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Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

August 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM

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Winning reader photos of Washington’s national parks

Ian Phelps

Meadow and “The Mountain:” This photo of Mount Rainier and a meadow bursting with wildflowers is the winner of our NWTraveler national-parks reader photo contest. Ian Phelps, a Seattle scientist and avid outdoorsman, shot the picture at Mazama Ridge in Mount Rainier National Park.



Want advice on what to see, where to stay, where to hike, in Washington's national parks? Brian Cantwell and Kristin Jackson, the travel and outdoors editors/writers for The Seattle Times, answered reader questions about Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks on Tuesday, Aug. 19. See what they suggested in a chat rewind. Missed the chat and still want to ask a question? Email

We asked for your photos.

You really delivered.

Seattle Times readers submitted about 450 photos for NWTraveler’s national parks of Washington reader-photo contest. The contest accompanied our recently concluded series of articles on Washington’s “big three” national parks: Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks.

Your most popular photo subject? The iconic, beloved Mount Rainier.

The winner of the contest? A photo by University of Washington research scientist Ian Phelps, of a meadow in Mount Rainier National Park brimming with wildflowers with “The Mountain” rising majestically above.

Submissions came from all over Washington state and from all sorts of people, from a high-school girl to retirees, from avid hikers and climbers to those who simply love to take an easygoing walk or scenic drive and revel in the parks’ wild beauty of peaks and forests, beaches and waterfalls.

Along with the winning photo, we’re publishing seven runners-up here (see all the reader photos online at

Phelps, whose shot of Mount Rainier wins him the prize of a $250 REI gift card, spends his days researching human-brain development in a UW lab. But on weekends and vacations, “really any chance I get,” he gets outside to backpack or take day hikes.

The 30-year-old Phelps has the passion for mountains of someone who once was a flat-lander. Originally from Wisconsin, Phelps moved to Seattle six years ago: “The access to mountains and ocean, that’s what drew me here. ”

Phelps loves taking wilderness shots. He lugs a high-quality digital SLR camera (first a Canon, now a Nikon), various lenses and a tripod along on his hikes. “But for quick shots on the trail,” said Phelps, “I just pull out my phone.”

To get this picture, Phelps hiked with his high-quality, and heavier, camera gear to Mazama Ridge above Mount Rainier’s Paradise visitor area. He set out before sunrise to be there for the best early-morning light. And it paid off with this winning photo.


The beauty of Mount Rainier National Park is perfectly documented in this photograph by Ian Phelps.

One quality of a great photograph is when the photographer is able to bring the viewer into the situation he or she is documenting.

Looking at this photo, I feel like I’m taking a breath of fresh air while sitting in a field of beautifully colored wildflowers as the soft light hits my face. That light highlighting the flowers and Mount Rainier is stunning. And the lenticular cloud is a wonderful surprise to top it all off.

These qualities made this divine photo stand out above the hundreds of photos that were submitted for our reader-photo contest.

Katie G. Cotterill, Seattle Times photo staff


Gary Marshall

Sunset silhouette: High up in North Cascades National Park, Gary Marshall took this photo of hikers above Cascade Pass. Marshall, a veterinarian on Mercer Island, and his family head for the hills and the national parks whenever they can. So far this summer they’ve visited Alaska’s Denali National Park and taken a road trip to Arches and Canyonland national parks in Utah. For this North Cascades photo, taken after a long, steep hike to the foot of a glacier at 7,200 feet, Marshall said “I grabbed this final image with my iPhone as the hikers behind me turned on their headlamps for the descent down in the dark. A very long, very magical day.”

Jim Wohlhueter

A flag on high: Volunteers raise the flag at the Mount Fremont Lookout in Mount Rainier National Park. Jim Wohlhueter of Bonney Lake took this photo on a hike near the Sunrise area. “I’ve hiked about 75 percent of its trail system,” says Wohlhueter, who has time to hit the trails and practice his photography now that he’s retired. He travels to national parks around the West, but always comes back to Rainier. “I love Mount Rainier. ... I can’t help myself. I take multiple pictures of it every time I see it.”

Claire Lunzer

Water world: On a backpacking trip with family members in Olympic National Park, high-school student Claire Lunzer paused to take this photo of Heather Creek. “I love all things nature,” said the 16-year-old Bainbridge Island high-school student. “Especially hiking with my brother.”

Ann Hillebrand

Beauty in the details: Amid the grand seascapes of a wilderness beach at Olympic National Park, Ann Hillebrand found beauty at her feet. Walking along Rialto Beach, “sometimes it’s interesting to look down and see what the ocean washes ashore and how it all gets arranged,” said Hillebrand, who lives in Kent and takes road trips to national parks around the West.

Matt Lemke

Down deep: For a climbing course, Matt Lemke was lowered about 75 feet into a crevasse at Emmons Glacier in Mount Rainier National Park. While practicing crevasse rescue skills, Lemke took this photo of another student dangling amid walls of ice. A recent graduate in geological engineering, Renton native Lemke now works in Wyoming and climbs and hikes whenever he can.

Diane Hebner

Grazing deer: Diane Hebner was hiking at Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge and "I came across this beautiful three-point blacktail deer." Hebner, who lives on Bainbridge and is celebrating her 60th birthday on a mountaintop, plans on "enjoying a few more decades hiking the glorious Olympic trails!"

Miles Morgan

In the cave: Miles Morgan shimmied on his belly into this small ice cave at Mount Rainier National Park. “It was a really tight squeeze,” said Morgan, and freezing and damp, with lines of melting water flowing from the cave’s ceiling. A pilot for United Airlines, Morgan spends his time on the ground out in the wilds photographing — including in uncomfortable places such as this ice cave above Rainier’s Paradise visitor area. (And, yes, you should be very cautious about entering ice caves as they can collapse.)

See all the reader-photo submissions at

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