Today National Geographic announced the winners of its 2014 Student Photo Contest. We asked high school students to submit a photograph and caption that conveys a sense of exploration and adventure, and over 2,000 entries flooded in!
The images and descriptions we received tell a rich story of exploration through the eyes and lenses of high school students across the country. And the subjects spanned the globe—as close as the backyard, and as far-flung as Botswana and Thailand.
Our panel of judges, made up of National Geographic’s top photographers and photo editors, had the challenging task of evaluating the top entries and selecting the winning image and the two runners-up.
Photographer Ann Basu submitted the Grand Prize-winning shot, Rites. Our judges called the image “powerful” and were impressed by Ann’s ability to capture her uncle’s incense smoke in the light of a nearby window. According to Ann, catching that moment was no fluke. When asked how photography has altered her view of the world, she said, “I’m constantly looking at light, no matter what I’m doing.”
In my grandmother’s childhood home in southern China, there were no electric lights, just open windows. When my uncle lit a stick of incense, the window light caught the smoke in a way that made it seem timeless and otherworldly. I realized how far removed this was from my life in California, and how lucky I was to be able to explore my heritage and experience these traditions and customs. Exploration is not just about places, but about times and cultures as well. (Photo and description by Ann Basu)
The students not only needed to submit a spectacular shot, but also use writing to connect the photo to the themes of exploration and adventure. Ann noted that, “Exploration is not just about places, but also about times and cultures as well.” Until now, Ann has been a self- and internet- taught photographer, but for her grand prize she will attend one of National Geographic’s summer 2014 Student Photography Workshops.
Sanaya Dhablania was the second place winner, submitting Regenerate, an iPhone photo of a diver. Although she normally has a DSLR camera with her, Sanaya was happy to capture the moment on her phone, noting that immediately
after snapping the photo, she was soaked!
Diving into the unknown breathes new life into oneself and here one begins the path of self-exploration. Self exploration is defined as the discovery and analysis of one’s own hidden spiritual or intellectual capacities, however, the ways in which one may go about uncovering and examining these hidden jewels depends completely on the person. Though everyone’s journey will differ, none of us can begin our path of self-discovery unless we gain the courage to do so. We must take that leap of faith and dive into the depths of self discovery for it will not drown us, but only drown what we are not. (Photo and description by Sanaya Dhablania)
Rounding out the top three was Orbs, a photo of a red tailed sheetweaver by young photographer Lora Sparks. Lora noted that she gets shots like these by “never neglect[ing] the seemingly minuscule details found in traveling.”
As children, we were natural scientists, natural explorers: our backyards were the mountains we climbed, the ditches filtering rainwater were the seas we set sail to, and the butterflies, grasshoppers, and lizards we examined were our very best friends. We were content with an afternoon simply exploring the world right outside our doorsteps… which, fortunately, I never stopped doing. I captured a black-tailed red sheetweaver (florinda coccinea) in her intricately woven web amidst a cluster of dewdrops in my backyard. As an avid traveler it’s important to never neglect the seemingly minuscule details found in traveling and to never forget the location that sparked our love for adventure: home. (Photo and description by Lora Sparks)
Read more about the winners, see all 22 photo finalists and learn more about National Geographic Student Expedition’s Photography Workshops for high school students at ngstudentexpeditions.com.