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Honorable Mention: 5 Northwest Exposure Favorites from WTA’s Photo Judges

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Oct 03, 2022 12:00 PM |
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We asked our photo contest judges to pick honorable mentions from last year’s contest — and explain what they love about the images.

Judging WTA’s photo contest is a privilege and a challenge. We see hundreds of images that would look great hanging on the wall. The best photos are well-composed and technically strong. But, just as importantly, they evoke an emotional response. Great photos invite the viewer to linger and imagine and spend more time with the image. 

We asked our photo judges to pick honorable mentions from last year’s contest — and explain what they love about the images.

An inversion of clouds sits below a meadow covered hill with a dirt trail running down it.

Paradise Above the Clouds  |  By Ethan Lington

This photograph of Mount Adams and the Tatoosh Range from the Paradise meadows captures a peaceful scene with interesting elements and textures and pleasing light and colors. It makes me want to be present in the scene and brings peace and calm to my day. It passes the basic technical challenges. It is tack sharp from the foreground to the distant peaks. It doesn’t contain distracting elements. The “golden hour” morning light illuminating the middle of the photograph is lovely, and the indirect light on the foreground decreases contrast and helps bring out the detail in that part of the photo.

Compositionally, the photo follows the “rule of thirds,” with the sky, clouds and meadow each taking up roughly one-third of the photo. Most importantly, the presence of the trail not only adds interest but invites and leads the viewer into the scene. Trails are the way we access places like this. Placing the trail slightly to the right of the center improves the composition, and the gentle curve to the right as the trail disappears down the slope adds some mystery. I want to follow that trail!

— Doug Diekema, photo judge

A close up of spring wildflowers with a butte in the background.

Old Butte  |  By Suzanne Hartman  

I love that this image combines a close-up view of lupine and balsamroot with the wide-open feeling of hiking on the east side of the Cascades. The combination of strong colors in the foreground, paired with the more subtly colored hillsides and the streaky clouds in the sky, give the photo interest. I like the rock formation in the background, which makes me want to pull out a pair of binoculars and take a closer look. I appreciate any photo that makes me want to get out and explore.

— Jessi Loerch, photo judge

A close up of a child's smiling face on trail.

Tipsoo Lake  |  By Trang Phan

I love the light in the photo and the playful mood. I also love how it tells a story. The kid is enjoying his time hiking and the borrowed sunglasses imply he is having fun with his adults.

— Archana Bhat, photo judge 

A view along a walkway at sunset with high, arching chain link fences on either side and a hiker at the end.

Picnic Park  |  By Kristine Johnson

I like this photo for a few reasons but initially, it caught my eye because it's from a park not far from me here in Seattle and my mind instantly recognized the exact place it was taken. I think there's something to be said about images that are captured from familiar destinations, particularly those close to home. That “Hey!” moment of recognition draws me in to admire the image further.

In addition to that, I love how perfectly exposed the silhouette and sun are, creating that gorgeous mood that you can practically feel yourself just by looking at it. From a technical standpoint, the use of the fence to draw the eye to the subject of the photo is done really well, and I think seeing the mix of urban and natural gives us the idea that these beautiful sights and trails can be found anywhere, even next door.

— Erika Haugen-Goodman, photo judge

A close up of a fuzzy caterpillar

Caterpillar  |  By Rahul Kashikar

This portrait of a yellow caterpillar is a fine honorable mention from the Northwest Exposure 2021 photo contest. I’m immediately drawn in by the sharp focus and very narrow depth of field, characteristic of macro photography. We can see the head of this caterpillar closer — much closer — than we usually do with the unaided eye, while the rest of the photo is pleasantly out of focus. The excellent side lighting and superb exposure make the colors pop. The composition follows the rule of thirds, giving it a nice balance. It all adds up to a striking and beautiful photograph.

— Buff Black, photo judge

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.