Skyler Woodruff exchanges a look with Jupiter, a pack llama, high in the Wind River Mountains. (Skyler Woodruff)

Lander Valley High School student Skyler Woodruff was on a five-day llama-packing trip in the Wind River Mountains when a booming thunderstorm rolled through camp.

After the storm passed the high basin near the Cirque of the Towers, Woodruff, now 16, went to check on the group’s pack llamas. That’s when the skies cleared, the sun peeked out of patchy clouds and, she said, she took the opportunity to snap a picture of herself and a llama named Jupiter.

“I thought it would be pretty cool photo with me in my peach rain jacket, the Cirque of the Towers and the white llama,” she wrote to WyoFile.

Woodruff was right. Her image of herself and the llama exchanging a look under post-storm skies in the breathtaking valley won first place in the “People and Nature” category of The Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s 2019 student photo contest. As part of a special Photo Friday series, WyoFile is highlighting first-place winners from all four categories.

Woodruff, who shot the photo on a Samsung Galaxy phone, said llamas are wonderful backpacking companions.

“I love backpacking with llamas because they lighten the load and are very sure-footed,” she wrote to WyoFile. “They are so timid and so gentle.”

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Backpacking, she added, gives her an appreciation for wild landscapes and the role of conservation. She hopes her photo can do the same for others.

“This photo plays a role in conservative by helping the younger generation get excited about the great outdoors,” she wrote.

Now in its tenth year, the Nature Conservancy of Wyoming’s student photo contest is open to photographers between the ages of 14-19 who attend high school in Wyoming. Students are urged to submit images of Wyoming nature that convey their connection to conservation of the state’s land, water and wildlife. The 2019 contest drew more than 500 entries, according to TNC.

More information on the photo contest, along with entries and winning images, can be seen here.

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

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