2017 Photo Contest

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2017 Tahoe National Forest Photo Contest Winners Announced!

The Tahoe National Forest partnered with YubaNet, a Nevada County-based online news outlet delivering news to the Sierra, for this year's photo contest.

The first, second and third place winners of the 2017 Tahoe National Forest Photo Contest have been announced! First place is “Celestial Wilderness,” by Joseph Dondelinger. Second place is “Dreamy Nights,” also by Joseph Dondelinger, and third place is “Mountain Biking Into the Light on the Lavezzola Creek Trail,” by Jeff Barker.

This is the second year of the Tahoe National Forest Photo Contest. This year, YubaNet partnered with the Forest on the Contest. “Celestial Wilderness” was the clear first place winner. As a testament to his excellent photography skills, Dondelinger won second place as well for his night-time image of the Duncan Peak fire lookout. “While the number of submissions were similar to last year, the quality of entries really increased,” said Kial James, a Nevada City-based professional photographer who participated in the judging. “The submissions all showed the detail and beauty of the Forest and its many landscapes and points of interest. In the end, our three winners showcased beautiful use of light, technical skills and strong compositions.”

“With this second year of the Photo Contest, I continue to be impressed by the quality of entries,” said Forest Supervisor Eli Ilano. “Who better to show the beauty of the Tahoe National Forest than the people who visit this special place?”

As the first place winner, Joseph Dondelinger won the prize of two nights in the highly sought after Sardine Fire Lookout, located on the Sierraville Ranger District. Second and third place winners will be treated to a guided tour of the Rock Creek Nature Trail.

2017 Tahoe National Forest Photo Contest Winners:


1st Place

"Celestial Wilderness" by Joseph Dondelinger, (Castle Peak)

Castle Peak

Note from the Photographer:  This is one of my most achieved photos to date planned months ahead of time! This photo is actually a blend of two images taken at very precise and critical times at the same position and angle. On July 22, 2015, I set off on the brutal 1200 foot backpack trip up to near the top of Castle Peak carrying over 60 pounds of gear, including all of my camera equipment! I also carried up my iOptron Sky Tracker, which plays a crucial role in capturing the most detailed shot of the Milky Way possible and was the first image I captured, which also had to be taken in between the sunset and moonrise 45-minute window. During the 4-minute tracked exposure, I managed to capture a spectacular meteor to the south! After this shot, I moved the camera just a few inches over to a stationary tripod keeping the same angle and prepared for the moonrise so I could capture the foreground image just a few minutes later! Timing was impeccable with this as I had to shoot my foreground quick and on time just as the moon was rising, so the moonlight and the warm glow from the headlamp in my tent stay in the right balance! Then finally later in post production I blended the two images together. What I love most about this image is how I can truly reflect upon my memories of just how amazing this little camp spot was that night and the success of all of my hard work to achieve this photo!
Equipment:  Canon 5dmkii; Canon 24mm 1.4L ii

2nd Place

"Dreamy Nights" by Joseph Dondelinger, (Duncan Peak Fire Lookout)

Duncan Peak Lookout


3rd Place

"Mountain Biking into the Light on the Lavezzola Creek Trail" by Jeff Barker, (Lavezzola Creek Trail)

Lavezolla Creek Trail