Check out the first few weekly winners of the 2016 contest below! Also, scroll down to read about our 2015 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!
“The road winding up to Glacier Point is a thorough tease.Its an excruciating, slow, but incredibly effective whetting of the appetite for this - the final, grand sight that greets you at the end. The rays of the sun declaring themselves triumphantly behind the facade of one of the most recognisable sights in the world - the Half Dome.”
"As a west coast road trip was winding down, I decided to spend a night at the Point Reyes Hostel on the way to Marin Headlands, so it would be possible to spend the night in the park. While driving back to the hostel after a day of sight seeing, I came across a tunnel of Cypress Trees and decided to stop. As the sun dropped down along the horizon, the trees took on a beautiful glow and I got out the camera to snap a few shots and this was the best of the bunch."
"The light show at Big Sur. This sunset occurs only for a few days a year during the winter solstice, when the sun set directly behind keyhole arch under clear weather conditions. I was extremely lucky that I was able to capture this amazing light and moment at Pfeiffer Beach - Big Sur."
"The image was made in Mesa Verde during the open house in 2015. The cliff dwellings were been illuminated by modern lighting to avoid introducing foreign waxes into the cliff dwellings and the walkways were lined luminaries which are basically paper bags with sand in the bottom for weight and a burning candle inside. The open house is a celebration where those gathered can view what it may have been like for the natives many years ago. the ambiance is completed by Native American flute players who fill the night with their beautiful music."
"Prior to taking trips I like to consult the Photographer's Ephemeris to get an idea of where/when the sun and moon are going to be. It appeared that the full moon would be setting behind Mt. Whitney at the same time I was visiting the Alabama Hills and Whitney Portal areas. I arrived at the Alabama Hills on April, 21 and spent the day exploring sights such as Mobius Arch. I was pleased to see that there was still snow on the peaks. We watched the moon rise over the Inyo Mountains to the east before going to bed. On April 22, 2016 at 5:55 in the morning this is the sight that met me shortly after crawling out of my sleeping bag!"
"My husband and I were backpacking in Mount Rogers National Rec Area along Wilburn Ridge and I woke up to the faint sound of neighing. I got out of my tent to go explore, and when I turned the corner from our campsite, this was the view I got to experience. I only had time to get one shot off before the first pony became intrigued by the click of the camera and came over to investigate. "
"I had this idea in mind for my past trip out to Joshua Tree where I just wanted to find a nice little cluster of trees to fill the frame with. I setup the tent and climbed in using my iPhone to illuminate the scene. Love how the iPhone light, while dim, gets picked up by the camera’s high ISO providing a subtle hint of light on trees. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24, f/2.8, 15 sec, ISO-6400"
"The horse captured here is Gokey Go Bones (identified as N2BHS-A) and was taken about 2 weeks before her foal came along. This was one of those moments where it is eerily calm before the storm on a hot summer day at Assateague Island National Seashore."
"I am a starry night sky chaser and I travel to the National Parks all across the US to capture the beauty of the Night. Not many people know that Cape cod has one of the darkest night skies on the east coast. This image shows the milky way rising over the highland light house in Cape Cod National Seashore. I named this image as Galactic Lighthouse because it makes me feel that the lighthouse is lighting our Galaxy."
"I went out early that morning during twilight hour to get some sunrise shots, but it was a very overcast day, so that didn’t work out. I decided to see what creatures might be out stirring around. I noticed over in the boat channel down by the lighthouse at St. Marks NWR, there were some birds flying up and down the channel. At first, I didn’t know what species it was until I got much closer, and then I realized it was a couple of Black Skimmers skimming the channel. The Black Skimmers are here occasionally, but rare to see and get photos of them. Soon as I started setting up my tripod and camera, they moved over to the lighthouse pond. So I rushed over there and found a great spot to set up my equipment. The two Black Skimmers started skimming up and down right in front of me. These birds move quite quickly, and I was shooting with a Nikon 500mm f/4 lens with a 1.7x Teleconverter on a D810 camera body. So shooting at 850mm focal length at 1/2500 sec. I started taking shots and this is one of the shots I was able to get."
"Ross lake and Diablo are two of the most beautiful places I have visited and one of my favorite places to make photos. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. On the day I took the photo the lake was like a sheet of blue/green glass, disrupted only by the kayaks quietly slicing the water. The fog clung to the water and drifted through the forest."
"Have you ever wondered what the views look like for the bugs that go hiking? That was the intention behind this photo, getting a bug's eye view of the Columbia River Gorge."
"Ancient Bristle Cone Pine in winter."
"This photograph is very special to me. I had just completed a 5-day perimeter hike of the Grand Tetons and had one more day to spend at the park before having to head back home. The next day was supposed to be stormy, however I got up early anyway (0300 hours) and traveled to this location (Near Schwabacher Road) at the banks of the Snake River. There were heavy clouds approaching from the south and I could see the rain coming, however I was determined to wait for the sunrise. The Sun had just risen above the horizon enough to illuminate the Tetons and suddenly there appeared a huge rainbow. I was so excited. I spun my camera around, which was on a tripod and I already had my wide angle lens attached. After snapping just a couple of photos, the rainbow disappeared and the heavy rain came down. I quickly covered my camera and ran back to my vehicle. My camera settings were as follows: F/22, 1/2 sec, 100 ISO @ 16mm. I shot this image with a Nikon D800 and 16-35mm wide angle zoom lens."
"In the late spring I made a trip to Crater Lake National Park planning my visit to coincide with a new moon. I scouted areas to capture the Milky Way together with other landscape features and made note of where and when the interesting part of the galaxy would rise between Wizard Island and an old White-Barked Pine Tree disfigured by decades of storms and winds. I returned at about 2:30 AM and captured this scene. The old tree seemed to stand like a sentinel over the lake, and over Wizard Island and the Milky Way. The orange glow over the left part of the rim is from the city of Klamath Falls, Oregon located about 45 miles south of the Park. The same type of glow can be faintly seen on the right of the image coming from Grants Pass, Oregon located about 80 miles to the southwest."
"Glacier National Park in Montana has been one of our favorite places to visit and I've always wanted to photograph these beautiful "beargrass" flowers that grow here in the summer. In the last 2 years, my husband and I were just a tad late, so we wanted to get here a bit earlier this time. We've learned that in some beargrass populations, flowering occurs in cycles (5 to 7 years) and can be synchronous throughout the population, while at other sites, flowering is sporadic. As we drove on Going-To-The-Sun Road, we were so happy to see some of these beargrass in the valley. The shooting conditions weren't optimal due to the overcast, so we decided to scout out other locations and return here at sunset. When we came back, the sky was still mostly cloudy and didn't look like it would be a great sunset. We always try to stay optimistic that something amazing will happen, so my husband and I set our cameras with composition ready and patiently waited...To our surprise as time went on, more of the sunlight gradually began peeking through the clouds. Slowly but surely more broke through and began illuminating the mountain top, shining on these beautiful beargrass before us. Missing opportunities before wasn't so bad because our third time leading up to this shot was definitely a charm."
"On an “end of summer” weekend, my family and I decided to camp at the Ocracoke Island Campground (Cape Hatteras National Seashore) where we have camped many times over many years and have created fond memories from our visits there. Upon checking into the campground, I noticed the “Share the Experience” cards on display and remembered entering the contest once before. The next morning, I walked to the beach to photograph sunrise as I often do while visiting. It is such a beautiful and natural beach and also very peaceful to photograph there. On this particular morning, the mist in the air and the warm golden color in the sky made it particularly inviting to photograph the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. After I photographed the sunrise, I noticed a father and son fishing further down the beach and decided to change to a zoom lens to photograph them. I had been using a somewhat slower exposure speed to photograph the ocean and decided to keep the slower speed to perhaps give a more impressionistic look to the photos. I took several images of the two of them, but I was particularly excited when the young man (Ari) braced himself with outstretched arms for the incoming waves and seemed to capture all the joy the experience had to offer. I knew this would be my favorite photograph. I decided to walk down the beach to introduce myself to Ari and his father and tell them about my photographs and ask if they would like to have some of them as keepsakes. As I exchanged contact information, I learned that Ari and his father were enjoying time together on their last summer outing before Ari was to enter third grade the next week. It was a memorable occasion for them, and I was happy to give them some photos to remember the trip."
"Each time we travel as a family, we are able to record some exceptionally memorable moments spent together - reveling in the best that Mother Nature has to offer. What often appears as a drawback to some, winds up being something special and spectacular to us. We embrace the unique opportunities to experience these monumental locations in an unexpected and unusual way. On this day, during our visit to Canyonlands National Park, we were barraged with a sand-storm, stirred up from the depths of these canyon lands by thunder storms and their accompanying winds. While many others around us fled, we braced ourselves, and basked in the heart of it to witness the amazing beauty - which most don't get to experience in quite the same way. Our girls were true sports about it, and held onto their and dresses while we continued our exploration. This series of images (I took many similar to this) - are among my absolute favorite, and I know they will look back on these fondly one day as well. The joy on their faces says it all about how amazing these places can be, and the imprint they are likely to leave on the hearts of each visitor - young, old, and everything in between!"
"My husband and I are bird watchers, a hobby we picked up while overcoming some health issues in our 40s: a stroke for him and brain surgery for me. Since then, we spend almost all of our days off and vacations going far and wide looking for birds and enjoying wildlife. We moved from Colorado to Wyoming to try to slow our lives down, and Thunder Basin was on a short list of places to see soon, so we ventured out. We love Pawnee NG and Comanche NG in CO, and were not disappointed by Thunder Basin. We had fantastic storm clouds follow us going east. There is an outstanding bridge for train spotting. We saw a lot of raptors including bald and golden eagles, and I believe a couple of Peregrine Falcons as well. Canyon Wren and Red Headed Woodpeckers were also to be found along with prairie dog towns, elk, and herds of sheep. Coming back west along the same road, I spotted a quick movement. Thinking it was a coyote, we stopped to see and realized it was a swift fox. Then we realized there were three of them! All of them were skittish at first, but we sat using the car as a blind for a while until they settled down. Eventually two of them went into their den, but this one just sat and looked at us, bold as can be, until we slowly drove off. Since then we've been back another time and saw the same three, and found another den, again along a road by accident, and again with three foxes. Also, the second three exhibited very similar behavior, nervous, settling down, and one would almost approach and seemed quite unafraid. What is interesting is the two groups were in different colored dirt. One den was in an area more red, and the other more sandy, and both, I though, had coats that were slightly different to blend in, despite being only a couple of miles apart in distance."
"The image was taken along the Baker River. My son, Max, and his two friends, Dawson and Joe are in the tent. The exposure was set for 30 seconds and the boys had their Kindle on for about 1 second, enough to illuminate their faces and the inside of the tent."
"The photo was taken on a boat tour in Kenai Fjords National Park. This puffin was not expecting us, and he took off - only it took him a while to get going, so for a minute he was literally running on water!"
"As I lay in my cozy bunk in my tiny home on wheels I really did not want to roust myself at 5:00 AM. Yet the light steaming through my vintage trailer window was too glorious to ignore. Tripod and camera in hand I groggily inched my way to Otter Point in Acadia National Park and was stunned by the sunrise. So much so, I meditated for 10 minutes before I was able to set up my camera. It was pink, and gold, and blue and warm and oozed majesty. I spent over an hour just absorbing and photographing. All alone, yet at one with the entire universe. It was the start to a day that would later have me watching the sunset and buck moon rise from a sailing schooner. The trifecta of planetary experiences!"
"The photo was taken in the spring of 2015 at the Cable Mill by the visitor center in Cades Cove. It is a working grist mill and a popular stop on the tour of the cove. I used a Cannon 5DMarkII and a Cannon 24-105 lens to take the shot."
"As we were traveling east from Lee Vining into Yosemite we stopped along the road at a scenic overlook and noticed the rock climber on the north side of the road. Then the moon caught my attention and could not resist taking this photo. Hoping too that the rock climber can someday view this photo."
"I hike in Rocky Mountain National Park every fall, and this photo was taken during my first hike to Dream Lake. I love how this photo captures the natural beauty of America, specifically Colorado, and how sometimes we just need to pause and gaze at the beauty in front of us! You never know what you will discover when you get outside! This specific photo is special to me as it marks a time I was able to hike to three gorgeous lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park, despite my daily struggle with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic, life-threatening lung disease. I am so grateful to be able to get and experience the outdoors!"
"I was with a group of phenomenal photographers at a photography workshop. Our main goal was to shoot the wild horses and one of our instructors is a volunteer that helps track the horses at the park... There was a filly who was apparently coming into season and the stallions were putting on quite a show for us. The boys had so much character. It was truly one of my best life experiences and the trip just keeps rewarding me. The park is absolutely beautiful and so well managed with friendly and helpful staff."
"After a steep sunrise hike from Bench Camp to the Burgundy Col, we donned crampons and ice axes for the steep decent on to Silverstar Glacier. Once you reach the saddle, you’re offered views of the Eastern Cascades as far as the eye can see."
"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."
"During our visit of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, I persuaded my family to ride the train on the White Pass & Yukon Route because I knew it would promise spectacular views of the breathtaking mountains and cliffsides. Throughout most of the ride, I couldn't help but stay outside on the deck as I was captivated by the beauty around me. As the train slowly rattled towards a bend on the cliffside, I prepared myself for this perfect moment when the train in the foreground and the grandeur of the mountains in the background created this majestic scene. I definitely hope to return to Alaska and enjoy more of these splendid natural wonders, which are fortunately conserved thanks to the National Park Service!"
"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!"
"For those of us who are driven to explore every inch of terrain we can get our hands, or feet, on, the mountain goat is somewhat of a mascot for us. Just imagining these beautiful beasts traversing steep and rugged terrain while battling high winds and blizzards inspires many to embark on their own personal journey across our public lands.
No matter how tough the environment, mountain goats always seem to be in a cheerful mood. The kids are always playing, and the billies and nannies always seem to have a smile on their faces. It probably has something to do with breathing all that fresh mountain air and being surrounded by towering peaks all day. Whenever the trail gets steep and the pack starts to feel a bit heavier, the thought of the mountain goat's positive outlook can make things a little easier.
Every summer after runoff slows and the wildflowers are in bloom, I try to make a pilgrimage into the high country to photograph these goats in their world. Sometimes this involves a multi-day backpacking trip into the High Uintas. Sometimes, it's a strenuous day hike into the Wasatch Range. On this particular day, it was merely a drive to the top of Mount Evans at a little over 14,000 feet, just west of Denver, CO. Immediately after, I took off on a five day backpacking trip. Those felt like the easiest 50 miles I've ever hiked in my life."
"He hangs in a hammock strung across a large majestic juniper as friends enjoy eachother's company around a campfire in the distance. This photo was taken near sycamore point in the Kaibab National Forest, near Williams, Arizona."
"My friends and I were staying at the Paria Outpost, and our wonderful guides suggested exploring the nearby slot canyons of Grand Escalante. We spent the afternoon hiking, but were chased out of the canyons by what turned out to be the most impressive lightning display I have ever seen. This shot was taken on our retreat out of the canyon."
"For his first canyoneering trip, my friend Phil joined a small group of us descending Mystery Canyon in the summer. Rappelling down wet rock faces can be tricky because of slippery algae growing in the stream. To avoid slipping, some people use their knees instead of their feet on the descent, but the day was hot and Phil went all in and gleefully slipped his was down the waterfall and into The Narrows!"
"It was the early stages of the Big Horn Sheep Rut and these two rams were simply sizing each other up. The ram on the left walked up to the ram on the right and they touched foreheads. Simultaneously, they turned their heads in opposite directions and became locked. They then both immediately reversed their positions, became unlocked and backed away from each other. It all happened in less than ten seconds and I was very fortunate to capture this moment."
A seasoned backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Yang Lu’s determination and research has helped earn him the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest. Yang’s winning image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, was the result of this engineer’s time and effort reviewing water level data, as well as studying maps of the area in order to make the two-day backpacking excursion last February. "My wife and I took three gallons of water. We did not see anybody for two days. There is no trail; we depended on my research. I wanted to go in the winter when the temperature and water levels were low. The curves and those formations, I have never seen anywhere.” Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds a deep connection to the lands through the lens of his camera. “My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas,” said Yang about the national parks. With his wife, he plans to visit all of the national parks in his lifetime and we hope his cash prize and America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass will help him get there. Happy trails, Yang!
Koustubh Kulkarni’s passion for exploring outdoor landscapes, along with his wife’s keen eye, have landed him 2nd place honors in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest. Last October, when snowy conditions prevailed in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the couple changed their travel plans and headed south to Joshua Tree National Park. Hopeful to see the park’s native bighorn sheep, the couple had struck out, until their final day in the park. “We had been camping in Joshua Tree and had wanted to hike the 49 Palms Trail. We were on the trail at sunset, not sure if we could even complete it. As we were walking, my wife saw some movement in the distance.” With only his basic camera and no zoom lens, the couple pressed on to capture a few snapshots of the herd. “We were looking at them and they were looking at us — it was the perfect moment. We were just so elated to see the sheep. And, all the credit to my wife, who actually spotted them.” With a bucket list that includes every national park, Koustubh has many more opportunities for nature photography and using his newly acquired America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass. “When we think of traveling, our federal recreation lands are at the top of our list. They are so welcoming — they are a treat to visit. You feel so much at peace in nature.” We think so too. Congratulations, Koustubh!
Sarah Gustafson grew up exploring the East Coast with a fervor that led to a desire to see what else the U.S. had to offer. After her first trip out west she was hooked. Recalling the first time she saw the Grand Tetons Sarah says, "I was in the car with a friend and I started screaming. I was like a little kid and I was 21!" Sarah moved to California in 2014 and has made it her life’s mission to explore as many public lands as her time will allow, logging miles and miles on solo camping trips, her trusty camera always on hand. The photo that won her 3rd place in the Share the Experience photo contest was taken on one of these solo camping trips over Memorial Day weekend in 2015. Originally planning to visit Joshua Tree National Park, Sarah changed her plans due to heavy snow, opting instead to visit a landscape she had not yet explored, Death Valley National Park. Upon seeing the salt flats, Sarah remembers, “I did some research before I left but in my mind the hexagonal salt formations weren’t more than a foot across…I had it totally wrong.” Hiking into the flats she was amazed by the unique formations and set up her tripod hoping the sun would peak through storm clouds that had followed her all day. For 30 seconds there was a break and the sun shined through, providing just enough time to set the timer and jump into the scene giving her the composition she needed to express the scope and breadth of the magnificent landscape.
Sarah’s passion for photography has allowed her to develop an even greater connection to the places she visits. “Getting out and taking photos has always been really important to me to remember these moments. Getting out there I can finally breathe again. In my mind, adventure photography is about capturing the essence of the moment.” Congratulations Sarah! We hope you continue to share those moments with us and inspiring others to find their own adventures.
I have gotten into amateur wildlife photography as a hobby in the last two years and am self-taught. This is my 2nd fall trip to Yellowstone National Park with the hopes of seeing interesting wildlife throughout the park. I am from North Dakota and have been familiar with Bison my entire life, so they are not overly interesting. I did, however, want to get a photo of a large Bull Bison with an interesting background. I happened on this one high up on a mountain pass and had the background I was looking for that showed the beauty of the environment we were in. Not only did I get the background I was looking for, but I also captured the largest Bison I have ever seen in my life. I had been lucky and had seen and photographed Wolves and Grizzly Bears every day I was in the park, but his one stood out as the best of the thousands of photos I took that week. I will be back every year going forward, hoping to see something I've never seen before.
My brother and I attempted a Whitney summit over Memorial Day weekend, but due to heavy snow were unable to. On the way out, we stopped by Lone Pine Lake to enjoy some scenery. I turned around to take in one last view before we were engulfed by the trees, and the clouds had made it look like the mountain was floating. I grabbed my camera before it went away and captured this amazing shot.
There are so many reasons that traveling to Lake Powell (Glen Canyon NRA) is unparalleled. One of my favorites is that the lake’s water level fluctuates quite a bit. In a wet year, the entrance to this open-roofed cave would be completely submerged and when the water is lower, a houseboat can drive right in. This level was perfect for kayaking, and my friend Barb was kind enough to pose and show what a good time we were having."
Cedar Mesa is literally an outdoor museum, with an estimated 10,000 Native American ruins in the area. So much mystery surrounds the ruins of the Ancients, and each site is unique. Refracted sunlight transforms this alcove into a stunning jewel that is truly electric. The ceiling has spalled, and the exposed watermark is just another grace note that captures the eye of the camera.
My husband and I took our children to Virgin Island National Park to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. This is a very special place for us – it’s where we met many years ago. The family had an amazing time exploring St. John – swimming at our favorite beaches, hiking to archaeological sites, and reconnecting with old friends. It’s always great to be back on "Island Time." This picture was taken at Maho Bay of my son, Brody, and his new friend, Jacori. They had the best time swimming and snorkeling together, and were inseparable all day. They made grand plans for our next trip to St. John and have remained friends. We hope to see Jacori and his family again soon. We can’t wait to get back to this special park. It truly is paradise.
The layers in the formations at Badlands National Park display roughly 75 million years of history. Looking up at the great unknown of the Milky Way Galaxy, you wonder what the future may hold. The choices we make today will decide the fate of not only our National Parks but the quality of life for future generations.
The photo title is "King of Wings", and it was taken in northwestern New Mexico in the Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area, managed by the BLM. "Ah-shi-sle-pah" is one of several "badlands" in the San Juan Basin area of New Mexico, and has many bizarre multi-colored hoodoos, rock outcrops, shale hills, dinosaur fossils, and petrified wood, both in small pieces and intact logs and stumps. Getting there takes a 10 mile or so drive on rough dirt roads, and then about a 3 mile cross-country hike to the area of the King of Wings. The day that a hiking buddy and I backpacked there, nightfall was coming soon and the sky was overcast. By the time we got to the King of Wings, it was dark and quite windy. A poor night's sleep followed, and then I got up well before sunrise and hoped for the best. It turned out to be a beautiful sunrise with lots of colors and some clouds in the sky, making for a perfect photo opportunity. I shot dozens of photos of the King and surroundings. The main cantilever rock of the King is about 6 feet above the ground and overhangs by at least 12 feet! The cow skeleton was already there, probably moved by somebody in the past, as I saw other (presumably) cow bones nearby.
Little over an inch long, this exceptional insect with its stunning color pattern and complex life cycle reminds me of the fragility of life. Until an in-depth ecological education becomes a priority of every child's life; until respect for the Earth becomes an integral part of all people’s lives, such tiny creatures will continue to vanish without notice.