Need some additional inspiration to plan a trip to a national park this spring or summer (not to mention, brush up on your photography skills)? Check out the recently announced winners from the Share the Experience 2015 photo contest, hosted by the National Park Foundation, ACTIVE Network, and Celestron. More than 15,000 entries were submitted, documenting stunning landscapes, up-close insects, and regal wildlife from national parks and public lands across the country. If these images don’t give you the itch to head out and explore the outdoors, we’re not sure what will.
And, if looking at them sparks your inner Ansel Adams, start snapping some shots of your own to enter into the 2016 Share the Experience, which is now open. For more inspiration, check out a few of our favorites from the 2015 winners.
1. Yang Lu ; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
To capture this image (as well as the $10,000 grand prize), Yang Lu and his wife set out on a two-day backpacking trip in Utah's Glen Canyon National Recreation Area , during which they didn’t see any other people. He had done extensive research on water levels and scouting the perfect location, and his shot shows it. “There is no trail; we depended on my research,” he says. “I wanted to go in the winter when the temperature and water levels were low. The curves and those formations, I have never seen anywhere.”
2. Koustubh Kulkarni ; Joshua Tree National Park
Kulkarni was hiking on Joshua Tree National Park ’s 49 Palms Trail with his wife, who first spotted the regal wildlife. Add in the brilliant hues from the sunset, and you have his award-winning shot. “Their perch could not have been better as it had a backdrop of the setting sun with the sky shaded in beautiful hues of orange, yellow, pink, and blue,” Kulkarni says. “The magnificent backdrop was just perfect, and in this picture it almost looks like the sheep stopped to pose for us.”
3. Sarah Gustafson; Death Valley National Park
Gustafson’s perfectly composed shot, which took third place, blows away the silly smile-and-click selfies that are a dime a dozen these days. Gustafson, who was visiting the park for the first time, wanted to capture the grandeur of the salt flats. “While I'd seen many photos of the salt flats before, I really never understood how big the formations were,” she says. “I was shooting with a tripod, and when the sun started to set behind the western mountains, I quickly jumped into the frame to provide some scale.”
4. Steve Ancik; Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area
Ancik got up really early to snag his haunting image, which won the Scenic, Seasons, and Landscapes category, in this remote wilderness in the San Juan Basin area of New Mexico. He drove 10 miles on rugged dirt roads and hiked another three miles, all in the pre-dawn hours, to catch the sunrise at a rock formation called the King of Wings, stands six feet tall and overhangs at least 12 feet. It’s the skeleton, however, that really takes the shot from great to epic. “The skeleton was already there and it turned out to be a beautiful sunrise with lots of colors,” Ancik says.
5. Erik Fremstad; Badlands National Park
The stark landscapes of Badlands National Park become even more provocative under a star-studded sky, as Fremstad so perfectly captures in this powerful shot. “The layers in the formations at Badlands National Park display roughly 75 million years of history,” he says. “Looking up at the great unknown of the Milky Way galaxy, you wonder what the future may hold. The choices we make today will decide the fate of not only our National Parks but the quality of life for future generations.”