Minnesota-based photographers and wilderness canoeing enthusiasts Gary Fiedler and Dawn LaPointe have cracked the shortlist in the Smithsonian Photo Contest. The husband and wife team from Duluth, Minn., each landed a photo in the Sustainable Travel category, where they will judged against eight other entries for the category winner, as well as competing for the Smithsonian's grand prize and readers' choice award.

Finalists were whittled down from over 46,000 entries. Smithsonian judges will announce the winners on Mar. 22nd, and fans have the chance to cast online votes for the readers' choice award before Mar. 21. This isn't the first time Fiedler and LaPointe have been recognized. Fiedler was a finalist in the 2015 Canoe & Kayak Awards for Spirit of Adventure, for a 221-day solo canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Quetico Provincial Park in 2014; and LaPointe was shortlisted in last year's Smithsonian photo contest.

We caught up with LaPointe and Fiedler for synopses of their work.

Canoeing under a star-filled sky splashed with the aurora is one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences of a wilderness canoe trip. Photo by Gary Fiedler

"Canoeing under the Aurora" by Gary L. Fiedler

From the shores of Roland Lake deep in Quetico, on Day 191 of my ultimate solo canoe trip, I watched and photographed in reverence as the ethereal green curtains danced in the skies for three hours. The incredible sight was accompanied by the chorus of shoreline crickets and the echo of owl and loon calls deep in the night. Moments like these create unforgettable memories and dreams for the next wilderness canoe adventure.

Our canoes await their next outing on our Fall trip in the Lac LaCroix area. Photo by Dawn LaPointe.

"Fall Landing" by Dawn LaPointe

During a two-week fall wilderness adventure, my husband, Gary, and I came upon an incredible campsite in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area near Lac La Croix. As we explored our newly-discovered campsite, I caught sight of our cherry red canoes along the autumn-kissed shoreline. Recognizing how perfectly the scene reflected the wilderness experience, I composed this photograph to share with others. It conveys both the magnificence of the wilderness and the quiet simplicity of our sustainable travels by canoe.

  • Read more about Gary Fiedler's wilderness ethos on Facebook.
  • Visit Fiedler and LaPointe's Radiant Spirit Gallery on Facebook.