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Contest Rules

The contest is free and open to all amateur photographers. An amateur photographer is defined as someone who earns less than 50 percent of their income from photography. Photographs in this contest feature the following subjects:

  • The scenic coast and Pacific Ocean off California,
  • People and the California coast, and
  • California ocean and coastal wildlife.

Photographs must be taken from a public place. Plants and animals depicted in photos should be native species in their natural setting. Examples of non-native species include iceplant, pampas grass, and tropical fish. Examples of non-natural settings include a fish tank or public aquarium. Photos from an aquarium or those not taken in California will be disqualified.

Photographs may be in color or black and white.

Images may be post-processed but should retain realistic color and sharpness. This should generally be limited to global adjustments of exposure, contrast, burning, dodging, cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, and tone. Minor cleaning of images is permitted, including the removal of dust or scratches. Converting a color image to black and white is acceptable as long as the subject remains represented realistically.

High Dynamic Range (HDR), panoramas, focus stacking, and other techniques involving multiple images taken at the same time and place are also allowed. However, adding, removing or relocating subjects in a scene is not allowed.  

We offer this contest to recognize talent in photography, not Photoshop.  Modified images must not be manipulated beyond the reality you saw when the photograph was taken.  Images should accurately represent the subjects depicted and those that appear overly processed can be disqualified at the judges’ discretion.

Photographs submitted must be the original work and exclusive property of the photographer.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it a violation of federal law to interfere with the natural behavior of marine mammals. The National Marine Fisheries Service recommends that photographers stay at least 100 yards away from whales; 50 yards away from dolphins; 50 yards away from seals and sea lions when they are swimming, and 100 feet away when they are on land. In addition, sea otters are protected by the Endangered Species Act which also prohibits harassment or interference with their behavior, and photographers should stay 50 feet away from otters. Photographers entering this contest must abide by these guidelines and maintain a safe distance from marine mammals. Further, photos entered in this contest should not depict violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, even if conducted by other people.

A maximum of five photos per entrant may be submitted. Please do not submit more than five different images. If more than five photos are received from a single entrant, only five will be selected for consideration.

Commissioners, staff, and staff family members of the California Coastal Commission, Thank You Ocean Campaign, and the Ocean Protection Council are not eligible to participate in this contest.

For details on photo use and licensing, please see the complete Contest Terms and Conditions