Final Round Voting Closed: 2019 Pinkbike Photo of the Year Contest

Feb 12, 2020 at 9:49
by Pinkbike Staff  

Well, here we are. Over 300,000 votes have been cast in the 9th annual Pinkbike Photo of the Year Contest presented by Jenson USA, and we're down to the final two. Who takes home the larger piece of the $10,000 in cash is up to you.

Below are the Round 4 matchups and who won each after the votes were cast. Once you see whether your favorites made it through, head on over to the voting page and cast your vote in the next round!

The winner will join John Wellburn, Toby Cowley, Sterling Lorence, Christoph Laue, Sean Lee, Steve Shannon, Robb Thompson, and Richard Baybutt in the Pinkbike Photo of the Year Hall of Fame.

Match Up 1 - Winner: Ross Bell

Ross Bell: 57.5%

Toby Cowley: 42.5%

Match Up 2 - Winner: JB Liautard

Ironic weather on the Canadian sunshine coast. The atmosphere is so special in those forests especially when the fog comes in and stays in the woods for the whole day.
JB Liautard: 58.2%

Shooting for 720 Protections new Awake helmet in the Dolomites with Cadini di Misurina mountain group in the background.
Manuel Sulzer: 41.8%

What's at stake? $10,000 CASH!

Winner will receive a check for $5000
• Runner-up will receive a check for $3000
• Other semi-finalists will each receive $1000

In addition, this year we also have user prizing for voters courtesy of Jenson USA. Five lucky Pinkbike readers that vote for the Photo of the Year will win $200 Jenson USA gift cards.

Thank you Jenson USA.

How can I enter for a chance to win one of five $200 Jenson USA gift cards?

By simply voting as we progress to the eventual Photo of the Year winner, you will be entered for a chance to win. One entry per user per round goes into a random draw for the prize.


  • 403 57
 This is insanity. So many gorgeous photos and we are left with a water roost and black and white forest jump. Let’s see how many down votes I can get.
  • 58 10
 Haven't seen any update since I voted on the first round. I'm with ya, quite surprised that these are the finalists.
  • 82 11
 Sorry to be pedantic, but it’s not black and white...
  • 4 2
 @TombPhoto: I thought the same exact thing as you
  • 22 24
 @TombPhoto: That real black and white was a very good photo. This one is simply week. And the splash is just a roost on steroids.
But you know what, being in minority when it comes to taste is actually good Wink
  • 49 6
 Totally agree. Some gorgeous shots got voted out... and we're left with... meh.
  • 4 2
 @TombPhoto: Is it 50 shades of grey then?
  • 49 26
 Maybe I'm part of the problem, but these 2 are my favourites.
  • 32 15
 I think the water roost really hit home for a lot of us from the PNW. To us that's what mountain biking looks like in it's simplest form.
  • 8 3
 Have an upvote for being right XD All the best photos are getting robbed
  • 39 5
 @lkubica: how is it simply weak? It might not be to your taste, but it is far from a weak photo. Quite the opposite in terms of composition, technique and just about everything else.
Realising that just because something isn’t to your taste doesn’t mean it’s no good, that’s the real challenge here...
  • 5 0
 @rideRB: I mean, no. It isn’t.
  • 19 5
 Can't even bring myself to vote in this final round... it's like Roost photo 2.0
  • 17 8
 totally agree...this year turned out quite disappointing in terms of voting results.
  • 25 0
 I'll admit, the water roost surprises me. Nice photo but I wouldn't have pegged it to make it to the final. JB's, however, was my pick to win.

IMHO a landscape shot with tiny riders will have a hard time winning. A winning shot will focus on the rider/riding and the landscape will be the background. In last year's winner the landscape was prominent, but the riders where still the focus, and you could almost feel what it was like to be there. That to me was a winning shot.

JB's is exquisite, IMO, because the landscape creates a moody backdrop and the light draws your focus to the rider who is doing some seriously cool shit while in the air.
  • 9 0
 my man, good pictures are not necessarily made of idyllic sceneries or impossible tricks, I love how for once the majority likes two pictures that deviate from the norm and not 'the obvious beauty'.
  • 6 0
 both these images are great. They are amazing. They just aren't the best amid the competition.
  • 5 4
 Pinkbike has a ton of readers here in the PNW. This year has been the gloomiest and wettest January I can remember. Any picture taken in good weather just twists the knife as we watch the rain drum against the windows and clean mud from between our teeth. No surprise the finalists involve ran, mud, and little sunlight. I bet if the contest had been done in July the results would've been very different!
  • 17 1
 This is why Plato hates democracy
  • 1 0
  • 4 1
 @ismasan: deviate from the norm? You must be new.... a roost shot and a dark/dank BW are pretty damned common in this sport.
  • 8 2
 I think they are both 2 of the best photos in the bunch to be honest, the way the light catches the rider perfectly in the Canadian one cause a black and white effect, and then the snap of the loamy Scottish berm to show the wet nature, I can see them both winning it.
  • 10 4
 @robwhynot: a roost? well, this is not your typical roost pic with a bro deliberately exploding a dusty berm, can we agree on that? I think those are quite vulgar. This is more like you or me on a sunday ride, and still makes for a good picture, it captures a good vibe.
And the b/w is not b/w for starters, and even if it was is not your typical picture turned into w/b either, or the typical flash from inside a turn, it requires an awesome creativity to imagine that shot where there's only a green forest with flat-ish light, not to mention an impecable execution sincronizing all the elements. Not a picture that the average photo aficionado could take
  • 10 2
 @ismasan: no, it's bro deliberately exploding a splashy berm instead. Same basic idea though I think.
  • 4 3
 water roost photo ughhh, the subject isnt well lit, and all the falling rain obscures the focus. its just not a great photo.
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: LOL. Where you at? Ours hasn't been super bad...we're trying to make up for Dec which was ridiculously dry! I'm in Western Oregon, US.
  • 4 0
 @TombPhoto: I just enjoyed being pedantic by explaining to my coworker what pedantic means...,
  • 6 3
 @lkubica: *Weak.

And the issue I have the with splash (besides the fact that the style of photo is played out), is that the eye is drawn to the water droplets, and not the rider behind them. The Forrest jump pulls you right in to the rider, not the background, foreground, or any other objects in the scene. That is why it should win.
  • 1 1
 @kramerica5000: Exactly this. Also, the water droplets are rather distracting - It's hard to not see them, and see the rider.
  • 3 11
flag Soucy (Feb 12, 2020 at 14:39) (Below Threshold)
 The finalists are the shittiest (water splash) vs the 5th shittiest of the whole Bunch. WTH people!!!
  • 4 0
 @Ktron: Yes, you are part of the problem. Splash boy.
  • 1 1
 "Art is the uniting of the subjective with the objective, of nature with reason, of the unconscious with the conscious, and therefore art is the highest means of knowledge.

Leo Tolstoy
  • 2 0
 @Dropthedebt: Tolstoy? I thought Taylor Swift said that!
  • 1 0
 @Dropthedebt: Don't play, you have all her records and you know it.
  • 1 0
 @mybaben: I'm in Seattle. Olympia to Vancouver zone has been rough. I believe the only day in January that it didn't rain in Olympia was New Year's Day.
  • 2 0
 Honestly, some of the best photos (or the best) got out in round 1
  • 2 0
 These??? These??? These aren't bad pics but there were MUCH better ones... Hmmm...
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: You can extend that down to Portland. January was our rainiest month in years
  • 4 1
 @sheepstar: agreed.

Fundamentally this contest dissolves into a bit of Shitshow because the only criteria is what an individual prefers.

I look for:
Uniqueness of Concept/Creativity
Clarity and Quality of Image
Color, Lighting, Exposure and Focus
Audience Appeal/relevance to MTB

The puddle shot is out scored by other photos on uniqueness, quality (the depth of field makes the image hard to discern the subject, foreground, background, eyes are drawn to the splash and not rider) and the composition good be improved (more from rider front with the splash in background). However it scores off the charts for relevance/appeal!

Agree or disagree, just how I see it. Clearly others have differing criteria, seemingly putting huge weight on appeal. To each their own. I’d be super proud to have snapped any of the pics in the contest, and probably most of the ones that didn’t make qualifying Smile
  • 3 0
 @robwhynot: Hey stop trying to make this art okay?! HA. Wink
  • 4 0
 @robwhynot: good points! I would look for all that stuff, but like most of the rest of PB, I'm no photographer! I think most of us ended up voting for what we though looked rad... and also what made me want to go ride! Some of those shots in the mountains are unreal (I do a lot of hiking as well as mountain biking, so those places look like a dream to me), BUT they just don't make me want to go grab my bike as much as some others. The splash shot did just that... I saw it and immediately wanted to ride even though it was pouring rain in BC. I went and got soaked!!

Hats off to everyone who has a photo here... they are all amazing!!
  • 6 5
 Basically my 2 least-favorite photos of the contest. I am not voting for the final - don't care!
  • 1 0
 Well, you're half right. One of them is won't get picked.
  • 1 0
 that was awesome.
  • 1 0
 If I was the rider in either of these shots, and my buddy that doesn't ride as good as me took the shot, I'd vote for myself. Oh, I mean, I'd vote for my buddy! Imagine yourself as the rider, then critique away. These are both solid shots.
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: don't have to live in the PNW or Scotland to have the same thoughts
  • 4 7
 There's only one insane thing to say: call the result of voting of vast majority insanity and place yourself as the special one. Just saying. Sure Trump seems like an impossible choice - but that's who we are. You have to acknowledge this. We change very, very slowly.
  • 1 0
 @mybaben: She’s only the biggest thing since mountain bikes....
  • 3 0
 There is a $287 Million dollar (USD) ship called Boaty McBoatFace.

Now we might have a puddle-roost as our MTB picture of the year.

Who let those people loose on the Internet! ;-)
  • 1 0
 @TombPhoto: I knew someone would say this as you are correct.
  • 1 0
 @Hardtailhooligan: Right?!! All kidding aside, she is super gorgeous though...and she should take up MTB...
  • 1 0
 @mybabe: While we’re on the subject of things that won’t happen. Bike prices should come down!
  • 1 0
 @Hardtailhooligan: LOL. That would be nice...I'd buy a lot more often, if they came down! Maybe manufacturers should think about that?! I'd buy more if they were cheaper!!!!!!!!!!
  • 2 0
 Haha, pick an image and be a dick about it
  • 1 0
 I think everyone forgot that a roost pic always makes the finale.
No one saw this one coming because it's liquid loam instead of powdered loam. :metal:
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: Very interesting perspective. Don’t know why u are getting downvoted.
  • 116 4
 The biggest argument against democracy is watching it in action. I guess that's the hallmark of a good compromise– no one is happy with the result.
  • 4 2
 Aaaah haha mate, that made my day
  • 16 0
 I think it's a lot more about the bracket format then democracy. I would bet a round robin, ranked ballet, or straight majority would all get a different outcome.
  • 17 3
 @dwd416: Kinda like how last election we ended up with a choice between the two worst human beings (one of them arguably isn't a human being, but rather an ancient reptilian alien) on the planet, and that was called "choice"?
  • 4 0
 @dwd416: that would actually be an amazing experiment; to give it the same pictures another citing format and see who wins.

Second place is irrelevant in something like this so u would be interesting to see if the winner of this round could repeat the win in any other format of voting.
  • 2 1
 @hamncheez: Well there were other choices, like Gary Johnson & Jill Stein among others, however our glorious and completely unbiased media beat it into the majority of the country that the only choice was Republican or Democrat. Plus you always have the option of a write in or None Of The Above. Sure in the end voting for anyone other than Republican or Democrat wont matter except you can go out like Mit and tell your kids how you voted.
OK that is way too political for a bike site and a discussion of photos. I need work to pick up, these slow days are killing me.
  • 2 1
 @MattyBoyR6: I wasted my vote on Johnson, but only because my wife made me vote.
  • 1 0
 Starting with a ballot with all the first 32 on it, given only one choice, which one would you tick?
  • 3 0
 @MattyBoyR6 @hamncheez wanted to thank you both for helping elect our Dear Leader - something to tell your kids about for sure!
  • 1 0
 @hamncheez: prior to the election someone gave me some bumper stickers that read Don't Blame me I voted for Johnson and others Don't Blame me I voted for Stein.

@huckschwinn Hey man doing what I can to bring all nations under one god and one world order.
  • 93 25
 Why everyone is complaining about the final two is beyond me, honestly. We ended up with two fantastic shots that are actual mountain biking photos. Not NatGeo pics where you can't find the rider without a magnifying glass, not ones where the rider might as well be hanging on ropes or photoshopped in to the same (or better) effect, not shots where the trail is superb but photography mediocre - just two awesomely executed photos that also do a great job of showing the movement and dynamism of the subject. Congrats to both guys.
  • 6 1
  • 27 4
 You have to admit it, this is a PB user steered contest and PB users complain hahaha. Careful folks, you may wake up from Matrix with this much irony Big Grin
  • 6 1
 You have to admit that the backlit photo isn't extremely MTB specific. At least no more than the landscapes with riders. That silhouette in the forest could be replaced with a moto or horse rider, a large bird or bat, or even a beautiful woman, without changing the core of the picture.
  • 23 0
 @Ttimer: I want to see the beautiful woman version. On a moto-horse. With a large bird wearing a bat mask.
  • 1 0
 @bananowy: That sounds awesome. If you arrange for the subject/model/menagerie, maybe JB can be convinced to do it again.
  • 3 1
 @Ttimer: That's a sign of a really, really good picture. The background and setting is so good you can replace the subject and still have a good picture. Try that with the water splash.
  • 4 0
 @Ttimer: Right. It's sort of like one of those "fantasy" posters you might see at a head shop or a record shop, back in the day. Sorry to all the youngsters who have no idea what I just said....
  • 3 0
 @bananowy it's not that those are bad photos. On the contrary, they are very good, technique wise. But they aren't new. At least for me it feels like I have seen those shots thousands of times already.
  • 1 0
 @mybaben: I want that on the side of my van.
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: LOL!! Exactly! You get it. Wink
  • 2 0
 @mybaben: Crushed velvet on the inside. Teardrop/diamond window on the outside. Ready to Rock 'n' Roll, baby!
  • 1 0
 @rrolly: OMG, hilarious!
  • 62 0
 What?! That’s pretty surreal! Pretty blown away to make it into the mix let alone make it this far and be up against JB in the final... Crazy. +1 vote for JB on my side!
  • 7 1
 @rossbellphoto Your shot has been my laptop background since I saw it in round 1. Good luck in the finals!
  • 5 5
 @rossbellphoto , was there any photo trickery involved in getting the shot? The physics or whatever don't seem to add up for a few people.
  • 2 1
 Hope you win mate
  • 4 0
 water roost is new roost
  • 35 0
 Hey @Pedal-Bin I can appreciate your concern but happy to confirm nothing other than some of Scotland's finest slop and some wild riding by Lachlan were needed for this shot! No rocks, bombs, or photoshopping needed.

Here's the sequence which I hope will help with any doubts:

  • 12 0
 @rossbellphoto: I think you just won yourself a competition.
  • 4 0
 I already voted for your photo but after reading these couple of comments I would give you a second vote if I could, great attitude and great responses. I liked a lot of the photos in this years competition but your's is the only one that LITERALLY makes me want to drop what I'm doing and go riding every time I see it. I can almost feel the grips in my hands and the pedals under my feet, pulling back on the bars. I'm gonna set this as the background on my work computer tomorrow and I bet I'll ride more this year because of it.
  • 3 0
 @rossbellphoto: This explanation needs to be at the top of the page - it makes the photo just that much radder! Go win it!
  • 4 0
 @rossbellphoto This was my fave shot from the start. It encapsulates three seasons of UK riding and it doesn't hurt that there's an Orange involved.
Perhaps it's not textbook composition, but it really works as an action shot and gives a greater sense of dynanism than any of the other entries (I say that as a journalist who's spent the last 20 years selecting pics for publication).
The other finalist pic is also good, but feels more like an old Sterling Lorence image for Bike mag BITD. Nothing wrong with that of course, but there's some currency in capturing the zeitgeist.
Best of luck.
  • 1 0
 Love it. The others are good but they are all simialr to what has gone before.....
  • 1 0
 A n amazing photo that's also my current background. All credit to you and the beays that know how to slap a good wet corner. Good luck!!
  • 1 0
 @rossbellphoto thanks for posting the link to the sequence. Did you pack in an umbrella or just use a lens hood to keep the water off? Also any chance you have a link to the last shot of the sequence posted where you can see the rider's face? Thanks.
  • 40 6
 I picked Ross Bell's - Somebody riding a trail/enduro bike in the forest and enjoying themselves speaks TO ME far more than anybody pulling a trick.
If I was grading a photography student, JB Liautard would get a better grade, its the better photo; but Ross's is a better subject.
  • 36 17
 I voted for JB because it is extremely similar to a POY from the past and I believe we live in a simulation. We are creates in a mind of an indescribable alien of the size of Milky Way galaxy clenching to the last vapors of a the last black hole before his universe disappears into cold darkness...
  • 6 1
 Im a photography student and voted for Ross Bells too, it tells a story!
  • 1 1
 @WAKIdesigns: did you smoke something or are you a natural? Asking seriously, I wouldn't have come up with this myself...
  • 4 2
 @Slabrung: 100% sober. I just watched a documentary on the cold death of the universe... and I listen to this pothead Rogan all the time Smile
  • 8 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Aw geez really? Rogan? LOL. You EU types are supposed to be smarter than that. That shit is for us dumb Americans. Wink
  • 5 0
 @mybaben: we are so smart that it turns full circle.
  • 31 11
 The Russian one was best anyway...
  • 24 20
 not mountain biking imo. Sick shot though
  • 4 1
 Yes, I’m sorry to say this, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a vote for runner-up photo of the year.
  • 4 7
 I’m gonna go all conspiracy theory here and say it’s rigged.....(if the splash pic wins- I will know it’s rigged)
  • 7 3
 @jaydawg69: we've already discussed this and PB agreed that photo indeed is mountain biking.
  • 10 10
 @jaydawg69: i agree with you. Not mountain biking.
  • 4 0
 @betterwithabigfoot: Aw mate that's awesome! See i don't know what people are on about. That pic was totally doable and legit! If the rider was moving fast and the camera was taking a burst shot, easy! Cheers.
  • 21 1
  • 13 2
 Scottish summer for the win tup
  • 7 0
 Puddle roost or sloosht? it’s captures uk riding at its wettest I like it
  • 2 0
 PNW riding also and I like it
  • 1 0
 I prefer the BC pic but I like how both are from notoriously wet areas - even though the BC one looks relatively dry on the trail it still feels misty Definitely both conditions I can relate to!
  • 10 3
 Manuel Sulzer was robbed - best picture by a mile.
  • 3 3
 I agree, the balance of exposure, mood, texture. Not to mention the context it puts the riders in is really quite awesome. I thought for sure it would go on to win. I will avoid the shameless "I know because I had photos published in every bmx publication"... oops

Hayduke Lives!
  • 1 4
 My guess is that if it were against the muddy Scotland shot it would have won. Just how a silly head-to-head online vote works.
  • 8 6
 If we were voting on best nature shot sure, but we’re voting on best MOUNTAIN BIKE shot. The Sulzer is just a cool picture of a mountain that happens to have two little mountain bikes tucked away in the corner.
  • 3 3
 Yeah, take the bikes out and it's barely any different. Epic scenery pic, but only a pretty good mountain biking pic imo
  • 1 2
 Agreed. Definition of a "true epic mtb ride"!! I'll certainly never see a location like that....
  • 4 2
 It was technically a great photo, but the subjects were too hidden/not highlighted. You really had to strain to notice them, against the reazer sharp background with lots of contrast and texture. Great landscape shot, but not a great mountain biking shot.
  • 6 3
 Whinee whinee, but my favourite isn´t in the finals... whinee whinee, i´m such a big expert but all of you have no clue what a good mtb-shot is...
Respect the vote! These are two shots which bring it all together for the most average riders here (especially when you live in central europe, it´s cold,wet and dark the half of the year ^^).
The puddle shot is quite good riding, shralping into the berm an manual out in this sloppy conditions is kinda hard but it´s good fun anyway. Try that, you good-weather or only desert riders, judge afterwards.
The tabletop-one reminds me of riding in the fog and moist early in the morning before, or late after work, shredding your local trails when you have to pack your personal epic shit into the small timeframe between family, work and all the other things you have to do in life.
Well, in my opinion, these are great photos and when i watch them i start to feel them literally.
  • 2 0
 As a desert rider I pine for riding in sloppy conditions or in dark damp forests. Maybe next year we can get a shot of someone roosting cholla cactus (jumping cactus) from the trail.
  • 5 0
 An orange in a photo that places top 2???
  • 6 0
 Illuminati confirmed Rolleyes
  • 5 0
  • 2 0
 The vote system should be change for something more representative than the head vs head. Cause clearly the final choice doesn't seems to be unanimous! But I think anyway that 3 of the last 4 would have made the top 10.
  • 1 0
 It won't necessarily get the right runners up, but it should in theory always give the best winner
  • 3 0
 I picked Ross & JBs pics the whole way thru. I knew I would have to choose between the two in the end... Both are incredible shots...
  • 3 0
 The steezy backlit table by jb was my fave photo from day one. Stoked to see it in the finals! Excellent job by all photographers.
  • 3 0
 JB's shot winner from day 1! Its been my desktop background since the contest started!
  • 4 0
 So much hate... just here to say I love the JBL shot
  • 1 1
 I'm pretty certain I voted against these on each and every round. Makes me feel really out of touch with who voted. Makes me a little sad. I won't even vote this last round because I don't like either. Neither one of those photos makes me want to go out and ride, and I think that's what makes a good mountain bike picture.
  • 1 1
 Theories have been bandied about that “rider in the sunbeam” and “mud splash” are the new roost. Ladies and gentlemen, to support these theories, I present evidence A and B.
  • 4 0
 Sploosh is new roost!
  • 1 0
 Poovey Farm's Racing approves this message.
  • 2 0
 How often do you people manual out of corners? There were two manual pics this year and I can't relate.
  • 3 1
 Will JB be paid in Canadian or US dollars?
  • 5 3
 Brendog got robbed.........again!
  • 2 0
 Who doesn't love a good wet roost shot.
  • 1 0
 That's what she said!!
  • 1 0
 Something interesting would be to vote like a championship, give 10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points or something.
  • 2 0
 It really bothers me how the splash is nowhere near the rider.
  • 9 0
 Sending you a big hug. Wink
  • 1 0
 Assuming you’ve seen the sequence now...Perhaps that helps ???? Haters gonna hate...
  • 1 0
 @vholt: I have, and it did
  • 1 0
 Wasn't gonna vote as my faves are out until, some one pointed out there's something off aboot that splash pic
  • 1 0
 having now seen the sequence.... there's 4or5 pics in the sequence that look better than the one used (IMO)
  • 1 0
 I was about to moan about the final 2 photos but I checked back and I realised I had consistently voted them both through...
  • 3 2
 Toby got robbed. Best shot by far.
  • 1 0
 I went with a nationalist stance, on yersel Ross Bell.
  • 1 0
 Tabes for the babes!
  • 1 1
 Give me a roost or give me death!
  • 1 2
 Just pls can someone bring back the old but gold days and amazing photos of pinkbike ?......
  • 1 1
 The JB photo just looks shopped. Whats the light source behind the rider?
  • 4 0
 There’s no photoshop, I used a backlight flash on location.
  • 1 0
 @JbLiautard: Sry, I wasn't trying to discredit your work. I only asked because for me, the light is a little overpowering, and I prefer a more natural look. Art is subjective, and there looks like there are alot of people who disagree with me. It is still a cool shot IMO, congrats on making it this far, and I wish you the best in the voting.
  • 1 1
 #roostdog got robbed
  • 6 9
 I simply can’t vote for either of these photos...
  • 18 4
  • 8 2
 @owl-X: @Fielder Exactly! Come on mate, don't fall for that. The power structure "wants" you to be depressed, apathetic and alienated! That's how they keep us down and stay in control. PARTICIPATE!
  • 2 3

I come to Pinkbike to get away from politics on my news feed. As an engineer I can tell you that these photos are not as structurally sound as some of the other one’s and so I will have no part of an unsafe vote...
  • 1 4
 haha, why is so many people so basic?
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