Josiah Kopp’s love of the night skies won his photograph, “Sailing Dreams,” both Best of Show and the Adventure and Recreation category in the 2017 North Dakota Governor’s Photo Contest.
A sophomore from Beulah, N.D., Kopp considers himself an astrophotographer, taking photos of celestial bodies and objects, but he also has a fondness for ships, sailboats and seascapes.
“I love the night skies and the Milky Way,” said Kopp. While driving around Lake Sakakawea State Park he came upon the boat harbor. “I went down to the docks in the dead of night, looking for that perfect composition, and the rest is history.”
The result was a winning photograph that produced audible gasps and awes of admiration when unveiled at the ceremony for the 14th annual contest in Memorial Hall at the State Capitol where Gov. Doug Burgum recognized the winning photographs and honorable mentions. Viewers noted its dreamlike quality and some even mistook it for a painting, one asking if the single exposure was a composite of multiple photos.
One winner is chosen from each of six categories and is awarded $200. A Best of Show receives an additional $300 cash prize. Honorable mentions receive $50. The categories are Adventure and Recreation, Places to Visit, Communities and Events, Fun with Family and Friends, Scenery and Wildlife. The contest is open to all North Dakota resident amateur photographers who are 18 years of age or older. Kopp was the youngest contestant at the ceremony.
Photos need to showcase North Dakota as a “Legendary” travel destination and originality. They are judged by a panel from North Dakota Tourism, the Governor’s Office, AAA and the North Dakota Council on the Arts along with staff familiar with photography and responsible for selecting images for various marketing materials. This year’s contest had 1,381 entries.
The panel described “The vibrancy of the night sky and unique subject of ‘Sailing Dreams’” as what earned Kopp the awards. “The photo grabs a viewer’s eye while showcasing the clarity of North Dakota’s starry skies and our exciting adventure opportunities.”
Kopp said meeting Gov. Burgum was an honor and that discussing his photo with the governor was a bit surreal. Although Kopp takes inspiration from some of the greats like Ansel Adams and Serge Ramelli, he is self-taught and prefers to blaze his own trail picking up little things here and there, and from YouTube and blogs.
“I submitted a number of my best photos from 2017,” said Kopp. “‘Sailing Dreams’ wasn’t even my personal favorite.” But there is a deep connection to the image, a reminder of his roots and his earliest years as an artist, drawing and painting seascapes. “The photo, in a sense, captures everything I love about art.”
Event photos by Cassie K. Theurer, digital asset specialist, North Dakota Department of Commerce – Tourism Division