Despite today being the first official day of summer, it seems as though summer has been here in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley for the past couple of months.

And nothing says summer more than the 26th annual SnapShoot Summer Photo Contest.

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This year’s sponsors — Chevron DynaMart, Happy Day Restaurants and the Lewiston Tribune — are offering $3,180 in prizes.

The contest starts Thursday and runs through July 26. Each week, judges will choose eight winners and 10 honorable mentions.

Each of the eight weekly winners will be featured on the cover of the Tribune’s Sunday A.M. page and qualify for the final round of judging. Out of the final 32 photos, judges will decide eight winners and the grand champion. The finalists will be announced Aug. 8, and the grand champion will be unveiled on the same day as the Big Picture that week.

Now what you’ve been waiting for: the prize list. Well, it’s similar to last year’s list, with a few additions.

Our eight weekly winners will receive a $35 Happy Day gift card, and Coleman Oil will contribute a $7.50 supreme car wash. For the 10 photos that get honorable mentions, Happy Day will provide a coupon for a free combo meal at Arby’s or Taco Time, and Coleman Oil will provide a $5.50 regular car wash.

The eight finalists will win a $100 gift certificate for gasoline from Coleman Oil.

The grand champion will get a $200 gift certificate for gasoline from Coleman Oil.

There will be a Peoples’ Choice Award that earns the winner a $100 gas certificate from Coleman Oil and $100 Happy Day gift card. The voting for this award will be done on the Tribune’s Facebook page once the contest has ended.

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Owning a point-and-shoot camera or a professional digital camera is helpful when searching for a great photo.

But, with many of us just having smartphones available to us at almost any second, capturing a great photo has become quite easy. Sunsets, beautiful landscapes and funny pets seem to be plentiful — especially here in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington.

But, if we can all take pictures with nice composition and perfect lighting, what is it that sets the great photos apart from just the good photos?

A moment.

A simple idea, just a unique, unrepeatable moment in time that is ephemeral. A grandchild randomly kissing their grandparent on the forehead, a cat stretching out in the window sill or waning sunlight breaking through the clouds on a warm evening all produce special moments.

A memorable moment is what makes a good photo a great photo. And, yes, that can be subjective in a contest. But, if it’s memorable to you, then that is what is most important — regardless of the SnapShoot.

Over the past couple of years, a slew of apps for our smartphones have come out that remind us what happened on this day last year or six years ago. For me, those photos jog my memory and take me back to that place and time and give me a warm feeling of the wonderful life I am lucky to live.

Although I am a professional photojournalist, and documenting everyday life is my job, it is my girlfriend who has documented our lives for the past seven years. And the photos she takes with her phone are now more important to us than ever, because they show how our relationship and our family (two cats and a dog) have grown over the years.

But the moments she captures are truly what gives color to our lives. For instance our camping trips, our cats when they were kittens and just the daily oddness of our lives.

As an amateur photographer, she does a stand-up job of capturing moments and documenting our lives together.

And those are the photos that are priceless. Those are the photos that are the difference between good pictures and great pictures.

With COVID-19 changing the routine of our daily lives for the past 16 months, we all had more opportunities to spend time with family and do things in our general vicinity we might not have done before. This time has given us the opportunity to capture the moments that make our lives unique.

So, now go through your photos from the past year — starting Jan. 1, 2020, to be exact — or go out and take new photos, get them printed and send them in.

Best of luck to you, and don’t forget the most important part of photography — have fun.

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Now the nitty-gritty — the rules:

Look through the photos you shot since Jan. 1, 2020. Whatever you took this year and last year is eligible, and the photos can be taken with a digital camera or cellphone, or with a film camera, as long as they are entered as a print so all entries can be judged together. No digital entries are allowed.

Only amateur photographers — people who don’t make money on photography — in the Lewiston Tribune circulation area, plus online and mail subscribers, are allowed to enter, and there is a limit of three entries per person, per week.

Entries are usually 4-by-6-inch prints, but can be as large as 8-by-12 inches. Don’t submit a photo that is irreplaceable — instead, send a copy of the original.

The name, home address and phone numbers of entrants must be printed on the back of each entry to be eligible. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you want your photo mailed back to you.

It’s simple to enter. There are no categories. A winning photo is a picture you want to show friends or family. As former Tribune photo editor Barry Kough would say: “There is a good reason to like it, because it makes you smile, makes you remember something or someone.”

Drop off entries at the 21st Street Chevron DynaMart or Chevron DynaMart on Thain Road, or at Arby’s and Taco Time locations in Lewiston, Clarkston or Moscow. Or mail them to the Lewiston Tribune at 505 Capital St., Lewiston, ID 83501.

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A couple of things to remember about your soon-to-be award-winning photography: Something different or offbeat stands out from the crowds of photos we receive. A nicely composed and timed scenic shot always demands attention.

Don’t forget to wake up early for a nice sunrise or go for a walk at sunset to capture the beautiful natural light of dawn or dusk.

One key we look for is a simple composition, nothing distracting in the background, just straight to the point — those photos really set themselves apart on the judging table.

Showing the judges something they’ve never seen before, a different angle or perspective on the ordinary, will always make a photo stand out.

Anything can be photogenic; it just depends on how and when you shoot it.

See the ad in today’s paper for the full details.

Caster is the Tribune's photo editor. He may be contacted at pcaster@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2210.