National Geographic Excites Young Photographers with its National Geographic Student Expeditions

Photo by Lijah Hanley, provided by National Geographic

Photo by Lijah Hanley, provided by National Geographic

Photography and traveling often go together. Photographing our experiences allows us to re-live the time and place and remember fondly the feelings of the excursion. Professional photographers have trained their eyes to see things we amateurs don’t always see. Their images grace covers of magazines and books and rightly so. Their work excites us and encourages exploration.

That doesn’t mean amateur photography is any less exciting or worthy and simply working hard to hone any craft can be an experience in and of itself. And rewarding that work is important.

Today, National Geographic Student Expeditions has announced the winners of its second annual Student Photo Contest. The grand-prize winner is Lijah Hanley, 17, from Ridgefield, Wash. His winning photo, “No Boundaries,” was taken on a family drive to The Dalles, Ore., to enjoy a picnic under the stars. As the winner, he has won a trip to London this summer to participate in the National Geographic Student Expeditions London Photography Workshop.

Julianna Brown, 16, from Mystic, Conn., placed second with her photo, “Anticipation.” Third place went to Emily Watson, 18, of Oklahoma City for “The Freedom Side.”

“Photography has brought me into many very wonderful adventures,” admits Hanley. “I have waded waist deep down raging rivers, stood on the edge of the ocean’s cliffs and hiked deep into the mountains at sunrise in search of that perfect shot.” This is not his first experience with National Geographic. In 2009, he was selected to be part of the National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge to Peru, which he calls his “greatest adventure thus far.” Last year, Hanley was the second-place winner in the Student Expeditions Photo Contest.

The judges, who were top National Geographic photographers and photo editors, had the challenging task of evaluating nearly 2,500 entries that flooded in and selecting the winning image and the two runners-up.

“This year’s Photo Contest was a wonderful success,” says Deb Harris, director of National Geographic Student Travel. “The students were so thoughtful and creative with their images and captions. Our judges had a tough job, but the winning and finalist images tell a rich story of exploration in the lives of high school students across the country.”

The images can be viewed on the Student Photo Contest Winners page. Students were asked to submit a photograph that conveys what exploration or adventure means to them, along with a written description of the “moment” captured and how it reflects a sense of exploration or adventure. Entries were judged on three criteria: the quality of photography, the extent to which the photograph conveyed a sense of exploration or adventure, and the quality of the accompanying description and its relationship to the photograph.

The National Geographic London Photography Workshop in which Hanley will participate is a unique, 12-day program where students have the opportunity to learn technical and creative photography techniques from a National Geographic photographer and professional photography instructors. The workshop is one of National Geographic Student Expeditions’ high school summer programs, offering students summer adventures of a lifetime. Limited space is still available on many of this summer’s programs. For more information on National Geographic Student Expeditions or its scholarship program, visit the website.

Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food.

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