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Pinoy photographer George Tapan wins NatGeo contest with photo in Palawan

The prize-winning photo appears to capture paradise. But National Geographic judges raved about the hair. Veteran Filipino lensman George Tapan's photo in Palawan, “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.

George Tapan's winning photo
  The winning photo, taken at Onuk Island in Balabac, Palawan, features two human subjects—a girl in pink and a man on a boat— in a wide panorama under a rainbow that stands between the clear green waters and the blue skies. Two of the judges of the competition noted that the image was “beautifully composed," especially by the detail of the woman’s hair. Nature photographer Peter Essick, a judge, 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.”   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
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.   Story behind the shot   Tapan chanced upon his winning shot in Onuk Island, a many hours 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 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-encompassing 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." 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. - VVP/HS, GMA News