2019 Student Photo Contest


PHOTO CONTEST: Show us what's at stake


Conservation in the West 2019 Poll voters strongly supported protection of land and water over energy production. A majority of Westerners identify as conservationists and believe loss of wildlife habitat to be an extremely serious problem.

The State of the Rockies project invited students to submit a photo and a description of the photo from the Rocky Mountain West that reminds us of the importance of conservation efforts given recent significant evidence of climate change and the Trump administration's proposed slash to government funding of public lands.

Submitted photos addressed areas of concern for wildlife, outdoor recreation, shifting climate patterns and processes,public lands, and water availability. Finalists' photos were exhibited on Tutt Library's Ray Data Viz Wall during Earth Week, April 22-26, 2019. Library visitors, faculty, staff, and students voted-by-text for the photo and description they felt was most compelling.


  • Andrew Hildenbrand '20 1st place

  • Margaux Rose '20 2nd place

  • Jane Hatfield '22 3rd place



2019 Photo Contest Finalists


f1.8, 1/800 sec, ISO 80 • Outdoor Recreation • Andrew Hildenbrand

This photo of Patty Owe arcing a turn in the Cody Peak backcountry area was taken in March of 2019 during Spring Break. Cody Peak lies directly adjacent to Grant Teton National Park, and is less than 100 miles from Yellowstone. While it faces the threat of a shorter ski season, this region also faces potentially massive exploitation of oil and gas resources. Opening up our national parks to oil and gas drilling is a tragic move, and puts some of our last wild places at risk of exploitation and degradation on extreme levels.



Public Lands • Margaux Rose

This photo was taken at Rocky Mountain National Park, I believe it is representative of Conservation in the West topics because the aspen trees are characteristic to the change of seasons here in Colorado and are famous for their striking colors. Aspen trees are also beginning to decline rapidly, forests in lower elevations (such as Arizona) were shown to have lost approximately 90% of their Aspen population, while forests at higher elevations have been shown to have lost approximately 13% of their Aspen population. It has been shown that the drier and hotter seasons, likely a symptom of global warming, have left the trees more susceptible to disease and attacks by bark beetles.




Shot on Leica D-Lux, ISO 200, 20.6 mm • Outdoor Recreation • Jane Hatfield

Seconds before this shot was taken, I passed by climbers scaling up the backside of this Lyon's sandstone formation at Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs. Colorado's State of the West 2019 Poll found that 73% of poll takers attribute living near or on national forest was a significant reason they lived in the West. These spaces, in their aesthetic beauty, recreational utility and inspiring form remain key spaces to reimagine, play, and frolic in the wild.



1/400s, ƒ/91, ISO200, 65mm ● Water and Outdoor Recreation ● Mingxi Hu

This is a photo taken in Lake Powell, Utah. Lake Powell is one of the most famous places for watersports, like paddle-boarding and water motorcycles. Hundreds of cars like the one shown would be the scale during a summer time. The most urgent while overlooked issue during my brief visit there, is the wide-spread micro trash like plastic caps and wraps. The water level here is highly variable over a year not only by climate factors but also by the control of the Glen Canyon Dam downstream, and the sand deposits is vulnerable to water erosion, bringing these micro trash into the waterbody. Increasing research have been done on the extent of plastics into the ocean by continental tributaries and how they disturb ecologies. Plastics ultimately enter into the food chain and human bodies, increasing risks of cardiovascular and neuro diseases. It is just so easy for people to neglect the plastic wastes left while enjoying outdoor recreations especially near water bodies, which possesses environmental consequences that are hazardous qualitatively and quantitively.




f1.8, 1/1,000 sec, ISO 50 ● Outdoor Recreation ● Andrew Hildenbrand

This photo of Max Lavinsky engulfed in blower powder was taken in February in Breckenridge, CO. Days like this one may not be possible, as we see the ski season consistently shortened due to anthropogenic climate change. Earlier spring melts, and shallower mid-season snowpack in many regions are testament to this growing trend. A massive and constantly growing industry is at risk, and the potential for future winters to be as rad as this one has been is on a downward trend.



Brent Jacoby

1/3200s, f/8, ISO 100, 300mm ● Climate Change Recreation ● Brent Jacoby

This photo was taken in Rocky Mountain National Park during a November storm that heralded the arrival of winter in Colorado. Across party lines, voters in the West are shifting towards a consensus that climate change is a serious problem. 77% of Coloradans share this view, and regionally 67% believe water supplies are becoming less predictable and wildfires are more of a problem than 10 years ago. As atmospheric CO2 shoots above the highest levels seen yet in human history; wildfire, precipitation, and seasonal patterns are also shifting outside the norms we have evolved for as a society. Regardless of how individuals in the West vote, we will all share the burden of confronting extreme weather patterns together. The sooner that voters and policymakers agree on the challenges we are facing, the sooner we will be able to take decisive action and collectively improve our own future.


Public Lands • Spencer Miller

This misty sunrise over the Twin Lakes might have just been enough to console us over the foot of snow that had covered Mt. Elbert the night before we planned to mountain bike up it... Needless to say we didn't get very far.

Two things are threatened in this image: first, Colorado's snowpack, which is often talked about and logically a consequence of a warming planet. Second, and less commonly thought about, is the Aspen, the Rockies' primary deciduous tree. I only hope you've found a cluster like this with your own eyes- gold coins, flittering in the fall wind, as far as you can see. Why can you find these groves all over Colorado? Well, Aspens are adept at growing where others trees can't, and therefore provide critical habitats for elk and many species of birds on what would otherwise be a barren slope. As of now, the U.S. Geological Survey is predicting a 40% reduction in habitat for this tree by 2060 because of more frequent fire and drought, making this rare sight even more fleeting.


Aiden Elk2

1/125s, f/5, ISO 200, 38mm ● Wildlife ● Aiden Yu

The photo is taken at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The ecosystem of the park is shifting to observe abnormal overabundance of herbivores, especially elk, in their low elevation winter range due to climate change and settlements decreasing major predators. Research has found that the decreased migratory pattern of herbivores led to threaten the native vegetation habitats in the area such as aspen and willow population: they serve as a crucial part of the core winter range and provide an essential habitat for a variety of plant, butterfly, and bird species. In order to restore the natural range of biodiversity, efforts have been taken in reduction and redistribution of elk as well as intensive management of aspen and willow population.


Brent Jacoby-2

1/200s, f/8, ISO 800, 182mm • Outdoor Recreation• Brent Jacoby

Colorado's State of the West 2019 Poll found that 73% of poll-takers believe living near or on national forest was a significant reason they lived in the West. Recreational Parks like Lake George at Eleven Mile Canyon are used for fishing, hiking, climbing, and a range of other outdoor recreational activities. This photo questions what's to happen in the years to come- will this space remain wild? Will our values as Coloradans be respected on a local and national scale? Can we still even consider our public lands to be wild now?




Shot on Leica D-Lux (Type 109,) ISO 200, 10.9mm • Public Lands • Jane Hatfield

Colorado's State of the West 2019 Poll found that 73% of poll-takers believe living near or on national forest was a significant reason they lived in the West. Recreational Parks like Lake George at Eleven Mile Canyon are used for fishing, hiking, climbing, and a range of other outdoor recreational activities. This photo questions what's to happen in the years to come- will this space remain wild? Will our values as Coloradans be respected on a local and national scale? Can we still even consider our public lands to be wild now?



2018 Photo Contest Finalists


2018 Conservation in the West Student Photography Contest

In January 2018, for the eighth year in a row, the State of the Rockies Project released the Conservation in the West Poll. Conducted in eight western states, the survey explores bi-partisan opinions in each state and for the Rocky Mountain Region concerning conservation, environment, energy, the role of government, trade-offs with economies, and citizen priorities. The survey now includes polling in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Results are broken out into three basic categories: Western State Reports, Topic Reports, and Additional Reports.

What do the wild, open spaces of the Rocky Mountain Region mean to you?

2018 Conservation in the West Poll voters strongly support protection of land and water and defend threatened National Monuments. In the Spring of 2018, students submitted photographs of their explorations of the region to capture images of areas of conservation interest tied to the recent poll results. Seen below are some of the photo entries from the 2018 photo contest displayed in Tutt Library during a week long Earth Day 2018 exhibit. The CC community cast votes to determine the winner, Jason Edelstein '18.


Jason_Edelstein_PublicLands_1 2018

Winning Photo by Jason Edelstein - 1/4000s, f/4, ISO 160, 105mm • Public Lands

This is a photo of Factory Butte in southern Utah taken at sunrise. Factory Butte and the surrounding land is managed by the BLM. 95% of Utah residents believe that outdoor recreation is a vital part of their economy however only 56% of the state believe in protecting national monuments and public lands. These two are intrinsically intertwined as we have seen recently with SIA's Outdoor Retailer moving to Colorado after the announced privatization of Bear Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments. Outdoor recreation occurs in public lands and much of Utah's outdoor recreation involves hiking and sight seeing in the Eastern and Southern deserts' majestic public lands.



Photo by Jason Edelstein - 1/4000s, f/4, ISO 160, 105mm • Outdoor Recreation

This photo was taken of a freestyle Kayaker in one of Denver's new river parks on the South Platte River. The South Platte is a river on the eastern side of the continental divide that provides water for many Front Range cities and eventually flows out to the Midwest. It is the primary source of water for Denver, the largest city in the Front Range, and now a source of recreation as well. On the weekends in the summer the city is able to request an excess of water to be released from a reservoir in Aurora to form artificial waves. 75% of Coloradans consider themselves outdoor enthusiasts and 96% think that the outdoor recreation economy is a vital part of the greater Colorado economy. Most of our recreation, if not all of it depend upon the protection and reduction of stress on our watersheds.


Photo by Matthew Harris - 1/55s, f/11, ISO 200, 14mm • Energy and Water

This is an image of the Green River, near Bowknot Bend, a spot where the river doubles back on itself after a nine-mile turn. With its headwaters in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, the Green River runs for 730 miles before joining the Colorado River. These rivers are incredibly important to the West, with nearly 40 million people depending on their water for agricultural, industrial, and domestic needs. Populations along these rivers are in favor of protecting these resources and see water conservation, reducing pollution, and reimagining development as important strategies for doing so. These kinds of efforts require more resources being available to take care of our public lands, which is seen as equally important.


Emily_Kressley_OutdoorRecreation_1 copy

Photo by Emily Kressley - 1/5000s, f/1.8, ISO 20, 4mm Outdoor Recreation

Wild open spaces in the Rocky Mountain Region mean just that, wild and free, and open and full of potential. Skiing is where I feel most in touch with myself. It might be the endorphins going from activity, or the vitamin D rich and powerful sunshine, or the sheer magnitude of the mountains, or just how blue the sky is. The fresh air, the dark pines, the peacefulness of the blankets of snow, but simultaneous liveliness of it all. Resting atop a mountain or hurtling down the face of it on two planks is what makes me happiest, and most myself. Skiing has been a constant beneficial force in my life since age 3, a place for family and friends but also a place for solidarity.


Aidan_Powell_Publiclands copy


Photo by Aidan Powell - 10s, f/3.5, ISO 2000, 16mm • Public Lands

This photo was taken in high desert of eastern Utah over second block break. After a long day of pedaling the Kokopelli trail, we were satisfied with this peaceful spot to rest for the night. Half a mile southwest of camp, the Colorado River runs broad. Remote expanses of public land in the American west are largely responsible for east-coasters like myself feeling drawn to this part of the country. I appreciate the wild spaces here, the BLM land, the jagged Rockies and the massive grassy plains. We get a glimpse of how the country looked before westward expansion - before the extraction industries, cities, and roads were a reality. When the only noises are the crickets and the occasional howl of a coyote, and despite my tired body, my mind is still - these are the moments that drive my desire to return again and again, in search of the quiet, untampered, wild places.


Photo by Harrison Raine - 1/500s, f/4, ISO 80, 7.2mm • Public Lands

The increasing frequency and severity of wildfires poses one of the greatest threats to our nation's public lands. After a hundred years of extreme fire suppression, combined with a warming climates, forested areas of North America are primed to burn. This photo was taken on the Dixie National Forest in Southern Utah, where the Brianhead fire burned more than 70,000 acres. The Brianhead fire occurred in area that was overdue for a fire, based upon the natural fire regime in that area. With strong and funded fire management, it may be possible to reduce fire potential in these areas through reintroduction of prescribed fire.

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