Two of Juneau's top photographers to judge photo contest

Proceeds will give at-risk teens an opportunity to experience the outdoors
The sun sets on gillnet boats anchored in the Egegik district of Bristol Bay. Such a photo illustrates a peaceful moment as fishing boats are silhouetted against the reddish-orange evening sun.

Two of the Alaska’s, top local photographers will use their love and knowledge of clicking shutters to judge a local photo contest to benefit at-risk teens.


Mark Kelley and Nick Jans will judge the 2nd annual Juneau Photo Contest in May.

“Photography forces me to experience the real world,” Kelley, a Juneau resident since 1979, said. Kelley has multiple books, magazine covers and newspaper prints to his credit. “If I want to get a picture of the moonrise then I have to go hike up a mountain, and through that trip I get to experience the moonrise and hopefully get a nice picture.”

Kelley said he sees photography, and the resulting photos, as a by-product of what he would do anyway.

“If I am not taking pictures I am not forcing myself to go out,” Kelley said. “And vice versa, photography is an excuse to go do fun stuff and hopefully share that with people.”

Kelley remembers his decision to take a photo class his senior year at Nichols High School in Buffalo, New York in 1971.

The school offered no electives until the senior year, and the choice was physics or photography.

“That was like, wow, OK I will take photography,” Kelley said.

His first assignment was to shoot the morning in downtown Buffalo with a Mamiya 55mm black and white camera. His first photo was a bum pointing two fingers like a gun towards Kelley.

“It was too soft but the buildings were in focus,” Kelley said laughing. “My teacher liked it though. He thought it was artsy.”

Jans has lived in Juneau since 1999 and is noted for his books and journalistic writing. But he too is a photographer and uses the craft as a “way of seeing.”

“It teaches you to see, to be observant and notice things that otherwise you wouldn’t notice,” Jans said.

Jans’ first photo was of cemetery tombstones with a 1958 vintage Agfa 126 black and white camera at age seven. The site was a civil war battlefield in Virginia.

“I was fascinated with the civil war back then, still am,” Jans said. “I remember that clearly.”

Submissions will be accepted May 1–12 at Nugget Alaskan Outfitters and all photos will be on public display at the Nugget Mall from May 14-20. Categories include: portraits, scenic, animals, macro, creative, Juneau and unclassified. There are subdivisions in each category for juniors and seniors, in addition to black and white and color.

The winners will be announced at a special fundraising event held May 21 in the Hangar Ballroom.

Kelley said he is a stickler for technique.

“Pay attention to the basics,” Kelley said. “Color, composition, clarity, and sharpness moments. When I am judging a contest I look for, obviously, a moment, but that moment could be of color. Three or four of those moments together make a really great photo, even the appropriate use of color on a rainy day. Last year’s contest was lots of fun.”

Jans advice to amateurs is to remember that the print is what the judges see. Jans said not to over-sharpen, over-saturate, or over-compensate for shadow and light by over-processing.

“Don’t go nuts with Photoshop because all those things show up to the practiced eye,” Jans said. “It’s best to let your photograph, your image, speak for itself. It is always interesting to see what people bring out and there is no better way for anyone, amateur or professional, to improve their photography skills than by being judged and critiqued.”

All submission prints will be sold for $20 each and the proceeds will benefit Big City Mountaineers, a non-profit charity providing at-risk teens with the opportunity to experience the outdoors.

BCM provides wilderness opportunities for under-resourced urban teens age 13-18 in a week-long expedition called Relate Expedition.

Entry forms can be obtained by visiting Nugget Alaska Outfitters, the Nugget Mall office, or at

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at


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