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Spotlights

Check out the monthly winners of the 2017 contest below! Also, scroll down to read about our 2016 overall contest winners. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram at @share_the_experience. Who knows...maybe you'll see one of your own images out there! Be sure to use #ShareTheExperience to spread the word!

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2017 Monthly Winners

December Winner | Jess Curren, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico


This image was taken on a beautiful winter morning at White Sands National Monument. We have been traveling the country full time with our 3 kids in an Airstream trailer and had made arrangements to meet up with two other traveling families. The kids had a blast running all over the dunes, sledding, and enjoying the sunshine! Afterwards we packed our packs and camped for a night in the backcountry. It was definitely one of our favorite experiences as this park is incredibly unique!


December Winner | Will Strathmann, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire


This was a night to remember. Our goal was ambitious; a last minute nine-mile hike up to Bondcliff in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest, then hike out to arrive back at the trailhead by 7am the next morning. At a brisk pace, we sweated as we ascended the nearly 4000ft of vertical gain to the cliffs. As we arrived at the cliffs and began to watch the sun set and the stars come out, we couldn't help but appreciate the feeling of tranquil isolation within the wilderness we now occupied. From where we were, there are no roads to be seen nor any sounds from nearby towns. This night was one of the clearest I've ever seen, and I wanted to capture the feeling of adventure and awe that was at the heart of that night as we stood there atop the cliffs under the starry night. With the help of a tripod and timer, I set my camera up and let the shutter click as the Milky Way aligned with the cliffside. After we got our fill of stars, we set off back down towards the trailhead, our feet guided by headlamps and our bodies running on the energy of the experience.


December Winner | Curtis Creath, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Park, Hawaii


Pu'uhounau O Honaunau is such a peaceful area. My family loves history, so we appreciate how this "City of Refuge" was a big part of the Hawaiian culture. While there, we saw locals fishing in the same bay that many Hawaiian people swam across to find refuge. We enjoyed seeing the sea turtles resting on the beach as we walked to the ki'i (carved wooden images - the ones in the picture) surrounding the temple of Hale o Keawe. The national park is on the Kona side of the island, which is cloudier and receives a fair amount of afternoon rain, it was nice to catch some morning sun for this picture.


November Winner | David Turko, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska


I was camping at Teklanika inside Denali National Park & Preserve, when a special moment presented itself. I came across this amazing northern hawk owl hunting voles and small birds close to the camp. Conifer trees were all over our campsite and the owl opted to perch directly on top of the trees to obtain the best vantage point to ambush its prey. It makes for a beautiful image. Hand holding my camera, I knew I needed to keep my shutter speed up and at the same time the sun was going down so I had to use a little more ISO to keep the owl sharp in the frame. I took this image right as the owl began to fly, making direct eye contact with me. The blue background is a mountain that was not receiving any light. Never knowing what you’re going to see in Denali, besides it's beauty, offering so many wildlife opportunities, this is one moment that will always be etched forever in my mind.


November Winner | Judy Buchholz, Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI


This photo was taken at Maho Bay in Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI. This green sea turtle is probably young as it doesn’t have any barnacles or scars on its carapace. The patterns on its back are beautiful. Green sea turtles are gentle creatures that like to munch on sea grass. Maho Bay is a great place to see green sea turtles; I saw them gliding gently through the water, popping up for air and then diving back down to the ocean floor to much on the sea grass. It was a successful snorkeling day if I saw a turtle. It was fun to hear other snorkelers get so excited when they saw one, I could hear them shout, “I see a turtle! I see a turtle!” even while sitting on the beach. In September of 2018, St. John and the Virgin Islands National Park were devastated by two Category 5 hurricanes. I hope that the gentle green sea turtles, like this one, were unharmed


November Winner | Doreen Lawrence, Denali National Park, Alaska


On the bus tour, inside the park, there is a spot where the bus will stop and allow visitors to get out and take a photo of Denali. On this particular day, we were very lucky to see Denali and all her glory. The bus driver stated that the mountain is usually shrouded with clouds and visitors never have a chance to see the tip of the mountain. We were so very lucky and blessed to see the magnificent sight.


October Winner | Matthew Meisenheimer, Glacier National Park, Montana


Wind, water, snow....some of my favorite elements to capture. This was the first time I was able to witness all three in conjunction, and what a scene it was. I want all my images to make the viewer feel like they're there in-person, experiencing the same emotions I did when I took the shot. At the moment I pressed the shutter to take this shot, I was experiencing nature at its finest. 50 mph winds, freezing temperatures, waves on Two Medicine Lake, soft flurries in the air with Sinopah Mountain dusted in snow, and this amazing display of light all over the landscape. I've never experienced anything like it. I experienced a genuine connection with this place and it will always be special to me. Glacier National Park is spectacular and definitely one of my favorite national parks.


October Winner | Daryl Horton, Kings Canyon National Park, California


This was the last day of a 5 day backpacking trip on the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park in August 2016 with my girlfriend, Tara. It was the longest backpacking trip we've ever done and really enjoyed it. I was hiking behind her and saw the canyon open up and knew I had to get a shot. On the hike we had dealt with 90+ degree temps the whole trip, but since we're from Phoenix it was perfect for us. But finally seeing clouds and getting a bit of rain was a nice change. However, we were told this was the area we were most likely to run into bears but ended up never seeing one the whole trip. So we were enjoying the great views of the Sierras, but we were definitely being cautious. This was shot on the Woods Creek Trail leaving the Paradise Valley area to Mist Falls for a quick side trip before getting back to the trailhead at the Roads End Permit Station. Shot with Nikon D3300 and Tokina 11-20mm lens.


October Winner | Norman Lathrop, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida


The upper gun level at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park. I snapped the photo while wandering around the fort after the Ranger lead tour. It was a bright day outside, so I chose the gun gallery that wasn't exposed to direct sunlight to reduce the contrast for a better exposure.


September Winner | Matthew Raifman, Illipah Reservoir Recreation Area, Nevada


Our family loves road trips and recently completed our second one crossing the country. Whenever we travel, we try to maximize our time hiking and camping on federal lands, whether a national park, historical monument, or recreation area. Needing to stretch our legs as we crossed Nevada, we pulled off U.S. 50 - "The Loneliest Road in America" - at Illipah Reservoir Recreation Area. A few RVs were parked in a campground high above the water with smoke just starting to billow from campfires as the sun set. Fly fisherman searched for an evening meal, knee deep as bugs swarmed. And we took a walk around the reservoir and found an isolated spot to settled in to watch the sun radiate color. I stepped back and took this photo of my wife and our pup, Haley.


September Winner | Ken Lee, Ancient Bristlecone Pine National Forest, California


Many of these trees live for 5000 years, and even after dying, can remain standing for 5000 more years. In other words, it's quite possible that some trees have been standing for as long as 10000 years, long long before Lucille Ball roamed the earth. This is a night photo near a full moon. I illuminated the bristlecone pine while the tripod-mounted camera's shutter was open to give it more depth.


September Winner | Joe Pagano, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Missouri


This photo was taken inside the Old Courthouse, downtown Saint Louis which is a beautiful "National Capital Style" building. We entered the building because it's where you buy tickets for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka: the St. Louis arch). When you enter the rotunda, you're absolutely floored by the beautiful display of patriotism. I had tears in my eyes as I was taking the photos. The old courthouse and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial are a must see as are many of the iconic national parks and will truly revitalize the great American spirit inside us all when you're there.


August Winner | Daniel Kruk, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


We were traveling in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park when several wolves appeared near a dead buffalo. This wolf came within 40 yards in some thick growth. I managed to take a couple of pictures and was able to zoom in before he left in a hurry. I was using a FUJI DXL camera set to auto.


August Winner | Bistra Gancheva, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia


This photo was taken on Cumberland Island in April during mating season, and the Least Terns were among a large variety of birds and animals which were performing fascinating courtship rituals along the coast. The male terns performed a series of ceremonial flights and poses which were then followed by a courtship feeding, where the male brought a fish to the female and fed her in hopes for mating. 


August Winner | Kim Hang Dessoliers, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington


Taking a photo of Mount St. Helens in Washington during the June wildflowers season has been on our bucket list for a while. On this morning my husband and I woke up at 4 am, from Castle Rock we drove for an hour to make it to the location before sunrise. At the Loowit viewpoint, I quickly hiked down the ridge to look for a good composition. I was happy to see the Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon were in full bloom. The thick fog was starting to roll in and as soon as the sunlight began peering over Mount St. Helen I quickly took this shot. We always say that waking up early is the hardest part but the end result is definitely worth it.


July Winner | Cari Gostic, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


You'll never regret a summer in Grand Teton. 


July Winner | Dorrie Henderson, Coconino National Forest, Arizona


I used my America the Beautiful pass to access the park with my friend on a girls' getaway during the first week of March 2017. We were hoping to get reflection pictures in the creek at Red Rock Crossing, but the area had received a lot of rain prior to our arrival, therefore the stream was flowing too full and fast for a reflective picture. However, that rain provided us with this fortuitous puddle in the middle of the field in front of Cathedral Rock.  


July Winner | Brian Anderson, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina & Virginia


I love the mountains and photographing the special moments and amazing views they provide. This photo took me four attempts to capture. I drove an hour and a half every day after work to catch just the right sunset and conditions to get the flowers in the foreground. My first three attempts were unsuccessful due to fog, rain and clouds, the fog would always roll in minutes before sunset and spoil my shot. I arrived the evening on the fourth attempt and it was very cloudy but I decided to wait it out and see what happened, thirty minutes before sunset the clouds broke and I walked away with this image.


June Winner | Mike Wooten, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona


We went to the park with the intention of shooting thunderstorms and lightning storms.  When we arrived, there we no storms brewing, and even clouds were hard to come by.  But serendipitously, it was a new moon, AND crystal clear, so Milky Way photography was the call. This image took quite a few tries, and I ended up extending my stay so I could try different techniques on subsequent nights.  The image was exposed for the Milky Way, and the juniper tree was light painted with a hand-held light.  I wasn’t quite getting the right lighting on the tree, so I had to acquire a few little spider lights, which I mounted at different places in the tree.  I think that did the trick. 


June Winner | Mark Rutt, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming


We were in Grand Teton National Park for a few days as part of a larger multi-park road trip and were fortunate enough to see not only this sow and cubs but a second family of a sow and two cubs... all in the same vicinity multiple times a day. It was the second week of June, so pretty early in the season and the new life and spring flowers were beautiful. Such a happy pair of cubs, carefree and playing. It was an amazing thing to witness and experience. 


June Winner | Kelly Hay, Everglades National Park, Florida


Anhingas typically inhabit warm southern wetlands making the Florida Everglades a great destination for spotting these beautiful birds. They can be found around wooded swamps and mangrove estuaries making Florida one of the states with the highest populations. The males, as in the picture, are black throughout with extensive silver/white panels and streaks upon the upper wings and feathers making it a very uniquely beautiful bird! The Anhinga Trail in the Everglades is named, of course, after such and Anhingas can often be spotted along the trail, sunning themselves, making for the perfect photo op!


May Winner | Marja Seidel, Yosemite National Park, California


Our alarm rang at 5.30am. Together with my sister Rosie, who was visiting from England, we started hiking the steep trail just before sunrise. Even though it was already hot during the day, we still crossed snowfields at the top (mid-March). But the hike/climb/slippery paths were all worth it! The views over Yosemite Valley and its cascades were simply breath-taking!


May Winner | Brandon Yoshizawa, Los Padres National Forest, California


Located in Big Sur, the keyhole arch is a popular spot around winter solstice when the setting sun aligns through the portal. When the skies are clear, it produces a stunning beam of light concentrated through the arch. I took this photo as a wave crashed through as the mist helped enhance the beam of light.


May Winner | Raymond Lee, Tonto National Forest, Arizona


I made a short road trip through the Tonto Basin during the Arizona spring wildflower season hoping to catch an iconic poppy shot. I parked near the Salt River’s entry into Roosevelt Lake and as the sun went down and the storm rolled in, grabbed my camera and started shooting.


2016 Winners

Grand Prize Winner | Craig McIntyre, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas


I like photographing the frogs because they’re artistic – little reptiles and amphibians are gorgeous to me. I’ve been studying them for 60 years now – patterns, designs and their behavior all fascinate me. In Texas, we don’t have a lot of public lands, and they’re very important to me along with public access to them – especially places like Big Bend National Park, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and even South Padre Island National Seashore.


Second Prize Winner | Gary Hamer, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Superior National Forest, Minnesota


In this shot, two of my friends were hitting the water again after portaging from Caribou Lake to Lizz Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. This was the last day of our annual seven-day Fall canoe-camping trip ‘Up North’. It had been a great trip, with lots of crisp foggy mornings, outstanding scenery and we even had a few meals of fresh fish!! I hope people can picture themselves in this canoe, surrounded by calm waters, the rising fog and get out and enjoy what is wild and beautiful in their area.


Third Prize Winner | Christopher Regala, Zion National Park, Utah


I love the colors of the canyons and the water, and the look on his face – it's a mixture of awe and exhaustion. Although tired, he persevered. He ended up earning his junior ranger badge on this trip. Now that we’re parents we believe even more strongly that these monuments and national parks should be treasured.


Fan Favorite | Jack Hanton, Washington Monument, District of Columbia


I visit the Monument every time I go into the city! It's one of my favorites. I took the photo while on a run in D.C. with my family. We like to do this every winter break as a little tradition considering we live so close to the nation’s capital! I am an aspiring film maker, so iconic parks and monuments have inspired me to bust out the camera and test my abilities.


Fan Favorite | Rob Blair, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio


I typically visit Blue Hen Falls about three times per year. It's in a heavily wooded area and also tucked away in a small ravine, which really helps to diffuse the harsh light of the late morning sun. Since I entered only one photo, it made me really think hard about what would be one of the best representations for this particular park. Blue Hen Falls is definitely one of the top 5 "must see" locations within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and there's nothing quite like seeing it in the peak of the fall foliage.


Adventure & Outdoor Recreation | Raymond Lee, White Ridge Trail System, New Mexico


I have friends who are avid trials bike enthusiasts who knew I like to take landscape photos. They invited me to join them for a day at the San Ysidro area. This was my first visit to the area and while it did present many good landscape opportunities, I found myself caught up in the action of the trials bike participants. The New Mexico Trials Bike association partnered with the BLM to clean the area up and develop a trials bike practice and competition venue. The area is open to all members of the public and is kept clean by the Trials Bike Association.


Historical & Cultural | Michael McCook, Hoover Dam, Nevada


I had been wanting to get some sunset and night shots of the Hoover Dam and the new Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. One afternoon I noticed there were clouds which I hoped would give me an interesting sunset shot, so I jumped into my Jeep and to get there just as the sky was turning red. Our public lands and especially their preservation are extremely significant to future generations. Most of my photography is inspired by nature.


Every Kid in a Park | Joshua Slezak, Oologah Lake, Oklahoma


My mother and little brother went down to Oologah Lake where he cast out his fishing rod. We actually got there a little later in the day than we would have liked, but the sunset provided some beautiful colors and lighting. I was afraid some photos I took wouldn't have turned out as well as I liked, but I found this shot among the collection. All in all it was an evening well spent with family.


Night Skies | Matthew Hanna, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon


I wanted to take a picture that contained the stars, the beach and the ocean in an attempt to capture the mood of visits to the area. I absolutely love hiking the Oregon Island area, I visit as much as possible. It’s a special place with lots of rugged crags, foggy vistas and tide pools with the low tide. You never really see it the same way twice. Public lands mean quite a lot to me. These parks, forests and refuges are places for my adventures.


Scenic, Seasons & Landscapes | John Donofrio, Fantasy Canyon, Utah


Fantasy Canyon is aptly named - it's like a sculpture gallery dedicated to erosional flights of fancy. The sandstone formations are almost unbelievably intricate but I found it to be a difficult area to photograph as the rock is a fairly uniformly grey in color and the lighting is harsh. On my most recent trip, I elected to camp on-site and after the sun went down I noticed the almost ghostly illumination of moonlight on the strange formations and was transfixed. I've been a life-long pilgrim on our public lands…I believe that finding and nurturing deeply-felt connections to the natural world is an antidote to the stress-inducing pace of modern life.


Wildlife | Mathew Sorum, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho


I go to Yellowstone each Fall for wildlife viewing. This year I went a little earlier to take in the Fall leaf colors of the Tetons. I have been to Yellowstone for each of the last 4 years. When I shared the photo with friends on social media, it had a tremendous amount of positive responses from everyone. I appreciate that these lands are carefully managed to allow all visitors to view them and their inhabitants as Mother Nature created them.