Hiking events

Northwest Exposures: The Best Hiking Photos of 2021

By Erika Haugen-Goodman / Washington Trail Association

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

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

Grand Prize: Michael Margoshes

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

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

First Place, Trailscapes: Rachel Bartle

First place, Trailscapes: Rachel Bartle

Trailscapes’ top prize went to an interesting take on a Washington staple. Rachel’s photo, taken on an iPhone in October, took a unique angle by capturing a popular year-round hiking destination. The layer of fresh snow and the evening light helped elevate his photo to the top prize, as well as the interesting choice of framing.

“Trails are important to me because they take me to places I couldn’t easily get to without them, she says. “I’m lucky to live in Washington, with so many accessible trails and views to see. I will 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 (as long as the distance is maintained), but Chett’s winning photo captured something unique as he hiked through the Enchanted Valley of the Olympic Peninsula. The timing couldn’t have been better, and the bear cub was well framed by the surroundings, taking this fun shot in first place in the category. Talk about posing for the camera!

“My friends and I saw this cub playing in a huge bigleaf maple near the trail while his mother was grazing nearby,” he said. “He kept climbing the tree, then hanging on one of the lower branches for as long as he could before reluctantly falling to the ground. He repeated this over and over again. We were thrilled to see this behavior that neither of us had seen before. I couldn’t miss the chance to unbox my camera and capture this image with my telephoto lens.

First place, Hikers in action: Nikki Womac

First place, Hikers in action: Nikki Womac

Hikers in Action is always one of the most competitive categories, but this year there was 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 so many benefits, and Nikki deserved the top prize!

“Honestly, I’m really new to hiking and trails,” she said. “I didn’t grow up hiking and I’m not originally from the North West. My kids inspired me to start looking at the trails and 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 know how I could enjoy it too. I think it’s important to find ways to make nature and the outdoors more accessible to everyone.

First place, Instagram: Elanie Igama

First place, Instagram: Elanie Igama

Mountains swirling in eerie clouds, sunlight playing off their rock faces… it certainly looks like a classic Pacific Northwest scene, and Elanie captured the lighting perfectly at Vesper Peak in Snohomish County. to win first place in the Instagram category. The judges loved the perfectly exposed scene and the mix of clouds and sun to create this unique view of the area.

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

Washington Trails Association Photo Contest

Northwest Exposure is WTA’s annual photo contest that celebrates outdoor photography and the hiking community that explores the trails of Washington. The winners are featured in the annual WTA calendar. The 2022 competition will open in August. Get more information and see all of the 2021 winners at wta.org/photocontest.