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2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Dec 29, 2020 11:35 AM |
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See all 16 of the winning photos in this year's photo contest!

The 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest proved that in a difficult year, sometimes a bit of familiarity and joy is just what's needed. The contest judges had an amazing (and difficult) time going through all 8,000 photos entered in the contest to narrow it down to 16 winners (made all the more challenging by doing it by video call) but narrow it down they did.

Before we announce the winners we'd like to take a quick moment to thank each and every photographer who took the time to enter the contest this year. There's no doubt it was a challenging year in many regards, but your photos help WTA in a massive way. Images entered in the contest ensure that our website looks incredible and is able to provide the best possible experience for hikers across the state (and we always credit photos whenever they're used). That's no small feat! So thank you, and we look forward to seeing your entries again in 2021!

Without further ado, here are the 16 winners of the 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest!

Grand Prize - Yuriy Garnaev

Photo by Yuriy Garnaev

This year's grand prize went to a stunning photo captured from Tatoosh Ridge with Mount Rainier visible in the backdrop. In an effort to capture the fading evening light, Yuriy raced up the ridge and snapped this photo using two bracketed images to expose for the sky and landscape. The result was this incredible image that feels classically Pacific Northwest. 

I moved to this corner of the country a few years ago because I was really drawn to the stunning landscapes it has to offer. All of the trails that we have here have allowed me to spend so many weekends exploring the incredible mountains, forests, and coast of the Pacific Northwest. I'm very grateful for them, and really admire all of the hard work people have put in to build and maintain them!

1st Place, Trailscapes - Ginalisa Andree

Photo by Ginalisa Andree

First prize in Trailscapes this year went to this beautiful alpine shot from Tank Lakes. The image was taken as a quick snapshot on Ginalisa's phone as her and her friend were headed back to their tents after waking up to catch the sunrise. This photo is a perfect example that phones can take winning images, and we encourage everyone to enter next year's contest regardless of equipment being used!

“After my cataract surgery eight years ago, I intend to see as many beautiful places as I can while my eye sight is still okay. Trails give me a sense of affinity to mother nature and it also allows me to forge a deeper connection with my inner self.”

2nd Place, Trailscapes - Lucy Pick

Photo by Lucy Pick

Adding a bit of closer-to-home flair, Lucy's image from Tumwater Falls Park is an incredible snapshot of fall color. The combination of diffused foggy light and vibrant leaves caught the judges' eyes. Though the park remained closed for much of 2020 to practice safe social distancing guidelines, Lucy's image was taken in 2018 which is a nice reminder that if you didn't grab any great images during the contest year you're also welcome to enter photos from years past!

“I chose this location because it showed that you can find good fall color close to home and on a short trail...Trails are important to me because they give me the opportunity to explore the state and a reason to check out new places throughout the year.”

3rd Place, Trailscapes - Beth Madigan

Photo by Beth Madigan

Beth didn't grow up hiking, but we're certainly happy she found a love for it! Otherwise we'd be without this incredible photo from the Fremont Lookout showing off the many layers of mountains between there and Mount Baker. The smooth gradient of layered colors really popped in this photo, giving it the third place prize in the Trailscapes category.

“I have lived in Washington my entire life and I am still surprised by the beauty of Washington, the variety of the trails, and the accessibility of trails. I used to think that hiking was only for people who were more in shape or more experienced in the outdoors than myself. However, I have learned that anyone can enjoy trails and the outdoors. I love to share the simple joy and love I have for the trails with my friends, family, and coworkers.”

1st Place, Flora and Fauna - Janet Bauer

Photo by Janet Bauer

It's rare for the contest to see a bird in a winter setting, and that's exactly what drew our eye to Janet's photo of this waxwing grabbing a snack. Using a 400mm telephoto lens and a bit of her silent sneaking skills, Janet was able to get this detailed close-up without disturbing the bird in its natural habitat. The pop of colors on the white snowy backdrop gave this a unique look we don't often see.

“Luck prevailed and I was able to closely watch and photograph their beauty as they flitted around the shrubs devouring frozen rose hips. I stayed with them until the afternoon light was disappearing and my fingers were numb from the cold. On my way home I marveled at how nature often delivers beautiful gifts when you least expect them.”

2nd Place, Flora and Fauna - Emilio Barrientos

Photo by Emilio Barrientos

Emilio captured this image while on solo hike at the West Fork Dosewallips River. On the way back down from the pass heading to his camp, he came upon this bear enjoying a meal of vegetation. Emilio first let out some loud noises to alert the bear to his presence, but the bear didn't seem to mind and kept on eating. Luckily, Emilio had his telephoto lens on and was able to capture this scene of the bear while maintaining a healthy distance so as to not alarm it.

“During this pandemic I lost my job and was trapped in the house worried about my future. In order to sort out my head I retreated into nature. Without trails I do not know how I would have coped. The trails of the PNW helped me find those quiet places to be with my thoughts and reflect on all I have and that I am grateful for. My time on the trails reminded me that there is so much to this world that I think we gloss over in everyday life. The mountains, the forests, the rivers, we speed past them in our cars and give them a brief nod, but trails allow us an ability to become intimate and personal with them.”

3rd Place, Flora and Fauna - David Willecke

Photo by David Willecke

Pine martens are notoriously rare to spot on hikes, but David had the luck and skill to capture this great image of one playing in a nearby tree on his hike along the PCT. Using a telephoto lens, David adjusted his settings on the fly and was able to snap a number of photos of the marten from a comfortable distance. Due to the challenging backlighting of the scene, David positioned his shots to include the darker branches of the nearby trees to keep the image evenly lit, and it payed off!

“This was a special encounter, but only one of many this summer. With 12 days of backpacking in August alone, I saw enough awe-inspiring sunrises, sunsets, wildlife, wildflowers, waterfalls, night skies, grand vistas, and lots of less grand but nonetheless beautiful little spots along the way that will keep the rest of life in proper perspective for some time, despite the unique challenges its been throwing at us as of late."

1st Place, Trail Family - Takahiro Shigemitsu

Photo by Takahiro Shigemitsu

Of all the photos in the contest this year, this image alone stood out as one of the most joyful and representative of a challenging and unique year. Takahiro and the llamas were transporting gear and food on the PCT in this photo for members of the Pass to Pass group hike that raises awareness for Parkinson's. The Pass to Pass groups consist of Parkinson's hikers, support hikers, and the pack llamas. Due to social distancing guidelines, the group was masked, even the llamas, who Takahiro describes as important trail family for the Pass to Pass hikes.

"Trails, especially in the backcountry, bring out the 'generosity and loving kindness' side of me.”

2nd Place, Trail Family - James Bailey

Photo by James Bailey

Parents and caretakers of children know it can be challenging to get kids to smile for a photo, but James has found the secret ingredient: find something they love doing and it comes naturally. On this snowshoe outing at Hurricane Ridge James and his kids Isabelle and Austin enjoyed nice weather and got to practice some ice axe and avalanche skills in a safe environment.

“Trails and public lands are very important to me because I've been hiking and backpacking in Washington since I was 12 years old and I want my kids to be able to do the same. I want them to be able to experience the beauty that Washington has to offer just the same way I did as a kid.”

3rd Place, Trail Family - Brooke Brisbine

Photo by Brooke Brisbine

Brooke's favorite hiking buddies are her parents, and her image of them sharing a moment at Copper Glance Lake shows off the natural beauty of the area as well as the shared love of nature between family. The stunning color of the lake and larches made for a nice backdrop to capture this candid moment between her parents as they enjoyed the day.

“Trails are often represented as an escape from reality, but to me, they are the most real part of my life, an opportunity to reconnect with nature and regain that sense of wonder that is too often lost in everyday routine. Out here, everything is fresh and raw, and it always leaves me feeling full. My dad has spent his entire life exploring the mountains, and to now be able to experience special places like Copper Glance Lake with him and my stepmother means the world to us all.”

1st Place, Hikers in Action - John Duong

Photo by John Duong

It's rare for the contest to have the opportunity to feature a photographer in action, but this brilliantly-lit sunset moment was at the top of the judge's list for the category. John captured this on an August hike up to Hidden Lake Lookout, and the clouds parted perfectly to create the cloudscape backdrop you see above. The judges liked that the lighting and colors made the photographer stand out nicely against the landscape, giving this the first prize for Hikers in Action.

I love that feeling when all these things that are typically out of your control come together to make a perfect moment. In this instance, the clouds parted, the sun was setting above the Cascades, highlighting the layers of rugged mountains, and, in the distance, making Mount Baker glow in the distance. It's in these moments where you want to capture that feeling so you can relive it one more time.”

2nd Place, Hikers in Action - Erin Albert

Photo by Erin Albert

Erin's husband John experienced the cable car crossing over the Chiliwack River as a Boy Scout and loved it so much that he and Erin did the hike to Tapto Lakes so they could experience it together. The unique water crossing was constructed for hikers so they could cross the river safely in an area where waters can be dangerous. It provided a perfect moment to capture a unique action image as well as take a rest during the lengthy hike.

“Trails are our escape from being anxious, worrying about work or money or anything else distracting. We are able to just focus and think about one thing at a time without distractions.”

3rd Place, hikers in action - Philip Cho

Photo by Philip Cho

The unique geography and plants drew Philip to the Hanford Reach Trail and he was able to capture this shot that shows off the vastness and beauty of Washington's desert hikes. Setting up his tripod, Philip tested out a few shots before deciding something wider would be better fitting to show off the scale of the area. He started hiking, setting his camera to take photos every three seconds, and this was the result of one of those shots.

“I was so excited when I learned about the Hanford Reach Trail about three years ago because I had great memories of hiking on sand dunes in the Death Valley National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park. This was my third time hiking to catch the sunrise at the Hanford Reach Trail.

1st Place, Instagram - Umesh Pandit

Photo by Umesh Pandit

Regardless of age, there's something special about spotting wildlife when you're out in nature. Umesh's daughter was so thrilled to be able to spot this deer that her expression couldn't contain the joy. The contest judges couldn't imagine a better first prize for the Instagram category, as Umesh's shot perfectly captures that feeling of seeing something special on trail whether it's for the first time, or the fiftieth. 

"Olympic National Park is so beautiful to go out with family, especially with kids so that we can see wild flowers, deer and some short hiking.”

2nd Place, instagram - Alicia Mau

Photo by Alicia Mau

Taken on a girls only backpacking trip with her two friends at Yellow Aster Butte, Alicia snapped this second prize photo of the group in front of a stunning sunset complete with an inversion layer of clouds to top it off. Using her phone balanced against her pack, Alicia set the timer and ran back and forth until she got the perfect photo. After crawling into their tents early and resigned to a foggy night of no views, they were amazed to see the clouds had parted and raced a half mile back to a location they'd taken photos at earlier. We can all agree it was worth crawling out of the tent for!

“I loved that this photo captured us ladies just being ladies. We felt powerful and supportive of each other and the weather awarded us with views that matched our moods. Though to be honest we would have probably had a blast even in the rain. The company is really what made the trip.”

3rd Place, instagram - Ryan Sullivan

Photo by Ryan Sullivan

Taken on their one year wedding anniversary camping and road trip, Ryan snapped this winning photo of his wife in a sunbeam on Mount Ellinor. His wife, who he says graciously puts up with his posing requests, was framed in the sunbeam to give the image a sense of scale to the forest and surroundings, which is exactly what caught the judges' eye. Ryan took this photo early into the hike, proving that the end vista isn't always the best sight on a hike.

Trails allow me to reset and escape from the stress and busyness of everyday life. Immersing myself into these beautiful places helps me to stay conscious and grateful of where I live. And, what better scenery than Washington trails to get some exercise in?

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 2021 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest will kick off on August 17, 2021. We're looking forward to seeing your entries!


Posted by:

Sydni Kampfer on Dec 31, 2020 11:31 AM

coldrainandsnow on 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

The expression on the girl's face, with the deer behind her, is priceless, as they say. I'm not sure the fourth picture, the sunset shot of Mount Baker, could have been taken as far south as Fremont Lookout. Perhaps there was a mix up. Or maybe I'm mixed up.

Posted by:

coldrainandsnow on Jan 21, 2021 05:36 PM

ngie on 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

It's possible to get that shot of Kulshan from Fremont Lookout, but you need a really great lens and zoom in a lot.

Posted by:

ngie on Jun 29, 2021 06:52 PM

mato on 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

I was going to enter this year's contest - until I looked at last year's winners. Awesome shots is right! Sure glad I live here.

Posted by:

mato on Sep 29, 2021 06:48 PM

Neelhtak on 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

Stunning collection of photographs, they are proof of the soul-stirring beauty of this state (as if proof were needed)!

Posted by:

Neelhtak on Oct 10, 2021 11:47 AM

Danielonearth on 2020 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest Winners

These are amazing. Thanks for posting them. We live in a breathtaking state.

Posted by:

Danielonearth on Nov 22, 2021 02:13 PM