National Park Trips received 4,500 spectacular photo entries to the 10th Annual National Park Photo Contest presented by Tamron. It was a difficult task to choose the 2021 winning photos because of the high quality of entries, but the judges have selected this year’s top photos.
The top photographer in each of three categories is awarded his or her choice of a Tamron lens: Tamron SP 15-30mm F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 ($1,299 value), Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8-4 Di VC OSD ($599 value) or Tamron 35-150mm F/2.8-4 Di VC OSD ($799 value). Their photos will be featured in National Park Journal magazines hitting newsstands in late fall through summer.
In addition, 30 honorable mention winners receive certificates and are featured on our national park websites.
Bruce Herwig from Redlands, Calif.
An amazing sunset at the Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park
Bruce Herwig has always loved the desert, especially at night. Living in Redlands, Calif., he’s able to visit Joshua Tree National Park frequently, a haven for dark sky enthusiasts.
“I’m jealous of photographers who have the Aurora Borealis in their backyards, but they’re jealous of me,” he jokes. “Joshua Tree is a photography destination. I’m lucky to live so close.”
Redlands is a perfect home base for Herwig. Recently on his 50th birthday, he and his friends went to the beach for breakfast, the mountains for lunch and the desert for dinner. He was able to experience all of his favorite ecosystems in one perfect day.
Especially in the summer, Herwig loves to head to the park when the sun goes down. The higher elevation makes the air cool, and it’s always calm and peaceful in the park at night.
On the evening Herwig took his winning shot, he had brought a friend who had never seen Joshua Tree’s chollas. While practicing social distancing, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he figured that there was no better way to isolate than in the desert.
He and his friend lucked out. The sunset turned brilliant and Herwig couldn’t stop snapping.
Isabel Guerra Clark from Phoenix, Ariz.
The running of the bulls [bison] in Yellowstone
Isabel Guerra Clark and her husband are big national park people. While her husband’s not a photographer, the two love to travel.
A retired doctor, Clark sees travel photography as a way to bring home lifelong souvenirs.
Clark was born in the Caribbean and loves snow.
“It’s just pristine,” she says. “It’s so gorgeous to witness.”
Her husband, on the other hand, grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and hates the snow.
One week in January, the two headed from their home in Phoenix up to Yellowstone National Park. There, they took snow coaches (specially equipped vans that can drive on the snow) which Clark described as “outrageous” into the interior of the park.
They came across a dozen bison near the road and two youngsters were running around in the snow. This behavior is unusual for bison in the winter, as they try to conserve their energy while food sources are scarce. The juveniles, however, were having a blast. They spent half an hour running back and forth and managed to coax an older bison into chasing them. That was the moment Clark snapped the shot.
Night Skies Winner
Judi Kubes from Yelm, Wash.
The Milky Way glows brightly over mountain climbers with their headlamps in Mt. Rainier National Park
Judi Kubes had never picked up a camera until she moved to Washington state eight years ago. As she began to explore her new home and get out in the trails in the Pacific Northwest, she began to take pictures.
Kubes loves night photography, but living in Washington, it can be tricky. Much of the year is cloudy and rainy, but July through September there’s usually a magical, clear window to see the stars. She and a colleague took a photography workshop at Mount Rainier National Park in the summer and, at the time, Kubes didn’t even notice the lights from the climbers on the mountain.
Back at home, she noticed their headlamps, looking like ants in a line, heading towards the summit.
“I love night photography because any problems you have, you don’t think about them when you’re out there,” Kubes muses. “It’s like meditation.”
Kubes is always shocked at how many people she meets who live in Washington and have never been up to Mount Rainier. Seeing it from far away is nothing compared to being up close and personal with it, according to her. She does warn that it gets cold up there on the mountain, even in the summer, so bring a jacket.
Landscape Honorable Mention
Vince Condella, Thomas Moors, Isabel Guerra Clark, David Shield (2), William Nylander, Bon Koo, Ronnie Sue Ambrosino, Taylor Newlun and Jelieta Walinski
Wildlife Honorable Mention
Robert Wagner, Xiaoying Shi, Doreen Lawrence, Heidi Mason, Tom Roach, Jonathan McKenzie, Jake Kinzer, Norman Lathrop, Heather Spencer and Robert Godber
Night Skies Honorable Mention
Thomas Moors, Jose Torres, Sunny Hwang, Aaron Rashid, Bruce Herwig, Matt George, Zach Goldberg, Marcin Zajac, Jay Huang and Nick Brown