Summer has officially come to an end. Luckily, EcoWatch is here to keep its memory alive by sharing the winners of our "Best of Summer" photo contest.
For our third ever photo contest, we at EcoWatch broke the competition into two parts: one Judges' Choice, selected by a talented team of activists, photographers, adventurers and influencers, and one EcoWatchers' Choice, selected by readers like you!
The winner of the "Best of Summer" Judges' Choice award is ... Raymond Paul Freitas, for his Late Summer View of the Milky Way over Bodega Head, California.
Late Summer view of the Milky Way over Bodega Head, California.
"I love Milky Way images," Freitas said of the piece, "so I am always searching for stunning locations to photograph. I thought this coastal setting would be a perfect backdrop."
Freitas' photo was chosen by an accomplished team of judges: activists and filmmakers Gary and Sam Bencheghib, wildlife photographer Anthony Bucci, award-winning photographer and expedition leader Amos Nachoum and zoologist, activist and social media Influencer Margarita Samsonova.
Samsonova called the winning picture "stunning."
"I know how hard it is to shoot stars and edit pictures like that. The colors and clarity here are amazing. Winner shot!" she said.
Bucci, meanwhile, praised Freitas' technique.
"The photographer didn't over edit this image while post processing it. I like the crop used in the post processing," he said. "The colours and overall composition of this image keeps pulling me back to view it. I think overall the photographer spent some time to properly setup his camera and chose a decent foreground to break up the Milky Way."
Freitas is retired and lives in Santa Rosa, California. His favorite summer activities are landscape photography, pickleball and hiking.
And now the photograph voted for by you, our readers. The winner of the "Best of Summer" EcoWatchers' Choice award is … Michael Pizzi, for this majestic photograph of Yosemite Valley.
"Spirit of the Valley" at Yosemite National Park, California.
Michael Pizzi / Vibes and Horizons
"This was my very first time at Yosemite Valley, and it did not disappoint! The rock formations completely blew me away, the sunsets filled up the entire sky, and the wildlife seemed indifferent to my presence," Pizzi told EcoWatch of the moment he took the photo. He has since been back to the iconic national park several times.
But even before that first visit, Pizzi had long been drawn to the valley by the writings of John Muir and the photographs of Ansel Adams. He hopes to inspire other nature lovers in the same way.
"My goal here, and in every photo, is to bring the beauty of a location to people who have not yet had the privilege of experiencing it themselves," Pizzi said. "Hopefully viewers are motivated to make the trip to Yosemite, and join the fight to protect these places for future generations."
Pizzi lives in Los Angeles, where he runs Vibes and Horizons LLC, a scuba-diving travel agency, underwater photography sales platform and environmental blog. His favorite summer activities are scuba diving and exploring the ocean.
"On the weekends, you can usually find me out in The Channel Islands and occasionally down in Baja Mexico," he said. "Feel free to shoot me a message to go diving!"
Update, September 17: Voting is now closed. Winners of both EcoWatchers' Choice and Grand Prize will be announced on Sept. 23.
On June 26, EcoWatch launched its "Best of Summer" Photo Contest. Throughout the summer, we've been receiving submissions from EcoWatchers, and we've been giving readers the opportunity to vote for their favorite image. Our EcoWatchers have determined their favorite photos for July and August, featured below!
Now it's time to vote on your favorite summer photo! Vote below and let us know which photo you think should win our EcoWatchers' Choice award.
Here's How to Vote:
Upvote an image below by clicking on the green up arrow located above each photo. You can also downvote photos. You can only submit one vote per photo, and voting will remain open for one week.
The winning photo from the vote will receive our "EcoWatchers' Choice" award of a $100 Patagonia e-gift card.
But that's not the only prize we're giving away. Our panel of judges are also choosing a photo to win our "Best of Summer" photo, with a $250 Patagonia e-gift card award. The judges are: Gary and Sam Bencheghib, Anthony Bucci, Amos Nachoum and Margarita Samsonova. To be considered for this larger prize, please read our guidelines below and submit your photo by September 11.
Submit your photo to [email protected] with the subject line "ECOWATCH SUMMER PHOTO CONTEST" by September 11th for a chance to win and to have your photo appear on EcoWatch.com. To be considered, submit your photo with the following information:
- Phone Number
- Photo Submission (.jpeg file format recommended)
- Caption & Location
- Facebook and Instagram profiles (if available)
Our judges will choose the winning photo and the winner will be announced September 23rd. The EcoWatchers' Choice award winner will also be announced September 23rd.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.