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Originally published December 22, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Page modified December 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM

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Reader Photos of the Year 2012

Take a look at The Seattle Times’ top 10 reader photos of 2012, including a stunning winning photo.

What we like about the winning photo

“This photo is special for a variety of reasons, including the dedication of the photographer to don a dry suit and wade into the chilly November waters of a Skagit River tributary. It’s unusual to see this many fish in an underwater photo all pointed in the right direction, which makes for a nice composition. You have the faces of these fish all sort of right up in your face, and you can really see the details. Colors are beautiful, yet subtle, and the lighting is special, too, giving nice highlights. This is the reward of patience, having a good eye and good equipment that allowed pushing the ISO to 6400, giving the option of greater depth of field and an image file with so much more information. While we normally might just see fins poking up through the water, this photo really provides a sense of what goes on under the surface and a glimpse of that world.”

-- Angela Gottschalk, Seattle Times photo editor

Is it real? Confronting the digital age

A repeated comment from Seattle Times picture editors when they saw Jessica Newley's remarkable underwater photo of salmon: "It looks too good to be true."

In this era of Photoshop and other easy ways to tinker with digital images, photography experts have reason to be skeptical.

"Newspapers have been fooled before," said Angela Gottschalk, Seattle Times photo editor. And wildlife photography is a field in which even famous-name practitioners have courted controversy by electronically manipulating images -- "cloning" and adding animals to a herd, for example.

Before awarding Newley honors in our contest, photo experts at the Times gathered around Gottschalk's computer monitor to closely examine the salmon photo -- comparing markings on each fish, looking for cloning. They reviewed data stored on the digital image to confirm that the camera and settings were what Newley said they were. At the Times' request, Newley submitted the photo's raw image for additional inspection.

In the end, Gottschalk was convinced the photo is authentic, giving Newley reason to be proud. "For a photographer, having people say an image looks too good to be true is the highest compliment, if it's real," Gottschalk said.
-- Brian J. Cantwell, Seattle Times Outdoors editor

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, photography is a close second. And with hikers, bikers and travelers of all kinds equipped with everything from phone cameras to helmet cams to the slickest new Nikons and Canons, the Northwest gets plenty of image-capturing adoration.

This year was another strong one for photography by Seattle Times readers, who submitted hundreds of entries throughout the year to our Reader’s Lens feature. At year’s end, we’ve chosen 10 favorites to be our Reader Photos of the Year for 2012.

The grand prize — a $250 gift card from Kenmore Camera — goes to Jessica Newley, of Bellingham, for her photo, seen here, of coho salmon near the end of their spawning journey.

Judging was by Angela Gottschalk, Seattle Times photo editor; photo staffer Katie Greene, who critiques the weekly choices; and Brian J. Cantwell, Seattle Times Outdoors editor.

Thanks to all who sent in so many images reflecting the places to see and things to do around the Northwest. Please keep sharing your best recent photos of our region (see and maybe you’ll be our winner next year.

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