Eighteen-year-old Wyat Taylor knew the moment was special: fading sunlight and spirited clouds, retreating waves and craggy rocks on the wild Olympic Coast.
He framed the scene, squeezed the camera shutter and believed he had a winner.
Photo judges and the general public agreed. The River Ridge High School senior recently won the grand prize in the teen division of the 2010 Canon Photography in the Parks Photo Contest. The teen’s photo captures a dramatic sunset at Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural sea arch at Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park.
The photo called “And the Storm Passes” and Taylor’s name are prominently displayed on Canon’s contest web page. As grand-prize winner of the national competition, Taylor will receive a professional-grade camera, the Canon 5D Mark II, a zoom lens and a lab-quality photo printer.
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“It’s really hard to wait for it,” he said of the camera gear.
He also won a four-night, five-day trip to any national park in the contiguous United States. An only child, he’s thinking of traveling to Zion with his parents.
“I love national parks,” Taylor said. “That’s another passion of mine, reading and writing about them. I’ve never been to a lot of them, so I’m really excited. I’ve been to Glacier, Olympic and Mount Rainier, and that’s about it.”
The Lacey teen made the photo while on a camping trip to Olympic National Park last April with his Boy Scout Venture Crew. He had placed fifth in the Canon contest the previous year and was looking for photo opportunities that would give him fodder to enter again.
“Whenever we go hiking, I’m carrying about 10 pounds of photo gear,” he said.
The winning photo presented itself at the last minute. Taylor and one of the troop’s adult leaders, Bret Buck, decided during the trip to get shots of the beach at sunset. But it was late afternoon, prompting Taylor to run a half-mile in hiking boots on the beach sand, while carrying a tripod and camera, before the light disappeared. When he arrived, it was raining and salt spray coated the lens.
Still, he said, “I kind of knew when I took the picture I was going to place high. I told myself, ‘This is the one.’ ”
Contest entries were required to be landscape or wildlife photos taken in an American park. Taylor submitted the maximum allowable 10 entries, including some photos taken at Snoqualmie Falls and from state parks in Oregon and Washington.
In October, he received word from Canon that “And the Storm Passes” was among the 10 finalists. Over the next month, visitors to the Canon website voted for their choice from among the final photos.
“It was super-exciting from there,” he recalls.
The award tops off a season of honors for Taylor.
In September, he was one of 25 local artists chosen to display their artwork at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts during the center’s 25th anniversary. The center also chose Taylor to photograph the four days of celebratory events.
In October, he earned his Eagle Scout rank.
Finally, another beach photo he took on the Olympic Park trip appears on the Washington State Employees Credit Union 2011 calendar. The calendar, which features credit union members’ photos, netted the youth $100.
The wins are the result of nearly continuous shooting and a growing passion for photography that Taylor has nurtured since receiving his first digital single-lens reflex camera on his 16th birthday. He and his camera are regulars at Tumwater Falls and downtown Olympia. He also takes photos for the River Ridge yearbook. “I try to go out as much as I can,” he said.
When he graduates in June, Taylor plans to study at Washington State University. Though he considered becoming a photojournalist, he decided that career was too difficult to break into. He’s now interested in sustainable architecture.
“I can mix my creativity and things I do with my art with science and engineering, which are also things I really enjoy.”
But he won’t put away the camera, especially not the pro gear he’s eagerly awaiting.
Debby Abe: 253-597-8694