2013 Reader Photo Contest - Your Best Shots

For 40 years, BACKPACKER readers have explored the wilderness and returned with photographic gold. But we were wowed by the entries for this contest—more than 650 of them. Check out these finalists (and this year's winner), then go to backpacker.com/photos to submit your own images. We’ll showcase the best entries in upcoming issues.

Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park

Josh Endres waited for six hours and through two thunderstorms to get this shot of the granite icon. “I wanted the sunlight low enough to only hit the peak, without creating distracting shadows on the surrounding landscape,” says the 28-year-old graphic designer from Yucaipa, CA. “I chose this spot for the foreground granite, which complements the peak and anchors the composition.” The hike From Tuolumne Meadows, hike 4.5 miles on the Cathedral Lakes Trail. Nikon D800 1/10 second, f/8


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Matterhorn, Switzerland

Jeff Pang, 31, earns our top prize (a PENTAX K-30 DSLR) for this shot of the Matterhorn reflected in an alpine lake called the Riffelsee. The Berkeley, CA, computer scientist captured both the peak and the tiny fish by using a small aperture for greater depth of field and a polarizing filter to remove reflection from the foreground water. The hike From Gornergrat (take the train from Zermatt), hike two miles to the Riffelsee (zermatt.ch). Canon REBEL XSi 1/40 second, f/22


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Ribbon Falls, Grand Canyon National Park

Not every memorable shot requires careful setup and composition. “That’s me in the photo,” says Nick Helmore, 60, an IT specialist from Richmond, VA. “I just gave the camera to someone and told him to take the photo when I got under the waterfall—it was just lucky!” The hike Ribbon Falls is located near Cottonwood Campground, a little more than 12 miles from the South Rim via the South Kaibab and North Kaibab Trails. It makes a great three-day trip (nps.gov/grca). Panasonic DMC-ZS3 1/320 second, f/4


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Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

Joey Priola, 25, a grad student from Fairport, NY, experimented with slowing down the shutter speed to get this fire effect while exposing properly for his friend’s face. “I asked him to stand next to the fire with his headlamp on, somewhat dimmed and pointed slightly away from my camera, so that it didn’t blow out the photo,” says Priola. The hike See a Dolly Sods slideshow at backpacker.com/dolly, then follow in Priola’s footsteps with an overnight on the Red Creek Trail. Canon REBEL T2i .5 second, f/5.6


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Lynx, Denali National Park

“This was the most magical hour I’ve ever spent in the woods,” says Barbara Woodmansee, 50. The nurse from Gainesville, FL, was watching a beaver when the cat appeared. “The lynx sat just inside the treeline and quietly watched the beaver moving back and forth in the creek,” she says. Woodmansee moved to within 10 yards without spooking the cat, allowing her to get this intimate shot. The hike From the visitor center, take the 1.5-mile Horseshoe Lake Trail (nps.gov/dena). Nikon D300S 1/80 second, f/5.6


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Badlands Thunderstorm, South Dakota

During a cross-country road trip with stops at six national parks last summer, Jason Heritage, 25, and his companions camped at this big-sky South Dakota site after visiting Badlands National Park. “Pulsating bolts of white lightning accentuated the orange glow of the storm,” he says. “I captured strikes in nine out of 12 shots.” Heritage didn’t have a tripod, but managed to nail this low-light image with quick thinking. “I only slowed my shutter speed down to 1/40 second and then held my breath to limit camera shake,” says the graphic designer/marketing coordinator from Philadelphia, PA. The hike Explore the Badlands’ stark terrain on the 22-mile, off-trail Sage Creek Loop. You’ll see more bison than backpackers as you wind through labyrinthine washes surrounded by rock pinnacles. 
Get a complete guide with a downloadable PDF for the three-day trek at 
backpacker.com/sagecreek. Nikon D7000 1/40 second, f/6.3