Spotlights

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!

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2016 Weekly Winners

Rajeet Kahikar | Yosemite National Park


“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.”


Adam Jewell | Point Reyes National Seashore


"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."


Bachir Badaoui | Los Padres National Forest


"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."


Shawn Stackhouse | Mesa Verde National Park


"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."


John Merrell | Alabama Hills


"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!"


Jennifer Andersen | Mount Rogers National Recreation Area


"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. "


Brandon Yoshizawa | Joshua Tree National Park


"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"


Ferrell Santacroce | Assateague Island National Seashore


"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."


Manish Mamtani | Cape Cod 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."


Richard Higgins | St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge


"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."


Paul Kukuk | Ross Lake National Recreation Area


"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."



2015 Winners

Grand Prize Winner | Yang Lu, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah


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!


Second Prize Winner | Koustubh Kulkarni, Joshua Tree National Park, California


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!


Third Prize Winner | Sarah Gustafson, Death Valley National Park, California


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.


Fan Favorite | Matthew Sorum, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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.


Fan Favorite | Heather Martin, Mt. Whitney, Inyo National Forest, California

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.


Adventure & Outdoor Recreation | Rebecca Wilks, Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

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."


Historica & Cultural | David Regala, Cedar Mesa, Utah

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.


Every Kid in a Park | Kimberly Hall, Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands

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.


Night Skies | Erik Fremstad, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

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.


Scenic, Seasons & Landscapes | Steve Ancik, Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area, New Mexico

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.


Wildlife | Brent Wauer, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

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.