The Best Local Travel Pictures of the Year 2011

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 2 January 2012

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by. And with it the grace of another 44 incredible Photos of the Week.

We are nevertheless once again proud to present our Photos of the Year – the travel pictures of the year 2011 that most captured the imagination of The Travel Word team and a group of expert external judges. Unlike our Photo of the Year 2010, this year (2011), we had a tie for first place.

Click on the image below for more information about them. See further below for the judges’ comments about them and the rest of the shortlist.

Photo of the Week (27 February 2011) - Krishna Mandir and Krishna Janmashtami, Kathmandu, Nepal

Krishna Mandir on Krishna Janmashtami, Patan, Nepal

Photo of the Week (19 June 2011) - Cheetahs Posing, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Cheetahs Posing, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

About the Photo of the Week and the Photo of the Year

A bit more than two years ago, we started featuring one picture each week (or, lately, every other week) on The Travel Word. We spotlighted favourite images pulled from our growing collections on Flickr.

We then asked the photographer or owner of each selected Photo of the Week to submit a short and revealing text about it – covering the subject of the photo, the general location, the experience of taking the picture, technical aspects of photography etc.

These text-image combinations have proven to be very popular. We believe that this has a lot to do with the special emphasis we have placed on the honesty of the images, all taken or sourced by our partners, who are local travel experts in their destinations. Through their eyes, and given their knowledge of what makes their homes unique, we felt confident that were discovering something special.

The Shortlist

Our methods were decidedly unscientific. For each month, The Travel Word team singled out one photo of the month. To this list of 12 we added afew wild cards that had made a particular impression on us. This shortlist is what we sent to a group of five skilled photographers for their assessment.

Below are the nine images, ranked in order, that caught the judges’ fancies along with their comments. We thank the judges for their contribution and encourage you to learn more about their work.


Photo of the Week (27 February 2011) - Krishna Mandir on Krishna Janmashtami, Patan, Nepal

+ WINNERS: PHOTOS OF THE YEAR 2011: Krishna Mandir on Krishna Janmashtami, Patan, Nepal AND Cheetahs Posing, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Comments about Krishna Mandir on Krishna Janmashtami, Patan, Nepal, photo and text by Navin M. Shrestha:
“This photo does an excellent job of capturing both the manic movement of the crowd and the ethereal nature of the temple.” — Mike Richards

“Here’s a unique image of the Durbar Square of Patan that not only does a good job of displaying the beauty of the temple of Lord Krisha, but bringing the square to its full cultural context by choosing to photograph it on Krishna Janmashtami (the birth anniversary of Krishna), full of devotees, prayer and a long enough exposure that bleeds the light and gives the scene a more spiritual climate.” — Arog Vila

“This picture is amazing for the fact that at first glance it could reflect a scene dating back centuries. Truly a timeless shot.” — Matt Stabile


Photo of the Week (19 June 2011) - Cheetahs Posing, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Comments about Cheetahs Posing, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, photo by Ward Graham, accompanying text by Shafina Bandali:
“Luck is the final element, together with well-studied technique, good planning and plenty of patience, that results in this gorgeous golden-hour capture of two cheetahs looking back at us. This image has a rich tonal range accentuated by a pronounced vignette, which in this case does more than spotlight the cheetahs, it completes the interplay of light within the frame.” — Arog Vila

“Great light, composition and pose, it’s almost tells the viewer that these wild cheetahs are longing for some patting.” — Rafael Pinho

“From a technical perspective, the depth of field and vignetting are just right to single out the pair of cheetahs. They appear curious, ominous and regal all at once.” — Mike Richards


The Church of Tisco, Arequipa, Peru

+ RUNNERS UP: Church of Tisco, Arequipa, Peru AND Beautiful Waters of the Bocas Islands, Panama

Comments about the Church of Tisco, Arequipa, Peru, photo by Alberto Gonzalez, accompanying text by Mariel Gonzalez:
“Travel photography at its best evokes faraway experience in a single image, and this shot of a remote Peruvian church does just that: the totemic ochre ornamentations and roaming landscape transport the viewer to the high fields, far from home.” — Linus Gelber

“Just the right amount of grunge and color provide a contemporary artistic take on a classic stone structure.” — Mike Richards


Beautiful Waters of the Bocas Islands, Panama

Comments about the Beautiful Waters of the Bocas Islands, Panama, photo by ATP, accompanying text by Melissa:
“Transparent green water makes any destination appealing, even if it’s all there is to it. This image portrays the dream-like environment all urbanites long for.” — Rafael Pinho

“I’m a sucker for visions of tropical paradise, probably because I so rarely experience tropical paradise. A jetty with amenities, lifted above clear entrancing waters, with balmy skies above – does it get better than this?” — Linus Gelber



Photo of the Week (23 January 2011) - Sleepy Lions, Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda

+ Sleepy Lions, Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda, photo by Steve Cunliffe, accompanying text by Nicola Swann

“As anyone who has gone on safari knows, finding lions is the ultimate reward, and to find them in such a natural state must have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Oddly enough, this also looks like my family’s living room after Thanksgiving dinner.” — Matt Stabile


Photo of the Week (07 August 2011) - The Children of Yakel Village, Tanna, Vanuatu

+ The Children of Yakel Village, Tanna, Vanuatu, photo and accompanying text by John Nicholls

“Seven strange children range along the ladder entrance to a treehouse home on Tanna Island; they may never hold an Xbox controller or argue the merits of teen fashion, but they smile, gaze, consider and go about their business just like children anywhere else. The wild differences highlight that we are, at heart, pretty much the same.” — Linus Gelber


Photo of the Week (6 March 2011) - Smile from a Little Girl, Cusco, Peru

+ Smile from a Little Girl, Cusco, Peru, photo by Pieter Roos, accompanying text by Fernando Carrasco

“This heartwarming portrait of a little girl is technically sound and beautifully communicative of the colorful personality beyond the girl’s colorful costume. An image that is very easy to connect with, well done!” — Arog Vila

“This girl’s amazing smile reminds me of what is truly great about travel: the people.” — Matt Stabile


Photo of the week (28 November 2010) - Migratory Birds, Lijiang, China

+ Migratory Birds, Lijiang, China, photo and accompanying text by Lily Zhang

“A skein of geese, which might have just recently taken off, before forming a V, makes this a chaotic but amusing composition where each element has a certain clumsiness to it.” — Rafael Pinho


The Judges

We sincerely thank our five judges for the time and effort taken to review our shortlist. We value their opinions and their readiness to share them with us. Please take a moment to check out their work.

Linus Gelber is a photographer from New York City, where he shoots cityscapes and live performances (notably burlesque) and sees way too many movies, if such a thing is possible. His work is represented by Getty Images. Linus would like to go to Antarctica one day, and if you knew how he felt about New York winters you’d think that was weird too.

Born in Brazil, Rafael Pinho took up photography after finishing his architecture studies. He set out as a freelancer in 2005 in Belo Horizonte and spent the following years between Berlin, New York, Reykjavík and São Paulo. His work has been shown at the Florence Biennale (2011) and the Biennale di Roma (2012) and appeared in the The Wall Street Journal, Modern Painters (US), Forum AID (Sweden), FFW Mag! (Brazil), Nýtt Líf (Iceland), Trip and Tpm (Brazil).

Mike Richard is the editor of Vagabondish. He lives in Rhode Island – a spit of land in the northeastern US – where he is a professional web designer and travel junkie with an unhealthy addiction to backpacking, camping, hiking and seeing the world. He enjoys knit hats, small, declarative sentences and speaking in the third person.

Matt Stabile founded and runs TheExpeditioner.com, through which you can read his writings, see his videos, purchase the book he co-edited or contact him via email at any time.

Arog Vila is a New York-based photographer who developed his unique aesthetic and rule-breaking composition studying at the International Center of Photography, the New School and the School of Visual Arts. He delivers crisp and edgy images of photojournalistic human narrative, pointing his camera on the expected from an entirely new angle, then turning to the unusual and connecting it to something familiar and beautiful.

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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China, fine arts, local knowledge, Nepal, Panama, personal experience, Peru, photo of the week, Tanzania, Uganda, Vanuatu, whl.travel,

7 Responses to “The Best Local Travel Pictures of the Year 2011”

  1. I love that photo in Panama – so inspiring for a dream vacation!

  2. The overdressed traveler betrays more interest in being seen than in seeing, while the true traveler knows that the novel world about her serves as the most appropriate accessory.

  3. Kamran says:

    What great pics! Clearly proof of how diverse and interesting the world is.

  4. Lee Sheridan says:

    Fantastic photos – very inspirational!

  5. Maureen says:

    Some great picks to showcase 2011! Looking forward to see what’s to come in the new year!

  6. Sam Bruce says:

    Awesome collection

  7. What wonderfully eclectic collection! Fantastic- shows the diversity of WHL. Happy 2012 and can’t wait for more fantastic photos . Kate . http://www.explore-malawi.com

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