Inspiration and Advice from WTA's 2014 Photo Contest Winners
16 hiking photographers share what inspires them and how they captured their winning shots for WTA's 2014 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest winners with you.
Last fall, photographers submitted more than 2,600 incredible images from Washington trails to our annual Northwest Exposure Photo Contest. We were blown away by the quantity—and quality—of photos we received, and narrowing down the field to 16 winners was tough.
We loved the variety of trail experiences those photos represented, from fog-enshrouded beach hikes to star-speckled overnights to delightful meanders with kids. Through the lenses of their cameras, hiking photographers captured everything we love about hiking in Washington.
We look forward to sharing many of the 2,600 images with you this year, but for now, we're excited to share the 16 2014 Northwest Exposure Photo Contest winners with you.
We asked the photographers what inspired them and how they captured their winning shots. Here’s what they said:
Grand Prize: Rhys Logan (Bellingham)
“This photo was taken on a mini excursion with a few friends; we decided to set our alarms for midnight to get up and go for some astro photos. I could see the photo in my head and took a few frames to get it composed and exposed just right, ran and climbed the rock face real quick and had my good friend Jonathan trip the shutter.”
On photography: “Photographs shouldn't only represent what a scene looked like; they should really allow you or the audience to see what a scene felt like. If I create images that really take me back to those moments when I look at them I enjoy them that much more, and hopefully someone viewing a photograph I've taken can interpret those feelings for themselves.”
1st Place, Hikers in Action: Isaac Gautschi (Sequim)
“This photo was taken on the Mount Storm King Trail. I was on a hike with one of my good friends (who is featured in the picture), and after we reached the top I asked her to go stand looking out on Lake Crescent. It was way too magnificent not to take advantage of the shot. I didn’t really use any particular technique that I know of for this photo.”
On photography: “The best pictures I have ever taken have been spontaneous and not planned at all. Always have your camera with you if you want to take amazing shots.”
2nd Place, Hikers in Action: Jeremy Garrett (Seattle)
“I just came up to the peak and the two hikers and the backdrop immediately stood out—I had a strong sense it would be a good photo.”
On photography: “I think there are two types of outdoor photographers, those who plan and wait and can create surreal beautiful scenes and those who just try and stay present in the moment and what it offers that can surprise in a more varied but less perfect way. My advice is to just know what type of photographer you are and find the equipment that best suits that.”
3rd Place, Hikers in Action: Troy Mason (Spanaway)
“This photo was taken on the very top of Unicorn Peak in Mount Rainier National Park, accessed via the Bench Lake Trail. It was a cloudy day, so I was excited when the clouds parted and I was able to get a portrait of the climb leader (Monica Fisk) with a view of the surrounding peaks in the background.”
On photography: “Make your own luck. Go places where other people don't often get to, and be willing to suffer through rain, cold, early mornings and late nights. And get out as often as possible. The more you get into the outdoors, the more opportunities you'll have in which to capture beautiful scenery.”
1st Place, Trailscapes: Gavin Hardcastle (Nanaimo)
“This place can be found at Shi Shi Beach at the end of the forest trail, as soon as you reach the sand. I used a 30" exposure to capture the eerie atmosphere of this amazing place.”
On photography: “Shoot as often as you can regardless of weather conditions. Practice your craft and don't be afraid to get things wrong.”
2nd Place, Trailscapes: Isaac Gautschi (Sequim)
“This was taken at the top of Deer Park Road, on a spontaneous night adventure that I took with a girl that I had a big crush on. We had never seen the Milky Way look as big as it did that night, so I took the opportunity to shoot a time-lapse. As I was shooting, we both heard a sound coming towards us. Startled, I shined my flashlight, which is what you see here in this image. Before the trip was over I asked the girl to date me—and she said yes.”
On photography: “I absolutely love using the outdoors as my studio and love every adventure my camera takes me on.”
3rd Place, Trailscapes: Jill Ji (Renton)
“This was my very first trip to Olympic National Park. It was late in the day when we reached Second Beach. When we first saw the beach, the sun was actually hidden behind a layer of clouds and a light fog shrouded the sea stacks. As luck would have it, the setting sun eventually broke through the clouds. When that happened I was a few hundred feet away from the photo location. I followed the light and ran with all of my gear in hand. When I took the photo, I was actually standing in ankle-deep water, but the result was worth it. I used a 10-stop ND filter to make the water flow like silk.”
On photography: “When I normally walk on trails I see everything from eye level, but with a camera I look up and crouch down a lot more, which opens me up to a whole new kind of hiking.”
1st Place, Camp Life: Jim Clagett (Puyallup)
“This photo was taken in the backcountry near the Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier National Park. We woke up in the middle of the night and looked out to see amazing stars overhead. I used a tiny tripod and an old-fashioned, plunger-style cable release to hold my camera still enough for the long exposure required to capture the Milky Way. The trail of headlamps from climbers leaving Camp Schurman was a great bonus.”
On photography: “Don't get hung up on the gear. Learn the basic skills so that you can capture and convey the image you see in your head. Then get out there and have an adventure!”
2nd Place, Camp Life: Iron Scaggs (Shelton)
“This photo was shot on Rialto Beach, one of my absolute favorite spots on the coast. The trip was in the middle of winter and we were the only ones camped on the beach that night. Camping in front of those sea stacks under a billion stars is a magical experience. I really wanted to capture that.”
On photography: “Don't sleep in past sunrise and never forget that it’s all about having a good time. “
3rd Place, Camp Life: Mike Warren (Seattle)
“This image was taken at the base of Mt. St Helens, on the Worm Flows route”
On photography: “Always have your camera ready!”
1st Place, Flora and Fauna: Mukul Soman (Kirkland)
“I spotted this Cascade Fox while he was hunting for possums. I managed to get a full series of photographs showcasing his hunting skills, where he actually tracks down and devours a possum. This photograph is one of the images from that series that I thought might be a great submission. I photographed him at a shallow aperture, high ISO and high shutter speed since the light was fading fast and he didn't seem to be too interested in staying still.”
On photography: “Get out there and enjoy the marvel that the Pacific Northwest is. Slow down and don't worry too much about the photographs that you are going to make. Great moments will naturally unfold if you are out there doing what you love doing.”
2nd Place, Flora and Fauna: Svitlana Imnadze (Lacey)
“I took a trip to Ocean Shores with my new camera and telephoto lens. Snowy owls were sitting mostly in open areas, sleeping and flying from time to time. There was something mysterious about those big birds. And I wanted to make a picture that looked a little bit mysterious, too. The sky was just perfect for the photo. To the east it was completely dark, to the west it was clearing up. The log with a hole was like a way from dark to light. I took two shots—one for the bird and the other for the landscape—and blended them in Photoshop.”
On photography: “Golden hours with soft light are the best for photographing landscapes.”
3rd Place, Flora and Fauna: John Walser (Seattle)
“When hiking I like to keep my eyes open for whatever grabs my attention, instead of being locked into specific scenes or predetermined photos. There were two small butterflies around a small patch of wildflowers that caught my eye. I got as close as my 28-300 lens would allow (and also not disturb the butterfly) and took 5 or 6 shots before it flew away. Final composition required some serious cropping since I did not have a macro lens, but the D800 starts with a large file that allows a final image with plenty of detail. I love that I get to see more detail in the photo than I saw with my own eyes at the time of the shot, such as the texture of the wings and the actual appendage the butterfly has extended into the flower to gather nectar.”
On photography: “Taking pictures of the outdoors motivates me to get out on hikes more often. I then get to relive the hike through my photos as I post-process them and share with family and friends.”
1st Place, Offbeat Outdoors: Dean Zulich (Los Angeles)
“This image was taken at the Index-Galena Road, off Highway 2. The floods from 2006 caused a washout, and the road has not been repaired since. It was this surreal combination of mother nature taking over man-made elements that immediately drew my attention. I used a tripod to achieve a longer exposure and get the waterfall effect.”
On photography: “Don’t get discouraged if it's raining at the trailhead. More than once I have reached a destination and the clouds have cleared, making for some spectacular imagery.”
2nd Place, Offbeat Outdoors: Jacob Rawson (Tacoma)
“I love taking unique photos and this one really explores what you can accomplish by thinking outside the box. Capturing Mount Rainier, the sunset, myself, and the lookout was an accomplishment but it's the little details in this photo that I really like. I took a picture with my phone looking forward. That picture is in the top left corner of the phone. Then I reversed the camera so there would be a live feed of me and the mountain while I was taking a picture looking forward with my DSLR.”
On photography: “I’ve learned that there is always more beauty than I first realize and having a clear image of that moment to look back on will live with me forever.”
3rd Place, Offbeat Outdoors: Tatyana Savchuk (Marysville)
“I always had a dream to see a sunrise at Mount Rainier National Park. On one of the beautiful October days, I began my hike to Sunrise Peak Point to see the majesty of Mount Rainier lit by the rising sun. I was so captivated, I wanted to touch the sun. I handed my camera to my partner. No special technique was needed since nature provided all its colors.”
On photography: “Taking photos has taught me a freedom and responsibility to protect, serve and embellish nature.”
Thanks to the generosity of our 2014 photo contest sponsors, Outdoor Research, Mountainsmith, olloclip and Mountaineers Books, the winners featured above received some very cool prizes. Curious about what they won? Check out our prize page and get excited to submit your own photos next year.
Want to submit to the 2015 contest?
Take these tips out on Washington's trails this year and submit your best to the 2015 Northwest Exposure contest starting Aug. 17.
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