We knew the Travel section’s 21st annual photo contest would be different. ¶ Because so much of our travel was curtailed this year, we expanded the entry parameters from 12 months to 18. We worried that no one would enter, but instead we got a record number of submissions. Did we mind looking at images of so many far-flung locales? Not at all. When have we needed travel photos more? ¶ The 13 winners — first, second and third place, plus 10 honorable mentions — were chosen from more than 1,200 entries shot between January 2019 and June 2020. Scrolling through these images – of Vietnam, of Spain, of the American West -- was in many ways a trip of its own. Travel photography transports us as surely as travel itself. ¶ Here, we invite you to join us on that journey.
Anoushka Yousuf, 28, Vienna, Va.
During a trip to southeastern France in June, Yousuf and her boyfriend were looking for a place to have dinner after a day of kayaking in Gorges du Verdon. Their search took them to nearby Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a Provençal village, where they stumbled upon a restaurant nestled into the hillside and illuminated by the setting sun. The scene, she said, was “naturally beautiful, with the flowers and lushness of it all.” Yousef, a dual citizen who works in public relations, captured the moment — including the “magical glare” — with her iPhone X. “It kind of shows the resilience of the French people and their cafe culture,” she said. “In France at the time, it was very life per usual — just with masks.”
Diane Stamm, 71, Washington, D.C.
Last April at a riding stable in the small Cotswolds village of Stanton, Stamm came across a farrier at work. “One of the days I was riding the farrier was there and I was fascinated watching him,” Stamm said. “He was like a ballet in process but he was doing horseshoes.” Stamm, an editor who had traveled to England for the Oxford Literary Festival, captured the image with a Sony bridge DSC-HX400V. “I realized all this smoke was going to come up and I waited to see if I could get the shot and I did,” she said. “My view is that half of taking a good picture is luck and half of it is patience.”
Therese Iknoian, 63, Grass Valley, Calif.
During a month-long trip to Morocco last April, Iknoian and her husband opted to spend three days in the Sahara Desert. The travel blogger captured this image with her Sony A6500 at the end of a sunset camel ride. “The camel driver in the photo, Mustafah, went with these two camels named Ali Baba and Bob Marley,” she said. As they were getting ready to leave, she noticed there were some other groups on the skyline. Juggling to get the framing and the light just right, she managed three or four shots before the light changed. “I found framing another group of camels with Mustafa and Ali Baba brought a new depth to the experience, yet still expressed the tenderness that Mustafa had for his two camels” she said.
Bill Wooby, 72, Washington, D.C.
Wooby visited Sao Paulo’s 38-story Copan Building during an architecture tour of Brazil last October. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1966, the S-shaped building is among the largest in Brazil. After riding one of the building’s 20 elevators to the top and taking in the “spectacular” view from the roof, Wooby, an art developer, snapped this shot of its snaking fire escape with his iPhone 6. He rendered the image in black-and-white to emphasize the architectural details. “With architecture, it’s really wonderful,” he said. “It’s more dramatic.”
Robert Mazziotta, 62, Bethesda, Md.
Mazziotta snapped this dramatic scene on a photo trip to Arizona’s Monument Valley with three friends last May. “We were aching to get there before the sun set and we just barely made it,” he said. “It’s the most amazing site there is.” Mazziotta, a dentist, had only about 10 minutes to snap “maybe a dozen” pictures with his Nikon D850. As with most photographs, he said, the light was key. “The directional lighting was amazing and I liked the way only the top of the back mitten was lit,” he said. “If you took this photo in the middle of the day, it would be pretty boring with flat lighting.”
Jessica Goldsmith, 35, Washington, D.C.
Every year, Goldsmith and her husband go to Nick’s Philadelphia Cheesesteaks and Gyros in Dewey Beach, De. Last July, she snapped the view through the old-school eatery’s front window with her iPhone SE. “I liked the neon lights against the natural sunset outside,” she said of the scene. “It felt kind of Edward Hopper-esque to me, the stillness of the interior playing off the light of the exterior.” Goldsmith, a graphic designer, said the image also has a timely subtext. “It’s like you’re on the other side looking out — it’s an unusual perspective. It’s very much relatable to the pandemic, when we’re all on the inside looking at what’s going on outside — it has an inside and closed-in feeling.”
Jason Gibson, 41, Washington, D.C.
On the last day of Gibson’s February trip to Tanzania, he spent the morning at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As his group was about to leave, a tower of giraffes suddenly appeared in the mist. “I think the giraffes were as startled as we were,” he said. “They looked at us and we looked at them.” Though the fog made focusing difficult, Gibson, a program manager for the National Park Service, captured the scene with his Nikon D7000. He had been hoping to photograph a silhouette of the trees, so his camera was already set up for the shot. “It was an incredible few moments, in part because it was a genuine surprise to all of the creatures involved,” he said. “I can’t emphasize enough that this was super lucky.”
Arielle Yorczyk, 35, Vienna, Va.
Last April, Yorczyk spent three months traveling through Latin America. One morning in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala, she got up early, planning to watch the sunrise from Indian Nose peak. “I didn’t get up in time to make it to the lookout point and I would have missed the sunrise, so I ran toward the water to get a better view,” she said. Yorczyk, a genetic counselor, took up a position on the shore of Lake Atitlan with her iPhone X at the ready. The early morning light did not disappoint. “It was beautiful,” she said. “I was waiting for the colors to be the richest.” An approaching boater completed the scene. As for that lookout, “I can’t wait to go back and see what the view from the peak is like,” she said.
Pat McGeehan, 75, Arlington. Va.
As she was standing in what remains of the Roman theater in Cartagena, Spain, last April, McGeehan looked up through the ruins and saw an open window in a modern wall. Through it, she could see more windows and walls. She captured the Escher-like image with her Nikon D7000 camera. “The balcony door was open, and I thought the way it lined up with the buildings behind it was really interesting,” she says of the scene. McGeehan, who runs a preschool, says she hoped to capture the color and contrast of the moment. “Spain has these strong colors and when you get the light on them . . . It all just lined up with strong colors and lines.”
Bill Corbett, 62, Aldie, Va.
During a group tour of Vietnam in March, Corbett, a retired diplomat, spotted this balloon vendor in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. “A balloon seller spends his day on the edge of the whirl, waiting for a car to stop in the middle of traffic, so that he can run out and make a sale,” Corbett said. Even in this congested intersection the vendor was “unmissable” against the backdrop of the city’s chaotic traffic. “Our tour guide in Vietnam referred to traffic laws as ‘optional.’ ” Nonetheless he was determined to get the shot. “I spent two hours stalking him,” Corbett said of the vendor, “including from a bar stool with a beer.” Shooting in bursts, he captured the scene with his Nikon D500.
Brian Hastings, 71, Baltimore
On a once-in-a-lifetime National Geographic trip around the world last October, Hastings and his wife spent three days in Lhasa learning about Tibetan history and culture. Hastings, a retired psychiatrist, took this “lucky shot” of a Buddhist monk at the city’s Poralepu Monastery with a Nikon Z7. “He was very welcoming,” Hastings said. “His corner here in the monastery with the sunlight and his workplace was one of the few brightly lit places in there.” Hastings, a longtime amateur photographer, said he hoped to capture the quietude of the scene. “I really enjoyed the peace and serenity of this particular situation,” he said.
Steven Johnson, 18, Kensington, Md.
During a stay at the Hotel Alk in Pietrasanta, Italy, Johnson was struck by the symmetry of the umbrellas, table and chairs on the wide expanse of beach. Right before sunset, he set out to capture an image that was one-third water and two-thirds shore. He used his drone, a DJI Spark, to capture aerial views of the shore from several angles. “I was flying around for 15 or 20 minutes,” said Johnson, a student at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. “You can tilt the camera on the drone, so that’s how I got that bird’s-eye angle from the top.”
Mark Gadomski, 65, Hollywood, S.C.
Gadomski shot this picture during a two-month trip to Southeast Asia in early 2020. He’d read about Hanoi’s famous “Train Street,” and realized he was nearby during a walk through the Vietnamese capital’s market area. “The train runs so close to the cafes and houses that when the train passes by twice a day, the stores have to bring in their goods and awnings,” said Gadomski, a retired defense contractor. A guard stopped him from going down the street, but he was able to lean over the portable fencing and get the shot with his Canon M5. “It was certainly the colors, lighting and detail that I loved,” he said.