Unique, contemporary style key to travel success

Submissions for this year's Travel Media Awards close on March 28, and to get you in the mood we bring you  Kelly Lynch's look at the 2013 winners, originally published in The Photographer's Mail.

At the conclusion of a long drum roll, photographer Babiche Martens was named the Travel Photographer of the Year at the 2013 awards night for the country’s top travel communicators, the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards. Despite not winning any of the five photography categories on the docket (she was runner-up in Best Travel Image Taken Outside New Zealand), Martens’ 10-image portfolio was strong enough to take out the top honour and a luxury trip to Hong Kong.

In deciding last year’s travel photography champions, the judging panel, consisting of Tony Bridge, Aaron K, and Bela Trussell-Cullen, said they were looking for consistency and technically superb images.

“We chose the winner because we found her work very contemporary. It is unique. In a medium that can attract clichés, Babiche’s eye was refreshing.”

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Babiche Martens

Martens, a staff photographer for The New Zealand Herald’s Viva supplement, entered both published and unpublished images in her portfolio. Six published images appeared with her story Sri Lanka: Portrait of a People, published in the Herald’s Travel supplement in 2012. It was a self-initiated assignment, and Martens (an admitted beach-lover) was inspired to visit Sri Lanka on the promise of beautiful beaches and colourful culture. She was not disappointed.

Her remaining portfolio images, entered in Best Unpublished Travel Image category, were originally shot for Viva during a week-long work assignment in Los Angeles. She says these images are “an eclectic mix, a humorous take on what I saw”. Usually, Martens has an annual international travel assignment with Viva and shoots angles to fit the story. But in this case, because the story hadn’t yet been written, she wasn’t influenced by it, and instead interpreted places as she saw them. Initially these were just candid snaps but later she saw them as something more serious and entered her favourites into the awards.

Starting full-time work as a photographer for The New Zealand Herald seven years ago, Martens became casual in her approach to photography while on vacation. That was until 2011 when she entered the Travel Media Awards and topped the Best Unpublished Image category — the responses and feedback she received spurred her to take travel photography more seriously.

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Babiche Martens

Judge Aaron K said it was a tough decision choosing between the winning portfolio and that of last year’s runner-up, Tessa Chrisp. Commenting on Chrisp’s images, the judges acknowledged a “lovely continuity of style, strong lens, colour and colour relationships that we liked a lot”.

Chrisp was overall winner of two photography categories, Best Travel Image taken outside New Zealand and Best Travel Image with People. Both winning images, taken in Vanuatu, appeared in a story published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine.

Her entries in 2013’s awards derive from prizes she won as Travel Photographer of the Year in 2011, including a trip to Nepal care of Cathay Pacific and another to Vanuatu thanks to then-sponsors Air Vanuatu and Mangoes Resort.

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Tessa Chrisp

A freelance photographer working for a healthy number of New Zealand glossy magazines, Chrisp is both commissioned to cover travel assignments and generates her own. In deciding which of her images to submit in the awards she looks over her published work and chooses quality, technically good, and emotively captivating images.

Chief photographer at the Waikato Times, Peter Drury, won the NZ Maori Tourism award for Best Travel Image that captures the essence of Māori with an image of wakas at the Ngaruawahia regatta on the Waikato River, published in the Times.

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Peter Drury

Student Joshua Windsor entered the awards for the first time last year after becoming motivated to learn photography during a journey through South America in 2010. His image of a climber scaling Fiordland’s Darren Mountain face, which he says “looked like an ant on the wall”, won the award for the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand.

Windsor’s image was published in New Zealand Geographic magazine after he posted it on the publication’s Flickr page and the editor subsequently chose to put it in the publication. Windsor has already committed his $2000 prize to fuel more travel.

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Joshua Windsor

This year marks 23 years of Travcom, an association of New Zealand travel communicators, which organises the Travel Media Awards, New Zealand’s only major travel writing and photography awards programme.

In general the awards celebrate published work, with the majority of categories requiring the author be paid for their work. The one photography category exception is Heritage Boutique Hotels Award for the Best Unpublished Travel Image. 2013’s winner was Wellington commercial photographer Lindsay Keats, with his atmospheric image of boys playing soccer in Morocco.

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Lindsay Keats

While Keats says his peers inspire him, he largely attributes the success of his travel images to a life-changing workshop he attended in 2010, run by Magnum and National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. The workshop was such a success that Keats ended up assisting McCurry teaching at one of his recent workshops in Thailand.

An inspiration to those whose travel images are not yet published, when Keats first entered four images in the 2010 awards for Best Unpublished Travel Image he ended up as the runner-up for the overall Travel Photographer of the Year award.

For more information on Travcom or entering 2014’s Travel Awards programme, click here.