11 Jaw-Dropping Photos That'll Make You Want to #ExploreMore

Rocío LowerNPF Blog

If ever there were a collection of photos that feed your #FOMO (fear of missing out), the Share the Experience photo contest submissions would be it!

The 2015 photo contest, hosted by National Park Foundation, ACTIVE Network®, and Celestron, received over 15,000 photos from amateur photographers sharing their favorite views, moments, and adventures from America’s national parks and public lands.

Scroll through these 11 jaw-dropping snaps from the 2015 Share the Experience photos contest winners and read the quotes behind these special moments that were captured. They’ll be sure to make you want to #ExploreMore of America’s national inheritance and get some great shots of your own.

Grand Prize Winner

Yang Lu

Sunset over a river in a red canyon at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Yang Lu, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas,” said Yang about the national parks. After his tedious research on water levels and navigating to the ideal location, Yang and his wife set out on a two-day backpacking trip in Glen Canyon. “My wife and I took three gallons of water. We did not see anybody for two days. There is no trail; we depended on my research. 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.”

Second Place

Koustubh Kulkarni

Second place winner, photo of big horn sheep at Joshua Tree National Park

Big horned sheep, Joshua Tree National Park

Koustubh Kulkarni, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Joshua Tree National Park

"This picture was taken on the 49 Palms trail. My wife first spotted the Big Horn sheep in the distance. 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. The magnificent backdrop was just perfect and in this picture it almost looks like the sheep stopped to pose for us."

Third Place

Sarah Gustafson

Third place photo winner, Sarah Gustafon hiking in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Sarah Gustafon, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Death Valley National Park

"This was my first visit to Death Valley, and while I'd seen many photos of the salt flats before, I really never understood how big the formations were! 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."

Fan Favorite Winner

Matthew Sorum

Fan Favorite Winning image of Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Matthew Sorum, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Yellowstone National Park

“I have gotten into wildlife photography over the last two years. This was my second trip to Yellowstone. I wanted to get a photo of a large Bull Bison and I happened on this one high up in a mountain pass. Not only did I get the background I was looking for that captured the beauty of the environment we were in, I also captured the largest Bison I have ever seen. I will be back every year, hoping to see something I’ve never seen before.”

Fan Favorite Winner

Heather Martin

Fan Favorite winning image of Mount Whitney in winter at Inyo National Forest

Mount Whitney, Inyo National Forest

Heather Martin, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Mt. Whitney, Inyo National Forest

"My brother and I attempted a Whitney summit over Memorial Day weekend, but due to heavy snow were unable to. On the way out, we stopped by Lone Pine Lake to enjoy some scenery. I turned around to take in one last view before we were engulfed by the trees, and the clouds had made it look like the mountain was floating. I grabbed my camera before it went away and captured this amazing shot."

Scenic, Seasons and Landscapes Winner

Steve Ancik

Fan Favorite Winning image of sunset at A-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Area

A-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Area

Steve Ancik, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area

“Ah-shi-sle-pah is one of several ‘badlands’ in the San Juan Basin area of New Mexico and is filled with bizarre, multi-colored formations and fossils. The King of Wings stands six feet tall and overhangs at least 12 feet! I took this photo at sunrise after driving 10 miles on rough dirt roads and hiking another three miles cross-country. The skeleton was already there and it turned out to be a beautiful sunrise with lots of colors.”

Adventure & Outdoor Recreation Winner

Rebecca Wilks

Adventure Winner Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Lake Powell

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Rebecca Wilks, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

"There are so many reasons that traveling to Lake Powell (Glen Canyon NRA) is unparalleled. One of my favorites is that the lake’s water level fluctuates quite a bit. In a wet year, the entrance to this open-roofed cave would be completely submerged and when the water is lower, a houseboat can drive right in. This level was perfect for kayaking, and my friend Barb was kind enough to pose and show what a good time we were having.”

Historical & Cultural Winner

David Regala

Historical & Cultural Winner, image of red cave interior at Cedar Mesa

Cedar Mesa

David Regela, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Cedar Mesa

“So much mystery surrounds the ruins of the Ancients. It is with the greatest reverence that we study the lifestyle they adopted and wonder at the various theories as to why they left. This particular ruin is one of our favorites. It wasn't until our 3rd or 4th visit that we discovered the secret to the exact time and season when refracted sunlight transforms the alcove into a stunning jewel. The ceiling has spalled, and the exposed watermark is just another grace note that captures the eye of the camera.”

Night Skies Winner

Erik Fremstad

Night Skies Winning image taken at Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Erik Fremstad, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Badlands National Park

“The layers in the formations at Badlands National Park display roughly 75 million years of history. 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.”

Wildlife Winner

Brent Wauer

Wildlife Winning image of red and yellow beetles on bark at Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Brent Wauer, Share the Experience 2015

Location: Saguaro National Park

“Little over an inch long, this exceptional insect with its stunning color pattern and complex life cycle reminds me of the fragility of life. Until an in-depth ecological education becomes a priority of every child's life; until respect for the Earth becomes an integral part of all people’s lives, such tiny creatures will continue to vanish without notice.”

Every Kid in a Park Winner

Kimberly Hall

Every Kid in a Park winner image, One African American boy and one Caucasian boy lying on their backs in the water on a beach at the Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park

Kimberly Hall, Virgin Islands National Park

Location: Virgin Islands National Park

"Relaxing at Maho Bay in Virgin Islands National Park. New friends are easily found in paradise! These two little buddies are now pen pals and are planning their next adventure."

The 2016 Share the Experience photo contest is now open, so remember to capture your adventures and submit your memories at www.sharetheexperience.org! You can also follow the contest on Twitter and Instagram!

Start a Conversation

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Stay Inspired
Connect with the parks you love. Sign up to receive the latest NPF news, information on how you can support our national treasures, and travel ideas for your next trip to the parks. Join our community.