Best reader travel photos of 2019

Everyone likes to recount vacation adventures, but for some travelers, visual storytelling speaks volumes, and their photographs inspire, inform and delight. We are fortunate that many of those visual storytellers share their travel photos with the Star Tribune. Each week, the Travel staff chooses from among a host of photos sent to us and displays a favorite in our Viewfinders feature. At the end of the year, we sort through the treasure trove to showcase the best of an impressive array. Here are the winners of 2019. The collection is inspiration for those who shoot their own photos, fuel for those with wanderlust and solid proof for all that Minnesotans relish exploring the world. As you head out — near or far — consider sharing your photos with us. To submit a photograph, send a jpeg to or tag an Instagram photo with #STtravel. For now, soak up the winners on these pages — and then maybe book a trip. 


Charles Freiss of Marshall, Minn. A coyote hunts for fish along the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. Visiting the iconic park in winter is a must, Freiss wrote an in e-mail. “Scenes like Old Faithful Geyser, warm hot springs that keep the Madison River open in the winter, the Mud Pots and wildlife. All this in 4-plus feet of snow.”
Jeff Cepek of St. Paul. Mallards congregate on the Merced River in the picturesque valley that is the heart of Yosemite National Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. “Though Yosemite Valley is only 7 square miles, it is home to some of the most amazing scenery in the world,” Cepek wrote in an e-mail.
Tom Koch of Edina. Lights in a villa punctuate a foggy landscape near Fattoria San Donato, an agriturismo farm and vineyard where Koch and his wife stayed, near San Gimignano, Italy. “Once the day tourists leave San Gimignano, one feels transported back to medieval times,” he wrote about the popular Tuscan stop.
Deborah Grunnes of Minneapolis. The photographer’s husband walks among the world’s largest gypsum dune field, at White Sands National Park, near Alamogordo, N.M. She wrote, “The sun and the reflection of the white sand made it impossible to see what I was shooting but I was more than pleasantly surprised when I was able to see it!”
John Piepkorn of Minnetonka. Morning light through the stained glass windows casts a colorful display on the walls of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. “The architecture is beautiful, and it is open to visit almost every day for sightseeing,” Piepkorn wrote of the cathedral, which contains 214 stained glass windows.
Trudi Juncker of Minneapolis. In the Okavango Delta in Botswana, a lilac-breasted roller, a bird common to southern Africa, perches on a limb. “I am a novice photographer and this was a lucky shot taken at the right moment,” she wrote, adding, “I was captivated by the bird’s beauty.”
Ken Evans of Maple Grove. A stream runs past Alley Mill, centerpiece of the historic site of Alley Spring, Mo. It is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. “If you enjoy the outdoors, hills, streams, hiking trails, and fishing; this is a great destination,” Evans noted.
Ron Britz of Blaine. Sunflowers brighten the landscape on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, near Forest City, S.D. “Many Americans think South Dakota is flyover land, or boring prairies to drive across at night. I’d think the same if not for the fact that my wife has her roots in the state, and that has prompted many visits over the years. I find the huge fields, abandoned 18th- and 19th-century homesteads and small towns to be fascinating. I’d encourage travelers to get off the I-90 freeway and explore the two-lane highways,” Britz wrote in an e-mail.
Dave Marsh of Mahtomedi. The McPolin Farm sports a giant American flag in Park City, Utah. “I decided to get up very early to capture the early sunrise on the barn,” Marsh wrote in an e-mail. “That early morning sunrise and late sunset produces a nice glow.”
Nancy Weidenfeller of Minnetonka. On Floreana Island, one of the Galápagos Islands, a flamingo searches for food. “I was intrigued by the color contrast between this solitary, vibrant pink flamingo against the brackish pond and dormant plants on the hillside,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Pink flamingos on the lawn are fun, but having the opportunity to see the real thing in the pristine beauty of the Galápagos Islands is truly awe-inspiring.”
Peter Engebretson of Minneapolis. Two giraffes munch on an acacia tree in the Mara North Conservancy, part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. “ Going on a safari for our honeymoon was an unforgettable experience, and one thing we wanted on our trip was ‘responsible tourism’ in the region,” Engebretson wrote in an e-mail. “The Mara North Conservancy is very committed to the environment, wildlife, and the community.”
Carroll Gonzo of Eagan. A quiet road stretches beneath a yellow canopy of leaves near Siskiwit Bay, in Bayfield County, Wis. In October, “There were a number of fall-colored gravel roads, but this one was completely engulfed in fall foliage,” Gonzo wrote in an e-mail.
Jerry Gerads of Sartell, Minn. Capella della Madonna di Vitalta, the small building flanked by cypress trees, stands in a field near San Quirico d’Orcia, in Tuscany. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is privately owned. Gerads wrote, “We were delighted to ‘discover’ this gem, only to find out that it is one of the most photographed sites in Tuscany.”
Erik Skon of Stillwater. Skon and his wife spent three weeks in Kenya, ending at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, where he captured this image. “It was about 7 a.m. and suddenly a dense fog rolled in, making driving almost impossible. As we sat quietly in our vehicle, a large female lion emerged from the fog,” he wrote in an e-mail. “ It was truly a wonderful ending to a remarkable vacation experience!”