Fancy yourself a straight shooter? Then submit your photo to National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2016

An old camera

Fancy yourself a straight shooter? Then submit your photo to National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2016

Nat Geo, which, in my mind, will forever be synonymous with David Attenborough’s narration, has launched the 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year Contest.

This was a few weeks ago already, in fact.

But it’s still open, with one month left to enter (from time of publishing this article).

So if you fancy yourself worthy of a prestigious Nat Geo award, why not submit your work for scrutiny?

What can you win?

Nat Geo is giving the winner an all expenses paid vacation to Mars. The only caveat is, it’s a non-return ticket.

OK that’s a lie.

Read on to see the truth…

Prizes on offer

Here are the real prizes offered by National Geographic.

Grand prize (cos grand is better than 1st)

Polar Bear Safari for Two at Churchill Wild-Seal River Heritage Lodge in Manitoba, Canada

Look into my eyes. You will enter the contest. You will submit a wonderful photo. I want to eat you, I mean, *ahem*, “meet” you.
Look into my eyes. You will enter the contest. You will submit a wonderful photo. I want to eat you, I mean, *ahem*, “meet” you.

Sounds fantastic. You get to spend a week among belugas, polar bears and caribou with the aurora borealis as backdrop.

Beats sitting alone on Mars, watching water form.

Just don’t forget to pack a long-sleeve vest. Canada is chilly this time of year; and every other time of the year, for that matter.

1st prize (which is not actually first, but still grand)

Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Yes, I am gorgeous and you need me in your life. I. Complete. You.
Yes, I am gorgeous and you need me in your life. I. Complete. You.

Whoa, THAT’s a nice prize. This camera is worth around $1,000.

I’m no photography guru, but I know a good camera when I see one.

Here are some specs to make the snappers out there drool:

  • The world’s fastest (0.052 s) AF with the world’s most (425) phase-detection AF points
  • Newly developed 24.2-megapixel Exmor® CMOS image sensor (for large, crisp photos)
  • BIONZ X™ image processing engine
  • Wide sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 51200 (to take photos inside Vantablack and make it look like the sun)
  • 4K movie recording with full pixel readout/no pixel binning (cos HD is so last season)

2nd prize (which is actually third, by normal standards)

The Art of Travel Photography Course on DVD

To prepare you for the big win next year, or the year after.
To prepare you for the big win next year, or the year after.

This is a great prize. And why is that?

If you win this prize, it means you’re not quite good enough to snag grand or first prize yet.

This course will help you become a better photographer, which means you might snag the 2017 or 2018 grand or first prize, unless you win this prize again in years to come, which might make you the most overseen, underrated travel photographer of the century.

This is not a bad thing. You might end up on a lot of hipster-ish “Top Ten Travel Photographers you didn’t know existed” lists, giving you a David Lynch type cult status.

3rd prize (I’m confused now)

Destinations of a Lifetime, National Geographic Book

OK, this might seem like an insult, but be a good sport if this is the prize you win. It’ll motivate you to push your photography to the next level.

The knowledge that your photos might one day be published in this book, will drive you to not quit. Cos you’re not a quitter. Quitting is for quitters. Winners keep shooting.

At the very least, your picture might become available for download as a wallpaper.

How it works

You’ll have to submit your photos for review. To do that, create an account on Nat Geo.

Once you’ve created your account, you’re allowed to upload a picture of no more than 20MB in size.

You can read the rules of the contest here. It’s way too much to cover in this post, but I suspect it’s the usual unintelligible corporate talk. Be that as it may, you still have to respect it.

For beginner photographers

And for those who don’t have the foggiest about photography, here’s a round-up of tips and posts to quickly turn you into a modern-day Ansel Adams.

Lighting

Arguably the most important aspect of photography. If your lighting sucks, your photo will too.

This only looks good in a weird modern art display tackling the issue of existentialism in a post-modern society living in fear. You need light to make a photo work.
This only looks good in a weird modern art display tackling the issue of existentialism in a post-modern society living in fear. You need light to make a photo work.

Pop Photo has a sweet guide on lighting.

The rule of thirds

This is one of the first things you learn if you want to take photography seriously. The rule of thirds dictates that you divide your image into nine equal parts, which creates a grid of lines (two vertical, two horizontal). You place the focal point (or points) on one of those lines.

This is something you have to try yourself, to really see the impact a slight adjustment of the subject’s placement on the photo makes. Take your photography machine of choice and head for the beach. Pack your teddy bear.

Place your teddy bear anywhere on the beach, perhaps facing towards the ocean, away from you. Just let it hover in the middle of the photo, with plenty of space around it.

Take a picture.

Now tighten the shot by moving closer and making sure the teddy bear is on one of the imaginary lines created by the rule of thirds. You’ll notice that your eye is drawn to the subject much better, instead of floundering around, looking for something to focus on. Or perhaps your eye is drawn towards where the subject is facing.

Experimentation leads to interesting results, so take into account the horizon, in relation to the teddy bear, etc etc and so on and so on.

Some examples:

The subject is centred.
The subject is centred.
The subject and the horizon are on imaginary lines a third of the image in from the edge.
The subject and the horizon are on imaginary lines a third of the image in from the edge.
The subject sits on a line of third and fills more of the photo.
The subject sits on a line of third and fills more of the photo.

Articles about basic photography

Some posts from around the interwebs, about photography.

Lifehacker posted a five-part series on photography:

  1. Understanding How Your Digital Camera Works
  2. Your Camera’s Automatic and Assisted Settings
  3. Your Camera’s Manual Settings
  4. Composition and Technique
  5. Editing Images in Post

You can see the introduction at lifehacker.com/5815742/basics-of-photography-the-complete-guide

Improve Photography has an introduction article tackling equipment and exposure. You can read it here.

Exposure Guide has a whopper of an article tackling just about all things photography. I mean, look at this list of everything they cover (I’m listing the eight first article titles only):

  1. Camera controls
  2. Camera modes
  3. Metering modes
  4. White balance
  5. ISO sensitivity
  6. Exposure
  7. Resolution
  8. Image file formats

Here’s the link: exposureguide.com/photography-basics.htm

There are a lot of things to consider when you take a photo. I didn’t even look at exposure, for instance. But there’s more than enough info in the links above to get you started on your way to becoming a good photographer.

In conclusion

Photography rules the modern day. Without photos the interwebs would be a boring place. The problem is, everyone and his uncle fancies himself a photographer because he has a smartphone with a camera.

Contests like Nat Geo’s separates the true photographers from the rest.

Take the plunge if you think your photo can make it to the top. And if it doesn’t, learn along the way.

Cheers.

Your thoughts?