Meet the winners of our 2023 Travel Photo Contest

Jeff Hirsch is no stranger to photography. In fact, he teaches it to others and takes people on trips to practice their photography.

“I’m not a professional, though,” he says. “My secret superpower is being able to put a nerd into basic English so that photographers and other creatives can understand it… and then my job is to take those people and put them in a position to take great pictures.”

This year, his own photo out of nearly 500 entries won our annual post-dispatch travel photo contest.

Hurch, 57, of Ellendale, captured the image during a two-week trip to Vietnam in September with about eight other photographers. They flew into Hanoi and after spending a few days there traveled to the north of Vietnam, just 45 minutes from the Chinese border. The group then flew south to Saigon and the fishing villages there. In fact, it was the same trip that last year’s winner, Alan Anner, was on when he took the winning photo of a laborer in a Vietnamese field.

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Hirsch took his photo in Quang Phu Cau, a small village about 90 minutes from Hanoi known for producing painted bamboo sticks, which are used in making incense.

“In the morning at this family business, bundles of sticks are painted and spread out in a beautiful fan shape to dry in the sun,” he says. “Color packs and color workers make wonderful photographic subjects.”

On this day, the incense bundles “are arranged and look like fish scales. The workers were so graceful as they moved; I have never seen them knock over a single package.

Contest judge and Post-Dispatch multimedia editor Gary Hairlson was taken with the photo the moment he saw it. “It was absolutely stunning and everything about it fell into place – exposure, composition, symmetry and together with the content of the subject it offered something I haven’t seen in years of judging.”

Hirsch also liked the composition. “I’m a very graphic shooter,” he says. “I love lines and texture and I was just seduced by these colors.” To capture the moment, he stood on a scaffolding with his Canon R6. He waited for a while, watching the workers. “And then she looked up and I said, ‘Boom, that’s the shot.’ … To me, the balance is right. I like the model, it’s the gesture, the turned face that made the shot. If I’m into storytelling, that’s what I’m looking for.”

The victory is extremely special for him. His father, Maurice “Bud” Hirsch, won the Globe-Democrat’s travel photo contest decades ago.

“It’s fun to carry on the tradition of travel photography that I learned from him and that he learned from his father,” says Jeff Hirsch. “It’s definitely in our DNA.”

Second place: Jim Scott of Wildwood won second place with this photo.

Second place

An African safari has always been on Jim Scott’s bucket list. He got the chance to go this fall with a group of photographers from the UK.

They traveled to Kenya, to Kicheche Bush, known for his great wildlife photography at the Olare Motorogi Conversancy in the Masai Mara.

Scott, 72, of Wildwood, says he’s always loved elephants and knew he wanted to get a great shot of one during the trip. He clearly succeeded.

“Capturing the perfect sunset at the right moment as the backdrop for the elephant shot is what catapulted this photo to one of the best images,” says Judge Hairlson. “Simply done, very easy to read and interesting.”

Scott took the photo just after sunset right on the equator. “The key is to get as low as possible so the elephant is visible on the horizon,” says Scott. He used a bean bag to secure his knees to the ground and waited, looking for movement. Then the elephant lifted its leg and then Scott grabbed the shot with his Nikon Z9.

“It captures the magic of Kenya,” he says. “The sky in Kenya is unlike any other I’ve ever seen.”

During the trip, he also saw lions, giraffes, cheetahs and leopards, which he called the most beautiful animals.

“This trip was so extraordinary,” he says. “It was the best trip I’ve ever taken, and I’ve traveled a lot.”

Travel Photo Contest: Bird

Third place: John Gravelin took this photo from his cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands.

John and Marian Gravelin of O’Fallon, Missouri, went on a Galapagos cruise on Celebrity Flora in late April. They flew into Quito, Ecuador, and then took a short plane ride to the Galapagos Islands, where they boarded the ship.

On the morning of the descent, everything was packed except for John’s Canon EOS R6. He says he was “just killing time on our balcony taking pictures of the birds” when that blue-legged moon swooped in. “It was different from the others as it really played with its reflection in the water.”

Hairelson agreed that it was something about reflection. “The shot of the mine flying over the waves was very well executed. The slow shutter speed and panning with the flying bird create an artistic view of the shot. The uniqueness of the image is what caught my attention.”

Gravlin says his favorite part of the trip was the snorkeling. “We had three options during the seven-day cruise.”

Honorable Mentions (tncms-asset)3dc2fe78-9b70-11ee-ae6c-5f85c71dbdb3[2](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)f27b4ba2-9b4f-11ee-b6f5-af04a80e6649[3](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)32b95f02-9b59-11ee-acb3-afe1ac135af7[4](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)8a0b0914-9b58-11ee-9e3e-43e01c28ac4f[5](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)1de2f620-9b58-11ee-88ee-d770cf158111[6](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)88e7c3cc-9b5a-11ee-ab38-e7b41f4d57ed[7](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)333da88a-9d97-11ee-99b7-172f06a9fb60[8](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)64b41f7e-9dac-11ee-826c-9f22d2c80dcb[9](/tncms-active)(tncms-active)2089fc64-9b50-11ee-b447-076b7dc442b9[10](/tncms-active)

Travel Photo Contest

Honorable Mention: Shaw District’s Anne Kelsey captured this image of a mother and child Mu Cang Chai, Vietnam.

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