The Best of the West, Photo Contest Captures Breadth of NOAA Fisheries’ Mission in Action

Summer 2014

“Perfect composition,” “precise balance,” “unexpected beauty,” and “layers of action” are just some of the sentiments used to describe the winners of NOAA Fisheries’ 2014 West Coast Photo Contest. This competition aimed to capture the unique work NOAA Fisheries does to protect and conserve living marine resources throughout the West, and this year’s photographs reveal the true breadth of our mission.  Staff from the West Coast Region, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and the Restoration Center entered 142 photographs; some infused with humor, others subtle contrasts, and many were breathtaking.

Staff submitted high-quality photos in six categories: species, people, fishing or fisheries, habitat, tools and technology, and scenic or abstract. A panel of three judges, all professional environmental photographers, evaluated the anonymous submissions for exposure, composition, and the story being told. The judges selected a first place award for each category as well as a unanimous “Best in Show.” In addition, the judges called out three photos for honorable mention.

Thank you to all who participated in the contest, and special thanks to our panel of judges: Thomas B. Dunklin, Corey Arnold, and Rich Press for donating their time and expertise to our contest. More information about these talented photographers can be found at the end of this page.

tuna boats

BEST IN SHOW & TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY WINNER: Helena Aryafar, Southwest Fisheries Science Center

John Childers tagging commercially caught albacore offshore in Oregon

Judges’ comment: ‘A lot going on in this photo, with separate layers of action in the foreground, midground, and background. Yet it all holds together perfectly, and reads like a well-constructed sentence, from left to right. The colors are also interesting, almost monochrome except for the hooded figure in the foreground.’


SPECIES WINNER: Sherri Charter, Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Late stage Icosteus egg at the Icthyoplankton lab in La Jolla, California

Judges’ comment: ‘Like something out of a sci-fi movie, this ragfish embryo stares out expectedly at the world. The detail in the speckled pigments is astounding. Too bad it got caught in the plankton net!’  and ‘This shot really shows something unseen under normal circumstances. The concentric circles of the egg, the eye, and the iris make it pop.’

PEOPLE WINNER: Adam Obaza, West Coast Region

Bryant Chesney surveys an artificial reef off Huntington Beach, California

Judges’ comment: ‘Nice composition and colors – nice to see the diversity of life-forms, with a human being included.’

FISHING OR FISHERIES WINNER: Jeremy Notch, Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Another day at the office, "Sampling" for steelhead trout genetics in Mill Creek, California

Judges’ comment: ‘This beautiful landscape is perfectly composed, with a precise balance between earth and water, light and shadow, and with the fisherman perfectly placed off-center.’

HABITAT WINNER: Adam Obaza, West Coast Region

Gorgonians and kelp bass underneath a research pier at Big Fisherman's Cove, Catalina Island, California

Judges’ comment: ‘Beautiful colors in this photo, and a reminder that habitat can take many forms.’

lobster, diver

SCENIC OR ABSTRACT WINNER:  Adam Obaza, West Coast Region

Kathryn Kempton interviews a lobster on general impressions of habitat health, Broad Beach, Malibu, California

Judges’ comment: ‘I love this shot, the lobster is cool looking and the photographer is really close. [It] shows a great human/animal interaction.’ and ‘In my opinion, humor is the highest form of art, or close to it, and also the most difficult to achieve. This photo cracks me up.’

ship, rust, rv miller freeman


The last in-port - a stern view of Miller Freeman, Miller Freeman de-commissioning ceremony, Seattle, Washington

Judges’ comment: ‘Unexpectedly beautiful.’


Surveying the rocky intertidal habitat of a beach nourishment project for abalone, Broad Beach, Malibu, California

Judges’ comment: ‘A wonderful tableau showing multiple ecosystems converging. Humans dominate the background, while in the foreground they seem stranded without their comforts.’

HONORABLE MENTION IN SPECIES CATEGORY: Benjamin Sandford, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

American White Pelican snacks on a Largemouth Sucker at Horn Rapids Dam, Yakima River, Washington

Judges’ comment: ‘It is amazing to see the big fish in the big mouth of this pelican. Great action shot.’


View all 2014 PHOTO CONTEST ENTRIES on Flickr

More about the Judges:

Thomas B. Dunklin

Corey Arnold

Rich Press