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2014 Student Photo Contest Winners

We asked high school students to submit a photograph and descriptive caption that conveys a sense of exploration or adventure, and over 2,000 entries flooded in. The images and descriptions we received tell a rich story of exploration through the eyes and lenses of high school students across the country. And the subjects spanned the globe—as close as the backyard, and as far-flung as Botswana and Thailand.

Our panel of judges, made up of National Geographic's top photographers and photo editors, had the challenging task of evaluating the top entries and selecting the winning image and the two runners-up. Our grand-prize winner will participate in one of the National Geographic Student Expeditions Photography Workshops. We congratulate each of our winners and finalists on their outstanding work! Take a look at the winning photos and our gallery of finalists below.

Grand Prize Winner: Rites

Photo and description by Ann Basu

In my grandmother's childhood home in southern China, there were no electric lights, just open windows. When my uncle lit a stick of incense, the window light caught the smoke in a way that made it seem timeless and otherworldly. I realized how far removed this was from my life in California, and how lucky I was to be able to explore my heritage and experience these traditions and customs. Exploration is not just about places, but about times and cultures as well.

Photo Location: Rural Southern China

Second Place Winner: Regenerate

Photo and description by Sanaya Dhablania

Diving into the unknown breathes new life into oneself and here one begins the path of self-exploration. Self exploration is defined as the discovery and analysis of one's own hidden spiritual or intellectual capacities, however, the ways in which one may go about uncovering and examining these hidden jewels depends completely on the person. Though everyone's journey will differ, none of us can begin our path of self-discovery unless we gain the courage to do so. We must take that leap of faith and dive into the depths of self discovery for it will not drown us, but only drown what we are not.

Photo Location: New York, New York

Third Place Winner: Orbs

Photo and description by Lora Sparks

As children, we were natural scientists, natural explorers: our backyards were the mountains we climbed, the ditches filtering rainwater were the seas we set sail to, and the butterflies, grasshoppers, and lizards we examined were our very best friends. We were content with an afternoon simply exploring the world right outside our doorsteps... which, fortunately, I never stopped doing. I captured a black-tailed red sheetweaver (florinda coccinea) in her intricately woven web amidst a cluster of dewdrops in my backyard. As an avid traveler it's important to never neglect the seemingly minuscule details found in traveling and to never forget the location that sparked our love for adventure: home.

Photo Location: Radcliff, Kentucky

More about National Geographic Student Expeditions

Get into the field this summer on one of our Expeditions, Field Workshops, Photo Workshops, or Community Service trips. Select a destination that captures your imagination. National Geographic offers student travel programs around the world that aim to inspire and educate high school students.

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Proceeds from our student expeditions help fund the National Geographic Society's core mission programs. By traveling with us, you are helping support our grantees and explorers in their efforts to preserve species and habitats, protect cultures, and advance understanding of our incredible planet.
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