Yes, certain themes recur, such as the joys of the open road: lonely undulating two-laners, neon-basked diners and weathered barns, even an ant's-eye view of Death Valley blacktop. And there are cowboys galore, including, in Times Square, a guitar-playing "Naked Cowboy," or so he advertised himself on the back of what little he did happen to wear. All told, amateur photographers in 50 states, the District of Columbia and 85 other nations digitally submitted 8,447 photographs to our 4th Annual Photo Contest. Thank you, one and all.
We solicited entries in five categories—The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images, for photographs that have been manipulated. A selection of finalists and winners follows, and you'll find all 50 finalists on our Web site, Smithsonian.com. In addition, we add one new photograph from the contest every day.
This year's grand-prize winner is a Natural World entry of the Tukituki River Valley in New Zealand. The photographer is 18-year-old Joelle Linhoff, of Minnetonka, Minnesota. She'll receive a Smithsonian Journeys adventure for two at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October (or the cash equivalent). Each category winner receives $500. (Click here to see more images from Linhoff.)
In September, Smithsonian.com will announce details of our 5th Annual Photo Contest, and we fully expect to see more terrific shots of the open road, of cowboys, of exotic plants, of native peoples in traditional garb. Helen Starkweather, the editor who coordinates the contest—to be capped by an exhibition in July at the Smithsonian Institution Castle on the National Mall—isn't troubled by the recurring themes. Many pictures, she says, draw on archetypes that "remind us of the experiences, emotions and relationships that we all share, no matter who we are and where we live."
Click here, or on the images above, to read about the winners. Click here to view all 50 finalists.