9th Annual Down East Reader Photo Contest Winners

9th Annual Down East Reader Photo Contest Winners

Our judges picked standouts in three categories — landscape, wildlife, and lifestyle — from a pool of nearly 1,000 entries. And our readers had their say too.

This year, talented Maine photographers J.K. Putnam, Hannah Hoggatt, and Séan Alonzo Harris took on the unenviable task of judging Down East’s reader photo contest. Unenviable not on account of the sheer volume of images — although the judges did have a thousand or so to sift through — but rather because of the sheer volume of exceptional images. No surprise there, really. How many great pictures must get snapped every day in this distinctly photogenic state of ours? Year after year, the job of picking winners never gets easier.

It’s a reader photo contest in another sense too: Down East readers did some serious sifting of their own, casting thousands upon thousands of votes for readers’-choice picks. And this year’s sponsor, Natural Resources Council of Maine, selected a favorite too (many thanks to those guys for helping to make this contest possible). If you love Maine photography as much as we do and want incredible shots sent to your inbox — and if you want to find out first about future contests — check out our free Snapshot newsletter.


Frosty shoreline of Kittery, Maine, photographed by Brett Protasiewicz
Frosty shoreline of Kittery, Maine, photographed by Brett Protasiewicz
Grand Prize Landscape
Brett Protasiewicz | North Conway, New Hampshire

Taken in Kittery
Nikon Z 7II, 24–70mm

With the forecast predicting temperatures way below zero, I got up at 3 a.m. and headed to the coast in hopes of finding sea smoke. When I arrived, the rocky beach at Fort Foster Park was unrecognizable: patterns in the sand preserved under a blanket of ice, rime covering rocks and vegetation, and sea smoke billowing off the ocean. I wandered around in the extreme cold and high winds, searching for compositions to convey the unforgettable scene. This one brings me right back to that frigid, beautiful morning.

The forest at Crescent Beach, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, photographed by Molly Parker
Runner-Up Landscape
Molly Parker | Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Taken in Cape Elizabeth
iPhone 12 

After the summer crowds departed last year, we set out exploring nearby beaches. Crescent Beach, in Cape Elizabeth, is so much more than a beach, which I discovered as we drove past the park entrance toward the parking lot. Being in a new place allows the mind to open up, and as I scanned the woods in the late-afternoon light, the bright-yellow ferns caught my eye. Over and over, Maine offers something new to anyone who wants to see.

Lupin field in Bristol, Maine, photographed by Kody Theriault
Readers’ Choice Landscape
Kody Theriault | Liberty, Maine

Taken in Bristol
Sony A7 III, 70–200mm

Lupine season is always a treat on the midcoast. While my husband and I were waiting for the sun to set over Bristol, we made a quick detour to Round Pond. The town has a small nature preserve aptly named Lupine Field. The field is gorgeous and filled with not only lupines, but also other wildflowers that fill the shore with color.

black cow standing outside Myrtle Street Tavern in Rockland, Maine, during a snowstorm, photographed by Mike Czosnek
Grand Prize Lifestyle
Mike Czosnek | Daytona Beach, Florida

Taken in Rockland
Sony A77 II, 50mm 

A winter nor’easter is a wonderful occasion for taking photos, especially when you’re in the midcoast. I was out with my camera in downtown Rockland. No traffic, just snow. I happened to be by Myrtle Street Tavern when a black cow was standing out front, in the middle of the snow-covered roadway. I was so surprised. I assumed it was from a small farm up the road. After I took the photo, that cow just looked at me and trotted on by.

Man in a boat on foggy Chickawaukie Pond, in Rockland, Maine, photographed by Isaac Remsen
Man in a boat on foggy Chickawaukie Pond, in Rockland, Maine, photographed by Isaac Remsen
Runner-Up Lifestyle
Isaac Remsen | Rockport, Maine

Taken in Rockport 
Canon 5D Mark II, 70–200mm

I was driving home past Chickawaukie Pond when I noticed a lone fisherman seemingly floating on the fog. So I pulled over immediately and reached for my camera. As I snapped some shots from shore, I noticed the fisherman was chewing on what looked to be a pine or spruce twig. Standing there and watching, I felt fortunate to witness another great moment in Maine.

a runner on a sunrise trek up Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park, photographed by Kody Theriault
a runner on a sunrise trek up Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park, photographed by Kody Theriault
Readers’ Choice Lifestyle
Kody Theriault | Liberty, Maine

Taken in Acadia National Park
Sony A7 III, 50mm

Fog was a defining feature of my trail running this past summer, especially at the height of all the humidity. On one sunrise trek up Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park, I captured this image of my running partner near the summit. No surprise that a blanket of fog provided the backdrop.

great egret photographed by Nova Moore in Phippsburg, Maine
Grand Prize Wildlife
Nova Moore | Lewiston, Maine

Taken in Phippsburg
Nikon D5600, 70–300mm 

On the day this photo was taken, I hadn’t been feeling like myself. My partner thought I needed some fresh air and suggested we take a trip to Phippsburg to check out the trail through the Bates–Morse Mountain Conservation Area, over Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach. After a couple of minutes, the wooded path opened onto a sprawling marsh. I turned around, lifted my camera, and got a photo of this great egret that had seemingly been enjoying the view as well.

fox kits in Brunswick, Maine, photographed by Kerry Daly
Runner-Up Wildlife
Kerry Daly | Scarborough, Maine

Taken in Brunswick
Nikon Z 9, 100–400mm

While sitting quietly and patiently in a wildlife blind last April, I was very fortunate to witness the beauty and the behavior of four fox kits. After watching them frolicking for a while, I was able to catch two of the frisky kits finally taking a break, side by side. The peaceful sight and the foggy morning inspired this black-and-white composition. 

barred owl, photographed by Chris L’Abbé
barred owl, photographed by Chris L’Abbé
Readers’ Choice Wildlife
Chris L’Abbé | Topsham, Maine

Taken in Brunswick
Canon EOS R5, 100–500mm

It’s much easier to spot owls when the leaves are off the trees, and this past winter, I often found barred owls hunting. One evening, I spied this fluffy little owl walking up a roof, and I watched for at least half an hour as it sort of marched along, flew around, and hunted. In fact, I found its movement pretty comical, and I laughed out loud. Looking back at this photo, I’m excited to hopefully see the owls again this winter.

loon on Moosehead Lake, photographed by Traci Sepkovic
Maine Outdoors Prize
Traci Sepkovic | Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

Taken on Moosehead Lake
Canon EOS R5, 100–400mm

While on vacation in the Moosehead Lake area, I went out in my kayak one evening and came across this loon that was actively hunting. I paddled to where I could place the loon in the shadows and underexposed my image for a low-key look. I captured the loon just as it resurfaced from a dive and loved how the water beaded on its head.

Our contest sponsors at the Natural Resources Council of Maine selected the winner of this year’s Maine Outdoors Prize. “This stunning image of a common loon reminds so many of us of summer mornings on beautiful Maine lakes,” CEO Rebeccah Sanders says. “It’s also a poignant symbol of what we could lose if we don’t act quickly on climate change. Scientific studies show we’ll lose the loon in Maine by the end of the century unless bold actions are taken. Losing the loon would be losing part of what makes Maine so special. Here at NRCM, we’re leading efforts to address climate change and to protect all of the nature of Maine.” NRCM thanks all who support its work and invites photo enthusiasts to check out the group’s weekly My Maine This Week photo.


Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light, photographed by Scott Shaw
Landscape #2: Scott Shaw | Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light
Sunset at Port Clyde Harbor, photographed by David Redman
Landscape #3: David Redman | Port Clyde Harbor
Jesup Path, Acadia National Park, photographed by Alison White
Landscape #4: Alison White | Jesup Path, Acadia National Park
digging clams on the Medomak River in Waldoboro, Maine, photographed by Corey Cain
Lifestyle #2: Corey Cain | Medomak River, Waldoboro
a couple celebrating their anniversary on Sand Beach in Acadia National Park, photographed by Renee Donigian
Lifestyle #3: Renee Donigian | Sand Beach, Acadia National Park
Senior portrait photographed by Charline Wyman
Lifestyle #4: Charline Wyman | Coastal Maine
A moose, photographed near Moosehead Lake by Scott Shaw
Wildlife #2: Scott Shaw | Moose near Moosehead Lake
a mallard duck, photographed by Kaitlin Spear
Wildlife #3: Kaitlin Spear | Mallard in Portland
clearwing hummingbird moth, photographed by Chelsea Harnum
Wildlife #4: Chelsea Harnum | Clearwing Hummingbird Moth at Brookside Farm
May 2024, Down East Magazine

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