See how dramatic lighting earned three photographers Nikon Photo Contest honors

Nikon has now been around for an entire century, and to celebrate, the company is showing how the camera continues to mix art with storytelling in the annual photo contest. On Thursday, Nikon announced the winners for the Nikon Photo Contest 2016-17, naming a 100th anniversary prize, grand prize, and most popular entry.

The contest, now in its 36th year, has now generated over 1.6 million entries in the contest’s history, with this year’s event bringing out 21,511 photographers from 170 different countries.

“Entries ranged enormously in their subject matter and interest: Some were joyful and observational, but a large majority were political or offered a philosophic commentary on the contemporary world,” said Neville Brody, the contest’s lead judge. “The winners themselves reflect a balance between the artistic eye and the ability to tell a story. Global concerns and issues are captured and expressed with simple reality — images that help us understand better who we are, and expose us to greater truths of the world we inhabit. These images transport us beyond the mundane into worlds of revelation and possibility, linking us to the narratives which unite us all.”

Annamaria Bruni’s photo, “Greeting to the Sun,” took the 100th Anniversary Prize. The image takes an unusual interpretation of the contest’s celebration theme by depicting a woman praying by her window, celebrating the small moments. The photographer, a native of Italy, shot the image in Egypt using a Nikon D800 and the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens.

Brody described the image as a modern Vermeer or Rembrandt, saying, “This serene celebration of a new day is magical to us, the calmness of the image draws us in, the details in the objects creating a narrative for our imagination. Again, softness, contrast, light and dark are the powerful mechanisms used here to tell a human story, a delicate expression that feels more like a beautifully observed still life.”

Dramatic window lighting is also what led to Tian Yuan Yuan’s entry, “Break Time,” being selected for the grand prize. The black-and-white image depicts iron workers in China on a break, but the window light highlights the pollution from the factory.

“This image captures [climate change] concern in an intense and emotive way, made more poignantly dramatic by being in black and white,” Brody said. “The workers in an iron factory are silhouetted through the smoke in the rays of light that break through from the outside of this otherwise unlit space, one that extends into the unknown in the billowing plumes of smoke and darkness at the edge of frame. Through the open door we see a tree and leaves, reminding us of the fragile nature beyond, one which needs our urgent protection. This iconic image can apply anywhere in our world right now: We can imagine this happening as we speak, in Europe or America, Asia, or Africa.”

Dorete Verner, a United States-based photographer, won the Most Popular Entry prize for “Disappearing Fishing Method,”  a shot of a fisherman leaping out of a small boat, spear striking the water. The category is selected by the contest’s participants themselves, and Verner’s image received over 7,000 votes.

The Nikon photo contest is just one of the ways the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The contest will also be awarding first- through third-place prizes in several different categories, with an awards ceremony slated for July 27 in Tokyo.