Journey Photo Contest

The layered Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in New Zealand with blue ocean water in the distance

-Photo by Richard Molitor

Carved in History

Capturing Easter Island’s symbol of Polynesian culture

Centuries after they were carved, these human statues known as “moai” make for an awe-inspiring sight, commanding a rugged plain in one of the remotest places on Earth. AAA member Richard Molitor took this photo in September 2019, while on an all-day tour of Easter Island located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile.

“I am a huge fan of all Polynesian culture, and Easter Island is the most remote Polynesian culture there is,” Bothell resident Molitor says. “It is one of the last places settled in the Great Pacific migrations. So, this sort of completed for me the Polynesian triangle, which is New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii. … It was kind of like finishing the puzzle.”

Easter Island, a 14-mile-long, 7-mile-wide patch of land, is famous for its roughly 900 moai (pronounced “mo-eye”), which were carved over several centuries and most likely depicted important ancestors of the Rapa Nui people.
Molitor estimates that the pictured statues range from about 15 to 25 feet tall, but a roughly 50-foot-tall behemoth remains cut into the rock in one of the two quarries near this site. By the mid-18th century most of the moai of Easter Island had been toppled over. These statues have been placed upright again on a stone platform called an “ahu.”

“The actual installation is almost on a delta,” Molitor says. “You see it when you are up in the quarry, where all of these were carved out from two stone quarries. If you look down into the valley, the moai are placed very close to the shoreline and they are facing inland toward the island, as is the custom. So, it is on sort of a flat, lowland plain in between a couple of rock quarries.”

Molitor feels fortunate to have visited the island. The Chilean government has taken steps to limit the number of tourists and permanent residents on Easter Island to curb environmental degradation.

“It will be more difficult to visit this amazing destination,” he says. “So, that makes this memory very special.”

-Written by John Woodworth

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

The layered Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in New Zealand with blue ocean water in the distance

-Photo by Leslie Nuttman

Big ’Berg From a Small Ship

Sailing to Antarctica under sunny skies

Leslie Nuttman says Antarctica seemed “a bit out there” when her sister, a biologist, first proposed their trip.

But Nuttman and her husband had always enjoyed tagging along on adventures to wildlife-rich locales with her sister and brother-in-law, so the four planned their 2020 Antarctic cruise two years in advance.

“Antarctica is wild, unique and stunningly beautiful, with some species of wildlife in numbers not to be seen anywhere else in the world,” says Nuttman, who lives in Allyn, Washington. “I put it on a par with the Galápagos Islands or Africa in that respect. Ice also has an ethereal beauty all its own that needs to be seen to be believed.”

They arrived at the southern tip of Argentina in January, leaving the cruise port of Ushuaia and crossing the Drake Passage on a 19-day sailing to Antarctica, where Nuttman photographed this iceberg under the Southern Hemisphere’s blue summer skies.

“I would encourage any traveler with a sense of adventure to add the southern polar regions to their bucket list of places to visit,” she says. “Go on a small ship so you can walk among hundreds of thousands of penguins, visit albatross nesting sites and see whales breach close enough to your Zodiac to splash you.”

“Lots of people have asked me why I chose to go to Antarctica,” Nuttman says, “and now I just smile and share amazing photos and stories of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

The layered Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in New Zealand with blue ocean water in the distance

-Photo by Robert Denney

Prickly Points of Interest

Cactus collections in Joshua Tree National Park

Teddy bear chollas aren’t for cuddling.

Some people learn that the hard way if they stray off the Cholla Cactus Garden trail in Joshua Tree National Park, photographed above with the Hexie Mountains by Seattle resident Robert Denney on an RV road trip to Phoenix last year.

“This trip changed my perspective greatly, for the vastness and beauty of the region in geology, plant life and wildlife,” Denney says. “Although stark in nature, the detail of the desert is quite complex, with geological rock formations, canyons and inexplicable desert washes, the below-sea-level Salton Sea and a surprising oasis of greenery and palm trees that occurs suddenly and randomly.”

The park straddles the boundary of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, which is part of the larger Sonoran Desert. It was Denney’s first time visiting. He stayed at the Cottonwood Campground, where he enjoyed the quiet and solitude and embarked on trips around the park and a day hike to the California fan palms at Lost Palms Oasis.

Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit. Services are limited within the park, but the nearby desert towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms offer necessary supplies.

“It certainly takes you back to stories of the Wild West and you can only imagine what it would have been like to traverse this vast, harsh environment via horseback, with limited resources or navigation,” Denney says.

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.


-Photo by Bonnie Rae Nygren

Jellyfish Surprise

A stroll along a South Sound boardwalk bears fruit

The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge at the southern end of Puget Sound was established in 1974 to protect the estuaries where the Nisqually River meets and mixes with the sound, and the sea life that thrives within this river delta — including this lion’s mane jellyfish photographed by AAA member Bonnie Rae Nygren.

A postal worker for 30 years, this Auburn, Washington, resident retired on Halloween 2019 to travel and spend more time on her art of creating colorful cards with acrylics. When COVID-19 curtailed her plans to tour West Coast national parks, Nygren, an avid hiker, began looking for inspiration closer to home.

Going for a walk along the boardwalk at Nisqually soon became a favorite activity — alone or with friends. One day this past August, one of Nygren’s friends mentioned they should start watching for lion’s mane jellyfish, which can be seen by looking over the boardwalk’s side in early fall.

Just 15 minutes later, the group came upon this specimen in a shallow pool right next to the boardwalk about a half mile into the estuary.

“I think the tide was coming in at the time, so the jellyfish was in really shallow water,” Nygren says. “It was such beautiful sun that day, too. It was spectacular.”
Nygren, who posts her art and photos on a blog, says her new camera (a Nikon Coolpix P950) really upped her game. “It elevated what I thought I could do with what I see,” she says, adding, “I love photography and I think it tells stories in the same way words can and art can.”

-Written by Will McDermott

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

A beat-up boat on the shores of Scotland's Isle of Skye

-Photo by Ryan Northrup

Tides of Time on the Isle of Skye

Shoreside sights on a Scotland road trip

A Renton couple developed a helpful habit as they drove 736 miles through Scotland “on the wrong side of the car and road” compared to what they were used to.

“We chanted, ‘Stay left, stay left, stay left’ at each intersection to remind ourselves,” Ryan Northrup says.

He and his wife, Kristen, celebrated their 10th anniversary with a 17-day trip across Iceland, Belgium, Scotland and Ireland. While in Scotland, they worked the gearbox of a manual transmission rental car on a road trip from Edinburgh to Perth, Aberlour, Inverness, Loch Ness, Colbost, Carbost, Oban and Glasgow, with stops for castles, whisky distilleries, tea and meat pies, chocolates, scallops and oysters along the way.

One evening in Colbost, they visited Neist Point for an incredible view from the Isle of Skye’s westernmost point. On the way to Carbost the next morning, they were stopping for photos of Castle Dunvegan, rivers, bridges and cemeteries when they came across a beat-up boat.

“Luckily, the owner of the land and boat was there and happily let us in the gate to take pictures,” Northrup says. “Though the picture came from just an unplanned, roadside stop … it turned out to be one of [our] favorite photos of our trip.”

“We have a copy now hanging in our house, and I smile every time I see it as it brings back so many wonderful memories of our time in Scotland,” Northrup says. “We will definitely be returning someday, and I'd be interested to see if that boat is still there and how it may have changed.”

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

A crocodile basking atop a hippopotamus in the Okavango Delta

-Photo by Gene Brown

Crocodile Snap Shot

A double feature on an African game drive

You’ll see something different each time you go to Africa, even if you visit the same places, says Gene Brown.

When Brown was on his 10th trip to Africa, he captured this photo of a crocodile basking atop a hippopotamus.

“The croc seems to be giving directions to the hippo,” Brown says.

Brown and his wife, who live outside Sequim, Washington, were on a game drive in the Okavango Delta, home to some of the largest crocodiles in the world. They were in Botswana, which Brown recommends for its stable government and wildlife preservation.

On an earlier trip to the Kalahari Desert, meerkats hopped on his wife’s shoulders to survey their surroundings.

“The look on her face was priceless,” Brown says. “She was just blown away. She had a big grin on her face.”

But the best memory was a couple trips ago when they encountered a breeding herd of about 40 to 50 elephants and calves.

“Our guide pulled over and said, ‘Get out and don’t make a move, just sit on the ground.’ Sure enough the whole herd walked right by us,” Brown says. “It was a magical moment.”

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.


-Photo by Rachael Jones

Church on the Hill

Soft focus on Iceland’s Víkurkirkja in summer

AAA Washington member Rachael Jones saw it all on a seven-day tour of Iceland by bus, on foot, raft and even a turboprop airplane this past July. The jam-packed itinerary covered waterfalls, geysers, canyons, glacial rivers, the Blue Lagoon, and more sheep than she and her wife could count.

When they visited Reynisfjara’s famous black sand beach and basalt sea stacks, Jones was mesmerized by the softly waving grass that perfectly framed the church called Víkurkirkja.

“While strolling the beach, I happened to turn around and notice a little red and white building in the distance,” Jones says. “I try to challenge myself to search for a different viewpoint, a different angle on the same visual story. When we returned from our trip, I discovered the photo in my pile of edits and it caught my eye just as it did before.”

For those considering a trip to Iceland sometime, Jones recommends packing good shoes and plenty of snacks.

“One of the most beautiful things about Iceland is the miles and miles of wide-open spaces, and the long stretches of road that lead from one place to another. That's the charm — it takes a while to get where you're going,” Jones says.

“It's important to fuel up, both your body and your car, beforehand and at every possible point,” she says. “As snacks and food can be rather pricey in Iceland, pack plenty of airport-friendly snacks in your suitcase, like protein bars, trail mix and fruit leathers to curb the need for any unnecessary and lengthy detours once you're there.”

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.


-Photo by Bob Stanton

Spring in Oregon's High Desert

One of the Northwest’s driest places offers incredible sights

May through October is hot air ballooning season at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon, where AAA Washington member Bob Stanton took this photo.

Ballooning offers views from the perspective of the peregrine falcons, golden eagles and prairie falcons that nest in these volcanic cliffs above the Crooked River. This state park near Terrebonne, Oregon, is world-famous for rock climbing, with thousands of routes old and new for beginners through experts.

“Fantastic trails and views just [outside] of Bend and just off the main drag of Redmond,” said Stanton, who lives in Bellingham, Washington. “Tumalo Falls is spectacular, as well as the mile-long lava tube that you can walk.”

The tube is Deschutes National Forest’s Lava River Cave, which is usually open May through September.

River rafting was another highlight of Stanton’s trip to Oregon’s High Desert, where the dry and sunny days of spring and fall are the best times to visit. Winter is usually too cold for most visitors and summer temperatures can break 100 degrees. Temperatures often dip below freezing at night, so layer up and stay hydrated.

If you plan to visit Smith Rock State Park, check ahead for climbing route closures and other restrictions for raptor courting and nesting. And know that campfires are banned year-round due to the dry climate.

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.


-Photo by Rick Browne

Red Sky at Morning

Capturing a chance encounter on the Olympic Peninsula

AAA Washington member Rick Browne only had one chance to preserve this special moment while on an early morning drive in Washington state’s Olympic National Park.

“I was on my way to take a ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, but dawdled away a few days in the park on the way up,” the Vashon resident said. “As an early riser, I lucked onto this elk and could only grab one frame before he vanished into the woods.”

It was September, so Browne figures this bull was either looking for breakfast or love. Elk can be heard bugling in the fall mating season, and sparring bulls have closed Hoh Campground to overnight visitors for weeks during the rut. The Hoh Rain Forest is home to several herds, although Roosevelt elk can be found across the park, in Olympic Peninsula communities such as Sequim and the Skokomish Valley, and as far as British Columbia and California.

These elk are the largest in North America, and Olympic National Park — once proposed as “Elk National Park” — is home to the largest unmanaged Roosevelt elk herd in the Northwest. Roosevelt elk are named for President Theodore Roosevelt, who designated Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 to protect their dwindling numbers. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 signed the act establishing Olympic National Park.

Park officials urge visitors to stay at least 50 yards from wildlife and to remain in their cars if elk are near parking areas, because these wild animals are dangerous and unpredictable. Keep watch for elk on the road while driving in or near the park, leave yourself plenty of time to brake when rounding curves and cresting hills in elk country, and remember to pull safely out of traffic and put the car in park if you want to observe or photograph these massive mammals.

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

The layered Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki in New Zealand with blue ocean water in the distance

-Photo by Tami Lapthorne-Hastings

Punakaiki's Pancake Rocks

Take your time to appreciate New Zealand's sights

AAA Washington member Tami Lapthorne-Hastings was on a New Zealand road trip in the fall of 2013 when she took this photo of Paparoa National Park’s pancake rocks, formed 30 million years ago.

“When the waves are coming in, you feel the power beneath your feet and all this water spews up from the blowholes,” the Auburn resident said. “There are so many things in New Zealand that just take your breath away (like) the color of the water, the greenery all around you. You can just snap and snap and snap away. There is so much to take pictures of.”

She recommends sailing on the Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait between the North Island and the South Island, where “bottlenose dolphins chased us almost the entire trip.”

Prepare for a long flight to get there — at least 16 hours, including stops in Los Angeles or San Francisco — but when you arrive, “take your leisurely time” and make sure to stop for a look if something catches your eye, Lapthorne-Hastings said.

“You’re going to miss out on something if you don’t.”

-Written by Jim Hammerand

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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Attention: AAA Members. We’d Like to See Your Travel Photos

We would like to see and share your travel photos. Whether you were on a Northwest road trip, aboard a cruise ship or traveling internationally, think of sharing your best photos with us. We’ll select photos from AAA Washington members to publish in our member magazine, Journey, in e-newsletters and online.


To be considered, email your high resolution image (JPEG/JPG or TIFF files, at least 300 dpi with a file size of at least 1 MB but no more than 10 MB) to along with your name, your city and a little information about when, where and how you took the photo.

By submitting, you are confirming that you took the photo and as the copyright holder, you are granting republication rights to AAA Washington.

Additional Guidelines

Be Safe
Never try to take a photo while you are driving, always be aware of traffic when photographing near the road, and be sure to maintain safe distances from wildlife and environmental hazards.

Be Respectful
Please respect local cultural customs, sensitive habitats, private property and individual privacy, and always adhere to responsible photography practices.

AAA Washington reserves the right not to select any photo for any reason, without notification. AAA Washington reserves the right to use all entries in its marketing materials (including Journey magazine, print, online and social media) without compensation.

Questions? Email the editors at

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