PDN Photography Award Winners on the Power of Place
Recognition for Adobe Stock Artists Ryan Longnecker, Michela Ravasio, and Yusuke Okada.
A portrait of a woman, wild monkeys bathing in a hot spring, and an aerial view of the California coast — at first glance, these photographs don’t appear to have much in common. However, a closer look reveals a prevailing theme for our winning photographers’ visions: the beauty inspired by a special place.
This year, Adobe Stock artists Ryan Longnecker, Michela Ravasio, and Yusuke Okada took home prizes in the stock photography category for PDN’s prestigious Photo Annual, one of the industry’s largest photography contests of the year. Our winners and their subjects reflect the global and diverse photography featured across Adobe Stock’s collection — coming from California, Italy, and Japan, respectively.
“The jurors for the PDN Photo Annual included experienced art buyers, creative directors, and photo directors who are regularly looking for striking images,” says Holly Hughes, editor of PDN. “The Adobe Stock winners in the Photo Annual’s Stock Photography category are all very different, but they represent some of the visual trends we noticed in this year’s annual — interest in diverse subjects and cultures depicted with respect and originality, and images that are topical but also demonstrate the artistry and unique perspective of the photographer.”
Read on for more from the winning photographers and the unique places that inspire them.
Ryan Longnecker grew up in Bishop, California, a town situated at the base of the Eastern Sierra Mountains. He credits his hometown as the place where he learned to appreciate the slower and smaller things in life, and that mindset has had a large influence on his photography. His work features stunning travel and landscape scenes, where he focuses on compositional, geometric details: textures, colors, lines, and shapes. The unique perspective afforded by drone photography allows him to capture details in ways that can’t be seen from the ground. Laguna Beach was one of the special places he was able to capture before current drone usage restrictions.
“There is a large stretch of clear water along Laguna Beach. Whether or not I’m taking pictures, I love being there,” Ryan says. “[This area has] coves and beautiful cliffs where there is so much beauty and variety to shoot. It also has some of the cleanest and clearest water. Because of that, the blue/teal tones are so beautifully unpredictable. It’s just a lot of fun to look at and especially to edit.”
Ryan’s work has found success in both the fine art and stock photography realms. His approach to capturing details has resonated continually with a global audience.
“A successful stock image is one that is dynamic yet has the ability to convey a variety of messages,” Ryan says of his approach to shooting stock photography. “I think people have a variety of emotional connections with water, either literally or as a metaphor, so it has the potential to be a powerful image in ways I’d never be able to guess.”
Michela Ravasio has always been attracted to visual arts and photography overall, but she’s also been heavily inspired by cinema, graphic design, and painting, all themes present in her winning portrait. Thanks to a friend, Michela discovered stock photography, and, thanks to her relationship with Stocksy, it’s become one of her main jobs. Though she typically shoots lifestyle photography, she planned a studio shoot after meeting her subject Yaba at a local volunteering event in Lecco, Italy.
“My absolute favorite subject to photograph is people, in the most varied contexts. I met Yaba while volunteering and discovered that she created clothes and objects using fabrics from Guinea-Bissau, where she grew up,” says Michela. “I thought it would be interesting to play with these colorful textiles to create a portrait, so we organized this shoot together.”
Michela was grateful for the opportunity to get to know Yaba’s story and her background through their encounter. Together, they volunteered at an after-school program for children of immigrants, helping them learn Italian language and culture.
Her images of Yaba have a unique look in comparison to the rest of her portfolio, which can serve as an inspiration to others to experiment with different styles of photography — particularly in stock.
“For stock photography, it is necessary to create an image that is high-quality, beautiful to look at, and relevant to the concept you want to express,” Michela says. “And last but not least, it should be original.”
Yusuke Okada often shoots overseas being a nature photographer, but considers it one of his missions to continuously document the macaque monkeys, his home country’s national animal, of Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi, Japan.
“This is a memorable place where I photographed wild animals that lived on land for the first time,” Yusuke says. “Monkeys are anthropomorphic, unlike underwater creatures. So when I first visited the park, I saw so many similarities between my young child and the small monkeys, and was immediately drawn into the fun.”
Yusuke aims to portray the similarities in human and macaque emotions through his photos. To capture these moments successfully, he puts himself in the animal’s position, matching his lens to the eye level of the animals, observing them closely and trying to imagine their feelings. His winning photo features a baby macaque bathing in a hot spring, presumably next to its mother.
“We can see the monkeys enjoying the hot springs together to survive the cold winter. This scene and their faces remind me of similarities we see to humans in daily life, like whimsical behavior, their facial expressions, heartwarming parenting moments, and so on,” says Yusuke about capturing this moment. “I cannot get bored no matter how many times I visit this spot to shoot every year.”