Amusing Monday: Rare beauty, adventure shown in national parks photos

Auburn photographer Scott Eliot was named this year’s winner in the “Night Skies” category of the “Share the Experience” photo contest for this stunning image of stars over Mount Rainier.

Night Skies winner: Mount Rainier by Scott Eliot.

The annual contest, sponsored by the National Park Foundation, invites amateur photographers to submit their favorite views, moments and adventures from America’s national parks and public lands. See all the winning photos on the NPF Blog.

As Scott described it when posting his photo to the contest website last year: “The early morning hours of late July begins to bring the Milky Way into alignment with Mt. Rainier from a vantage point along the Silver Forest Trail on the Sunrise Plateau of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state.

“A mid-summers new moon and clear skies were the only occasion necessary to spend a peaceful night out alone for some astrophotography composing the Milky Way with Mt. Rainier, before the Pacific Northwest weather changed its mind.,” he continued.

“The stillness at 2 a.m. was broken only by the sound of the rushing White River far below in the Glacier Basin as I composed and captured this image. I did have the company of climbers traversing the mountain most of the early hours, which you can find in the image, making their way to the mountain summit with a constant chain of lights.”

Grand Prize winner: Backcountry snowboarder by Ching Fu

The Grand Prize winner in the contest is Ching Fu of Asheville, North Carolina, who captured this photo of a backcountry snowboarder in Bridger-Teton National Forest.

“After a couple hours of skinning uphill, we came out to this ridge to get a better view of where we wanted to ride back down,” he wrote. “This was the scene in front of us. The pristine snow-covered slopes, the sea of trees, the mountains, and particularly the lighting just stopped me in my tracks.”

The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000, and the winning image will be featured on the America the Beautiful Pass, which will get you into national parks and federal recreational lands throughout the country. In 2015, Cameron Teller of Seattle, a former Kitsap County resident, claimed the top honors, as I described in Water Ways, May 4, 2015.

“These photos are a window into the incredible experiences that await us at national parks and public lands across the country,” Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, said in a news release. “This annual contest is a great example of how committed partners help inspire people to get out and explore these diverse places of beauty that belong to all of us.”

Adventure & Recreation winner: Olympic National Park by Ashley Kerkemeyer

This year, about 1,400 photographers submitted more than 8,000 photos. And, for the first time in the contest’s history, the top three prize winners and the “fan favorite” were all photos taken in the same state — Wyoming.

“Perhaps that’s fitting,” wrote Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, contributor to Forbes magazine, “given that Wyoming is home to the first national park (Yellowstone), the first national monument (Devils Tower) and the first national forest (Shoshone) as well as 25 national historic landmarks and 11 nationally recognized areas, trails and monuments.”

Olympic National Park also makes an appearance in this year’s photo contest, with a photograph by Ashley Kerkemeyer, whose camera captured her 6-year-old daughter, Lillie, in a laid-back position enjoying the outdoors.

“In 2017, my husband and I decided to sell our house, quit our jobs, buy an RV and travel around the country with our two daughters, Lillie and Lennon, before they started school,” wrote Ashley, who is from Meridian, Idaho. “This photo is of my oldest daughter and was taken a few months into our travels while we were in Olympic National Park.

“While this photo doesn’t display the best composition/lighting that a great photo should have, I love it despite its flaws because it represents her to a T,” she added. “She’s a happy, kind, free spirited kid who is happiest when she’s outside. When she’s in nature she seems connected to it, and I can see her come alive — which makes my heart happy!”

Second place: Bison by Joe Neely

Second-place in the contest went to Joe Neely of Phoenix, Arizona, who spent a week in Yellowstone National Park to fulfill his vision of capturing an image of a bison coming out of a fog.

“I had tried multiple times around various areas during prior visits, near the geysers, during sunsets and even while on paid park tour, but I had no luck” he wrote. “But this photo happened in the most unlikely of places, up on the northern range near a pull-out where we had to stop because the snow flurry and fog was becoming too dense to see. I chose this image because, at first glance, it seems like an intense stare down with a frozen beast. But really it is just a powerful image that captures the harsh winter conditions that these Yellowstone bison endure as a way of life.”

The photo at the bottom of this page is the third-place winner taken by Adam Jewell of Conshoshocken, Penn., at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park. This vantage point lies on the Snake River east of Grand Teton near Jackson Hole.

“When I drove down the road, the pair of moose were walking on the bank opposite the parking area,” Adam wrote. “When the moose popped out of the woods in the water in front of the Teton Mountains, I grabbed a camera and took a few shots. It was a case of being in the right place in the right time.

“It’s not too difficult to find a beautiful landscape to photograph in the national parks,” he said. “If you wander around long enough with a telephoto lens, chances are you’ll get some nice photos of whatever wildlife is native to the area. When you get really lucky, the two combine in one scene at sunrise or sunset, you happen to have a camera with you and you get an image that shows all the elements of that particular ecosystem.

The 2019 Share the Experience photo contest is now open. For rules, prizes and submission information, go to the contest’s official webpage,

Third-place: Moose by Adam Jewell

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