Six magnificent views from Washington’s backcountry trails

Here are the winning photos from the Washington Trails Association’s 2019 Northwest Exposure contest.

  • Sunday, January 26, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

By Erika Haugen-Goodman / Washington Trails Association

In what was a stunning year for outdoor photography, the Washington Trails Association’s Northwest Exposure Photo Contest saw more than 6,000 entries in 2019 in five categories, from which 16 winners were named.

We post the photos entered in the contest throughout the year on the WTA’s website, while providing the best possible resources for the hiking community. From smiling hikers’ faces to beautiful forests, dunes and mountains, you help show us how wonderful Washington’s backcountry trails can be.

And now — cue the drum roll — here are the top photographs from the 2019 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest.

Grand prize: Louise Kornreich

Kornreich captured this image of wildflowers during a birthday vacation in the North Cascades. She took an evening hike with her tripod at Sun Mountain and captured the purple and yellow blooms across the mountainside.

“Hiking up a mountain is like turning back time,” she said. “You can experience different climates and landscapes when you gain elevation.”

First place, Trailscapes: Terra Compton

When Compton visited Staircase Rapids in January, she was immediately captivated by the bridge pictured in her winning photo. During the hike, she largely had the trail to herself. She enjoyed a slower pace, taking in the trees and scenery.

“When I thought of a ‘trailscape,’ I almost immediately went back to this picture because it really reminds me of the many different forms that trails can take, and the influence that we have on them as people,” she said.

First place, Flora and Fauna: Michael Despines

Despines returned many times to a nest in Redmond’s Marymoor Park to document the lives of baby birds. With a telephoto lens and a bit of patience, he was able to capture an award-winning scene.

He said local parks close to home are perfect places to see wildlife and get outdoors.

“Although only a 10-minute hike, this short journey transported me into another, rarely seen world,” he said. “I quickly forgot where I was and the hours passed without notice.”

First place, Trail Family: Charles Wang

In an effort to escape the rain in Seattle, Charles and Tanya Wang headed east to Ancient Lakes. The contrasting hues of the flowers and the impressive landscape created a perfect scene to grab a winning image in the Trail Family category.

Charles wanted to create the illusion of Tanya being surrounded by flowers. They found a spot that allowed them to do that without leaving the trail or disturbing any vegetation.

“The trails around this region are not only gorgeous, but also uplifting, connecting and challenging; reminds me to always be grateful for all things natural,” he said. “The trails teach me about the history of the Pacific Northwest and how the outdoors is such an impactful part of this region’s identity and community. We must protect and preserve the environment for the growing wildlife and for future generations to explore.”

First place, Hikers in Action: Nicole Sanabria

Sanabria and her husband, Adam, always make time to fish on their backpacking trips. In fact, it’s how they narrow down potential destinations. If it’s got fish, it’s on the radar.

Despite not catching anything this time around, they enjoyed the beautiful views surrounding Snoqualmie Lake, which was just a short hike from their campsite at the nearby Bear Lake.

“Trails are important to me because hiking is meditative,” she said. “Being able to reconnect with nature and capturing its beauty recharges me.”

First place, Instagram: Gary Anderson

While wandering one of the many trails that run along Snoqualmie Ridge, Anderson spotted an adult northern saw-whet owl that had made a home in a tree.

He returned a number of times hoping to capture the owl in its natural environment with more dramatic evening light, but either the weather wouldn’t cooperate, or the owls weren’t making an appearance.

Then one evening everything aligned: Gary captured this shot of the owl poking its head out of the tree.

“Over the years I have seen deer, elk, bobcats, bear and an assortment of smaller critters and birds while walking along these trails — but never an owl,” he said. “Until this spring, I had always come up empty. Seeing movement in one of the holes the first time and realizing it was a small owl is something I will never forget.”

Washington Trails Association promotes hiking as a way to inspire a people to protect Washington’s natural places. Learn more at

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