Photo Contest 2009 Winners

More than 3,400 entries flooded the ISLANDS mailbox for the 20th edition of our reader photo contest. This time, the stakes were higher than they've ever been before, with dream-trip prizes to Fiji, Oahu, Iceland and Aruba, plus a photography workshop, camera gear, gift certificates and more. And your images were better than ever, capturing absolutely stunning moments that show yet again why we all love islands. The ISLANDS editors and guest judge Jad Davenport considered every photo before selecting the ones you see here. Get an exclusive look behind the scenes.

"I almost threw in the towel this particular evening since it had been raining. I was walking on El Nido Bay, and the sun came out at this moment. The water was shallow with the tide out, so it created this spectacular mirror effect. One villager collecting mollusks was silhouetted right in the middle of the frame. A lot of times, you have to get yourself in a situation where photos like this can happen. But sometimes they happen for you."

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D fitted with a Canon EF 24-70mm lens. The exposure was 1/640 second at f/8 and ISO 400. Prize: Eight nights in Fiji, including air and cruise for two, from Qantas Vacations.

First Place Jamaica by Hal Myers **

**"I like to experience a country through the aperture of the local culture. In Montego Bay, I came upon a group of men living along the bay. One of them stood out, with his agitated behavior and brooding, turbulent eyes. He was intent on telling me in patois about one of the shipwrecks, gesticulating with my token of appreciation in hand. It was one of those native, distinctly Caribbean moments I was lucky to capture."

Taken with a Canon EOS 5D. The exposure was 1/1600 second at f/4 and ISO 200. Prize: Five nights in Oahu, plus air for two, from Hawaiian Airlines and Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

**"At the Hotel El Convento in San Juan, we've always enjoyed sitting at El Picoteo bar and eating tapas. The wall behind the bar has an aged look, providing a decor of old-world charm befitting the hotel's origins as a convent in 1651. It gives you the feel of the Caribbean colors and a place you'd like to experience. My wife said, 'I could sit at this bar all day long.' I try to take a lot of pictures and capture scenes as they are to make you feel like you're there."

Taken with a Nikon D50 fitted with a 18-135mm Nikkor lens. The exposure was 1/10 second at f/3.5 and ISO 200. Prize: Three nights in Iceland, plus air for two, from Icelandair.

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Third Place** Zanzibar by Elizabeth Bailey "I love the melting-pot culture in Stone Town. These little boys were best friends on a mission, from two different walks of life. I could have shot them from the front, but it was more special for me to capture them this way, so it's not merely a picture of two cute boys. The back draws attention more to their heritage and culture. One is barefoot, while the other has a Hello-Kitty-style backpack. To me, this perspective shows how they live on this island."

Taken with a Nikon D70 fitted with a 70-200mm lens. The exposure was 1/640 second at f/8 and ISO 400. Prize: Four nights in Aruba, plus air for two, from Hyatt Regency Aruba.

"We stumbled on this waterfall on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island during a five-day backpacking trip. I saw it, but it was a bright, sunny day with too much contrast to take a photo. I kind of locked it in my memory. On our way back, it was a nice overcast day. Luckily, I had my Mamiya camera. I cropped the image a bit because with medium format, you have that opportunity. I framed the waterfall to balance it with the green."

Taken with a Mamiya 645 Pro TL fitted with an 80mm lens. The exposure was 1/2 second at f/22 and ISO 50. Prize: Weeklong workshop and stay at Maine Media Workshops.