Contests

National Park Photo Contest Winners – 2018


2018 Photo Contest Winners
Max Foster, Nathan Dolin-Aubertin, Lindsay Donald

National Park Trips Media received 3,000 spectacular photo entries to the 8th Annual National Park Photo Contest presented by Tamron. It was a difficult task because of the high quality of entries, but the judges have selected the winners. 

The top photographer in each of three categories is awarded their choice of Tamron lenses, the Tamron SP 15-30MM F/2.8 Di VC USD ($1,299 value) or Tamron SP 150-600MM F/5-6.3 Di VC USD ($1,069 value). Their photos will also be featured in National Park Journal magazines hitting news stands in late fall through spring. 

In addition, 30 honorable mention winners receive certificates and are featured on our national park websites.

Want to know how to get a winning shot? Read these behind-the-scenes stories on how our three first-place photographers captured award-winning photos.

Shooting a Winner for Landscape Category

Max Foster from Plymouth, Minn.
Yosemite National Park – Glowing Half Dome behind Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park - Glowing Half Dome behind Yosemite Falls
Max Foster

If you’re dreaming about something, plan it and do it, says Max Foster. Don’t just talk about it.

The 34-year-old Minnesotan, grand prize winner of the landscape category, knows a thing or two about turning dreams into realities. Foster and his wife are currently on the adventure of a lifetime: 14-months on the road in an RV. The CFO of a manufacturing company, Foster is fortunate to be able to work remotely – though it doesn’t come without its challenges. He’ll often spend three days to a week without any kind of reception, so coming back to the grid can be stressful. Even so, for him, it’s more than worth it.

“It’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make,” he says matter-of-factly, referring to realizing your dreams.

Years ago, on his first trip abroad, Foster brought along a point-and-shoot camera. When he got home from his adventures, he was distressed to see that all his shots came out terribly. That trip was the catalyst for him becoming a photographer.

Foster captured his grand-prize shot on his first ever trip to Yosemite this past year. “I wanted to come away with something unique,” Foster admits. “Tons of people go to Yosemite and the classic shots will always be iconic.”

He scoped out a promising looking spot near Yosemite Falls from the valley floor. He spent an hour and a half scrambling to the location. When he got there, he lucked out and found a tiny patch of four-inch-tall Indian paintbrush; the only flowers he’d seen in the area. He took the head off his tripod and balanced it on a rock to get the perspective right. After waiting for two hours for the light, he snapped the photo.

Usually, Foster waits to process images. It can sometimes take him weeks. This photo was different, however. As soon as he got back to his RV, he edited it. He must have known it was a winner.

Wildlife at Eye-Level

Lindsay Donald from Hoover, Alabama
Katmai National Park – Brown Bears in the Heat of the Battle

Katmai National Park - Brown Bears in the Heat of the Battle
Lindsay Donald

To get an award-winning shot, you have to be willing to work for it. That’s how Lindsay Donald, grand prize winner of the “Wildlife” category in our 2018 National Park Photography Contest sponsored by Tamron, found himself thigh-deep in Brooks River in Katmai National Park with grizzly bears.

Photographing the grizzlies in Katmai had been on Donald’s bucket list for years, so when he got the opportunity to join a group headed to Brooks Falls, he jumped at the opportunity. They spent some time photographing the bears gorging themselves on the plentiful sockeye salmon run from the elevated lookout, but Donald wanted a different perspective.

“I wanted to shoot the bears at eye-level,” says Donald. “The real impact is in the animals’ eyes. That connection only comes at eye-level.”

Donald studied zoology in school and wrote his thesis on animal behavior. It’s how he got into photography – he realized he would need to either be excellent at sketching or need to take photos to refer to as he wrote his thesis. He borrowed a friend’s camera and became hooked. Today, he photographs wildlife all over the world, as well as teaches photography when he’s not at his day job as a toxicology consultant.

He watched as two bears, likely four-to-five-year-old siblings, play fought in the river. He was utilizing his knowledge of animal behavior, as well as the park’s recommended minimum distance of 25 feet, to ensure he was safe in his situation.

Suddenly, the wrestling bears started heading towards him.

“It was nerve-wracking,” admits Donald. “For one, there was the risk of dropping my expensive camera gear into the water, which was quite frightening. Then, you’re also in the water with 400-500-pound apex predators that could easily knock you over. It was quite concerning.”

Donald was as close as his lens could focus and managed to fire off a few shots as he made a hasty exit. His winning shot was the only one that came out in focus.

Donald’s tip for capturing your own wildlife photos?

“Photographs can freeze a moment in time. Make sure you’re shooting at a high enough shutter speed that the eyes come out in focus. The rest of your picture can be out of focus, but the eyes must be sharp for the photo to have impact.”

Best Night Skies Shot

Nathan Dolin-Aubertin from Park City, Utah
Arches National Park – Milky Way over Delicate Arch

Arches National Park - Milky Way over Delicate Arch
Nathan Dolin-Aubertin

Nathan Dolin-Aubertin is a weekend warrior. A local of Park City, Utah, he spends his days working at a sushi restaurant and his nights shooting the cosmos. Dolin-Aubertin brings his camera everywhere he goes, but shooting the Milky Way is his specialty.

“I love the endless possibility of what’s out there.” says the grand prize winner. “I think people should spend more time looking up. It makes you realize that the stuff in your life doesn’t matter. We are so insignificant. I love the night sky because it helps me take a step back and reconsider my actions.”

After a pause, he admits, “I’m also a Star Trek nerd.”

Dolin-Aubertin won the grand prize in the “Night Skies” category of our 8th annual National Park Photography Contest with a stunning shot of Arches National Park. He wasn’t even supposed to be in Moab the night the photo was taken. He’d driven down from Park City to meet his dad and some friends for a day of mountain biking. The temperatures soared to 100°F with no clouds. On the way back to Park City, Dolin-Aubertin stopped at Arches on a whim. He slept in the parking lot, waiting for the Milky Way to rise.

Delicate Arch is a 45-minute hike from the parking lot, and when he set out, 40 pounds of camera gear in tow, it was still 80 degrees outside, despite it being 2 a.m. When Dolin-Aubertin arrived at the arch, there were several other photographers there. Below the arch, sits a steep amphitheater. As he was setting up, an older gentleman dropped some camera gear down into the amphitheater.

Not satisfied with the angle of the shots he was getting, Dolin-Aubertin offered to retrieve the dropped gear and brought his camera down with him to take some shots. The other photographers had their headlamps on as they adjusted their settings, serendipitously lighting up the arch. It was the shot Dolin-Aubertin had been waiting for.

Up next on Dolin-Aubertin’s photography bucket list? Iceland.

Horizontal Rule

To keep track of our winners’ latest adventures, follow them on Instagram. You can find Lindsay at @donaldphotography_com, Nathan at @nateda__ and Max at @maxfosterphotography or www.maxfosterphotography.com

Honorable Mentions

National Park Trips Media and Tamron also congratulate these photographers for their outstanding entries:

Landscape Honorable Mention

Capturing a reflection in one of the pools from Bass Harbor Lighthouse during our visit to Acadia National Park.
Jose Torres

Capturing a reflection in one of the pools from Bass Harbor Lighthouse during our visit to Acadia National Park.

Red Eagle Mountain featured with an amazing wildflower bloom in Glacier National Park
Matt Meisenheimer

Red Eagle Mountain featured with an amazing wildflower bloom in Glacier National Park

Great Falls Park. Blue heron by the falls at twilight.
Wen-Haur Huang

Great Falls Park. Blue heron by the falls at twilight.

The Cathedral Group in Autumn. Grand Teton National Park
Joseph Lange

The Cathedral Group in Autumn. Grand Teton National Park

Walking amongst the clouds at Haleakala National Park.
Carl Yoshihara

Walking amongst the clouds at Haleakala National Park.

Stunning sunset in Joshua Tree National Park
Rick Erbach

Stunning sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

Sunset on Second Beach in Olympic National Park
Randy Traynor

Sunset on Second Beach in Olympic National Park 

Sunset on Rialto Beach near the Hole in the Wall. Olympic National Park
Mark Wolsky

Sunset on Rialto Beach near the Hole in the Wall. Olympic National Park

Sunset where lava meets the ocean at Volcano National Park
Stephanie Gonzalez

Sunset where lava meets the ocean at Volcano National Park

Sunset in Yellowstone
Lisa Lemmons-Powers

Sunset in Yellowstone

Wildlife Honorable Mention

Half buried, a lonesome Bison plow slowly to cross Yellowstone snowy landscape. Taken before sunrise in the middle of a brutal winter. Yellowstone…
Surjanto Suradji

Half buried, a lonesome Bison plow slowly to cross Yellowstone snowy landscape. Taken before sunrise in the middle of a brutal winter. Yellowstone National Park.

Black bear sow nursing her four cubs, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Robert Strickland

Black bear sow nursing her four cubs, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Fox Leap in Yellowstone National Park
Stacy Howell

Fox Leap in Yellowstone National Park

Lean on me. Brown Bear and Cub in Katmai National Park
Rodney Erickson

Lean on me. Brown Bear and Cub in Katmai National Park

Dall Sheep and its cub. Denali National Park
Wen-Haur Huang

Dall Sheep and its cub. Denali National Park

Moose calf in Denali National Park
Tom Birrenbach

Moose calf in Denali National Park

Mountain Goat Climbing. Glacier National Park
Anna Marie D’Agostino

Mountain Goat Climbing. Glacier National Park

Still hungry member of the Wapiti pack, Yellowstone National Park.
Greg Root

Still hungry member of the Wapiti pack, Yellowstone National Park.

Moose in Lake with Mt. Denali in background. Denali National Park.
Ronald Pataky

Moose in Lake with Mt. Denali in background. Denali National Park.

Alertness (Two bear cubs). Katmai National Park
Xiaoying Shi

Alertness. Katmai National Park

Night Skies Honorable Mention

The Diamond on Longs Peak draped with the Milky Way. Rocky Mountain National Park.
Samuel Cooper

The Diamond on Longs Peak draped with the Milky Way. Rocky Mountain National Park.

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California. The famous Valley, resting peacefully among granite giants, sparkles with…
Surjanto Suradji

Milky Way over Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California. The famous Valley, resting peacefully among granite giants, sparkles with man-made light and illuminated by billions of stars

Stairway to Heaven. Big Bend National Park
James Crow

Stairway to Heaven. Big Bend National Park

Milky Way over Mt. Lassen's peak. The beautiful colors makes Lassen pop with the beauty of Lassen's nature. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Angela Ferrell

Milky Way over Mt. Lassen’s peak. The beautiful colors makes Lassen pop with the beauty of Lassen’s nature. Lassen Volcanic National Park

The Milky Way and thunder clouds over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park
Andrew Imhoff

The Milky Way and thunder clouds over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park is drenched in stars as the Milky Way rises in the dark night sky.
Judi Kubes

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park is drenched in stars as the Milky Way rises in the dark night sky.

The Milky Way arches over the Bodie Island Lighthouse on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
George Pesacreta

The Milky Way arches over the Bodie Island Lighthouse on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Yellowstone National Park - Milky Way over erupting Old Faithful
Juan David

Yellowstone National Park – Milky Way over erupting Old Faithful

Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Randy Yost

Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Delicate Arch under the Milky Way. Arches National Park
Chuck Rasco

Delicate Arch under the Milky Way. Arches National Park