SAN ANTONIO, TX (March 19, 2018)-- Thousands of pictures were submitted to the 2017 Army Digital Photography Contest by talented individuals in two divisions, Active Duty Military and Other Eligible Patrons. Entries were received from Dec. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018 and were judged by digital automation professionals.

The annual contest takes place through the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation department of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command to recognize creative minds as they capture imagery from around the world. The 2017 contest received over 2,200 entries online from dedicated photographers. The winners were notified of their accomplishments at the beginning of March 2018.

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Davis, a Military Police Officer, earned first place for Active Duty Military, in the Animals category with his image of two giraffes nestled together shot in black and white, titled "Neck Tie Affair."

Davis said he loves black and white photography because it helps him work harder on composition. Sometimes color can dominate and take away from what the photographer is trying to capture.

Not everyone has access to capture a giraffe but Davis lives near the Okinawa Zoo in Japan.

"I've spent countless hours there. Taking photographs of animals can be difficult because they don't always cooperate so I've enjoyed that challenge. It just goes to show you don't have to be anywhere exotic to find inspiration."

Davis has practiced photography for four years but was always hesitant to enter the Army Digital Photography Contest. After a persistent coworker encouraged him, Davis finally entered this year.

"It's a big step putting yourself out there wondering if your stuff is good enough. I'm stunned to say the least and very honored."

The contest consisted of seven categories: Animals, Design Elements, Digital Darkroom, Military Life, Nature & Landscape, People and Still Life. Photos needed unique titles and must have been captured within 12 months of the start of the contest year. Contestants were able to submit up to three pictures in each category.

The contest was open to authorized MWR patrons in two divisions, Active Duty Military and Other Eligible Patrons including family members, retirees, civilians and contractors.

Staff Sgt. Anton Rhem, a medical laboratory technician, took second place for Active Duty Military, in the Nature and Landscape category with his illuminating piece, "Downtown San Antonio."

When composing his shots he looks for pictures that cannot be recreated, those once in a lifetime captures.

"I am a huge fan of long exposure photography. I love the light streaks and deep colors. I was downtown on a photo walk and took the picture because it captures the heart of downtown San Antonio perfectly."

This was his first contest entry but he said it will not be his last.

The winning artists in each category were awarded cash prizes, $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place. Honorable mentions are recognized on the MWR website.

Abby Stewart, who took first in Other Eligible Patrons division for the category People, put a lot of meaning behind her black and white image's title, "Proverbs 31."

"It is one of my favorite bible verses and is exactly the woman I strive to be. I feel like this photo embodies that verse, 'She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue....Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' "

The model of the picture, Brittany Knauf, is a natural in front of the camera and made it easy to get so many breath-taking shots, Stewart said. She has been learning about photography for three years and started her own business a year ago.

Stewart heard about the contest through FMWR's Facebook and this was her first entry.

Tad Browning, an Army veteran, now working as a Senior Audiovisual Production Specialist as a civilian, earned second place in the Animals category under the Other Eligible Patrons division.

His image "Running Horses" was taken in Mackay, Idaho, at a Stoecklein Photography Workshop. The Stoecklein family conducts workshops to inspire photographers by putting them in the middle of a working cowboy ranch, Browning said.

"The cowboys and cowgirls were running the horses toward us in a large open area. I shot many images over the course of about 30 to 45 minutes. It was really a matter of choosing the one that worked best. I really like adding people in my images whenever possible to give scale and interaction."

Browning is no rookie when it comes to photography; he has been an Army photographer for 28 years. He shot combat photography, worked in broadcast journalism and was part of a mobile public affairs detachment. At one point he was working with the Texas Rangers as a forensic photographer.

2017 was his second Army Digital Photography Contest submission; his first occurred in 1994.

Chief Officer Warrant 2 Matthew Brown, a Chinook pilot, received second runner up in the Digital Darkroom category for Active Duty Military with his image of beaming yellow and golden hues, titled "Chimera."

Brown's image, taken from the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, displays a creature-like statue with the city in the background. Brown explains the reasoning behind the title.

"A chimera is a Greek mythological fire-breathing serpent, and I thought this particular statue looked similar to what I envision a chimera to look like."

Despite the image looking more like a painting than a photo, everything in the picture is real, according to Brown. He simply added a few effects for the sunset feel and stone like appearance.

Brown has been taking pictures for three years and 2017 marks his second entry; in the 2016 contest he won second place in the landscape category.

The winning photographers are listed below.

The photographs are published on the Army MWR website: http://www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/arts-and-crafts/digital-photo-contest

Going through the first division, Active Duty Military, the first category is Animals. Winning first place is Sgt. 1st Class Mark Davis from Torii Station, Japan with the title of "Neck Tie Affair." Runner up Capt. Nathan Rolls from USAG Bavaria, Germany, submitted "Puffin on Skomer Island." Second runner up is Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Abrahamson of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who submitted "Baby Leopard lounging."

In the category of Design Elements the first place winner is Capt. Barton Blackorby from JBLM, Washington, with "Maze of Hot Air." Coming in second place is Staff Sgt. Matthew of Grajeda Fort Stewart, Georgia, with the picture "Into Perspective." And in third place for design elements is Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jerry Irick from JBLE, Virginia, who submitted "High Light."

Moving on, we have Digital Darkroom. The winner is Staff Sgt. Pablo Piedra of Fort Meade, Maryland, titling his art "Exploring the possibilities." The first runner up is Lt. Col. Scot Keith of JBLM, Washington, with "Pole Vault" and the second runner up is Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Brown coming from Fort Riley, Kansas, titling his picture "Chimera."

For Military Life, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ganz of Fort Carson, Colorado, took the crown with "Big Guns." Following behind in second place is Staff Sgt. Paul Goodnow from Fort Hood, Texas, describing his work as "Train Hard Play Hard." Then in third place is Staff Sgt. Joel Redman from Camp Zama, Japan, titling his picture, "The Wait."

In the Nature and Landscapes category, Lt. Cmdr. James Lish from Torii Station, Japan, Okinawa stole the show with "Peace Park Waterfall at Sunrise." Staff Sgt. Anton Rhem from JBSA, Texas, took second with "Downtown San Antonio." Then the second runner up was Spc. Chan Pyo Kim from USAG Camp Humphreys, Korea with his piece "Bay of Dragons."

Moving on to the category People, Pvt. Adeline Witherspoon from JBLM, Washington, took first with "Water Break." Right behind Witherspoon is Sgt.1st Class Brian Freeman from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the piece "Elegance." Taking not only first but also third place is Pvt. Witherspoon with "Ghosts in Balkans."

In the last category, Still Life Staff Sgt. Matthew Grajeda from Fort Stewart, Georgia, took the top place with "Views." The first runner up is Sgt. 1st Class Eric Ogden in the Army National Guard with the artwork "Day at the Beach." Coming in third place in Still Life is Master Sgt. Erin Marrero of Fort Bragg, North Carolina who titled her work "Cold Winter Morning."

Moving on to the second division of winners, Eligible Patrons, we have the first category Animals. William Pulley from Aberdeen Proven Ground, Maryland took first with the shot "Eagle Battle." Right behind Pulley is Tad Browning of Fort Hood, Texas, with the picture "Running Horses." Second runner up was awarded to Marcian Woodside of USAG Yongsan, Korea, with his work "Final Approach."

In the second category, Design Elements, Harold Levie of Rota, Maryland, earned first place with "Reflections." Coming in second is Michael Villalpando from Camp Zama, Japan with the piece "Shapes forming Design." Margaret Collins from Fort Hood, Texas, was awarded third with the picture "Beer Bubbles."

For Digital Darkroom, Jennifer Anderson of Fort Campbell, Kentucky won first with "Bridge to Heaven." Coming in second is Tad Browning from Fort Hood, Texas, with a piece called "Tru View Enhancement." Crystal Stupar from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, took third place with "Aviators Odyssey."

In the category Military Life, Michael Hemming from USAG Yongson, Korea, took the crown with "Lined Up." Right behind Hemming, Rebecca Mastrian from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, took second with the work "With the Band." Then awarded third place comes Michael Hemming of USAG Yongson, Korea, with the shot "Blackhawk Pilots."

Looking to the outdoors with Nature and Landscapes, Kimberly Kendall of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, acquired first place with "Majestic Manarola." Right behind Kendall is David Roberts of JBLM, Washington, taking second place with his art "Solitude at Lower Lewis Falls." Colin Kelly, of Aberdeen Proven Ground, Maryland earned third place with "The Hidden Waterfall."

In the People category, Abby Stewart of Fort Hood, Texas, won first for her creativity in her piece "Proverbs 31." Jeffrey Ignatius of Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, earned second place with the wintery piece "Snowman." Winning third is Crystal Harris from Aberdeen Proven Ground, Maryland, with "Mermaid Song."

In the last category, Still Life, Michael Hemming of USAG Yongson, Japan, won first with his picture "The Plunge." Kimberly Kendall from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, acquired second place with "Jugs of Oil" and John Powers, of Camp Zama, Japan, earned third with his piece "Lost and Lonely."