If you ask hikers what made them want to hike a specific trail, many will name a photo as their inspiration. Beautiful landscapes, whether captured on a cellphone camera or a DSLR, are what motivate many hikers to lace up their boots and explore new trails.
Every year, we ask you to share your photos with us in our Northwest Exposure Photo Contest. We enjoyed looking at the more than 5,000 photos — from mountain peaks to urban trails and everything in between — entered in the contest this year. (And with that many photos, we had a tough time narrowing it down to 16 winners.)
Northwest Exposure features five categories with prizes awarded for the top three photos in each category. A grand prize was awarded for the best overall photo. The 2017 categories were: Trailscapes, Hikers in Action, Flora and Fauna, Camp Life and Trail Family.
Here are some of the winning images from the 2017 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest:
Grand Prize: Matt Meisenheimer
Taken at Panther Creek Falls, Meisenheimer captured this grand prize-winning shot after a couple hours of waiting for good lighting conditions. We’d say the wait was worth it. Meisenheimer photographed this moment using his tripod and shooting with a 14mm lens at f/16, ISO 100. He used a polarizer to reduce highlights in the sky, while retaining the detail of the falls and shadows.
“Trails are a path to a different world for me. Somewhere beautiful and peaceful, with no distractions. They are my escape to nature and solitude.” —Matt Meisenheimer
1st Place, Trailscapes: Kripa Chettiar
Rialto Beach is one of Washington’s classic coastal hikes that usually (unless it’s fogged in) provides incredible views of the ocean and the rocky sea stacks that dot the shore. That was certainly the case for Chettiar, who captured this vibrant sunset to secure the first place prize in the Trailscapes category.
“Trails take you one step to closer to being one with the nature. Trails are wormholes connecting a parking lot to a landscape of endless possibility.” — Kripa Chettiar
1st Place, Flora and Fauna: Daniel Patterson
There’s a bit of a legend around the tree at Kalaloch, with many hikers and beach-goers wondering when it will finally fall from its perch. But so far it’s managed to cling on, with roots extended wide to grapple on to whatever soil it can. Patterson came across this scene in the morning, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph the tree with brilliant backlighting coming through the fog.
“Trails provide so many different things — adventure, solitude, perspective, serenity, a connection to nature, bonding experiences with friends and family and guidance to safely explore the most beautiful places in our state.” —Daniel Patterson
1st Place, Trail Family: Lauren Dawkins
“Little brothers make some of the best hiking pals,” Dawkins wrote on her winning photo entry. In this shot, she and her brother, Kyle, had been hiking at Moulton Falls along the Lewis River. The two stopped near their destination, and Kyle took out his compass and map to get their bearings and practice orienteering skills. While map apps are convenient, learning good old fashioned map and compass skills never hurts.
“I love the unknown, adventure and making memories with the people who are important to me. For myself and many others, trails represent all of these things.” —Lauren Dawkins
1st Place, Camp Life: Andrea Laughery
Camping in the Hoh Rain Forest can provide some unique challenges (like staying dry), but Laughery’s husband, Justin, and her daughter, Ellinor, were more than up for it. This photo was taken as they prepared a warm breakfast before heading out for a short hike in Olympic National Park.
“I was raised outdoors, spending my childhood in the backcountry, following my dad’s long legs into the mountains. I stood on my first real summit when I was 7 years old. The trails are the lifeblood of all my memories. To be amongst the wisdom of the trees, to smell the air laced with lupine and river water, to scramble dusty rock ledges and reach high peaks feels akin to my life’s journey. Hiking empowers me. It gives me courage. It makes me brave. It challenges me. It reminds me that physical pain is nothing compared to the emotions of our heart. The trails constantly remind me what gratitude means and how fortunate I am to be alive and have a strong body that moves.” —Andrea Laughery
1st Place, Hikers in Action: Sofia Jaramillo
Mount Adams is a great place to get started with mountaineering, or at least get a feel of what it’s like to climb a volcano. Lunch Counter, a popular camping spot on the mountainside before reaching the summit, was the stopping point for Jaramillo when she captured this shot of a man as he ran along the rocks. When this photo was taken, Washington was under assault from wildfires, giving the backdrop both a beautiful color gradient, and a solemn reminder of what fires are capable of.
“Trails are my church. They are a sacred space to reset emotions, ponder life, celebrate with others and be grateful.” —Sofia Jaramillo
Washington Trails Association is the nation’s largest state-based hiking advocacy nonprofit. WTA promotes hiking as a way to inspire a people to protect Washington’s natural places through collaboration, education, advocacy and volunteer trail maintenance. Get inspired to go hiking and learn how you can help protect trails at www.wta.org.