2022 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners
See all the winning photographs from the 2022 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest ranging from majestic views to furry bears.
The beginning of January is arguably my favorite time of year, and not just because it offers a fresh outlook or the holidays are still recent memory. It's also because I have the pleasure of announcing the Northwest Exposure Photo Contest winners! As a judge for the contest I get a sneak peek at the winners in advance but it's always fun getting to share them with the hiking community when the new year rolls around. And speaking of sharing them, you can enjoy them year-round with our annual calendar featuring the winning photographs delivered right to your door. Help support our work and enjoy some beautiful photography in the process!
This year's contest was filled with amazing entries and as usual, myself and the other judges had a difficult time narrowing down that many photos to just 16 winners. But in the end, we came away with a group of images that reflect the natural beauty Washington provides and reminds us why WTA does this work. Seeing the beautiful views, nearby parks and stunning wildlife is exactly why we do this, so that all of us, as hikers, can enjoy these places now and in the years ahead.
Without further introduction, here are the 16 winners!
Grand Prize - Mike Annee
It's not everyday that the photo contest judges come across a photograph of trailside flora that stops us in our tracks, but that's exactly what happened with Mike's grand prize winning image. The judges loved the colors, composition and the way the shapes popped off the darker backdrop. "It just so happened that I wasn't carrying my tripod that day (I almost always carry a tripod in the backcountry for this reason), so I was forced to hand hold the shot in relatively low morning light. I had to brace myself in a position above the foliage and focus on my breathing and a light shutter release. I took several photos in the hope that at least one would come out fairly sharp," Mike said. We think this one came out great, and a very deserving photo for the grand prize!
1st Place, Trailscapes - Mary Stenroos
There's something captivating about mountain layers in morning light and we're thankful for the many great vistas in Washington that afford views like this. But Mary not only took in the view, but captured this beautiful photograph that landed the 1st place prize in the Trailscapes category. "Finding solitude and watching the sunrise is one of my favorite things to do. In this shot, sunrise layers slowly unfolded as I sat in solitude in the vastness of Mount Rainier National Park. Meanwhile, others prefer to experience the outdoors with many hikers as can be seen on and around Fremont Lookout. This photo is a great reminder to me that we all hike our own hike in search of our own outdoor experiences."
2nd Place, Trailscapes - Matt Smith
This photo really has it all. The moon hanging above a snow-lined Mount St. Helens, wildflowers, and a sweeping vista from one of the most scenic places in Washington. Matt's thoughtful approach to nature photography alongside the composition, framing and unique lighting helped this stand out among other entries. "This is a very special place to me that I have frequented over the past 18 years. In this time I have witnessed and gained an appreciation for the constant ebb and flow of our natural world — how it teaches us how change is inevitable and how beautiful recovery can be.
3rd Place, Trailscapes - Steve Hammon
Sometimes color can make a photograph come alive and that's exactly what the judges were drawn to with this winning image from Second Beach. Steve almost packed up his camera gear and turned around but was drawn back to photograph the moment the sun broke through the cloud cover. "Mother Nature had given me a few precious minutes to capture this image. This was such a memorable trip in that I was able to experience the dark and moody side of Second Beach for the sunset and the warm and colorful side of Second Beach for the sunrise."
1st Place, Hikers in Action - Claudia Cooper
The space around a subject can tell us as much as the subject itself, and this image is no exception. Claudia managed to capture the stark beauty of winter and the solitude it can provide when enjoying the outdoors with this 1st place winner in the Hikers in Action category. The contest judges enjoyed the composition and expertly captured exposure (a difficult thing in winter landscapes) that elevated this photograph into the winning group. "It hadn't snowed up at Paradise for a while, so there were some really beautiful patterns and ridges in the snow. At first I just wanted to get some abstract images, which was before the hiker entered the frame."
2nd Place, Hikers in Action - Mushtaque Silat
There's a lot to enjoy in Mushtaque's winning image from Mount Si. The colors, the crisp silhouettes, and a scene that many hikers and backpackers know well: snack time. The judges loved the composition, the beautifully captured moment of two hikers sharing a summit, and the colors that brought everything together. "I have a hiking group where I lead sunset hikes on weekdays from March to September. This was one of those hikes in May 2022 when the sky just exploded with sunset colors. As an outdoor enthusiast, the trails allow me to enjoy the outdoors and make it easier to get to some wonderful locations."
3rd Place, Hikers in Action - Rowan Phipps
The judges love a good leading line and the winding trail that cuts through Rowan's photograph makes for a perfect one. Mossy hues, the way the image opens up to really lead your eyes to the hiker and the nicely captured exposure all came together to make this a winning entry. "The section of the trail where I took the image was just after it had opened up from a densely wooded valley into grassy meadows. I particularly liked the winding curves of the trail cutting through the lush grass between the trees."
1st Place, Trail Family - Sophia Porter
Hiking family doesn't always have to be other people, and we think Sophia and Ruby make a pretty good team. The judges loved the vibrant colors and the genuine joy that radiates from this snapshot of a moment on trail together, landing it the top spot in the Trail Family category. "I found Ruby in a west Texas parking lot in 2019. When my job moved from the desert to Seattle in June of 2022, she probably had more hiking experience than I did, but together we were instantly smitten with the Pacific Northwest. Ruby hasn’t met a lake she didn’t love, and it simply blew my mind that such exquisite landscapes could be found within a few miles of my apartment."
2nd Place, Trail Family - Ingunn Markiewicz
Hiking with kids provides a different perspective than tackling a trail alone. Sometimes the pace is slower, sometimes a 5 minute break turns into a half hour, but for everything that's different some things remain the same, mainly the joy that comes from being in the outdoors. The judges loved this image for how well it fit the category along with the fact that it captured such a fun moment of shared enjoyment on trail. "Hiking with kids is full of highs and lows, but those highs are so high that they will stick with me forever. This particular trip was basically only highs, and on the hike back from Glacier Vista, my 4-year old was literally running down the trail, all high on endorphins and giggling deliriously. I took a photo of her running along the beautiful foliage, and when my husband suddenly scooped her up, I was lucky to stand there with my camera ready."
3rd Place, Trail Family - Bobby Myers
Living in the Pacific Northwest we've likely all had a hike that turned out a bit rainy, and Bobby's photo captures that mood perfectly. The judges loved the candid nature of the image, the expressions, and the rainy-day familiarity that bursts out of the frame. "We usually choose lower-traffic, more remote trails ‚ having the mother-in-law in tow gives us a reason to see the popular and accessible 'tourist' trails we’d usually avoid. Turns out, they’re popular for a reason. We saw Hurricane Hill on a beautiful clear day, had the most majestic sunset of our lives at Rialto Beach, and lastly, we experienced the rainforest as it should be experienced: rainy! This trip celebrated both Mother’s Day and her 71st birthday."
1st Place, Flora and Fauna - Linda Wright
Linda's image really speaks for itself in terms of photographic beauty. The judges loved the framing, the subject, the lighting, and the owl's ever-watchful, piercing gaze that looks right through the lens. Capturing an image like this can be difficult but Linda makes it look easy, landing her first prize in the Flora and Fauna category. "I have a passion for owl photography and have spent countless hours on local trails and in the Cascades, especially in Whatcom and Skagit counties, looking for owls. I have been rewarded by seeing sights such as this great horned owl pair, plus watching barred and great horned owls grow up and fledge and learn to hunt, not to mention seeing other wildlife such as coyotes and bobcats and a cougar. The more hours I spend on trails and in the woods the more I am rewarded by seeing the amazing local wildlife and learning about the interconnectedness of nature."
2nd Place, Flora and Fauna - Gary Anderson
Bears are a rarer sight on trails, but when we come across them they often make for stunning photography subjects. Pair that with a majestic mountain in the background and you have a recipe for a winning entry. The judges loved Gary's composition and how he framed the bear in front of the mountain with a telephoto lens to make it Rainier larger behind. "I often hike the Berkeley Park and Skyscraper Pass areas of Mount Rainier National Park because of the variety of wildlife often seen there: mountain goats, pika, marmots, ground squirrels, and the occasional bear. Although not apparent from this photo, the bear was foraging and eating almost continuously and looked up at me for just a second. I used a 400 mm telephoto lens to keep a respectful distance, and had my camera set at high speed continuous shooting to capture the brief moment that he looked up."
3rd Place, Flora and Fauna - Kathryn Caine
When we stop and look a bit closer at the small things on trail a whole new world opens up. Insects, plants, even the ground we walk on takes on different aspects and appearances. That's no exception here with Kathryn's winning photo that captured this small scene the judges loved for its framing and color. "One of my favorite things to do is pick a seemingly unremarkable field of dirt and weeds. When I bend down and get closer, I often discover spectacular images, like this generic insect on an unpretentious clover. When I took this picture, I was hiking with my kids through a particularly dry and weedy patch of trail when this bug caught my eye. I quickly pulled out my cell phone, got as close to the clover as I could without disturbing it and used my shadow to block the bright midday sun."
1st Place, Instagram - Darby Graf
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fitting picture that just yells "having fun in the outdoors" than Darby's winning entry in the Instagram category, and the judges thought so too. From the vibrant larches to the scene's joy, this was an easy winner in a category filled with excellent photos. "The trails are what makes unbelievable beauty accessible to me and my loved ones. They say it’s not the destination but the journey that counts, and that happens on the trail. It was a beautiful fall day and we wanted to celebrate the larches. I always think candid poses of mother/daughter duos are adorable, and these two knew how to smile from ear to ear."
2nd Place, Instagram - Zach Goldberg
A classic Pacific Northwest fall scene isn't complete without some oranges, reds and most importantly, yellow larches. They've become an iconic symbol of the season in certain parts of the state, and Zach captured those vivid hues and the trail that winds through them perfectly. "Trails take me to places cars can’t go where I can see things that require effort and planning. Everyone out on trails has some purpose whether it be fitness, mental health or adventure and the energy out on trails is different for that reason. Most people are their true selves with less stress and more joy and that’s tough to find in the office or on the bus."
3rd Place, Instagram - Jennifer Beck Tolentino
Photography is all about the timing, and Jennifer was certainly in the right place at the right time to capture this winning photo. It's hard not to enjoy this scene purely for its color; the lush greens, rich blues and multitude of hues from the rainbow arcing overhead. The judges loved it not only for those reasons, but also for offering something a bit different than other entries with the neatly framed rainbow and trail running underneath. "My friend Nicole and I often hike together, and we were determined to see some spring Columbia Gorge wildflowers this year. We chose the Coyote Wall hike on a day that looked iffy but promising weather-wise. We were about halfway up and the already relentless wind turned a brief downpour into a pelting experience. When the rain passed, the sun came out and revealed this beautiful rainbow that framed the Columbia River and passed over the trail. It was stunning, and we felt like we had received a big gift for sticking it out and pressing forward."
We hope you've enjoyed this year's winning photos! Thank you to the contest sponsors for providing prizes for the winners and supporting our work. The 2023 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest will kick off in August. We're looking forward to seeing your entries! And, if you join WTA anytime during this year, you'll get next year's calendar to enjoy all year long. Help support our work and enjoy some beautiful photography in the process!