Veteran Filipino lensman George Tapan received much praise from netizens after bagging one of the top prizes in a National Geographic photo contest earlier this month.
Tapan’s shot, “Into the Green Zone,” was named first place winner in the Places category of the National Geographic photo contest, besting about 20,000 entries from 130 countries.
The winning photo, taken at Onuk Island in Balabac, Palawan, features two human subjects—a girl in pink and a man on a boat— under a rainbow that stands between the clear green waters and the blue skies.
The photos in the three categories — Places, People, and Nature — were judged according to creativity (50 percent) and photographic quality (50 percent). Manipulated or “photoshopped” entries were dubbed “not acceptable.”
The winning shots were picked by a panel of “photographic experts” composed of:
National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing,
Peter Essick, “one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world”, and
field biologist and wildlife photojournalist Tim Laman.
Named grand prize winner of the competition was Shikhei Goh’s “Splashing,” which was named first prize winner in the Nature category. Shot in Riau Islands in Indonesia, the photo shows “arrows of rain [that] seem to pelt a dragonfly.”
Meanwhile, Izabelle Nordfjelle’s shot of a Sami reindeer hunter in Sweden won first prize in the People category.
Laman, a regular contributor of the magazine, said Tapan “showed a perfect sense of timing and composition in the way he captured the two small human subjects in this beautiful scene.”
Meanwhile, judges Toensing and Essick were drawn by the “beautifully composed” image, especially by the detail of the woman’s hair.
Essick said that specific detail “fills a fraction of the picture’s real estate, but by capturing the movement at the apex, the photographer has documented a sense of style and flair.”
Tapan’s participation and win in the National Geographic contest is a first for the Philippines and it gained accolades from netizens on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
When a link to the announcement of winners was posted on Tapan’s Facebook fan page, it got 67 “likes” and several messages from his supporters, like:
“Congrats po, inspirasyon ko [ang] mga gawa n’yo. Tuloy po kayo sa pagkuha ng magagandang litrato sa 2012” – Jesse Alegre
“I joined in the Nature category but did not win. I am happy, though, that you… have made us Filipinos proud.” – Ely Teehankee
Philippine Airlines also posted the link, which garnered 129 “likes”. Palanca winner and journalist Frank Cimatu posted the photo on his Facebook “wall” and it got nearly 200 “likes.”
On Twitter, celebrity Tim Yap (@officialTIMYAP) “retweeted” the photo and called it “rainbow of hope,” while the account of
Save the Beach Spain (@savethebeach_es) also took notice, calling the shot “preciosa.”
Story behind the shot
Tapan chanced upon his winning shot in Onuk Island, a three-hour ride away from Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa.
According to “Our Awesome Planet,” the photo “was taken while George’s team was stranded on the island during their photo expedition.”
The site noted that when the picture was taken, it was raining hard and the wind was strong.
The photographer—who has been recognized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Association and Pacific Asia Tourism Association— is currently finishing a book, also titled “Into the Green Zone,” which showcases nature’s beauty in Palawan.
He told “Our Awesome Planet” that he entered the contest because he “was disappointed with the entries of some photographers, which magnified the poverty in the Philippines.”
In a separate interview with “Mabuhay” magazine, Tapan said he was concerned about how other Filipino photographers present our country, particularly Palawan, which he feels is best showcased “as a paradise.”
The photographer added that he wanted to present an “all-emcompassing idea” of the province—beyond the usual spots like Coron, El Nido, and Puerto Princesa.
While he wanted to promote the beauty of the province, Tapan told visitors to "take care of the place." He also encouraged the locals to "never let go of their old way of life just to ride on the wave of tourism."