Winners of the 2016 Share the Experience photo contest were announced earlier this week. Hosted by the National Park Foundation (the official charity of the national parks), 11 winning images were selected from amateur photographers who captured moments from our national parks and public lands.

According to a press release from the National Parks Foundation, over 16,500 images were submitted from April 28, 2016 to December 31, 2016 (the running period of the contest).

The Night Skies category winner. Photo: Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Matthew Hanna/National Park Foundation's 2016 Share the Experience Photo Contest

“By encouraging people to take and share photos of our national parks, we are helping them develop life-long connections to treasured places,” Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, said in a press release.

“This contest showcases the wide array of national parks that exist across the country and motivates people to get out and explore,” he said further.

The grand prize winning image. Photo: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Craig McIntyre/National Park Foundation's 2016 Share the Experience Photo Contest

The grand prize winner was Craig McIntyre, who has dabbled in wildlife photography since the early 1970s. He captured an incredible image of a tree frog in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

“Public lands are very important to me, especially places like Big Bend National Park, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and South Padre Island National Seashore,” McIntyre said in the press release. “These places and the habitats need to be protected.”

The second place winning image. Photo: Superior National Forest, Gary Hamer/National Park Foundation's 2016 Share the Experience Photo Contest

For his efforts, he’ll be receiving $10,000 in prize money, outdoor gear from Celestron and Osprey Packs, hotel packages and an annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

There were also second and third grand prize winners, along with two fan favorite winners and a slew of category winners. The categories included Adventure and Outdoor Recreation; Historical and Cultural; Scenic, Seasons and Landscapes; Every Kid in a Park; Wildlife; and Night Skies. All winners can be found on the Share the Experience website.

One of the fan favorite winners. Photo: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Rob Blair/National Park Foundation's 2016 Share the Experience Photo Contest

But the other big news is that the 2017 Share the Experience Photo Contest is now open for submissions. If you have a knack for outdoor photography and love getting outdoors (of course you do), then why not explore our vast public lands and start snapping some images?

You can find all information about how to enter this year’s contest, for free, over at ShareTheExperience.org.

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