Shutter Stories Behind the 2019 Winning National Park Photos

Getting to know the winners of the 9th Annual National Park Photography Contest
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As any talented photographer may tell you, the perfect photo is made up of 10% skill, 30% being in the right place at the right time and 60% patience and perseverance. The photographers who won the landscape, night skies and wildlife categories of our 9th Annual National Park Photography Contest sponsored by Tamron know that better than most. Here’s what it took to get their winning shots.

Jeep Light Trail from Schafer Canyon Overlook in Canyonlands National Park

Bryan Anderson

Landscape Winner - “Jeep Light Trail in Canyonlands National Park”

Salt Lake City resident Bryan Anderson had visited Canyonlands National Park in the past and been impressed by the dramatic and majestic views of Shafer Trail.

“Driving up the switchbacks, I half expected to see Wiley Coyote chasing the Roadrunner through the scene at any minute,” says Anderson.

When he decided to expand his light painting portfolio, he immediately knew he wanted to head back to the Shafer Trail Overlook. It was getting dark after an evening of shooting, and Anderson was getting ready to pack up for the night when his daughter spotted a lone Jeep coming up the road. He quickly set up the shot and opened his shutter for 22 minutes. The wide scene left no room for error – he knew he’d have one chance to get the shot. When the Jeep stopped a third of the way up for more than 10 minutes, he was sweating it, fearing the long stop would overexpose his shot. Miraculously, it didn’t.

Anderson’s advice to other light painting photographers? Know what you’re doing before you get out into the field. YouTube is your best friend.

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Jenny lake reflects the Tetons and Milky Way in Grand Teton National Park

Juan David

Night Skies Winner - “Jenny Lake Gives Inspiration”

Juan David is lucky enough to call Grand Teton National Park his backyard. A wounded combat veteran, David turned to photography to help get him outside.

“The camera is healing,” he says. “Photography has been a lifesaver for me.”

David ventures out to the park in the wee hours of the morning often. His photos have been used at the park visitor center to help educate visitors on how light pollution affects bats. His winning photo was taken on his birthday. On the last stop of the night, he got out of his car to try to capture the Milky Way over Jenny Lake. He wasn’t happy with the composition, and there was rustling coming from the bushes. The park can be eerie at night. He almost called it quits, but stayed a few minutes longer, finding a composition he was happy with and clicking the shutter before heading home.

Patience and practice are his advice to burgeoning night photographers. Just keep shooting.

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Swimming brown bear in Lake Clark National Park

Eileen Hartmann

Wildlife Winner - “Swimming Grizzly”

Lake Clark National Park is not a destination for the faint of heart. A land full of turquoise glacial lakes and grizzly bears, a float plane is the only way in. Eileen Hartmann and her husband flew to Lake Clark in the autumn to photograph the bears. A guided boat took them out to Crescent Lake where they watched bears on the beaches. Because the salmon were running, Hartmann saw grizzlies everywhere she looked. They’re used to seeing people on the boats and don’t feel threatened by them. Suddenly, a grizzly spotted a salmon carcass in the water and began swimming towards the boat. Hartmann began firing away. The bear turned and looked at her boat when she was 150-feet away, and that was the winning shot.

“They’re fascinating to watch,” Hartmann says. “The mothers are so good with the cubs and you’d be shocked at how fast they can run.”

Hartmann practices her wildlife photographer in her backyard with her dogs or at the skate park. Knowing how to pan with a moving object is key to getting a sharp wildlife photo.

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View all 33 winning shots from the 2019 National Park Photo Contest