Results from the Air North First Light Image Festival Photography Contest

  By Mark Kelly

In the summer of 2016, a group of local photography professionals got together over beer and pizza at a local pub to talk about issues facing photographers in Yukon. At some point in the evening someone suggested the idea of creating a photography festival to showcase the work of local photographers and to help boost the photography industry in the territory.

Out of that meeting came the creation of the Writing with Light Society and the annual First Light Image Festival in Whitehorse, Yukon. The group decided that the festival should start small and include local presenters, a series of photography contests, prints from the presenters, and always plenty of socializing. The date was set for an evening event on April 7.

The enthusiasm for the festival from photographers, lovers of photography and sponsors was overwhelming. The festival sold out a week before the event. Over 100 people attended the opening free talk and book launch of Beyond Mile Zero: The Vanishing Alaska Highway Lodge Community by Lily Gontard (author) and Mark Kelly (photographer). The main event also saw over 100 people for presentations by Derek Crowe (Small Camera, Big Adventure), Mike Thomas (Moments), Cathie Archbould (From assignment to project: The power of personal work), Manu Keggenhoff (Haunted by Ideas – How to Pitch to Magazines), Gary and Brianne Bremner (This Is How I really Feel) and Peter Mather (Dene Hand Games).

The Camera Store enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the presenters and the photography contest. The photography contest saw images from all over the world by primarily Northern photographers. We had 25 entrants with 63 images all hoping for a chance to win a GoPro Hero 5 Black provided by the Hougen Group of Companies. The Camera Store added a $50 gift card and a lens cloth to the grand prize winner and all the honourable mentions. We cannot thank the Camera Store enough for their support and are keen to have the Camera Store involved again next year.

The Winners of the 2017 First Light Image Festival Photo Contest are:

Grand Prize: Into the Light – Reindeer Herding NWT

Danny Swainson – Inuvik, NT

“Earlier this year Kylik Kisoun Taylor and myself spent 3 days just north of Jimmy Lake with the reindeer herd. We travelled there with the goal of testing out the potential for bringing tourists groups to experience the herd. While we were there we also harvested 3 animals and moved the herd of approximately 2000 animals to a new valley for grazing.  The weather was frigid but the light was warm. In order to get this shot I hid amongst the only patch of spindly spruce trees around while Kylik herded a portion of reindeer in my direction. I came back from this trip with frost bitten digits and a whack of photos I was as happy with!” – Danny Swainson

Honourable Mentions:


Bob Nishikawa – True Grit


Jason Wolsky – Firefighter


Jim Welsh – The Last Canadian Reindeer Herder


Michael MacLean – Carmen Obscura – North End Knockout