2017 U.S. Armed Services Photo Contest

Congratulations to Xavier Springer of Great Falls, MT for being named the Grand Prize Winner in our first-ever 2017 U.S. Armed Services Photo Contest!

And we'd like to extend a gigantic thank you to every photographer who entered their image(s) into this contest, our incredibly talented judges, and our generous sponsors. When all of the dust settled, we learned that 127 individuals made a total of 210 submissions for a very healthy total of 833 images. All in all, the quality of the photos that came in was off the charts. And the range of subject matter was impressive to say the least!

We hope that you enjoyed taking part in this contest and will consider getting involved again next year. To make sure you get notified about the 2018 dates, please verify that you are signed up to receive our emails and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Thank you for entering our contest, and thank you for your service.



Category Winners

1st Place: People

Xavier Springer, MT – Air Force

Words from Kenny Holston – While there were a good handful of images which made my cut to be in the running for number one, this image by Xavier Springer jumped out at me right away. I held a four-round selection series and Xavier's image made it through the brutal selection process with no problem.

Every time I reviewed this photograph it made me pause and want to continue looking at it. The image is vibrant with interesting color thus making the frame exciting to look at for more than just a moment or two. There's vast depth to the photograph, critical focus, attention to detail and most of all there's a story suggested by just this single frame. This image immediately made me do a double take and want to know more about the situation.

Furthermore, the photographer had to do a little work to capture this image just right. According to the metadata embedded in this image the photographer captured this frame at 1/25 of a second in order to show the motion blur as the train passed by. While doing this he managed to keep his subjects in sharp focus (not easy to do) and strategically capture the subject matter in the frame right where he wanted.

After extensive review is was clear to me that this image had garnered the first-place prize. Well done.

1st Place: Action

Mark Naumann, MN – Air Force (Ret.)

Words from Tom Burton – This photo of a wing walker in performance has the elements of any great photo - good lighting, interesting composition and a rich tonal/color range. The timing of the photo with the aircraft in a bank makes for an eye-catching moment and the slight silhouette effect of the lighting adds to the graphic quality of the image.
1st Place: Nature

K.D. Leperi, NM - Navy

Words from Kevin Black – The photographer whose image I selected as the first-place finisher actually had a couple of incredible images in the running. In the end, I selected this stunning image of a green tree frog. The colors, the framing, the focus all work together to capture the viewer's eye. The contrast between the dark background and the vivid colors of the subject keeps your focus on the subject of the image.
2nd Place: People

Kimberley Rosalez, MT – Air Force (Ret.)

Words from Kenny Holston – Making a selection for second place nearly put me into an early grave. I was very torn between this photograph by Kimberley Rosalez and others that contained some compelling and dynamic elements.

However, Kimberley's image rose to the top of the stack and garnered the second-place prize due to the unique subject matter, location, colors in the image, body language of the subject, scene setting, critical focus and attention to detail.

The photograph pulls the viewer in and provokes an array of questions. Where is the boy from? Is he in a place where rain water is collected for hydration? If so, how will he collect the water? Or perhaps the child hasn't seen rain in quite some time and is just simply amazed by it? All of those questions stop the viewer and make him or her want to take a closer look.

I enjoy this image quite a bit and I feel it earned a second-place prize amongst a set of impeccable images.

2nd Place: Action

Donald E. Brown, NC – Air Force (Ret.)

Words from Tom Burton – In the photo of the paraplegic track athlete, the captured action is also a captured moment. The athlete's effort is evident by his expression and by his body posture. The elevated position the photographer shot from allowed for a clean background of just the track with the lane lines, giving an added composition element.
2nd Place: Nature

James Korringa, MI – Air Force (Ret.)

Words from Kevin Black – The second-place image has all the components of an exceptional landscape shot. The fall colors, the waterfall, the building with the water wheel all evoke a feeling of peacefulness. The framing is perfect. The main subject of the image, the building and water wheel, are surrounded on all sides by fall colors. The foreground has the waterfall which naturally leads the viewer's eye to the main subject of the image.
3rd Place: People

Doug Conrad, IA

Words from Kenny Holston – Like the other selections, choosing the third-place image was intense. While making the decision was daunting I eventually knew this frame captured by Douglas Conrad was the right choice.

The first comment I'll make about this photograph is "Eyes and age." Eyes are the window to our souls and age suggest many things, one being wisdom. This image took those to elements and spliced them together to make an interesting photograph that made me want to stop and look.

Though I have several questions about the image, like why is the subject doing what he's doing? Where is his location? I'm still pulled in by the frame. The image makes me want to examine and look deeper. Any image that can make a viewer pause and want to take a deeper look is a strong image. This photograph earned a respected third place.

3rd Place: Action

Xavier Springer, MT – Air Force

Words from Tom Burton – A pan shot of a family on a motorcycle shows how action isn't limited to athletics. The pan shot with the slow shutter speed was well executed and the color palette is layered in gold and red hues and is especially engaging.
3rd Place: Nature

Laura Hedien, IL - Navy

Words from Kevin Black – This third-place image of the eagle grasping a fish evokes a majestic feeling. The eagle seems to carry its prey with little effort and the focus on the image is perfect: The main subject is in sharp detail while the background is out of focus enough not to take away from the overall image.
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Contest Rules

  1. The RMSP U.S. Armed Services Photo Contest begins at 12:00 pm (noon) MST on April 3, 2017 and ends at midnight on May 31, 2017. No submissions will be accepted before or after these dates and times. 
  2. All submissions must be made through the rmsp.com website. Submissions will not be accepted via email, social media, link sharing, file transfer service, or other similar methods.
  3. It is not permissible to upload images for anyone else (e.g., friend or colleague) while logged into your RMSP account. Each submitter must create and submit from his or her own account.
  4. RMSP cannot accept any images that were created using a government-issued camera (or other recording device) or taken while on government time.
  5. RMSP is not affiliated in any way with any branch of the U.S. Armed Services. If any rules or regulations imposed upon you by virtue of being (or having been) enlisted in the U.S. Armed Services prohibits you from submitting to this contest, your submission will be nullified.
  6. All submissions must be digital and submitted through this webpage. No other submission format or method is acceptable.
  7. Each submitter may submit up to five (5) images to each of the three categories. One person may therefore submit up to 15 images total to the contest.
  8. By submitting images to this contest, submitter consents to the contest Terms and Conditions.
  9. Prizes are subject to change without notice.
  10. Judges are subject to change without notice.


People Category: Staff Sergeant Kenneth C. Holston, Jr.

Staff Sergeant Kenneth C. Holston, Jr. is a United States Air Force photojournalist and the 2015 Military Photographer of the Year. Hailing from Texas, Holston has served the Air Force for 11 years. He has an extreme passion for story telling through a variety of media platforms. He’s a motivated individual who loves to learn and push the envelope. His strengths are conflict, combat, spot news, and feature photojournalism. Holston has embedded with various combat units in support of multiple joint operations across the globe. His skill-set was integral in documenting combat efforts in the fight against terrorism.


May 2015 – Syracuse University, (advanced military photojournalism program deans list)
Oct 2014 – The Eddie Adams Workshop, XXVII (Yellow Team), Jeffersonville, N.Y.
July 2014 – Intermediate Photojournalism Course DINFOS, M.D. (distinguished honor graduate)
July 2012 – Basic Public Affairs Course DINFOS, M.D. (honor graduate)
Oct 2011 – Airman Leadership School, Shaw AFB, S.C.
May 2006 – Basic Still Photography Course DINFOS, M.D.

June 2016 – to Present Photojournalist at Airman Magazine, Ft. Meade. M.D.
Aug 2015 – May 2016 Syracuse University, N.Y. Advanced Military Photojournalism Course
Feb 2014 – July 2015 Photojournalist Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
July 2013 – Jan. 2014 Forensic Photog. Armed Forces Med. Examiner System, Dover AFB, D.E.
June 2011 – June 2013 Photojournalist Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
Dec. 2009 – July 2010 Photojournalist Deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan
Aug 2009 – May 2011 Photojournalist Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
May 2007 – July 2009 Photojournalist Ramstein Air Base, Germany
June 2006 – April 2007 Still Photographer Sembach Annex, Germany

Action Category: Tom Burton

Tom Burton is the editor for the National Press Photographers Association which represents the interests of visual journalists working in print, broadcasting and digital media. He edits News Photographer, the association’s magazine, and manages nppa.org.

Burton is the former Director of Photography/Video at the Orlando Sentinel. He directed award-winning coverage of the end of the space shuttle program and was the coordinator for courtroom pool photography from the trials of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman. He also edited coverage at multiple sporting events included Super Bowls, BCS Football Championships, NCAA Final Four, NBA Finals and numerous NASCAR races. 

Burton was among the first newspaper photographers to introduce video into daily coverage and since then, he has trained journalists in multimedia journalism. As a photojournalist, he is veteran of a wide range of assignments including political campaigns, natural disasters, special projects and conflict zones. 

In addition to his time at the Sentinel, Burton has worked for the Citrus County Chronicle, the Gainesville Sun and the Lakeland Ledger. He is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. 



Nature Category: Kevin Black

Kevin is a 30-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  He rose to the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant (E-9) and deployed to combat on a number of occasions.  After having experienced the worst of what mankind is capable of, after retirement, he decided he wanted to experience the beauty of nature and the diverse wildlife found throughout the world through the lens of a camera. 

Kevin has been a photography enthusiast since he was in high school, but knew he wanted to hone his skills and take them to a new level.  After much research, he decided to use his Post 9-11 GI Bill and attended the Career Training program at Rocky Mountain School of Photography in 2015.  He has since used the many new skills he learned as he and his wife, Kristi, have traveled the world. 

Their major accomplishments since retiring in 2014 are:

  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada (2,660 miles)

  • Spending 4 months in Ecuador where they traveled from the Amazon Rain Forest to the Andes Mountains and then to the Galapagos Islands

  • Hiking the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu

  • Riding their bicycles across the United States on the TransAmerica Trail

  • Traveled around the four main islands of Hawaii – Hilo, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui

He has also had some of his work published in Rocky Mountain Parent Magazine.  You can see examples of his work on his Instagram account, @kevinblackimages as well as their blog at www.sobadadventures.com.



With the help of these sponsors, we are proud to be able to bring you our first-ever U.S. Armed Services Photo Contest. These companies are more than just their logo, rather they represent the people, ideas and products that make that company a living, breathing force in the photo industry. The people behind these logos understand that your success = their success. We encourage you to support them, and to rely upon them for your current and future photographic needs. If you ever have a question about any of their products or services, we are happy to steer you in the right direction or spend some time on the phone with you to make sure your questions get answered.


We will award prizes to the top three finishers in each of our three categories. The three first place finishers (one from each category) will be in the running to win the grand prize. Prizes are subject to change. Prizes are:

Grand Prize Winner (one of the first place winners will be chosen to receive the grand prize):

  1. A seat on any RMSP Workshop OR $5979.54* credit towards your Professional Intensive tuition.

    *That's a pretty weird number, huh? Here's why:
    Our Professional Intensive (PI) tuition is $27,950. The maximum tuition and fee reimbursement per academic year allowed by the VA is $21,970.46. That weird number ($5,979.54) represents the difference between the two. This means that if the grand prize winner is eligible for the max tuition reimbursement, he or she could choose the tuition credit prize and enroll in PI with NO out-of-pocket expense. That is crazy awesome!


First Prize (one winner chosen in each category):

  1. $100 Gear Rental Credit from LensProToGo
  2. 11x14 Print from PhotoFinishUS, printed on Hahnemühle fine art paper
  3. 30 minute image critique and consultation from an RMSP instructor
  4. RMSP T-shirt
  5. RMSP camera strap

Second Prize (one winner chosen in each category):

  1. 11x14 Print from PhotoFinishUS, printed on Hahnemühle fine art paper
  2. 30 minute image critique and consultation from an RMSP instructor
  3. RMSP T-shirt
  4. RMSP camera strap

Third Prize (one winner chosen in each category): 

  1. 30 minute image critique and consultation from an RMSP instructor
  2. RMSP T-shirt
  3. RMSP camera strap



Nature Category:
...And when we say nature, we pretty much mean anything outside. This category is a great place for your stunning shots of the snow-covered Tetons in late fall, or an eagle soaring above a river, or a monkey jumping from tree to tree. Or if you haven't captured those images (yet), photos taken from a tent in the middle of the desert, or from a ship in the middle of the ocean should go into this category. As long as "nature" itself is the subject of the photo, this is where it belongs. 

People Category:
As the saying goes, "People make the world go 'round."  (well, actually, I think it has more to do with the gravitational pull of the sun on the Earth, and the Earth's constant desire to get away, but whatever). You don't need us to tell you that people are fascinating. All of us come with different shapes, sizes, looks, customs, and habits. Capturing all of those things with your camera can be a lifelong pursuit or even a career. This category is a blank check for you to submit all your images of people from around the world, or from your own backyard. Keep in mind that the person you are submitting an image of needs to agree to have their picture entered in this contest. 

Action Category:
Have you ever hit golf balls into the water from the deck of an aircraft carrier? Played soccer with the locals? Or capture images with a GoPro from the cockpit of a jet? If yes, we definitely want to see those images! Capturing images of fast-moving action or the pinnacle moment of a game is as good as it gets for action/adventure photographers. Images submitted into this category could include team sports such as college basketball or little league baseball. Or they might depict an individual running on the beach or dropping a cliff on their skis. If you are unsure about whether your image fits in this category, ask yourself what the main subject of your photo is. Is the runner a tiny speck in a beautiful landscape? If so, your image might be better entered into the nature category. Is the runner pausing to pose for a portrait? That image might be better suited for the people category.

Required File Specs

File Format: Files must be submitted in JPEG format. No size constraints.

Horizontals and Vertical images are welcome.

Images created with any kind of camera are welcome. (DSLR, GoPro, Drone, camera phone, etc.)