Picture This: The Winners of Our 2020 Flying Longhorns Photo Contest

When we asked travelers to send us their favorite photos from past trips, submissions poured into the Flying Longhorns Facebook page. Beautiful vistas, ancient cities, charming villages, and astonishing wildlife were filling up our feed—and we realized how long it had been since we’d seen these kinds of images streaming in from around the globe. Far too long. As the travel industry kicks back into gear and plans for future adventures come into focus, we thought it was a good time to ask Flying Longhorns to revisit the shots they’ll never forget.

Our judges for 2020 Flying Longhorns Photo Contest were our travel team: Shelley Norton, Janice Garcia, and Leslie Parmiter; Texas Exes photographer Matt Wright-Steel; and VP of Communications Dorothy Guerrero.

Ready to get back out there? Head here to see what the Flying Longhorns have planned for 2021.

Best Overall

“Man with Camel” | Mystical India 2017 | Sony a7R II

When we reached two finalists for best overall photo, we realized that Susan Cook had taken them both. “Luck and context play a big part in photography,” Cook says. “This day was a visit to Dera Village Retreat near Jaipur in northern India, which included a ride in wooden carts pulled by camels. We passed through villages of the local Meena tribespeople.”  Cook snapped this photo from the back of a cart. The judges agreed on its exceptional tone, story, and depth.

“Some photos just stand out and are clearly more interesting than others,” Cook says. “This one had so many elements of the environment of India and its people. I usually put my favorite images in a book after I return home from a Flying Longhorns trip. I used this one on the cover.”

Best Landmark

“First Glimpse of the Taj Majal” | Mystical India 2020 | Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

On a typical vacation, Patty Kehoe Clark, MArch ’87, takes about a thousand photos per week. “When I return home,” Clark says, “I whittle them down to a couple of hundred. There are always duplicates and poorly composed shots that belong in the trash.”

But not this one. Clark and her crew arrived at the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, early in the morning. “As our guide gathered us outside the walls to give us some background, I wandered toward the entry for my first glimpse.”

Clark loves this snapshot for the very same reason the judges named it a winner: “The juxtaposition of the ancient, iconic architecture and the silhouettes of modern, camera-happy tourists.”

Best Nature

“Arctic Tern” | Circumnavigation of Iceland 2018 | Nikon D850 with a 500mm VR Lens

“It looks like an angel!” That’s the most common reaction to one of Mack Barham’s favorite photographs. “The day was cloudy,” says Barham, BA ’70, “and we were hiking around a small island north of Iceland. The arctic tern was protecting its chick by dive-bombing the tourists.” This was captured right before the bird’s next offensive. “I knew it would be an outstanding image as I shot it!” he says.

In fact, the image is so outstanding that Barham is no stranger to this kind of accolade. It also won a photo contest conducted by The Hill Country Camera Club, of which he is a member. “I like the backlit translucent feathers in the tail and the perfect symmetry,” Barham says. “I also like the hint of red in the beak and feet.”

Best Culture

“Market in Jaipur” | Mystical India 2017 | Sony a7R II

Remember Susan Cook? The woman is prolific. She nearly sweeps the 2020 contest with wins in multiple categories and striking photographs that all of the judges wanted to frame. “This is a market in Jaipur,” Cook says. “It gave me the opportunity to see people in their real everyday activities—colorful, crowded, full of the necessities of life in India.”

We loved the layers of color and texture captured here—not to mention the energy and vibrancy of the country. Another one we wish we could jump right into and explore.

Best People

“Moroccan Camel Ride” | Moroccan Discovery 2019 | iPhone xs Max

Susan Badger is a shutterbug of the highest order and loves using her writing and photography skills to create blogs and photo books about her trips. “We cherish these books as memories and a reference of our trips, including highlights, itineraries, places visited, people we met, things we did, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences—like camel trekking through the Sahara Desert!”

Badger says this two-hour excursion was not for the faint of heart and pushed the group out of its comfort zone. “My iPhone was protected from the sand in my zippered pocket. This action shot was difficult to capture in selfie mode, but it’s a great memory of the Flying Longhorns’ caravan across the spectacular Erg Chebbi sand dunes.”


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