Grand Prize: Michael Margoshes

Northwest Exposures: The best hiking photos of 2021

Here are five top winners from the Washington Trail Association’s annual photo contest.

  • By Wire Service
  • Sunday, January 30, 2022 1:30am
  • Life

By Erika Haugen-Goodman / Washington Trails Association

WTA’s Northwest Exposure Photo Contest is a special thing. Year after year it shows just how incredible Washington’s hiking community is across the state. Thousands of photos are entered depicting mountain peaks, rivers, insects, urban trails and everything in between. Each unique hiking experience and photo offers a different way to look at trails. Some choose to focus on the big picture, others small, and no two photos are quite the same. 2021 was certainly no different, with stunning entries that made picking the winners a tough task.

Let’s take a look at the winners from this past year.

Grand Prize: Michael Margoshes

Grand Prize: Michael Margoshes

This year’s grand prize was all about the timing. Michael was able to capture a unique moment that caught our attention with his Instagram entry depicting Comet NEOWISE landing into a cup of hot cocoa. Talk about a fortuitous turn of events!

“Ever since I was a teenager I’ve always loved shooting long exposure photography,” he said. “I really enjoy the challenges of fine-tuning my settings and focusing in dark and especially the thrills that accompany night shooting! Running around under the night sky is just so exciting to me.”

First Place, Trailscapes: Rachel Bartle

First Place, Trailscapes: Rachel Bartle

First prize in Trailscapes went to an interesting take on a Washington staple. Rachel’s photo, shot on an iPhone in October, took a unique angle in capturing a popular destination for hiking year-round. The fresh coat of snow and evening light helped elevate her photo to first prize along with the interesting choice of framing.

“Trails are important to me because they take me to places I wouldn’t be able to easily access without them,” she said. “I’m blessed to live in Washington, with so many trails to access and views to see. I’ll never get tired of hiking here.”

First Place, Flora and Fauna: Chett Carpenter

First Place, Flora and Fauna: Chett Carpenter

Bears are a fun sight to see on hikes (so long as distance is respected), but Chett’s winning photo captured something unique on his hike through the Enchanted Valley on the Olympic Peninsula. The timing couldn’t have been better, and the bear cub was nicely framed by the surroundings, taking this fun shot to first place in the category. Talk about posing for the camera!

“My friends and I saw this bear cub playing in a huge bigleaf maple tree near the trail while its mother grazed nearby,” he said. “It kept climbing up the tree and then dangling as long as possible from one of the lower branches before reluctantly falling to the ground. It repeated this over and over again. We were delighted to see this behavior, which none of us had seen before. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to unpack my camera and capture this image with my telephoto zoom lens.”

First Place, Hikers In Action: Nikki Womac

First Place, Hikers In Action: Nikki Womac

Hikers in Action is always one of the more competitive categories, but this year had a clear winner with Nikki’s photo. The judges loved the energy of the moment, the framing, and, of course, the action. It’s hard to beat a photo with this much going for it, and Nikki definitely deserved the first place prize!

“Honestly, I am really new to hiking and enjoying trails,” she said, “I didn’t grow up hiking and I am not from the Northwest originally. My kids inspired me to begin looking at trails and to start exploring this beautiful state. I have seen how much my husband loves the outdoors and the mountains, it brings him incredible peace and happiness I wanted to find out how I could enjoy it as well. I think it is important to find ways to make nature and the outdoors more accessible to all.”

First Place, Instagram: Elanie Igama

First Place, Instagram: Elanie Igama

Mountains swirling in mysterious clouds, sunlight playing on their rocky faces … it certainly feels like a classic Pacific Northwest scene, and Elanie captured the lighting perfectly at Vesper Peak in Snohomish County to take home first place for the Instagram category. The judges liked the perfectly exposed scene and mix of cloud and sun to create this unique view of the area.

“Trails are important to me because whenever I’m out there I feel so alive,” she said. “I’m so grateful to live in a state where we have all these beautiful, serene places and the trails that lead us there.”

Washington Trails Association’s photo contest

Northwest Exposure is WTA’s annual photo contest that celebrates outdoor photography and the community of hikers that explore Washington’s trails. The winners are featured in WTA’s annual calendar. The 2022 contest will open in August. Get more information and see all of the winners from 2021 at

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