Second Place: Doug Orens of Plaza Travel, Encino, Calif. // © 2017 Doug Orens
Feature image (above): Honorable Mention: Jerry Chinn of ROX Travel Systems, Prescott, Ariz. // © 2017 Jerry Chinn
These days, we carry around mobile cameras in our pockets. And through Instagram, we have access to photos from around the world and the potential to conjure a new, gorgeous image every second. All that beautiful photography has us wondering: Are we desensitized to the effects of a good picture?
We think not. Our winning travel advisors demonstrate that not all photographers are created equally. What makes these folks skilled at photography — and what makes their photos stand out from the crowd — is probably what also makes them good travel advisors. They put in the time to get to know their subjects, and they persist until they achieve their vision. These photos also serve as a gentle reminder that when you love what you’re doing, it shows.
Caprice Travel, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“These young monks from Myanmar had just finished their lunch when I came into the monastery. I had wandered up the hill while the other members of our group went to the market.
They offered me a drink of water and then suggested they show me their dog. I then showed them some photos I had recently taken. I motioned to my camera and made a gesture indicating I would like to take more photos. They all gathered by their dog and proceeded to act like young boys. Just like all kids, they could not resist playing around and joking with one another.
I find it easy to break the ice if my subjects see a few photos. Then, they become involved with me and what I am doing. I observe first, and then when they are comfortable with me, I raise my camera to shoot.
I prefer to visit locations where there are not a lot of tourists, because I want to catch the real essence of the place. I was the only one who had wandered up the hill to this monastery, and I did not get the feeling they had many visitors.”
Plaza Travel, Encino, Calif.
“While at the Loisaba Tented Camp in Laikipia, Kenya, our guide, Solomon, asked if any of us wanted to visit his home village of Koija. Only four of us chose to go with him on the 90-minute drive to meet his friends and family. As we arrived, they were singing and dancing to celebrate the recent rains. They quickly welcomed us into the circle and had us dancing with them in no time.
After a couple of hours visiting with them, it was time for us to head back to camp. The men were getting ready to start another ceremony, and this beautiful girl was watching them set up. She was standing about 10 feet from me, and I could see the thoughtfulness on her face and the focus in her eyes. I knew I had to capture one more image from this amazing day. She glanced in my direction for just a second; I held my camera up gesturing toward her and smiled. Without changing her expression, she nodded and looked right at me. The time we shared with these wonderful, welcoming people will be a memory that stays with me forever.”
Picture Yourself Traveling, Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
“I knew that snapping photos of wildlife would be the main focus of my recent two-week adventure in Kenya, but we were equally excited to capture the incredible scenery, sunrises and sunsets. At the end of each afternoon game drive, our van driver, Popo, would search out a graceful acacia tree and jimmy the van back and forth into the exact angle for framing the orange glow and silhouette. Popo was so patient as we requested ‘a couple more feet back please,’ until we were right there.
‘Sawa sawa?’ he would ask (the Swahili equivalent of ‘OK?’). It wasn’t until I looked at the shot on my computer that I saw our fellow travelers’ van in the distance, kicking up a cloud of dust. To me, this shot personifies an African safari in all its glory — the path unwinding and nature giving one last exquisite display as we headed back to the lodge to rest up for another day of viewing a fascinating and photogenic part of our world.”
TravelStore, Inc., Los Angeles
“This photo was taken in Wuhan, China, or what I like to call ‘real China.’ This industrial city of more than 10 million people does not see many foreigners come through. This man was riding his bicycle as he was smoking a cigarette, in a very pensive state, like he was processing everything that had happened that day. We locked eyes for a few moments; once he realized I had just taken his photo, he stared at me for as long as he could, even turning his head back as he passed me. It was a moment of unspoken curiosity and, hopefully, of mutual gratitude for each other.”
Caprice Travel, Scottsdale, Ariz.
“In June, we began our journey in Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway, and headed north in search of polar bears. We followed this mother and cub for about 12 hours over two days in Zodiac boats. I shot thousands of photos. With wildlife, you have no control, so you have to wait and hope for the right shot. A good-quality camera, a long telephoto lens and a fast frame rate of speed for shooting all help capture the right shot.”
ROX Travel Systems, Prescott, Ariz.
“I’ve been working with a local safari operator to take small groups to Botswana since 2008. I shot this photo of elephants early one morning right from our campsite along the Khwai River in Moremi Game Reserve. It was a beautiful scene and the beginning of another amazing day in the Botswana bush country. It’s scenes like this that motivate me to return year after year and to want to share the experience with my clients.”
AAA Travel San Mateo, San Mateo, Calif.
“The Duomo di Milano is huge. I walked around the whole building and found that the best place to take a photo of it is from the main square. Then I saw the pigeons, and I knew I got a cool shot.”
Hanson Travel Ideas, Porterville, Calif.
“We were staying at Waterford Castle in Waterford, Ireland, and taking a falconry class given by Hawkeye Falconry. That is when we met this little beauty. There were other birds of prey we met that day, but the owl was the only one that allowed me to pet her. She was so soft and had such a sweet disposition — that’s what I was trying to convey in my picture.”
Supreme Travel, San Francisco
“Japan’s Matsumoto Castle is of added interest because of its black exterior and picturesque high wall and moat. I stood in that particular spot to take the picture because the branches of the cherry tree seemed to frame the castle quite nicely.”