Public voting has opened in the National Geographic, “My Thailand, My Story” competition and Novato photographer, Harvey Abernathey, is in the final round that features a grand prize exhibit in New York to the highest vote-getter.
Abernathey was one of seven first-place winners in the National Geographic “My Thailand, My Story” competition with his photo ”Harold’s Tree”.
Winners went on a whirlwind seven-day photography excursion to Thailand to compete for the grand prize by creating an online photo album telling a story of the experience.
Voting is open to the public from December 10 to January 10, 2013 at www.nationalgeographic.com/mythailand. The online album that receives the highest number of valid votes will win the grand prize, an exhibit in New York, valued at $20,000.
The seven finalists traveled the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, photographing their journey along the way.
Within 48 hours of arriving home, each photographer created an online photo album to showcase the best 15 shots from the trip, telling a story of the Thailand experience.
Abernathey said the challenge was in selecting from the over 18,000 photos he took of the temples, festivals and people of Thailand by the strict deadline and within two days of arriving home.
“With the shooting schedule we had, I didn’t get to see my work until I got home,” said Abernathey. “But the purpose of the trip was to tell a story, so I was selecting photos that would do that.”
Traveling in first-class style with guides from the sponsoring organizations, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Destination Asia, photography excursions would often begin at 6 a.m. and end late into the night.
“One morning we set out for a balloon ride over Chiang Mai at 6 a.m., landed and drove to the mountains and went on an elephant ride — all before breakfast,” Abernathey said.
The highlight of the trip was experiencing the Loi Krathong lantern festival in Chiang Mai.
“It’s an all night celebration with fireworks and thousands of lanterns are floated in the sky,” said Abernathey. “There were beautiful flower floats and we went to the flower market and watched people making them and then later floating them on the river following their blessing.”
“I was struck by the reverence the people have for their monarchy and their spirituality,” said Abernathey.
He was also amazed by the spirit of cooperation that he said was most evident in driving in the cities. Abernathey called the heavy traffic of scooters and motorists “a choreography” where participants were accommodating and where he rarely heard a honking horn and never saw an accident.
“The Thai people were so enjoyable to be around,” said Abernathey. “They would socialize with us even though we couldn’t speak the language.”
Abernathey called the trip to Thailand “the experience of a lifetime,” adding that lifelong friendships were formed with the other photographers in the competition.
“It was an amazing opportunity to experience the culture,” Abernathey said. “This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Voters must register on the www.nationalgeographic.com/mythailand site so that only one vote per person will be entered during the voting period which ends on January 10, 2013.