Light in the Sky by Giorgia Hofer
The winners of the fifth annual Earth and Sky Photo Contest, organized by The World at Night (TWAN), were announced on June 18, 2014. First place went to Giorgia Hofer for the photo "Light in the Sky," which was taken on Jan. 1, 2014 from the Cibiana Pass in the Dolomites, a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps. Light rays frame the Big Dipper constellation over the snowy mountain.
"It is an excellent and striking composition, set in a fine location and the wintery setting makes this image a powerful statement about light pollution," contest judge David Malin said in a statement. "But light pollution also makes the image!"
Over the Top by Luc Perrot
Taking first place in the "Beauty in the Night" category was Luc Perrot's photo of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano peaking above a sea of clouds beneath a starry sky and the bulge of the Milky Way galaxy. The night-sky image, snapped on Feb. 28, 2014, from France's Réunion Island.
"With the Milky Way swirling over this fantasy landscape, it is a beautiful reminder that we live in galaxy, and that it is always there, whether we can see it or not," contest judge and National Geographic photographer James Richardson said in a statement. "This image gives us a sense of our home in the universe."
False Dusk and Falls at Oregon Coast by Ben Coffman
Ben Coffman's "False Dusk and Falls at Oregon Coast" photo, snapped from Hug Point in northern Oregon in February 2014, took home second place in the "Beauty" category. "Surprisingly, this was my first time capturing zodiacal light. I had wanted to capture this waterfall at night for years, but had been unable to because of cloud cover and the difficulty of accessibility," Coffman said in a statement. "This falls is only reachable during low tide. The waterfall itself falls right on the beach, less than 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean, making it a rare breed."
(Zodiacal light is visible just after dusk or before dawn, when sunlight reflects off of dust in the solar system plane.)
Reflected Aurora by Alex Conu
Taken from Norway's Lofoten Islands on March 15, 2014, this photo, entitled "Reflected Aurora" by Alex Conu, took home second place in the "Against the Lights" category. Here, the aurora swirls above a mountaintop and the scenic fishing village of Reine on a moonlit night.
"Two great forces are combined in this image: the blazing lights of the town spreading along the coast of the fjord, and the aurora sweeping over the mountains," Richardson said in a statement. "The wide, panorama nature of the photograph sets the stage for this conflict in a beautiful way, and subtly points out that we always need to inspect our ideas of beauty and how we control our environment."
Kirkjufell Nights by Nicholas Roemmelt
The photo "Kirkjufell Nights" by Nicholas Roemmelt of Austria snagged third place in the "Beauty of the Night Sky" category for a stunning view of the northern lights dancing above Kirkjufell waterfalls under a moonlit sky in March 2014.
Unlimited Sky by Majid Ghohroodi
Third place in the "Against the Lights" category went to Majid Ghohroodi's "Unlimited Sky" image taken in February 2014 from Maranjab Salt Lake near the city of Kashan in Iran. "The winter starry sky (with constellation Orion in the middle) is merged into light domes of three major cities in this panorama," Ghohroodi said in a statement. The reflected starlight from the water is polarized. That's why the reflected image is more clear than sky."
Little Explorer by Ibrahim Elawadi
Ibrahim Elawadi of Egypt took home fourth place in the "Beauty" category for his photo, "Little Explorer," taken in November 2013 from a desert near Fayoum, located some 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Cairo. "This visualizes the story of building the future by placing a passion in the young minds to explore the universe in the young minds," Elawadi said in the statement.
Fog Below And The Stars Above by Mark Gee
Fog takes center stage in Mark Gee's "Fog Below And The Stars Above" nightscape captured from Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2013 and taking home fourth place in the "Lights" category. "The fog diffuses and suppresses the glow of the city lights below which allowed me to photograph both the city and the Milky Way in one exposure," Gee said. "This is something that is not usually possible due to the bright glow of the city lights."
Bioluminescence & Star Trails by Phil Hart
The photo "Bioluminescence & Star Trails" earned Phil Hart of Australia fifth place in the "Beauty" category. Captured on Jan. 16, 2013, the long-exposure photo reveals southern star trails as seen from Gippsland Lakes in Victoria. The Milky Way and green airglow form a stunning backdrop for the bioluminescence seen in the water below.
Heavenly Street by Song Hongxiao
In this long-exposure image, "Heavenly Street," Song Hongxiao of China captured star trails from the sacred Taishan or Mount Tai. "It's been an ancient China tradition that people climb to the top of Mountain Tai to watch the beautiful sunrise and pray," Hongxiao said in a statement. "In this picture thousands of people are walking across the Heavenly Street. The lights from their flashlight interplays with the stars in the sky." Hongxiao took home fifth place in the "Lights" category in the fifth annual Earth and Sky Photo Contest organized by The World at Night (TWAN).