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9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest

With over 500 million Instagram accounts worldwide active every day, the platform has a lot of untapped potentials: especially when it comes to running contests.
Creating a worthwhile Instagram contest can help you to grow your business online with more engagement, followers, and yes, sales.
60% of Instagram users seek out and discover new products on Instagram, and research shows that more than half of all adults in the U.S. enter at least one contest or sweepstakes every year.
With Instagram contests becoming increasingly common, you have an audience both familiar with, and interested in, your Instagram contest, available to you for free.
At the same time, the last thing you want is to end up with an Instagram contest that leaves you with no results or little impact on your brand. So in this post, I’ll be showing you, step-by-step, how to run a winning Instagram contest.

Step 1: Create Your Instagram Campaign Goals
Most brands make the mistake of running their Instagram contest without thinking ahead, only to see their contest fall flat on its face. Later they’ll complain that Instagram contest doesn’t work.
Fact check: An Instagram contest is a powerful tool, but only if you have a plan of action.
First things first, you’ll need to decide your what your Instagram contest campaign will be. What do you want this contest to accomplish?
Here are some Instagram Contest Goals you can choose from:

Increase your followers on Instagram
Increase sales and online purchases
Drive traffic to your website or landing page
Promote new or current products and services

You can choose more than one goal for your Instagram contest, and the goals you choose can guide you in designing the best entry method for your contest.
Step 2: Choose Your Instagram Contest Entry Method
It seems like a small detail, but it will be crucial to the success of your campaign. Your contest entry method should complement your Instagram contest goal. For example, if you want to drive more traffic to your website, you can ask people to click the link in your bio to enter. From there, you’ll be able to convert your Instagram traffic into website traffic.
That’s what the World Photography Organisation did for their Photography Contest.
There are numerous ways to design an Instagram contest (however, once you choose, it wouldn’t be wise to change it once your Instagram contest kicks off: this can cause frustration and anger among contestants. As with marriage, once you say I do to an entry method, it’s ‘til the end of the contest do you part.)
The Five Most Popular Instagram Contest Entry Methods
1. Like-to-Win or Comment-to-Win As the name suggests, in this method, contestants have to comment or like your Instagram contest post to enter for a chance to win.As a social media platform, Instagram has the highest engagement rate of all platforms. That’s because their algorithm values engagement above all. The more engaged people are with your content, the more likely it is to appear at the prized top of your followers’ feed, or rank for search via any of the hashtags in your Instagram contest post. Essentially, this method helps to promote your contest without running ads.
Comment-to-Win Example: Mickey Trescott Book Giveaway

2. Follow To Win To increase your Instagram followers, you can ask users to follow your Instagram account for a chance to win.
This entry method usually works 50/50. One on hand, you can grab viewers who might genuinely like your brand; on the other, you’ll be attracting others who just want to enter your contest and then leave. At the end of it all, you will be able to retain a significant increase of followers who will keep following your account in the long run.
Follow To Win Example: USANA Health Sciences, Inc.

3. Tag-A-Friend To Win contests Ask a user to tag their friends in your Instagram contest post to be automatically entered to win. This helps to post engagement for your Instagram contest, which is always a good thing, and in a very simple way, this method also works as a basic referral system.
The more friends users tag, the more brand visibility you get, and the better your chances for an increase in followers and potential customers.
Tag-A-Friend Example: Tono & Co.

4. Use The Hashtag To Win Ask contestants to use your brand’s hashtag or your contest hashtag to enter to win your Instagram contest. This is mainly when requesting user-generated content (UGC) from your followers. This can be done in two ways:
You can ask them to repost your contest image on their own social media platforms, or you can ask to enter a photo contest and upload their picture with your hashtag to automatically enter your contest to win.
Use The Hashtag To Win Example: France.fr Hashtag Contest
5. Click The Link In The Bio To Enter If you’re looking for a way to get more subscribers to your email list, this should be your method of choice. Direct viewers to click the link in the bio to go on your website or a landing page. Once there, they can submit their email and other details to enter your Instagram contest.
If you consider using your website, it can also drive traffic to your online store. Once a user has finished entering, they’ll most likely browse your website to see what you have to offer.
Link in Bio Instagram Example: Mehron x Mimi Choi MakeUp Contest

Step 3: Choose An Amazing Contest Prize
Now that you’ve decided your Instagram contest entry method, it’s time to choose the prize.
It’s important to pick a prize that’s associated with your brand or brand’s lifestyle so that you attract the right audience to your Instagram contest and page. Granted, you can’t always avoid people who are entering just for the sake of entering, but your prize should appeal to the people you want to convert to loyal followers and customers.
For example, Lifestyle blogger and photographer Iacomini Andrea and beard grooming company Copenhagen Grooming joined forces for a Beard Kit giveaway.

Both Iacomini and Copenhagen Grooming share a similar target audience – men interested in lifestyle products – so naturally, their collaboration worked. They offered their male followers a product of interest, whether they had a beard or wanted a kit to get started, the prize was worthwhile.
In today’s market, an Amazon gift card isn’t going to cut it. Here are some killer Instagram contest prizes you can offer:
*New or Best Selling Products *Discounts *Shopping Sprees *Product Bundles *Free Tickets to an Event *Brand Ambassador Title *V.I.P or Early Access to Products/Services
Step 4: Select An Eye-Catching Contest Image or Video
Instagram is a visually-driven platform, and your Instagram contest image can make or break your Instagram contest.
It isn’t easy to stand out. About 38% of Instagram users check Instagram multiple times a day and 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day.
With so much visual content on Instagram, you have to ensure that your Instagram contest image or video stops them from scrolling past (your caption can do some of the heavy lifting, but we’ll talk about that later).
Boring images get scrolled over without a second look. To stop your followers in their tracks, show them the prize that’s up for grabs, in a way that brings out your brand’s appeal.
Like here, with this Beach Waver and Just Nay Product Launch Giveaway

The look and feel still matches their brand aesthetic, but it shows off their new coconut hair shampoo and conditioner in a fun and simple way.
If you’re unable to get professional photography at the last minute, you can try Luke Ayres DIY Product Photo Project.

Step 5: Write the Perfect Instagram Contest Caption
In addition to adding a visually pleasing image to your Instagram contest, you’ll need a show-stopping caption.
Giveaway captions don’t get the luxury of being short. To avoid confusing followers, you have to be detailed with your entry guidelines, prize details and beginning and end date, not to mention following Instagram guidelines.
The first line of your caption should capture your reader’s attention and let them know what’s going on…you’re running an Instagram contest.
Take Liquid Culture, liquor blogger, Monica who hosted a giveaway with Collective Arts Distilling & Brewing for a ticket Collective Arts famous Liquid Arts Fest. Take a look at the first line of the post.

For more on creating eye-catching captions and content for your Instagram contest take a look at these 15 Awesome Examples of Instagram Posts that Drive Sales.
Next, for your Instagram contest caption are your contest guidelines. Always use clear instructions like which Instagram post to Like, how many friends to tag, and what and where to comment.
Doing all of this may seem a bit tedious, but it increases engagement and reduces the likelihood of user errors, which might cause trouble down the road.
Pro Tip: Add popular contest hashtags and Instagram’s Geo-Tag location to your post. This increases your Instagram contest post chances of discovery for people looking at content specific to your hashtag or in your location. You can also use this guide to learn How Use Instagram Geotags & Hashtags to Grow Your Following.
Step 6: Follow Instagram Contest Guidelines
No matter how big or small your Instagram contest is, it’s vital to abide by the Official Instagram Contest Rules.
Instagram advises all it’s users to run contests or giveaways legally so be sure to do your homework offline: read up on any laws that might apply to your area.
Where Instagram is concerned, the first thing thing is to officially include the rules and terms of eligibility, like:

Use the Correct Terms
Choose a Goal for Your Instagram Giveaway
Include the Brand Hosting the Instagram Giveaway
Write Clear Guidelines on How to Enter
Include the Start and End Date of the Giveaway
State That Instagram Is Not Associated with Your Instagram Giveaway
Include participation restrictions
Decide How to Announce the Winner
State How the Prize Will Be Delivered

Instagram Guideline Example: Fashionably Late
Not sure how to add any of these?
Don’t worry, here’s The Complete Instagram Giveaway Rules Guide (With Examples).
Step 7: Promote Your Instagram Contest
When you promote your Instagram contest from start to finish, it helps to drive a snowball effect of contest entries, each getting you closer to the results you want.
Here’s why.
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms, but it has one of the shortest content lifespans.
On Instagram, content lasts between 21-24 hours. Once that 24-hour window passes, so does your opportunity to reach viewers. Without promotions, your contest can be lost or forgotten in a sea of content for viewers who didn’t instantly see your post or keep up with your content.
No Brainer Ways to Promote Your Instagram Contest
1. Pre-promotion: Promote Your Instagram Contest Before It Starts Just like a warm-up routine before a workout, you want to start flexing those contest muscles before the real work begins.When you let you let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be doing a giveaway, you’ll help to build anticipation. You can also view the level of engagement with your pre-promotion post to get a glimpse of how many people are looking forward to entering.
Instagram Contest Example: Cape Shark Co

2. Instagram ads: Use Ads To Expand Your Instagram Content Reach Use ads to place your giveaway squarely in front of potential contestants. Since Instagram Ads are twice as effective as Facebook ads, you’ll have a better chance at successfully driving traffic to your Instagram contest.
Not convinced? When the stylish furniture company Made.com ran their Instagram ads, they saw a 69% in higher returns on ad spend compared to the previous sale.
Instagram Ad Example:The Aaptiv App
3. Instagram Stories: Constantly Promote Your Instagram Contest Over 500 Million accounts use Instagram Stories every day, including business. Once you upload an image or video to your Instagram story, it disappears after 24 hours. Unlike a post in your Instagram feed, you can upload your Instagram contest post as often as you like without annoying your followers.
If you decide to promote your Instagram contest in your stories, you can use Instagram story ads as well, ensure that the post design matches the required dimensions
Instagram Contest Example: Maille US

Because Instagram users scroll quickly through their feeds, your ad should immediately communicate to users what they get for swiping up. That means you should be direct and straightforward in both your headline and copy.
Need help mastering Instagram stories? Take a look at these Amazing Instagram Stories Examples (With Tips & Tricks to Copy)
Pro Tip: Use a hashtag in your Instagram story. It has the same effect as if it was in your Instagram feed, allowing users searching the hashtag to discover your story.
4. Instagram Contest Reminders: Don’t Let Them Forget You Earlier we spoke about how short an Instagram post’s shelf life is, so it’s important to publish a contest reminder approaching your end date to keep your Instagram contest fresh in the minds of your followers.
Instagram Contest Example: Nana+Livy Handmade Bath Treats & Old Tea Canada For their Father’s Day contest, they added the line “Don’t forget to enter the Odd Tea’s and Nana+Livy’s Father’s Day Giveaway!” Straight to the point, and letting viewers know that the contest is coming to an end.

5. Cross Promotion: Promote Your Instagram Contest on All Channels Make sure fans know about your contest even if they’re not yet following you on Instagram. Promote your contest on all your other social channels to maximize the number of entries. This is also a great way to ensure that people who already follow you on other social channels know about your Instagram account so they can follow you on Instagram.
Step 8: Choose Your Instagram Contest Winner
Now that your contest is over, it’s time to pick your winner.
Based on the entry method you selected, you should know how you’ll select your winner. There are Six Brilliant Ways to Pick An Instagram Contest Winner you can choose from for your own contest.
After you pick your winner, the most exciting part: telling them! You can do this via email, Instagram direct messaging, post the winner on your page or all of the above, it’s actually one of the 5 Best Ways to Announce & Notify Contest Winners.
It’s better to do them all, so you’ve covered your bases with reaching out to the winner about their newly won prize.
Instagram Contest Example: I Love New York

Step 9: After Your Instagram Contest Ends
You’ve made it to the finish line, and you’ve more followers, great engagement, and even some steady traffic on your website plus some great brand awareness.
So now we’re done, right?
Nope.
Remember having a lot of followers doesn’t mean having a lot of sales, it means you have people who love your brand on Instagram, potential customers. Now it’s time to turn all your new followers into loyal customers.
Three Things To Do After Your Instagram Contest Ends
1. Send a Follow-up Email or Post Send your contestants a follow-up email with a big “Thank You” for entering your contest; let them know that they aren’t just a number on your Instagram page, but you value them. Keep them up to date for the next one and even give a small discount to show your appreciation.
2. Promote Your Products Now that you’ve gotten some new eyes on your brand, it’s time to start pushing your products with content marketing.
This is the most straightforward (and most common) method of marketing on Instagram. Don’t just post images of your product, show it off with UGC (User-generated content), lifestyle shots and creative shots.
Have a balance between selling and engaging, you can’t have one without the other or you’ll lose sales.
Instagram Content Example: Manduka

3. Engage With Your Followers You didn’t just get new followers – you added to your brand’s Instagram community. Don’t just leave them hanging or they’ll get bored and unfollow or forget about you, both results in losing potential sales for your business.
Instead, take the time to engage with them, answer questions, ask questions, or show them that you listen to what they have to say about your products (the good and the bad).
Instagram Engagement Example: Glossier

Summary
It takes a bit of work to have a successful Instagram contest, but as with anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Here are 9 Steps to Run a Winning Instagram Contest:

Create Your Instagram Campaign Goals
Choose Your Instagram Contest Entry Method
Choose An Amazing Contest Prize
Select An Eye Catching Contest Image or Video
Write the Perfect Instagram Contest Caption
Follow Instagram Contest Guidelines
Promote Your Instagram Contest
Choose Your Instagram Contest Winner
Stay Engaged After Your Instagram Contest Ends

Egan Bernal set to impress at unpredictable Tour de France

PARIS (AP) — Egan Bernal is just 22 years old. Two years younger than Eddy Merckx was when the Belgian great won his first Tour de France half a century ago.

Gifted with superb bike handling and climbing skills, Bernal has matured by leaps and bounds to become cycling's most exciting Grand Tour rider, and one of the top contenders at cycling's marquee three-week race, which starts this weekend from Belgium.

Even Merckx, who has seen myriads of riders trying to emulate his feat over the years, has been impressed.Read more on NewsOK.com

U.S. nips Spain to advance to quarterfinals in Paris against France

By ANNE M. PETERSONAP Sports writerREIMS, France — Spain tested the United States like no other team at the Women's World Cup.
The U.S. looked disorganized at times facing Spain's aggressive and physical style before pulling out a 2-1 victory Monday night.
It could have been just what the Americans needed: France is waiting.
Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks to set up the United States' much-anticipated quarterfinal rendezvous with the hosts.
The tense match was knotted at 1 until Rapinoe's second penalty put the defending champions ahead in the 75th minute.
"I think we showed just a lot of grit and experience, to be honest, in this game," Rapinoe said.Read more on NewsOK.com

France to try former IAAF boss Diack and his son

PARIS (AP) — Lamine Diack, once one of the most influential men in Olympic sport, has been ordered to stand trial in France for his alleged role in a system of corruption, extortion and doping cover-ups during his reign at the top of athletics.

Diack was head of the IAAF for nearly 16 years.Read more on NewsOK.com

France detains soccer great Platini in 2022 World Cup probe

PARIS (AP) — French police investigating whether corruption played a role in the stunning decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the desert nation of Qatar took former soccer superstar and top executive Michel Platini into custody Tuesday for questioning.

Platini's representatives denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying he is "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself for.Read more on NewsOK.com

France wins opener amid World Cup cash, visibility issues

By The Associated PressPARIS — From the Eiffel Tower to the Champs-Élysées and across the Paris Metro, the Women's World Cup has had little visibility in the French capital.
The hosts at least made their presence felt on the field on Friday in front of French President Emmanuel Macron.Read more on NewsOK.com

The Latest: Trump meets Macron in France

LIMERICK, Ireland (AP) — The Latest on Trump attending D-Day commemorations (all times local):

2:24 p.m.

Security, the fight against terrorism, instability in the Middle East, trade and Iran are all topics President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to discuss in a meeting that has gotten under way in Caen, France.

The two are meeting Thursday after attending a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day.Read more on NewsOK.com

New report points to rise in anti-Christian hostility in France

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe released a report in February decry­ing numerous assaults on Christian church­es and monuments in France. According to the report, “In the first 11 days of February, there were 10 recorded attacks on churches in France.” The recorded damage included setting fire to an altar and […]
The post New report points to rise in anti-Christian hostility in France appeared first on %BLOGLINK%%

BeIN media group CEO charged in corruption probe in France

PARIS (AP) — The chief executive officer of media group beIN was handed preliminary charges of corruption as part of an investigation into the bidding process for the 2017 and 2019 track world championships, a judicial official said Wednesday.

The official said Yousef Al-Obaidly was indicted on March 28 and also said former IAAF president Lamine Diack was handed preliminary charges of "passive corruption" in the same case.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing

A close ally of Paris Saint-Germain president and beIN chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Al-Obaidly is also a board member of the French soccer club.Read more on NewsOK.com

As National Park Service Turns 100, It Highlights 16 of the Most Stunning Park Images

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Postal Service will begin celebrating the National Park Service’s Aug. 25 centennial just in time for summer vacation letter-writing by issuing a pane of stunning Forever Stamps depicting 16 examples of our national treasures on June 2.
“These stamps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and depict the beauty and diversity of these national treasures,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan. “They serve as an inspiration for Americans to visit, learn, and to write cherished memories of their trips to these incredible wonders.”
“This set of stamps will take people on a journey to some of the most amazing places in the world,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are thrilled that the 16 national park stamps issued in 2016 for the centennial depict the variety of parks that collectively tell the story of our country.”
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The June 2 first-day-of-issue ceremony will take place at New York City’s Javits Center at 11 a.m. as part of World Stamp Show N.Y.-2016. Dedication ceremonies also will take place at or near each of the national parks depicted on the stamps. Individuals are asked to spread the news on social media by using the hashtags #FindYourPark or #NPS100.
World Stamp Show NY-2016 will take place May 28–June 4. Held only once a decade, this mega event is not to be missed by beginners through advanced stamp collectors alike. There will be something for everyone there, no matter what you collect. Stamp collecting is a hobby for a lifetime. No matter what your specialty, you’ll find it at the show.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
The stamp image depicting the Bass Harbor Head Light was photographed by David Muench. People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery. For more information on Acadia, visit this link.
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Till of Moab, Utah, and represents the iconic Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is just one of more than 2,000 stone arches in a park that contains the greatest density of natural arches in the world. The park is a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures with thousands of natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. Visit this link for more information about Arches National Park and this link to download the Arches Visitor Guide.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia
This barrier island is a tale of constant movement and change. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Bands of wild horses freely roam amongst plants and native animals that have adapted to a life of sand, salt and wind. Visit this link for more information about Assateague Island National Seashore.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
The stamp image is a 1935–1936 pastel-on-paper depiction by Helmuth Naumer, Sr. (1907–1990) of the visitor center in Frijoles Canyon. Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged, beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back more than 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. Visit this link for information on this national treasure.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
The stamp image is a photograph by Richard McGuire of the interior of the caverns. High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cacti, and desert wildlife are all treasures above and below the Chihuahuan Desert ground. Carlsbad Cavern is one of more than 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 240 million to 280 million years ago. Visit this link for more information.
Everglades National Park, Florida. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Everglades National Park, Florida
The stamp image is a photograph by Paul Marcellini of Miami, Fla. Spanning the south Florida peninsula from Miami to Naples and south to the Florida Keys, Everglades National Park’s 1.5 million acres of sawgrass prairies, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rocklands, mangrove forests, and marine and estuarine waters provide habitat for a wildlife spectacle like no other. Crocodiles, alligators, manatees, flamingos, herons, and turtles are just a small sampling of wildlife that can be seen here. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Bean of Flagstaff, Ariz. Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate forests, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration. Visit this link for more information.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The stamp image is a detail of a chromolithograph-on-canvas, “The Grand Canyon of Arizona, from Hermit Rim Road,” by artist Thomas Moran (1837–1926). Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and one mile deep. The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi
The stamp image is a photograph of a heron, a long-legged water bird with a wingspan that can exceed six feet, by John Funderburk of Hernando, Fla. Whether you visit the seashore for a day or a week there are many activities and places to explore. Each of the seashore’s many areas in Florida and Mississippi offer unique experiences. Visit this link for more information.
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
A stunning photograph of the late afternoon sun shining into a heavy rain storm, forming rainbows over the crater at Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii. Haleakalā National Park vibrates with stories of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture and protects the bond between the land and its people. The park also cares for endangered species, some of which exist nowhere else. Come visit this special place—renew your spirit amid stark volcanic landscapes and sub-tropical rain forest with an unforgettable hike through the backcountry.
The Story Behind the Photo
The photograph is the work of Kevin Ebi, who lives near Seattle, Wash. Following is his narrative of capturing the image:
“When you think of Hawaii, you probably imagine continuous summer, warm water, and hot beaches. But a couple hours after landing on Maui, I was in the freezing cold, pelted by hail, surrounded by thunderclouds. For a few minutes at a time, the sun would briefly break through it, using rainbows as spotlights to illuminate Haleakalā’s volcanic cinder cones.
As a nature photographer, I was in heaven—or at least 10,000 feet closer to it.
Whether it’s because of the explosive growth of photography, or our need to take a break from our always-on, connected lives, our national parks are busier than ever. But for me, they can still be wondrous places of solitude. Such was the case that afternoon I spent chasing Haleakalā’s rainbows.
My day started as a scouting trip. Haleakalā is known for stunning sunrises. Getting that sunrise would require me to arrive at my shooting location while it was still dark. I decided to take a look at the crater during the day in order to determine where I wanted to be the next morning.
But the closer I got to Haleakalā’s summit, the less I could see. The fog got thicker and thicker. Then there was heavy rain. Then the rain turned to hail. I sprinted from the car into the visitor center, hoping to catch a bit of the view through the window. All I could make out was the railing of the viewing platform.
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It quickly became clear that the storm wouldn’t stop. The few visitors in the center sprinted to their cars. I decided to stay put.
Then something amazing happened. The hail turned into a light drizzle. Sunlight poked through a tiny hole in the ominous cloud. And a rainbow dipped into the crater.
I managed to get a few shots before the sun slid back behind the storm clouds and the pelting hail resumed. It was a beautiful scene. Much of Haleakalā’s beauty comes from its rainbow-colored rocks. The rainbow in the sky complemented that nicely.
But I hoped for better placement of the rainbow. In those first images it was off to the side of the crater. I knew that as the sun moved across the sky, weather permitting, rainbows later in the day would land closer to a core group of cinder cones that I found especially attractive. And so I waited.
During the hour and a half I spent on the rim, the storm gave me just six opportunities to photograph rainbows. My favorite image—and the one that is used on the stamp—was taken during the next-to-last ‘window.’ It was also the briefest opportunity. I was able to shoot only a single frame before the rainbow vanished.
Back in the car, with the heat and the de-fogger set on high, I was thankful for the experience even though I was soaked. In all of my work as a photographer, I treasure most the images that show nature at its dynamic finest. Braving an intense hailstorm is just part of the experience—a key part of the experience.
National parks take us into a different world, a world of jaw-dropping scenery and experiences that are dramatically different from our daily lives. This image of Haleakalā is both to me. And it’s why I’m so honored that it will help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.”
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
The stamp image—a water lily with a bloom the size of a basketball in Washington, D.C.’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens—was photographed by Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, Va., who also provided the images from Kenilworth for the “Water Lilies Forever Stamps” issued last year.
The water lilies are a sample of the hidden treasures tucked away in this time capsule surrounded by urban neighborhoods in our nation’s capital. The original water lilies were planted by a Civil War veteran who bought the 30-acre parcel in the 1880s. The park’s wetlands also provide habitat for many animals including fox, mink, and otter. Visit this link for more information.
Scenery in the Grand Tetons, Albert Bierstadt, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 2843. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Vermont
The first national parks were created after the conservation movement highlighted the beauty of America. An iconic Hudson River School of Art painting depicting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park was part of this movement, and it now appears on one of the 16 stamps released to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
“This stamp exemplifies how our national park treasures extend beyond stunning vistas, wildlife, flora, and fauna,” said Stephanie Toothman, NPS associate director of cultural resources, partnerships, and science. “Albert Bierstadt’s painting represents the convergence of artistic, literary, and political attention toward America’s scenic beauty in the 19th century, which helped establish conservation as a national value and laid the foundation for the first national parks a century ago.”
The stamp image is a detail of Bierstadt’s (1830–1902) 29-by-43-inch oil-on-canvas painting “Scenery in the Grand Tetons.” The permanent home of the painting is Laurance Rockefeller’s study in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion.
The Conservation Movement and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (NHP)
The fine art collection at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is one of the gems of the National Park Service and includes 500 nature and landscape paintings, many by artists associated with the Hudson River School. The collection also includes folk art, modern art, portraits, and sculpture.
According to the National Park Service, Rockefeller acquired the painting in the 1960s and added it to the collection of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion as “a reminder of his family’s long loyalty to Grand Teton National Park, and the preservation of the mountains, lake, and valley in that spectacularly beautiful and dramatic part of the West.”
The Hudson River School Art Movement
During the 19th century, the artists of a young America searched for a new world view and found it in the very landscapes around them. Inspired by the stunning natural beauty from across the nation, the loose-knit Hudson River School of painters flourished from the mid-1830s to the mid-1870s and gave America its first major school of art.
According to the National Park Service, “Their landscapes sought to recreate the majesty of the natural world and to inspire admiration for its beauty.” Americans who bought their paintings and admired them on the walls of their city homes came to believe that those scenes should be preserved for future generations, not just painted or photographed.
At the same time, the works of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson also celebrated the beauty and importance of nature.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
The name of the park honors three individuals and their families who played important roles in American conservation history: George Perkins Marsh (1801–1882), Frederick Billings (1823–1890), and Laurance S. Rockefeller (1910–2004).
The lives and contributions of these three generations of stewardship reflect the wide range of attitudes and ideas in the evolution of the conservation movement in the United States. The site was the boyhood home of G.P. Marsh, one of America’s first conservationists, whose 1864 book, “Man and Nature,” decried the effects of deforestation in Vermont and around the world and provided the intellectual underpinnings of the early conservation movement.
Later, it was the home of Billings, who returned to his native Vermont from California, transformed the property into a progressive farm and country estate, and reforested much of the land around the Mansion. Its most recent owners, Billings’ granddaughter Mary Rockefeller and her husband Laurance Rockefeller, gave the property and its collections to the American people, the latest in a long history of support for National Parks by the Rockefeller family. Rockefeller received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1991 for his contributions to conservation and historic preservation.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Creating the Star Trail Photo
The stamp image is the creation of Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, Pa. “This night was one I will never forget,” said Dieterich, who worked at Mount Rainier as an intern with the National Park Service Geoscientist-in-the-Parks to educate the public on dramatic views of the stars and the effect of light pollution near highly populated areas. “After working with visitors at the Mount Rainier astronomy program on June 22, 2015, I noticed there was an aurora, so I drove down to Reflection Lake to capture it.”
“The location was perfect as it contained a view of Mount Rainier and water for reflections,” he continued. “To create this star trails image I took 200 photos in a two-hour window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with my Nikon D750 and 24mm lens set at F/1.4 and ISO 5000. Since the Earth is rotating, each 8-sec. exposure shows stars at slightly different locations. When the photos are combined into one image the stars create a circular pattern around the North Star, which is just out of view at the top of the image. The pink aurora spread throughout the background sky. Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps climbing Mount Rainier on the right side of the volcano.”
“To capture star trails photos just like this,” he added, “all you need is a digital single lens reflex camera, a wide angle lens, tripod, and shutter release cable. So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and get out under the stars!”
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California
The stamp image is a portion of a photograph by Tim Campbell of San Francisco, Calif., of the 1886 square-rigged, three-masted sailing ship Balclutha. Just visible to the right of the deep waterman/salmon packet sailing vessel is the 1907 steam tugboat Hercules.
Located near the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the sights, sounds, smells, and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history through five National Historic Landmark vessels berthed here. Visit this link for more information.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
The stamp image is a photograph of the Little Missouri River winding through the Badlands of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, taken in July 2013 by Q.T. Luong of San Jose, Calif. Luong captured the image in the North Unit of the park during his 20-year project to photograph 59 national parks.
According to the National Park Service, when Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was a “skinny, young, spectacled New Yorker.” He could not have imagined how his adventure in this remote and unfamiliar place would forever alter the course of the nation. The rugged landscape and strenuous life he experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park contains several sites of historical significance, each relating to the era of cattle ranching in the late 1800s. Most significant is Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site, the main ranch site where he spent the bulk of his time and where many of his conservation ideas grew. Roosevelt’s first ranch home, the Maltease Cross Cabin, is open for viewing at the South Unit Visitor Center.
The Long X Trail was used as a corridor to move cattle into the Northern Great Plains in the 1800s, and it passes through the North Unit of the park. Peaceful Valley Ranch was built in the 1880s and served as a dude ranch from 1918 to the 1930s. The ranch and its owners assisted in the establishment of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Visitors can still ride horses at Peaceful Valley by taking part in a trail ride with the park’s concessionaire. Visit this link for more information.
The Backstory of Luong’s Photograph
Luong was interested in the park’s rugged character and vegetation that set it apart from South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.
“The light of the late afternoon gleaming on the river appeared as a bright ribbon in the landscape,” recounted Luong, who used a telephoto lens to emphasize the section of the river with the reflection.
Luong noted that the park includes three units: the South Unit and the far lesser visited North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Site.
“The Little Missouri River provides a link between them, reminding me of the fond memories I cherish from the time I spent there.”
Born in Paris, France, Luong trained as a computer scientist. When he came to the United States for what was intended to be a short academic stay, he chose the University of California at Berkeley because of its proximity to Yosemite and his passion for rock-climbing—where he scaled El Capitan several times.
“Upon visiting Yosemite for the first time in 1993, it was love at first sight and it marked the start of my 20-year affair with the national parks. I decided to photograph all of them with a 5 by 7 large format camera, a single-handed, self-financed, monumental project which, as far as I know, had not been completed by anyone before.”
Luong settled in the San Francisco Bay area and started crisscrossing the nation to capture its diverse beauty. By 2002, he had visited 58 national parks. He subsequently left his scientific career to pursue his calling of working as a full-time photographer. In 2009, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan featured him in the film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming
This stunning photograph of two bison silhouetted in Yellowstone National Park’s winter morning sun was captured by Art Wolfeof Seattle, Wash., who described it as, “perfectly backlit bison standing on a small rise in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.”
“Rising at dawn and braving the -30 degrees Fahrenheit temperature I was able to catch the first rays of the morning sun,” he explained. “The bitter cold of a long winter’s night had left the animals encased in a mantle of thick frost. I had scouted the area the day before and had seen the herd of bison. They had bedded down there all night and now were standing and trying to shake off the cold as the sun came over the horizon. These are the serendipitous moments I wait for as a photographer. I shot this in the days of film, so I didn’t know until I got back to Seattle and had the film processed if I had been successful or not.”
Wolfe got the February 2000 shot using a Canon EOS-3, EF70-200mm lens set at f/16 for 1/250 sec. using Fujichrome Velvia film.
Yellowstone is the world’s first national park. In Yellowstone, you can marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mud pots, and geysers; explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold; and discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Visit this link for more information.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 NPS employees care for America’s 410 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. For more information: NPS.gov, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.