Travel Section's Photo Contest 2009

More than 1,300 entries poured into our 10th annual contest, meaning we had some tough decisions to make. From Alaska to Kenya, Italy to India, explore this year's breathtaking winners.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

There was a whole lot of clicking going on for our 10th annual photo contest. Cameras were snapping in jammed Indian cities and empty American ghost towns, atop a snowy Swiss peak and inside a Mongolian church. Lenses were focused on tanned farmers in Peru and cheetahs in South Africa. For that perfect image, you sweated it out in deserts, froze your toes on glaciers and looked into the maws of rock canyons. No subject went unnoticed: a Croatian moon, an abandoned van in Alaska, drying laundry, a friend's face. You saw, and you snapped. Now it's time for us to share.

This year, we received more than 1,300 entries. From those, we chose a winner, three runners-up and 11 honorable mentions. Mind you, it was tough. We gazed upon such beloved icons as the Eiffel Tower and stared once, twice, three times at mind-bending landscapes. (Take note of our first-place star.) We grinned at silly pictures such as one of a lone toothbrush riding a luggage carousel, and we felt chills looking at a solitary skier in a whiteout. We recognized art in rock formations and humanity among strangers. Most important, we were transported to a different place and experience. Photos can do that: One look and you're hundreds of miles away. Join us for the picturesque ride.

Winner: Alisa Tiwari, Chevy Chase.

Once a year, the 16-year-old rising senior at Sidwell Friends goes on holiday with her family. Past destinations have included India, Tanzania and Alaska, the site of her winning photo. The Tiwaris were aboard the McKinley Explorer, a glass-domed train, bound for Anchorage after a visit to Denali National Park. The teen photographer was standing on a platform between the cars, clicking away as the mountains, clouds and water whizzed by at 60 mph. Her photo doubles the landscape as the view before her is mirrored on the train's exterior. "As I watched the scenery go by, I was struck by the symmetry of the outdoor environment and its reflection in the window of the train," Alisa wrote to us. "To me, this reflection captures the true beauty of my experience in Alaska through a photographer's lens."

Second Place: Sandipan Majumdar, Kolkata, India.

The 44-year-old government worker trains his lens on the faces of his country, traveling once a month to a local town and three to four times a year to another Indian state. Among his favorite subjects are children. During a visit to Bethberia in West Bengal, he stumbled upon a classic village scene: young boys playing soccer on a grassy field, then aborting the game to chase a row of geese crossing the road. "I wanted to capture the born-free life of those schoolboys and capture that moment, which reminds me of my childhood days, too," he wrote. To create layers of action and images, Majumdar shot from a low angle.

Third Place: Sydnye White-Oyugi, Upper Marlboro.

White-Oyugi proves that you don't need a fancy camera to take a compelling, complex photo. The freelance television producer, 39, used a simple Fuji, left on automatic, to capture her daughter, Sanja, twirling in her Christmas Day dress during a visit to great-grandma's house in Kenya. White-Oyugi's husband has family in Africa, and they were visiting the town of Migori, on the border with Tanzania, when she took her daughter outside to feed a cow, a much-needed respite from the overwhelming festivities. "I thought it was unusual to see a swirly, twirly, happy little girl against the backdrop of dry land and skinny cows," wrote White-Oyugi.

Fourth Place: Michael Frost, Wyndmoor, Pa.

The self-described travel addict lived in Japan after college, extensively explored Southeast Asia and, as a high school teacher, embarked on a "listening trip" to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The 40-year-old graduate student in journalism was visiting al-Khazneh (the Treasury) in Petra, Jordan, in May when he noticed a collision of ages: "I was drawn to the juxtaposition between old and new -- the traditionally dressed guard talking on his modern cellphone, backed by the pillars that the Nabataeans carved directly out of the sandstone about 2,000 years ago." Equally impressive: He was using his new Nikon and had not yet figured out all its buttons and dials.

Honorable Mention: Michael Wolly, Rockville.

For this photo of the Denver Art Museum and surrounding buildings, Wolly focuses on the architecture, a puzzle of lines, textures and shapes (including kissing points) set against a startling blue backdrop.


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