Photo Hobbyist Wins “Share the Experience” 2015 Photo Contest

Citizen Photographers Compete for Photo Placement on National Public Lands and Waters Pass

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: April 28, 2016
Contacts: Interior, 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the winner of the 2015 “Share the Experience” photography contest on CBS This Morning and Interior's popular Instagram account and launched the 2016 contest.

Share the Experience gives amateur photographers the chance to showcase their skills by capturing the beauty of the nation’s public lands and waters. The top-prize photograph, made by Yang Lu of El Segundo, Calif., captures a dramatic sunrise at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah. The Interior Department made the announcement via its Instagram account, which showcases stunning photos of America’s public lands and frequently features contest submissions. Interior’s Instagram account recently surpassed one million followers, making it one of the leading Cabinet agencies in the U.S. Government to have reached that milestone.

The “Share the Experience” photo contest highlights our nation’s public lands and waters – including national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and recreation areas – and draws entries from across the United States. As the grand prize winner, Yang received $10,000 from the National Park Foundation and his photograph will be featured on the 2017 America the Beautiful pass, an annual pass for entrance to more than 2,000 national public recreation sites. Each year, approximately 500,000 people purchase this pass, which pays for itself in as few as five visits to flagship national parks. 

“My photography is not just for recreation – it is to inspire people to explore these areas,” said Yang, who took the photograph during a two-day backpacking trip after doing tedious research on water levels and navigating to the ideal location. “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. I feel it is amazing.”

“Photos of the grandeur of America’s great outdoors inspire viewers at home and abroad to discover the beauty, wonder and diversity of our nation’s public lands and waters,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Photography is one of the many ways to enjoy and share experiences in nature, and we hope this year’s contest fosters a new generation of photographers to showcase their skills while encouraging others to get out and enjoy these stunning landscapes.” 

Last year’s contest included a new category – Every Kid in a Park – to support the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which began last September. The program allows fourth graders nationwide to go to and obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide for an entire year. The Every Kid in a Park program is intended to be an ongoing commitment and investment in our nation’s youth to foster crucial connections to and future stewardship of America’s unparalleled public lands. Current third graders can get their fourth-grade passes starting September 1, 2016. 

“With so many ways to share them, photographs speak volumes about places we haven’t seen, inspiring us to get outdoors, to be life-long learners and to help conserve and nurture these special places for our children and their children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Our National Forests, Parks, Wilderness Areas, Wildlife Refuges and other public lands also support private sector jobs and strengthen local economies. Sharing pictures and experiences through social media helps draw visitors from near and far.”

Koustubh Kulkarni of Johnson City, Tenn., received the second-place prize of $5,000 for his eye-catching image of bighorn sheep at sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, California. Sarah Gustafson of San Francisco, Calif., received the third-place prize of $3,000 for her self-portrait taken while exploring the salt flats at Death Valley National Park in California.

Participants submitted more than 15,000 images, and the annual contest had more than 650,000 photo views. The 2015 “Share the Experience” photo contest is sponsored by the National Park Foundation and ACTIVE Network, LLC in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. 

Photographs for the 2016 “Share the Experience” contest must be taken between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. New for 2016, photographs taken on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lands and waterways are now eligible to be entered in the contest. All entries have the chance to be featured on the Interior Department’s popular Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

Prizes include monetary awards, outdoor equipment, annual federal recreation passes and hotel packages courtesy of Historic Hotels of America. Prizes are offered for fan favorites and for one winner in each for the following six categories: 

  • Adventure and Outdoor Recreation: Rebecca Wilks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.
  • Historical and Cultural: David Regala, Cedar Mesa, Utah.
  • Scenic, Seasons and Landscapes: Steve Ancik, Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area, New Mexico.
  • Every Kid in a Park: Kimberly Hall, Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Wildlife: Brent Wauer, Saguaro National Park, Arizona.
  • Night Skies: Erik Fremstad, Badlands National Park, South Dakota.

To view the 2015 contest winners as well as the 2016 contest rules and a complete list of prizes, please visit

Entries for the 2016 contest will be accepted from April 30, 2016 to December 31, 2016, and photographers can participate by uploading photos on Winners will be announced by May 1, 2017.


The Department of the Interior is the nation’s largest land manager, serving as a steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s lands. Interior plays an integral role in conserving America’s natural resources and heritage, honoring our cultures and tribal communities, and supplying the energy to power our future. In FY 2014 production and activities on Interior lands were associated with about $200 billion in contributions to GDP, $360 billion in economic output, and supported an estimated two million jobs.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands managed by the agency contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone and provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply. The agency also has a role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

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