With over 700 photo submissions, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) congratulates all participants and the top 20 winners for the 2023 ‘Reflections’ photo contest.

“The enthusiasm individuals have for their state parks and forests is apparent in the abundance of images submitted,” remarked Marci Mowery, President of PPFF. “Photography is one of the numerous avenues through which people revel in the beauty and inspiration of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests.”

You can view the winners and all of the 2023 submissions on PPFF’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/PennsylvaniaParksAndForestsFoundation/photos_albums

The 2024 Photo Contest is now open! This years’ theme encourages photographers to “Leap In” and utilize Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests for new adventures, volunteering, experiences, and seeking the ‘awe’ of nature. For information on categories, rules, and submitting your photos, visit our website at PAParksAndForests.org/our-work/recreation/photo-contest/.


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Judges’ Choice, Best in Show,
Bruce Walkovich, Prince Gallitzin State Park

The Judge’s Choice ‘Best in Show’ was taken at Prince Gallitzin State Park by Bruce Walkovich of Cambria County. “I have been an avid outdoorsman my entire life. I spent most of that time hunting and fishing. As I grew older, I found myself spending more time concentrating on the flora and fauna surrounding me, and less concerned with the harvest,” reflects Bruce. “Eventually, I “traded” in the guns, bows, and fishing rods for cameras and lenses. I now spend 4-6 hours about three times a week engrossed in nature. My favorite destinations are the state parks and forests in central Pennsylvania.”

He then goes on to talk about what captures his attention while taking photos. “Prince Gallitzin State Park is my most frequent destination. There is such a variety and abundance of wildlife there that I never know what I may encounter, and I take advantage of the opportunities that are presented. In late spring and summer, large numbers of songbirds take up residence or pass through the park on their migration. Indigo buntings were particularly abundant this year, and their plumage alone makes them photo worthy. When I observed them in a massive field of yellow flowers the contrast was striking, and I spent several hours adjusting my position for the lighting and background, waiting for the moment when a bunting landed in the right spot and began singing.”

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People’s Choice, Best in Show,  Kody Beer, Pymatuning State Park

The People’s Choice Best in Show is a photo taken at Pymatuning State Park by Kody Beer, a resident of Mercer County. After working a long, 12-hour night shift, he noticed how the snow an ice looked under the rising sun and thought it would make a great photo. “I hurried over to the marina on the southern end of the lake still in my hospital scrubs and ran across the snow-covered ground to set up my camera and tripod. A lot of photos like these are only possible in a very narrow window of time and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Thankfully, I was able to grab several really nice shots that morning. I was freezing, covered in snow, and exhausted from working all night, but I had some great memorable shots to make up for it.”

Reflecting on his time spent around the park, he says, “Pymatuning State Park is very special to me. I grew up spending many weekends through the summer camping at Pymatuning. Raised in Western PA , I ended up moving up to the Pymatuning area a few years after graduating college as I wanted to build a life that I didn’t need a vacation from. I’ve lived along Pymatuning Lake for five years now and I love every minute of it. It’s a very quiet and peaceful place year-round, which is a necessity for my days off.”


Judges’ Choice, “Celebrations”
Corey Bires, Leonard Harrison State Park

A fun, family tradition landed Corey Bires and his wife the Judge’s Choice for the ‘Celebrations’ category while visiting Leonard Harrison State Park (LHSP). “We were excited to capture this moment where our daughter could “fly” just like the amazing Bald Eagles we’ve seen from the overlook! Usually we’re at a beach, but LHSP had the perfect sunset during peak Fall foliage,” states Corey. “My wife deserves the credit for taking the photo, and it was neat how everything lined up where it looks like my daughter is standing on the sun!”

When asked about what he loves about this park, Corey says, “My family loves the entire Pine Creek gorge — whether viewing from above, or down along the rail trail, it is a truly special place! We hike at both Leonard Harrison & Colton Point State Parks each year – it’s nice to have the convenience for anyone to enjoy the overlooks, as well as the more challenging trails.” He goes on to talk about his love of other state parks and forests by adding, “I’ve hiked all over our wonderful state and mostly enjoy the solitude being one with nature in our beautiful state forests which have so many spectacular waterfalls, vistas, and so much more to explore! There are also so many great camping, hiking, swimming, and educational opportunities in our state parks. Our other family favorites are Worlds End State Park, Ricketts Glen State Park, and Lehigh Gorge State Park!”

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Peoples Choice, “Celebrations” First Place, Lucretia Robison, Little Pine State Park

Lucretia Robison, a Bedford County resident won 1st place in the People’s Choice for the ‘Celebrations’ category. “I enjoy visiting Little Pine State Park, because of the variety of wildlife that can be found there to photograph. I particularly like to photograph eagles and Little Pine usually doesn’t disappoint.”

She then states, “PA state parks have a nice variety to fulfill many interests, including fishing, hiking, boating, kayaking, and photography. There is a peace and relaxation that comes from the outdoors and being wrapped up in nature.”

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People’s Choice, “Celebrations” Runner Up, Elizabeth Vanderhorst, Nolde Forest Environmental Educational Center

Elizabeth Vanderhorst, who won the People’s Choice Runner Up for the ‘Celebrations’ category,  has worked hard to teach her daughters to appreciate nature and the outdoors. “On this particular day, we were enjoying the sunny weather & celebrating the last day of summer. I couldn’t help but capture the photo of her looking like a little woodland fairy hopping across the stumps.”

“What a gift to live so close to Nolde. I love the history of Nolde Forest and how all the trees were planted because of one man’s vision. In addition, the trails are perfect for hiking with my young children and it is always so peaceful there.,” she goes on to say. “Pennsylvania is so fortunate to have an amazing park system (and I say that after having been to all 50 states). I grew up in the shadow of Cowans Gap State Park, spent a lot of time hiking in Caledonia State Park and Michaux State Forest, and have been camping in many of the parks. There are so many programs offered and outdoor activities to partake in through the state.”


Judges’ Choice, “Conversations,”
Matt Giambra, Frances Slocum State Park.

Luzerne Country resident Matthew Giambra captured the photo that won Judge’s Choice for the ‘Conversations’ category. Having some extra time before work on morning, he headed out to Francis Slocum State Park in hopes of capturing so birds. “As I approached the lake, I saw these two walking along the shore line, so I paused to snap a few images. After about 5 minutes, they started to walk in the water and that’s when I was able to snap this image.”

While reflecting on his trip, he adds, “It just served as a good reminder that even when you have a specific goal in mind, it’s always important to stop every once and a while and appreciate what’s in front of you. Had I decided to keep moving to look for the birds that I originally intended to photograph, I would have missed this moment completely.”

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People’s Choice, “Conversations” First Place, Liz Mickley, Michaux State Forest

On a beautiful summer day in the Michaux State Forest, Liz Mickley, first place winner of the People’s Choice award in ‘Conversations,’ captured an image of her children enjoying the view. While reflecting on the adventure of trying a new trail that day, Liz states, “At the end of the trail we reached a beautiful overlook where we all took in the view. Our two children enjoyed sitting on the rocks and looking out over the countryside talking about all the things they could see in the valley below.”

“I love that Michaux State Forest is such a large area of protected land that provides seemingly endless opportunities for exploration. Every time we try a new trail, we discover something interesting, new, and beautiful,” she continues. “I am thankful to have Michaux State Forest and other Pennsylvania state parks and forests so conveniently located to where we live, and thankful for the large network of parks and forests that provide outdoor recreational opportunities across the whole state.”

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People’s Choice, “Conversations” Runner Up, Dave Myers, French Creek State Park

As an amateur nature photographer, Dave Myers, winner of the People’s Choice “Conversations” Runner Up, has spent quite a bit of time at French Creek State Park, where the winning shot was taken. “This shot caught my eye because the two birds appeared to be in a conversation with each other, or maybe more accurately, the one bird was scolding the other one. Anyway, I found it a humorous image.”

When asked what he enjoys about this state park, he said, “What I love about French Creek State Park is it’s proximity to my residence – about 7 or so miles – so it’s easy to hop in the car and head to the park for some light hiking, bicycling, and/or nature photography. The park is pretty well-maintained. You get to meet a lot of people walking their dogs, etc., and get to have some conversations with strangers who are also there to enjoy the accommodations.”

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Judges’ Choice, “Meditation,”
Suzie Enos, Laurel Hill State Park

The Judge’s Choice winner for the ‘Meditation’ category is Suzie Enos, a resident of Sommerset County. “Laurel Hill State Park has been a respite from life’s troubles for both my husband and myself. Walking in the forest, especially during a season’s gradual transition, can put many things in perspective – the circle of life and the connection between all living things. When my husband paused to rest and reflect in the shelter on Hemlock Trail, I felt he was surrounded by a peace that only the reverence of the forest could provide and I chose to capture the peace of the moment provided by the natural world.”

“When I hike here at Laurel Hill,” she continues, “I can’t stop looking! Tiny mushrooms amaze me as much as massive old growth Hemlocks. There is exhilaration and there is peace. It is everything I need.”

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People’s Choice, “Meditation” First Place, Jessica Mitchell, Pine Grove State Park

The 1st place winner of the People’s Choice for the ‘Meditation’ category is Jessica Mitchell, a resident of Cumberland County. She captured the photo while visiting Pine Grove State Park. “Our family spends a lot of time wandering the trails, splashing in the creek, and swimming in Fuller Lake. Pine Grove Furnace is a gorgeous park rich with history.”

“This is a photo of my daughter after one of our early evening adventures,” she explains. “I snapped this shot as we were heading out of the woods and back to our car. I feel it represents the calmness and beauty associated with time spent in nature. What better way to end a day than splashing in the water?”

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People’s Choice, “Meditation” Runner Up, Sabrina Walters, Susquehanna Riverlands State Park

Sabrina Walters, winner of the People’s Choice “Meditation” Runner Up, snapped her photo at Susquehanna Riverlands State Park in August. “My husband and I enjoy waking and hiking in many of our nearby township, county, and state parks with our dog. The views of the Susquehanna River from the rock outcropping at the end of the trail were so beautiful and serene. I liked the contrast of the tree and rocks in the foreground and the river in the background, she recounts. “As a lifelong resident of South Central Pennsylvania, I feel the Susquehanna River is an iconic symbol of the region and evokes feelings of peace, family, and history. This image captured that feeling for me.”

“Susquehanna Riverlands State Park has many lovely trails and fantastic viewpoints that can be reached in a short time. It is a quiet place to contemplate and immerse oneself in nature and the land is preserved for future generations to enjoy,” states Sabrina. “PA parks and forests provide a variety of landscapes and trails for all skill levels and changing vistas to enjoy in all seasons.”

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Judges’ Choice, “Mirror Images,”
Linda Stager, Elk State Forest

Tioga County resident Linda Stager won Judge’s Choice in the ‘Mirror Image’ category with her photo of two kingfishers at Elk State Forest. “It’s a tradition for our family to visit Elk County several times a year. Sometimes my hubby and I, other times we bring the entire family of kids and grandkids. It’s always a very special time, and has always brought us joy—and new friends,” Linda states. “I heard the characteristic chatter of a kingfisher and soon realized that there were two kingfishers buzzing up and down the creek before us. I pulled up my long telephoto lens and started taking photos”

Linda then talks about the diversity of her visits, saying, “Pennsylvania state forests are amazing gifts. On this particular morning, we were sitting along the creek watching for wildlife. Once we saw a bear, other times, we’ve seen elk, this time we were watching little birds in the trees across the creek.”

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People’s Choice, “Mirror Image” First Place, Sabrina Hilpert, R.B. Winter State Park

Sabrina took her winning shot on her first visit to R. B. Winter State Park. “I started in Bald Eagle State Forest and hiked my way into the main part of the park. I came for the leaves. It started as a cloudy, misty morning, but by the time I got down to the beach, the sun had come out, helping to produce the most amazing reflections.”

“I love the PA park system,” Sabrina tells us. “I think to date I have been to over 60 and every one offers something so different. A hike through the forest, dipping your toes in the water, or taking a stroll through history, there is always something new to explore.”

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People’s Choice, “Mirror Image” Runner Up, Jen Krauss, Nockamixon State Park

Jen Krause, a Bucks County resident, won Runner Up for People’s Choice in the ‘Mirror Images’ category. While kayaking on the lake at Nockamixon State Park, she noticed the stillness of the water. “Once a few other kayakers passed by and allowed the water to still again, I was able to capture the image uninterrupted. It was worth the wait as it is one of my favorite pictures that I captured.”

She continued, “I love that Nockamixon has a little bit of everything to offer. Hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as family-oriented picnic spaces and a pool. There’s so much beauty around every turn, whether you’re on land or in the water.”


Judges’ Choice, “What Parks and Forests Mean to Me,” Xu Weng, Hickory Run State Park

Queens County, NY resident Xu Weng, won the Judge’s Choice for “What State Parks and Forests Mean to Me” with a photo taken at Hickory Run State Park while enjoying a Memorial Day friends trip. “I met two friends several years ago when we started our careers at the same company. Our work can be stressful, so to alleviate burnout, we deceide to go on a hiking trip.” While reflecting on the trip, she continues, “We we actually got lost on the hike, took a wrong turn somewhere, and found ourselves on a completely different trail than the one we intended. But, we found that this unintended trail had stunning foliage including a particular section in which the trees curled in on themselves before curving to the side, giving the impression of a tunnel. My friends and I took numerous goofy pictures of us skipping, dancing, and strutting like a model up and down this section, which resulted in this picture. Clearly, we took a right turn after all! I submitted this picture for the ‘What Parks and Forests Mean to Me’ because it shows that the parks are a place of healing for all ages, a place where straight-laced corporate professionals like us can have fun and be free and do silly stuff like skipping down a wooded path without judgement.”

Xu goes on to talk more about her visit stating, “We loved the helpfulness and expansiveness of the Visitor Center at Hickory Run State Park. The rangers were super friendly and excited to explain which trails had the best views, which areas would be less crowded at that time of day, and even what places to avoid for ticks. It was inspiring to meet people who clearly love what they do at where they are, and love sharing their love with new people (visitors like us) wanting to experience it.”

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People’s Choice, “What Parks and Forests Mean to Me” First Place, Jenna Chrysczanavicz, Ravensburg State Park

“If anyone ever asks me where my favorite place to be is, I’ll always say with the trees in the forest — any forest,” states Jenna. “My boyfriend and I have a jar with all the PA state parks on little pieces of paper. Usually, we’ll shake the jar and randomly pick where to visit next. But, that wasnt the case for this. A good friend invited us to her sister’s cabin for her birthday, which is just down the road from the magical Ravensburg State Park.”

“I was amazed just driving along the road up to the entrance of the park. The greens were absolutely breathtaking. I felt like I was in a page of a fairy tale storybook! When you walk along the water it is all rocks covered in moss, which I love,” reflected Jenna. “I remember just standing there in the middle of the water on a rock and taking a deep breath, feeling so alive in the moment, grounded and connected to our Mother Earth. The [forest is the] only place I am disconnected and yet so deeply connected at the same time, the only place that releases all my worries and anxieties, and the only place I feel whole.”

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People’s Choice, “What Parks and Forests Mean to Me” Runner Up, Dorothy Monahan, Oil Creek State Park

Dorothy Monahan, a resident of Venango County, won Runner Up for the People’s Choice ‘What Parks and Forests Mean to Me’ category. Having taken a drive through Oil Creek State Park after a snow fall, Dorothy recaps about capturing the photo. “As I turned onto a road in the park, I caught site of a young bobcat sitting on the side of the road. I had the opportunity to snap a couple of photos before it moved into the brush.”

She goes on to say, “Oil Creek State Park has great trails to find migrating birds in the Spring and Fall. Many warblers and other birds can be found throughout the park all summer. Eagles fly up Oil Creek or perch in trees. You never know what animals you might find throughout the park!”


Judges’ Choice, “Young Photographers,” Brodie Bard, McConnells Mill State Park

Brodie Bard captured the winning Judges Choice photo for “Young Photographers” while on a trip to McConnells Mill State Park with the MCG Youth and Arts program in Pittsburgh, a weekly afterschool – and occasionally weekend – art class.” We visited a couple spots in the park, including Alpha Falls which is notoriously dry, unlike this particular trip. I simply cannot stress enough how much water was flowing,” states Brodie. “The lower several stairs were engulfed by the rapid stream. I started scouting for compositions to frame the beautiful scene. I noticed the vivid log and saw how the water flowed under it and through the scene. The log, which happened to be slanted in my favor, acts as a leading line drawing the viewer’s attention from the corner straight to the main attraction: Hell’s Hollow Falls.” Excited about the photo and composition, he goes on to say, “Texture seems to be the most appealing aspect of this photo in addition to a well balance of warm wood tones and cool earthy greens in the evergreen foliage. The rigid stone shapes, soft yet aggressive water movement and the silky smooth waterfall itself are what stand out the most to me. After witnessing this photo materialize and finally seeing it on the back of my camera, I knew it would be a highlight of my trip.”

Having visited the park several times, Brodie talks about his favorite parts of McConnells Mill State Park. “One of my favorite parts of McConnells Mill is the unique trail down to the Mill itself. Walking alongside the water is such a tranquil experience- and also enables lots of photography opportunities. Another favorite of mine is how diverse the park is. From large, natural waterfalls like Hell’s Hollow, to man-made beauties like the Covered Bridge or Mill itself. It’s a large park with endless opportunities.” His love of Pennsylvania’s state park system doesn’t stop there. “Another favorite aspect of McConnells Mill is it’s neighbors. Moraine State Park and Jennings Environmental Center help drive home the all-inclusive environment of the area. Each park is incredibly close to one another meaning that once you saw the waterfalls, you can take a short drive and spend the day on the lake, or beach, or walk through a rare native prairie ecosystem in Jennings (my favorite). The possibilities are boundless, which is the reason why McConnells Mill remains as one of my favorite PA State Parks.”

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People’s Choice, “Young Photographer” First Place, Lilly Zhang, Marsh Creek State Park

On an early, autumn morning at Marsh Creek State Park, Lilly Zhang of Chester County captured the 1st place photo for People’s Choice in the “Young Photographers” category. “There was gold mist suspended on the still lake surface, and amid it was the coexistence of a fisherman and a duck. Seeing this duo on the lake, I knew that I had to capture the scenery in a photo.”

“I love Marsh Creek State Park because it not only has all the fun elements of a typical park (i.e. kayaking, boating, trails, playground, fishing, picnic areas), it still maintains the serene beauty of the land and some surrounding wildlife (i.e. herons, fish, turtles),” Lilly says while reflecting on her visit. “Additionally, I have a lot of fond memories of gatherings, early mornings, and paddle boarding there with family and friends.”

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People’s Choice, “Young Photographer” Runner Up, Mikayla Bond, Little Buffalo State Park

Mikayla Bond, who won People’s Choice “Young Photographers” Runner Up, and her dog, Hershey, took advantage of the water when visiting Little Buffalo State Park. “I was enjoying the opportunity my mom gave me to use her DSLR camera,” she says. “My dog enjoys jumping off docks, playing in water, and fetching sticks. I wanted to get a photo of her jumping off the dock. I never thought the photo would turn out so well!”

“This was my family’s first time to Little Buffalo and it was pretty. I really liked the covered bridge and mill. We go to a different state park at least once a year. My mom and I have the passport stamp books and like getting the stamps. We have 46 stamps so far.”

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2023 Photo Contest Winners Announced