What makes a terrific travel photo? An exotic locale with lots of color? Sometimes. But great travel photography transcends the destination, going beyond framing and technique to uncover the essence of its subject—and spark wanderlust in its viewers.
At AFAR, part of our mission is to showcase photography that does just this. And we’re hardly alone: United Airlines feels the same commitment to the joy of travel. It’s why United MileagePlus sponsored the AFAR Photo Awards and launched #MyUnitedJourney, which celebrates the beauty of travel and includes destination information as well as exclusive offers.
“The photos that MileagePlus members shared were incredible,” says Luc Bondar, United’s president of MileagePlus and Vice President of Loyalty. “The stories highlighted the community people can build as they travel around the world”
We received some 3,000 travel photos in the 2019 AFAR Photo Awards contest and were blown away by the quality of the images. Winners were chosen in five categories, along with a grand prize winner, and there were five jury selections. But many other submissions were just as riveting and transcendent. Here’s a selection.
“Sakura Season at Hirosaki Castle,” by Suwandi Chandra Springtime in Japan brings the annual burst of color from the country’s famous cherry blossoms—it also brings out crowds of people. Chandra decided to get away from the bustling cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka to witness the magic in the castle city of Hirosaki, on the northern end of Honshu Island.
“Potash,” by Brendan Tremblay The electric blue of this potash evaporation pond, outside Moab, Utah, provides a jarring contrast to the red desert around it. The brightly colored water comes from a dye, added to help absorb sunlight and speed evaporation of the potassium chloride.
“Inbound,” by Mat Rik Looking down on the buildings of New York is about as inspiring as it gets. A window seat is usually key to having a great view, but sometimes—even from the aisle—it’s impossible to miss the staccato beats of Gotham’s iconic skyline.
“Hiking in Arches National Park,” by Ben Horton Utah’s park offers mile upon mile of gorgeous red sandstone, which becomes especially ethereal with the glinting light at daybreak and sunset. Here, Kelly Potts, a professional surfer and philanthropist from Maui, climbs up into one of the storied arches.
“Working Hard,” by Juan Contreras A view of the cockpit as pilots go through their extensive pre-flight checks isn’t something most travelers are lucky enough to witness. But sometimes the stars align, as they did for Contreras at San Francisco International Airport.
“Finding Your Space,” by Kamella Boullé Reaching many of the cays in the Exuma archipelago of the Bahamas requires taking a boat or seaplane. After having explored by water, Boullé took to an amphibious plane to capture this spectacle near Pipe Cay.