See the stunning photography that earned top honors in this year’s Forests in Focus photo contest.


Desert Canvas by Everett Bloom

PHOTOGRAPHER: Everett Bloom (CA)

LOCATION: Joshua Tree National Park, Calif.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “Star trails during a full moon. This is about 4 hours of photos. The tree is illuminated from behind by a car’s headlights, and I definitely like this more than the usual front illumination. I try not to light paint anymore since it’s annoying to people who are enjoying the parks after dark and is not necessary if you have some moonlight combined with a long exposure.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Everett is a nature enthusiast who enjoys photography that captures the beauty of the natural world. He hopes to one day use photography to promote conservation efforts.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “I love this picture! I actually had to make sure it wasn’t a composite because the placement of Polaris, the star around which all others revolve, is so perfect. The backlighting of the Joshua Tree puts the exposures of the tree and the universe in perfect harmony. I love the way the branches glow. This is a superb image and one that I enjoy looking at over and over again!”
— Chuck Fazio, American Forests Artist-in-Residence


Cape Flattery by Nicholas Hanyok


LOCATION: Cape Flattery, Wash.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “I am constantly amazed by nature, and this shot takes me back to a time I was in complete awe. I took this with my D750 at Cape Flattery on Thanksgiving Day. What’s so amazing to me is how the clusters of trees are perfectly placed on top of the rock stacks, constantly battered by the waves and wind — completely natural and raw, yet peaceful and majestic. The entire hike to this point was cloudy and rainy. Once we reached the end though, the sunlight pierced through the fog and clouds, the rain stopped, and, for me, the view at that moment stopped time. Mother nature gave a show that day I’ll never forget.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Nick has always loved photography, ever since he was a kid to be exact, running around with a polaroid and a 35mm. He has followed his passion through travel photography over the years, and in 2016, he began Nick Hanyok Imaging. He helps businesses and marketing agencies on the east coast through commercial work and captures love stories of elegant and adventurous couples from California to Maryland with his lifestyle work. See more of Nick’s work at, or follow him on Facebook and Instagram at @nickhanyokimaging.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “The photographer made the right decision to photograph Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest tip of the United States, on a day when rising mist and the pounding surf captures nature in motion. The photograph is taken during early morning, as the sun dramatically backlights the billowing mist. The three dominant rock outcrops forming a triangle are excellent composition. The almost monochromatic color adds to the powerful mood of the picture.”
— Lou Mazzatenta, Former National Geographic Photo Editor and Photographer


The Watchman by Arthur OLeary

PHOTOGRAPHER: Arthur O’Leary (OH) LOCATION: Muckross Abbey, County Kerry, Ireland

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “This was taken in an old Irish monastery. These Yew trees are a long-lived species once believed by the monks to symbolize eternity.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Arthur is an amateur photographer specializing in nature and landscapes, but with an interest in all photography. He currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Brooke. They travel as much as possible in their free time. Arthur looks forward to continuing to grow in his craft so he may share his passion for travel and lifestyle photography.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “Having recently visited this tree in Killarney National Park in Ireland, I had a special connection to this image. This Yew tree is located in a historic abbey totally isolated from any other trees. It’s definitely a testament to the power of nature. The image is a great portrait of the tree showcasing its twisting trunk and ancient surrounding.”
— Brian Kelley, Photographer and American Forests Visual Archivist


Sapling by Peggy Yaeger


LOCATION: Daniel Boone National Forest, Ky.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “I love taking photos of things that show detail and that people might overlook. . We were on our way to hike to Dog Slaughter Falls in Daniel Boone Forest in Southeast Kentucky, when I spotted this sapling sidelit by the early morning light, glowing with the promise of new life.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Peggy is a retired primary school teacher in Corbin, Ky., and she and her husband love to hike and explore the natural beauty of Kentucky and Tennessee. Photographing nature, especially the forest floor and fauna, is her passion. She belongs to the local photography club APS, which has helped her enhance her skills and eye for photography.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “I love the forest close-ups category because it gives such a different perspective to the vast, breathtaking landscapes we so often see in nature photography. This photo especially details the new life growing on the forest floor, from the leaves reaching toward the sun to the water droplets reminding us of the necessary elements to create a thriving natural world.”
— Emily Barber, Marketing Manager, American Forests


Cubby Hole by Dave Shaffer


LOCATION: Northern Wisconsin

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “One morning this past Spring, I heard the telltale sound of tiny claws on thick bark. I quietly approached and saw a mother bear sleeping beneath a pine and her two little cubs noisily playing in the branches above. I sat down a safe and respectful distance away. Soon the entire family was sleeping. I waited and waited. After a while mom woke and stirred about the area, soon she came to rest at the base of the tree. In a flash the two little cubs woke and raced down the tree to be with mom. She sat up, and her two precious cubs latched on. Mom seemed so proud, it was as if she was showing them off to me. I felt blessed to be given the opportunity to bear witness to these magical moments.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Dave has long been devoted to spending time alone in wild places. His passion for unspoiled nature and wildlife has allowed him to bear witness to countless magical moments, such as the one captured here. Dave enjoys sharing these special moments in nature with others through his photography. More of Dave’s work can be found on Facebook a Bear Witness Images or at


“The picture of the proud bear mother nursing her cubs jumped out at the judges immediately and rose to the number one slot in short order. It is such a wonderful moment in nature with her striking such a regal pose while clutching the cubs as they nurse. It was a very strong category, but the judges felt strongly that the moment and the pose pushed it to the top spot. All judges agreed that this was a striking photo- graph of a very unique and rare moment in nature. Bravo.”
— Jonathan Newton, Staff Photographer, Washington Post


Suspended by Morgan Lytle


LOCATION: Fair Play, S.C.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “While out hiking one day, I came across this suspended leaf. I captured the image using Olympus OM-D EM-1 and Olympus 12-60mm lens. I then played with some texture effects in Corel Paintshop.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Morgan has been enjoying photography for close to 20 years. Many of her images can be found in private collections and small galleries around the Southern United States. While she has crossed over into off-road photography, her love still lies in creating artistic images.

WHY WE LOVED IT: “While the colors are subtle, the contrast and composition are superb and make this photo a visual tone- poem. The photographer has used her creativity (as per the category) to place an image that captures crisp, lyrical light illuminating the edges of the leaf, its veins and the branches on which it is caught — against a back- ground that looks like a watercolor painting, layered with imprints that suggest leaves.”
— Lea Sloan, VP of Communications, American Forests


Scale by Stacy Smith Evans

PHOTOGRAPHER: Stacy Smith Evans (VA)

LOCATION: Shenandoah National Park, Va.

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: “I took this photo two years ago during a weekend trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It was a sunrise-less morning at the mountain overlooks, so my husband and I drove to Big Meadows to look for deer. We arrived just as a heavy fog rolled in behind this huge oak tree with outstretched branches running nearly parallel to the ground. I knew I wanted to illustrate the tree’s size, so I asked my husband, who is 6 feet tall, to stand under it. I like to say I added a husband for scale.”

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Stacy Smith Evans is a landscape and portrait photographer based in Northern Virginia. Her favorite subjects include the cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C., and the mountains and forests of nearby Shenandoah National Park. Though she loves to travel to new places, she has always called Virginia her home. Please visit to view her latest work.

WHY WE LOVED IT: The power of this photo is its inherent story and could suggest a thousand captions. The grand presence of the tree makes it a stand-in for Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge. The man leaning against it, not more than a quarter its age, seems to be the wiser for his contact with the magnificent spreading form, perhaps seeing things he did not see before, or in ways that he hadn’t seen them. The black and white treatment is perfect to convey the photo’s mystical qualities.”
— Lea Sloan, VP of Communications, American Forests

WINNER: ASPIRING PHOTOGRAPHERS “Young Tree Growing in Fence Post, Kaua’i”

Young Tree Growing in Fence Post, Kaua’i by Isis Clark Hunter

PHOTOGRAPHER: Isis Clark Hunter (HI)

LOCATION: Upper Kapahi (looking North towards Anahola), Kaua’i, Hawai’i

PHOTOGRAPHER’S PERSPECTIVE: This is the first contest Isis has entered. Isis and her dad, Paul, were specifically out looking for photo subjects for the contest. She spotted this cute little lichen-covered tree growing right out of the old fence post on a country road. Isis stood on the tailgate of the pickup truck to get the photo framed perfectly. The photo was edited in Light Room and taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, with an EF 70-300MM Lens f/4-5.6L IS USM (focal length 95mm, ISO 100).

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Isis is 11. She enjoys photography, gymnastics and making YouTube videos as “Kauai Cookie.”

WHY WE LOVED IT: “This image has a great sense of attention to detail from the photographer. Here, we have a fence post, a ‘dead’ tree so to speak, with new life sprouting from it. I love the poetry in this moment of new life coming from the old. There is lovely separation between the new tree and the background that allows us to take in the vast landscape while not becoming distracted or losing the sense of place. This photographer already has a great eye and will only continue to improve!”
— Kristen McNicholas, Associate Photo Editor, Your Shot National Geographic