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Photo: Thomas McEwan (Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park)
Following the theme of our 75th-anniversary year—Nevada’s territories—our 2011 photo contest is a celebration of the best images from the state’s six tourism territories: Las Vegas Territory, Pony Express Territory, Cowboy Country, Indian Territory, Nevada Silver Trails, and Reno-Tahoe Territory.
Because we’re covering each territory in that order on an issue-to-issue basis in 2011, we ordered the photo contest categories accordingly. Also new this year is a “Then & Now” category, in which photographers were asked to re-create former Nevada Highways and Parks or Nevada Magazine cover images.
From vivid wildlife and black-and-white nostalgia to scenic byways and Nevada waterways, this year’s winners and runners-up illustrate beautifully the Nevada we all know and love…to photograph.
Hometown: Las Vegas
Title: “Night Sky Over Ward Charcoal Ovens”
Location: Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park
As if McEwan didn’t do a superb enough job capturing this moment on his Canon 5D MKII, he does a fine job of it in words as well. “At Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park, there are no streetlights, no car lights, and no ‘light domes’ from distant cities,” he says. “You would think it would be jet black at night, but the starlight was so bright, I was able to work without a flashlight.”
From Death Valley National Park to Great Basin National Park, rural Nevada is renowned for its starry skies, and the charcoal ovens—south of Ely—afford the type of remarkable stargazing opportunities that set the Silver State apart. McEwan describes it best:
When I arrived on the scene after dark, a thin sliver of a moon had just ducked behind a nearby mountain on the right but still illuminated a distant mountain on the left. I positioned my camera in front of the rightmost kiln and panned it to produce a panorama of six individual photos that I later stitched together. With the Milky Way looking like a spewing volcano, I was stunned by its immense size. We are living in a whopper of a galaxy!
As a tribute to just how dark and clear the Nevada skies can be, what look like earthly clouds between the two rightmost kilns are actually galactic dust clouds many billions of miles away.
McEwan used a 75-second exposure per frame. In addition to the six well-intact charcoal ovens—built by miners in the 1870s to make charcoal for smelting—the park also offers recreation trails and 14-site Willow Creek Campground. parks.nv.gov/ww.htm, 775-289-1693
McEwan will receive a complimentary tour courtesy of Wild Horses of Nevada Photography out of Dayton.
LAS VEGAS TERRITORY: WINNER
Given their name by Mormon settlers, Joshua trees reminded the emigrants of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Photographing them—as evidenced by Kuznicki’s mastery of the fish-eye lens—can also yield heavenly results. Joshuas are synonymous with the Mojave Desert, but their range goes beyond that. Nevada travelers on U.S. 95 south of Tonopah; U.S. 93 from the Dry Lake Valley south; and the Extraterrestrial Highway (State Route 375) will get plenty of chances to see the trees. Of course a visit to Las Vegas Territory’s rural areas virtually guarantees a run-in with this western icon. lvterritory.com, 702-874-1400 x.7022
LAS VEGAS TERRITORY: RUNNER-UP
This iconic mammal—Nevada’s state animal—was spotted along the Keystone Thrust trail, one of nearly 20 trails hikers can access at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. “This [desert] bighorn [sheep] was grazing with another sheep and ran up a steep hillside, where they both stopped to continue feeding,” Knapp says. “I was able to approach within about 50 yards of them when I took this photo.” It turns out it was a fairly lucky find for Knapp: The bighorn population is estimated to be 80 within the nearly 200,000-acre conservation area. blm.gov/nv, 702-515-5000
PONY EXPRESS TERRITORY: WINNER
Fort Churchill State Historic Park remains one of central Nevada’s most photographed attractions for the site’s original, decaying adobe buildings that can keep a lover of the lens busy for days. What sets Rollins’ photo apart from the rest, however, are two tried-and-true camera strategies. For one, you still have to get to your destination early to take advantage of good ambient light, and two, film is still valued by veteran shooters such as Rollins. “I [took] the photograph in the early morning from the west side of the park facing the Pony Express trail,” he says. “I made the image with a Sinar 4x5 using Fuji transparency film.” parks.nv.gov/fc.htm, 775-577-2345
PONY EXPRESS TERRITORY: RUNNER-UP
The Nevada Northern Railway and museum—known to train buffs worldwide—preserves the Ely area’s storied railroad history. That history is captured brilliantly in Dempsey’s black and white, which gives visitors a good idea of the nostalgic items that await at the railroad. Nevada Northern Railway and the chance to drive or ride a diesel- or steam-engine locomotive are big draws to Ely, and the site is so highly regarded as a photography destination that NNRY holds Winter Steam Spectacular photo shoots annually in February. nnry.com, 866-407-8326
COWBOY COUNTRY: WINNER
You could call it Forest Road 660, but that wouldn’t be doing the Lamoille Canyon National Scenic Byway justice. O’Brien’s autumn photo of the Ruby Mountains demonstrates why the 13-mile stretch of road, and the surrounding wilderness, is so well traveled. “The photo was taken last October when my wife and I went on a fall color road trip to one of our favorite places, Lamoille Canyon,” O’Brien says. “We drove up the canyon early in the morning. A storm rolled in, and the rain and dramatic sky enhanced the beauty.” fs.usda.gov/htnf, 775-752-3357
COWBOY COUNTRY: RUNNER-UP
“Summer and fishing are just a natural fit—spending a carefree evening casting a line,” says Esplin, explaining her eight-year-old son’s love for fishing. “For Jayce, it is all about honing his fishing skills and catching a big one. For me, it is watching him enjoy summer, and reminiscing about a simpler time.” Spring Creek Marina is a 32-acre spring-fed lake surrounded by a park, plus the setting for fireworks on the 4th of July. springcreeknv.net, 775-753-6295
INDIAN TERRITORY: WINNER
“Pyramid Lake is one of Nevada’s gems,” Hanrahan says, and it’s difficult to argue with her, especially after seeing her sunset capture. “The [southeastern] side is my favorite, where Stone Mother watches over the south end of the lake, and the pyramid rises above the water. It is a very peaceful and spiritual place. Look for the moon setting in the upper right corner.” Unfortunately, due to vandalism, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has cut off access to the pyramid (the inspiration for the lake’s name) and Stone Mother until further notice. Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation is open to the public, but check ahead for restrictions. pyramidlake.us, 775-574-1000
INDIAN TERRITORY: RUNNER-UP
The Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge, at the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, was established for the benefit and protection of colonial nesting species and migratory birds such as these American white pelicans. The refuge itself is closed to the public, but the majestic birds are not hard to come by during the warmer months (Hammon snapped this beauty from a kayak at the southern end of Pyramid Lake). pyramidlake.us, 775-574-1000
NEVADA SILVER TRAILS: WINNER
Few people have seen more of Nevada’s beautiful, isolated wilderness than Beffort, associate director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness. Lucky for us, he totes his camera along. “I took the photo on Mill Creek in the Mount Grafton wilderness area,” Beffort says. “I shot just as the sun was coming over the horizon—in that moment when the cool dawn gives way to another blazing summer day. Nevada’s hidden aspen groves are among my favorite places. Here I find cool streams, birdsong, and wildlife.” nevadawilderness.org, 775-324-7667
NEVADA SILVER TRAILS: RUNNER-UP
Galli has made a hobby of restoring old cameras and capturing these types of intriguing black-and-white snapshots. “The image was made with a Deardorff 11x14 [film size] field camera,” Galli says. “The lens is a 1916-ish Wollensak Velostigmat of 405mm focus.” As you can tell, this is not your average point-and-click. “I was out playing with the antique cameras when I saw the beautiful reflection of the Mizpah Hotel in the window of the Belvada building across [the street].” Galli’s timing is impeccable, as the Mizpah Hotel recently celebrated its grand re-opening in August. tonopahnevada.com, 775-482-6336; mizpahhotel.net, 855-337-3030
RENO-TAHOE TERRITORY: WINNER
“You have to get up early for [Lake Tahoe Water Trail’s Spring Paddle Day],” Hanrahan says. “Kayakers come from all over for this event. By 8 a.m., we are out on the water in three different groups: beginners, intermediates, and experienced. We got lucky and had a calm day with blue skies. It included a tour of the Thunderbird Lodge, then back to the beach for a lunch buffet and a talk on keeping Lake Tahoe blue.” The Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee organizes several paddle events such as this and helps promote the annual Lake Tahoe Paddle Festival, held in June. laketahoewatertrail.org, 530-579-2525
RENO-TAHOE TERRITORY: RUNNER-UP
No other American summer holiday brings family and friends together like the 4th of July. In Strickler’s case, Star-Spangled Sparks was extra special as it relates to this electrifying photo. “My wonderful brother, Pobby Heglar, gave up his holiday and spent the day with me teaching me the basics of firework photography,” she says. “We set up at Sparks Marina so we could get the reflection of the fireworks on the water. I used a tripod and long exposure and got a handful of amazing photos thanks to him.” Sparks is immediately east of Reno, and blasting fireworks off the top of John Ascuaga’s Nugget on July 4th is a city tradition. cityofsparks.us
THEN & NOW: 1ST PLACE
Sometimes photographers get caught up in technical explanations, but we appreciate Andone’s approach: “My reason for taking the photo—because Cathedral Gorge is magnificent!,” she says. “Unfortunately it is one of Nevada’s best-kept secrets. I am on a quest to change that.” Two years prior to the 1937 cover photo, Cathedral Gorge was established as a state park, along with three others in Nevada. The park is just as impressive today and is easily accessible via U.S. 93, west of Panaca. “This photo shows how the formation has changed over almost 75 years,” Andone continues. “The park offers something new every time you visit. The formations are constantly changing throughout the day as the sun moves position. Rain and storm clouds really bring out the colors in the layers.” parks.nv.gov/cg.htm, 775-728-4460
THEN & NOW: 2ND PLACE
At Nevada Magazine, we love to hear when something found in our pages is the impetus for a Nevada adventure. To reinvent this image, it took some investigating on Kositzky’s part. “I drove to Virginia City with a copy of the [Fall 1971 Nevada Highways and Parks] cover on my clipboard. Driving in the higher part of the city, I stopped my car and approached a couple of residents chatting next to their car and asked if they could tell me where the photo might have been taken from. One of the guys pointed to his house and welcomed me to drive up there and photograph from his property.” From a tripod, Kositzky took this brilliant photo 40 years later of a silver town that seems to stand still in time. virginiacity-nv.org, 800-718-7587
THEN & NOW: 3RD PLACE
Lamoille Canyon is known for fabulous photo opps, so it’s no surprise the titillating terrain in northeastern Nevada has shown up a number of times on the cover of Nevada Magazine. “Although the season differs from the original [Fall 1972] cover photo, I liked the calico colors pairing up with this fall issue,” Esplin says. “Looking at the two images had me wondering just how many people have stood in this very spot to capture the canyon’s beauty.” fs.usda.gov/htnf, 775-752-3357