The Tehachapi Valley Arts Association's 14th annual winter photo contest saw many first-time participants this year, with more than 125 entries.

According to Gale Caldwell, coordinator of the photo contest, 55 local photo enthusiasts took their best shots of photos "ranging from playful fuzzy otters to stunning photojournalistic masterpieces."

"There was certainly something to capture the attention of everyone in the room," Caldwell said.

Best of Show went to first-time participant Todd Sherwood for his hauntingly beautiful "Ten Feet From Freedom," which captured the entrance of a concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland.

"It was a wet, gloomy day, and we were snapping pictures all over the site and facility. This really struck me as I was walking by because there is a lot of beautiful architecture in here, but it was just so chilling knowing what took place," said Sherwood, who also picked up four second-place ribbons in other categories.

Dirk Judkins, who won first place in the Transportation category for his photo "A Boeing Jet on Ramp at Sunset," explained how he came across his winning shot.

"I was out on a ramp on the East Coast, and I saw that airplane at the airport. With the sun setting in the background, and the glare off the rain in the background, I thought it would make a really good picture," said Judkins.

Winning an honorable mention in the category of Travel was Chris Naftel, who said he had to get up early the morning he captured the image of a swimmer in the chilly waters off the Municipal Pier of Fisherman's Wharf.

"I had gotten up early to watch the sunrise, and I saw all these swimmers going by," Naftel said. "I got a picture of this guy swimming with all the beautiful sunrise colors coming out."

Naftel is also known for his beautiful underwater footage.

Said Naftel, "I'm always looking for that next subject."

Winning second place and an honorable mention in Youth Photography was Bella Dohnke, who says she is a dancer first, and does photography more as a hobby.

"My passion is dance, so I focus more on that," said Dohnke.

Photo contest categories and their winners included:

People: 1st place — Mikailey Judkins, 2nd place — Todd Sherwood, 3rd place Sara Woodall, Honorable mentions — Edwin Vasquez and Devinann Sherwood.

Transportation: 1st place — DJ Judkins, 2nd place — Todd Sherwood, 3rd place — Carey Hamel, Honorable mentions — Chris Naftel and Giacinta B. Koontz.

Travel & Architecture: 1st place — Todd Sherwood, 2nd place — Todd Sherwood, 3rd place — Kirsten Grimes, Honorable mention — Klaus Schade.

Animals: 1st place – Vincent Hernandez, 2nd place — Kirsten Grimes, 3rd place — Dennis Cowden, Honorable mentions — Devinann Sherwood and Anna Dohnke.

Black & White: 1st place — Devinann Sherwood, 2nd place — Susan Burt, 3rd place — Vincent Hernandez.

Landscape & Nature: 1st place — Michelle Vance, 2nd place — Todd Sherwood, 3rd place — Larry LaCom, Honorable mentions — Devinann Sherwood, Kirsten Grimes and Larry LACom.

Youth Photography: 1st place — Sophia Kendrick, 2nd place — Bella Dohnke, 3rd place — Emma Halloway, Honorable mentions — Bella Dohnke, Dylon Kephart, Hailey Engen and Josh Baker.

Ian Wilder, 12, a student at Jacobsen Middle School, said he was also a first-time entrant. Although he did not place in the contest, he said he plans to continue with his photography work and hopes to be a photojournalist someday.

Proceeds from the contest will go to fund high school scholarships for students pursuing the arts, as well as art supplies for local area classrooms.

Said Caldwell, "TVAA would like to thank everyone who participated and those who came to celebrate the artists."