Exploring the Elements Through Photos

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For me, capturing my adventures in photos is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Yes, I sometimes have to remind myself to put the camera down and see things through my own eyes, but being able to go through my photos months or years later and remember things so vividly really is priceless.

I'm certainly no pro when it comes to photography, but whenever I read about a travel photo competition, my ears perk up. And it was no different when I heard about the Explore The Elements Photo Contest being hosted by Thomas Cook.

The premise is simple: share four photos that capture each of the four elements — Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.

Never one to turn down a creative challenge, here's my best attempt:


Earth represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. It’s associated with stubbornness, collectiveness, physicality and gravity.

Road to Mount Cook

For me, nothing represents gravity and stubbornness as much as mountains. They are solid and stoic and make everyone and everything make room for them. This particular photo is of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. With its distinctive shape, this is definitely a mountain that commands attention.


Water represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. It’s associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

For this category, I chose water in its frozen form. This is the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. While you might THINK of a glacier as being more “earth-like” because of how big and solid they appear, the truth is that glaciers are more fluid and flowing than you probably realize. Glaciers are constantly changing in shape and color, and they can “flow” (either advance or recede) up to 300 feet in just one day!


Fire represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. It’s associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit.

Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia

I had trouble with this category — I didn't want to be generic and show you a sunset photo, or a photo of something that was actually on fire. Eventually, I decided to focus more on what fire represents as opposed to the word itself. I ended up deciding to share this photo of a tree growing up through the ruins of the Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia, because, n my mind, nothing is more forceful or filled with desire and intention than nature — the will to survive and thrive is definitely fire-like.


Air represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. It’s associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.

Northern Lights

When reading the description of air, I immediately pictured the Northern Lights, mostly due to the mentions of elusiveness and “freedom of movement.” The aurora borealis is a scientific phenomenon that has to do with elements interacting with one another in the atmosphere. But, for anyone who has “chased” the Northern Lights and been lucky enough to watch them dance in the night sky, you'll know that they seem alive. They are often fickle in appearing, and never put on the same show twice — the perfect example of “air.” This particular shot was captured in Churchill, Manitoba, in -40 degree weather!

So there you have it — my entries to the Explore the Elements photo competition.

I'm nominating the following 5 bloggers to take part, too:

And if you want to enter yourself, here are all the important details about the contest:

  • Contest runs through March 16, 2015.
  • In order to enter, you need to publish an Explore the Elements post on your blog with an image for each element (or as many as you want to capture), nominate 5 other bloggers to take part, and let Thomas Cook know of your entry by either tweeting them (@ThomasCookUK) or emailing them.
  • The overall winner will receive £5,000. The four individual category winners will receive a MacBook Air, a Fujifilm X-T1 camera, or an iPhone 6 with Bose noise canceling headphones, depending on their personal choice. 

Which photo is your favorite?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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12 Comments on “Exploring the Elements Through Photos

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  1. Cool shots Amanda. I love the northern lights…so hard to photograph!

      Yeah, the Northern Lights can definitely be a challenge to capture!

    Really incredible photos Amanda, I love how you switched up fire for not the element, but for the essence. And Mount Cook, WOW. I need to go back to New Zealand somehow very soon.

      Thanks, Ryan! I didn’t want to be literal with all the categories. 🙂 And yes, how amazing is Mount Cook?? I never get tired of seeing it.

    Awesome photographs! The Earth photo is breathtaking and Water is superb and love the way you relate fire with your photo.

      Thanks so much! It was fun going through all my photos to put this together.

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