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SPIE Year of Light photo contest winner captures ‘moving light show’

Winning images capture beauty, celebrate contributions of light-based technology

05 January 2015

Paul Reiffer Year of Light photo contest

Photographer Paul Reiffer's "Over the Rainbow" won first-place in the SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest from among a field of nearly 800 entries. ( Second- and third-place winning photos are below.)


BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- A 35-second-exposure image by Paul Reiffer of traffic and other lights on and around the Nanpu Bridge in Shanghai has been selected as first-place winner of the SPIE International Year of Light (IYL) Photo Contest. The depiction of the multicolor LED light show was selected from among nearly 800 images submitted last year to SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, for the contest.

The SPIE IYL Photo Contest was organized to raise awareness of the United Nations International Year of Light 2015 (IYL 2015) observance, and the vital role that light and light-based technologies play in daily life, promoting sustainable development and providing solutions to global challenges in energy, education, security, agriculture, and health. SPIE is a Founding Partner of the IYL 2015.

The man-made movement and complexity of the light in Reiffer's photo effectively illustrates the goal of the IYL 2015 as well as light in everyday life, the contest theme, said Joe Niemela of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, one of the contest judges and global coordinator for the secretariat for IYL 2015.

"The creativity in selecting the perspective, with the natural motion through the curves and onto the bridge, is very appealing," he said.

"I have been impressed by the quality, variety, and large number of submissions," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "I congratulate the winners on behalf of the optics and photonics community and send our thanks to the distinguished judges for their dedication in the difficult task of picking winners from so many winners!"

Along with Niemela, judges for the contest included award-winning American photographer Mathieu Young; Deborah Klochko, director of the Museum of Photographic Arts in California; Jana Huisman, the Photonics21 Young Ambassador for Photonics Education; and nearly 40 graduate students from university art programs and SPIE Student Chapters.

SPIE is providing prizes of US$2,500 for the first-place photo; US$1,000 for second place; and US$500 each for third place and a People's Choice Award to be voted on later this year. SPIE Professional is featuring the winning photos on the covers of each quarterly issue of the magazine in 2015.

All 32 finalist images will be eligible for the People's Choice Award. Details about viewing and voting on the images will be announced this spring.

Reiffer, a professional photographer from Weymouth, England, took the first-place photo with a Phase One 645DF camera on 31 December 2013, and titled it "Over the Rainbow." On certain holiday weekends in Shanghai, not only do the traffic trails create amazing shapes with headlights across the three-layer ramp, but a rainbow show of different-colored LEDs makes the entire scene come to life, he noted.

Second-place winner Susanta Mukherjee, an amateur photographer from West Bengal, India, traveled to a village without electricity in March 2014 and captured the appreciation of children who received free solar-powered study lights.

Ian Bell, a student studying photography and business at Montana State University in Bozeman in the United States, won the third-place prize with a long-exposure photograph of an athlete on a stand-up paddle board with LEDs mounted on the paddle. The photographic technique created a "light painting" across the water of Fisherman Bay off Lopez Island in northwestern Washington State.


Susanta Mukherjee Year of Light photo contest

Susanta Mukherjee won second place with "Joy of Light."


Ian Bell Year of Light photo contest

Ian Bell won third place with "Neon Nights."


SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014.

Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager
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