to edit it in black and white because I felt I could get more clarity and texture from the image. Plus, I thought it looked cool and reminded me of an album cover.”
Second Place, Two Faced
Sixteen-year-old Lillie Kleban posed her friend Samantha Weiss for this photograph earlier this school year. She took the photo for an assignment on different types of lighting in her Digital Imaging class at The Emery/Weiner School. “I love the concept of split lighting and the ambiguity that comes with it. I wanted to use my photography and intentional lighting to reveal specifically how one cannot know the full story or grasp a true understanding when only taking things at face value.”
Third Place, People on the Move
Mauricio Recinos, 52, says that “between residents, tourists, workers and the occasional photographer” it can be a real challenge to take pictures at Grand Central Terminal. After he found a good spot, he had to wait a while for others to move away. “I wanted to capture the moving people in the station, to exemplify the life in New York. Beautiful city, always in the fast lane.”
Fourth Place, Red Jacket
Darren Inoff, 54, grabbed this photograph of a friend in front of Skogafoss Waterfall in Iceland in early August. “I wanted to show the size and scale of this waterfall and thought this would make a great composition.”
Fifth Place, Pure Joy
Natalie Alexander, 48, loves to take pictures of nine-year-old Mackenzie, the youngest of her four children. "The rest are mid-high school, college, and college graduate. She is the only one that still spends a lot of time with me, so of course I love to take pictures of her. I took this photo in March in our pool. Mackenzie is a water child. She loves it more than anyone I’ve known. Every time she’s in the pool it’s just pure happiness. I started taking pictures because her expression was so fun and bright that day. Our pool is totally shaded, and the sun was still shining so it actually makes for the perfect lighting with the help of the reflection off the water. This one picture shows exactly who she is.”
Category: Sports and Action
First Place, Day of Infamy
Gerald McGlamery, 61, photographed this fleeting moment during a Pearl Harbor reenactment at the Wings Over Houston Airshow. “The focal point, a vintage Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress bomber, is juxtaposed against a reproduction Japanese Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bomber in the background and an ambulance jeep in the foreground. I was tracking the B-17 and was vaguely aware of the presence of the B5N and the jeep, so I was excited to find them all in the frame of this particular photo. The photo was taken at Ellington Field on October 29, 2022, during the Commemorative Air Force's Tora! Tora! Tora! reenactment. I love air shows and air show photography. This photo is just one of many I take each year at Wings Over Houston. Tragically, this Boeing B-17G, known as Texas Raiders, was destroyed two weeks later in an aerial collision with another vintage aircraft at the Wings Over Dallas Airshow. Seven lives were lost in the crash.”
Second Place, Safe
Avid sports photographer Wayne Donnelly, 70, took this shot at an April baseball game at St. Pius X High School baseball field. Cooper Brown of St. Pius scored the game-winning run against The Kinkaid School on a bases-loaded two-out bunt. “I thought about ‘Safe or Out?’ as a title to make people guess. It is hard to tell from the photo. Could be an interesting poll if the description didn't ruin it.”
Third Place, Hopper
Wayne Donnelly got this high-flying picture in an April softball game at the St. Pius X field. Jessica Muniz, a pitcher for the St. Pius X Panthers, is in midair during a softball game against Concordia. “It looked like both feet were leaving the ground, but I couldn't tell for sure because it was so fast. I set my camera for as fast as it would shoot and lucked out with one frame that caught it perfectly.”
Fourth Place, Game Summary
Wayne Donnelly says he got lucky with this shot of Diego Guandique, the St. Pius X High School goalie, as he was mobbed by his teammates after blocking the opponent's final penalty kick to win this January game against their cross-town rival St. Thomas. “I got lucky being in the right place at the right time. If you know soccer, you have a good idea about how the game ended without any words, thus the title.”
Fifth Place, On the Ground
St. John’s rising senior Emma Nguyen, 16, caught this moment of St. John’s linebacker Dax F. Garza tackling a Houston Christian running back during a football game in early September. “Football games start at 7 p.m. every Friday, and the lighting in the background of the photos is always phenomenal. I love taking action photos of sports, as I find them the most compelling to take and look back on. I attend every game to hopefully take the best pictures possible for myself and for my school’s yearbook, Quadrangle.”
Category: Readers’ Choice
First Place, A Life of Shelter
Our readers wholeheartedly agreed with our expert judges – our Grand Prize winner, A Life of Shelter by Rilina Tran, was also chosen by our readers as the first place Readers’ Choice winner on our Facebook page. With a total of 649 likes (at the time of our voting cutoff), the tally of votes for this photo surpasses any other Readers’ Choice winner in the past.
Second Place, Can We Play
Dana Katz, 46, snapped this sweet moment. “This is a photo of our dog, Frazier, and my precious nephew, Luca [Yudovich], taken in January of this year. Frazier adores playing with Luca and is constantly licking him and wanting to play with him. I think this picture captures that loving bond.”
Third Place, Paparazzi and Coffee
Paparazzi and Coffee by Ed Diaz received First Place in our People and Portraits category, and Third Place in our Readers’ Choice.
Fourth Place, Pelican Flying Against a Cargo Ship
Ed Diaz, 51, took this shot of a pelican flying in front of a container ship at Fort San Jacinto Historic Point in Galveston. “I took the photo a couple of days before Christmas. My wife and I decided to take a quick drive to Galveston just to get away. While we were there, I made it my goal to get a good shot of a pelican flying through the air, and if I was able to capture it then it would make the trip totally worth it. I shot the pic handheld with my Canon R5C and a Sigma EF 150-600 mm lens. I actually was successful that day and captured numerous shots, but this by far was my favorite of all.”
Fifth Place, On the Ground
On the Ground by Emma Nguyen received Fifth Place in our Sports and Action category, and Fifth Place in our Readers’ Choice.
Eric Forsythe has been a full-time photographer for over a decade. His work has been featured in several magazines and regional journals, including Time, The Ferrari Club Magazine, and Success magazine. His images have been shared on Larry King Live, Piers Morgan Live, Good Morning America, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, to name a few. Eric’s clientele includes automotive icons such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini, as well as entertainment companies like MGM, Paramount Pictures, Capitol Records, and Integrity Music. He is based in Houston, but his passion guides him to continuously explore in search of optical stimuli. He believes that photography is not motionless and tries to establish a sense of movement in his photos.
Nikky LaWell, certified professional photographer and master craftsman photographer from the Professional Photographers of America, holds a BFA in photography from the University of Houston and owns a boutique studio specializing in family portraits with a personal perspective. Nikky has been the keeper of memories for the most important of moments, from babies and graduations to weddings and promotions. She is known for listening closely to her clients and coming up with ideas for intimate and creative photography sessions. Her awards include “Best Portrait of a Senior Professional” from the Professional Photographers Guild of Houston, “Best Wedding” from the Southwest Professional Photographers Association, “Best Wedding” from the Texas Professional Photographers Association, and the illustrious Kodak Gallery Award.
lawellphoto.com, [email protected]
Terry Vine, recently named one of the 200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide by Lürzer’s Archive, is an advertising and lifestyle photographer who specializes in creating custom images for the healthcare, hospitality, and corporate industries. His ability to capture the essence of an experience as it relates to a destination has landed him assignments around the world and earned numerous awards. His work has been featured in Communications Arts, Graphis Photo, Print, American Photography, Applied Arts, and PDN Photo annuals. Terry’s fine art images are in many museum and private collections around the country. Having grown up in Ohio, Terry now lives in Texas with his wife, two children, and a rambunctious Golden Retriever named Ranger.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article included the title Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges for the first-place winner in the Landscapes category. A reader email has alerted us that the second bridge is in fact the Manhattan Bridge, not the Williamsburg Bridge. This correction has been made in the title and description of the photo.
Want more buzz like this? Sign up for our Morning Buzz emails.
To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or you may post as a guest.