First place: Max Gersh, Rockford Register Star

About this entry: Max Gersh follows his vision where it takes him, from an underwater football shoot to capturing a pilot flying thousands of feet in the air. His work is breathtaking, sometimes literally.

Follow Max on Twitter @pd_cameraman

I’ve seen a lot of extraordinary prep football sports photo shoots in my career and this ranks up with the best of them not only for the incredible amount of planning that went into the shoot but really the execution of these photos. What’s more amazing is there are so many varied approaches in the same pool that it never feels stale. This took a herculean effort to plan and produce and your readers were awarded with something a top sports magazine would have a hard time executing. Great work.

Second place: Fred Zwicky, Journal Star

About this entry: In one series, photographs shows the progression of time as central Illinois residents try to rebuild their lives and homes after multiple tornadoes tore through the region. In another, central Illinois veterans are honored with a trip to Washington D.C. to see the war monuments built to honor their service. Also included, a championship winning slam dunk.

Follow Fred on Twitter @FredZwicky

Really difficult decision to choose a winner between the top two as they are both feature great work. The Tornado Then & Now series had great planning and execution. It’s a really powerful piece of photojournalism.

Third place: Ted Schurter, The State Journal-Register

About this entry: Ted Schurter demonstrates his precision in capturing moments wrought with human emotion, from two soldiers embracing a newborn baby, to a couple joining together in matrimony, and a football player in the throes of a heated game. Judges applaud his composition.

Follow Ted on Twitter @TedSchurter

Great composition on all three images and all three wonderful moments. A great testament to being patient and in the right place.