Photographer: Martin Chandrawinata

Something is changing in construction photography. The pictures are getting strikingly better. That's the only conclusion we could come to after our panel of judges finished reviewing the 1,564 entries to ENR's 2012, The Year in Construction Photo Contest. Not only did the judges give their highest marks to far more images than ever before, but the second- and third-place finishers were almost equally impressive.

The photos are evaluated by a fresh panel of judges each year. They examine every photo, together, in a room. They base their decisions purely on the images. They do not know the names of the photographers nor their companies; they just vote yes when they like what they see and go through several rounds of refinement. (See p. 4 for more on the process.)

Some photographers, both professionals and amateurs, have a knack for landing wins. Patrick Cashin, Alissa Holliman, Kathrine Du Tiel, Stephen SetteDucati, Adam Pass, Thiel Harryman, Paul Turang and David Lloyd, who shot this year's cover, either have been winners before, show up more than once in this year's gallery—or both.

When our editors contact the winners to learn the stories behind their photos, we often find top photographers have this in common: They speak of forethought, preparation and their deep respect and admiration for the people and processes of the construction world. They speak of approaching every shot with the goal of attaining superlative results, including winners like principal engineer Alan Lavery, who makes a point of seriously shooting all of his projects on a monthly basis as if he were landing them in the pages of a magazine. Congratulations, Alan. You just did. —By Tom Sawyer