Home > Celebrations > george tapan’s winning photo – each element handpicked and placed by God into the shot

george tapan’s winning photo – each element handpicked and placed by God into the shot

there is an uncommon serenity in this photo which we think is what makes this a great photo.  everything seemed  to be understated and yet when the elements are put together, it is transformed into something very powerful.

the elements of the woman, the boat, the sea, the rainbow and the clouds in one picture put together like this is a one in a million shot. in fact, it might not be duplicated ever again.  the photo looks like these specific elements were handpicked and placed one by one into the picture by the hand of God.

for me, the most amazing detail in the shot that God handpicked for the photo is the wind that blew the hair of the woman in pink to the direction of the man in the boat.  the wind needed to be  strong enough to make the hair sway in that direction, the whole lot with little stray hair and the shape of it in an artistic and sensual way. the hair was moving but the moment of the shot caught it right at that perfect second.

second is the wind and the rain that conspired to create the calming ripples on the sea. the ripples or light captured by the camera as it the rain fell and the wind blue the sea water formed brush strokes of white on the canvass of the sea. the “waves” were not violent but even and calming.

all these details, including the rainbow and the clouds are very difficult to capture in film. the range of light, shades and action are so wide that you need to have a great camera and a very high sense of photographic mind to set the the right aperture and speed on the camera.  the range is so wide that i doubt if this was taken at “auto” or “program”. i would think this was taken with the photographer doing a manual setting on it.  asking the camera to take the photo on its own will confuse its meter in reading a scene with so much range.

george tapan is a well known veteran photographer but this confirms he has the eye of a master photographer. he does not have eyes like yours and mine, he has the eyes of  a master photographer. not only did his eyes capture the lights available on the scene, he also captured the action not to mention the perfect framing and composition on the photo.

to me, this photo is more than a celebration of the “green zone” or nature as the title suggests. this is a celebration of God’s glory and His awesome power, bar none. there is a religious experience in this shot for me.

my conclusion on this shot – God conspired, even handpicked each element and put it in this shot. it’s the only way. there is no other way.

"into the green zone", george tapan's winning photo at National Geographic

Pinoy lensman George Tapan praised for winning Natl Geographic tilt

The winning photo, taken at Onuk Island in Balabac, Palawan, features two human subjects—a girl in pink and a man on a boat— under a rainbow that stands between the clear green waters and the blue skies.

The photos in the three categories — Places, People, and Nature — were judged according to creativity (50 percent) and photographic quality (50 percent). Manipulated or “photoshopped” entries were dubbed “not acceptable.”

The winning shots were picked by a panel of “photographic experts” composed of:
National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing, Peter Essick, “one of the 40 most influential nature photographers in the world”, and field biologist and wildlife photojournalist Tim Laman.

Named grand prize winner of the competition was Shikhei Goh’s “Splashing,” which was named first prize winner in the Nature category. Shot in Riau Islands in Indonesia, the photo shows “arrows of rain [that] seem to pelt a dragonfly.”

Meanwhile, Izabelle Nordfjelle’s shot of a Sami reindeer hunter in Sweden won first prize in the People category.


Laman, a regular contributor of the magazine, said Tapan “showed a perfect sense of timing and composition in the way he captured the two small human subjects in this beautiful scene.”

Meanwhile, judges Toensing and Essick were drawn by the “beautifully composed” image, especially by the detail of the woman’s hair.

Essick said that specific detail “fills a fraction of the picture’s real estate, but by capturing the movement at the apex, the photographer has documented a sense of style and flair.”

Tapan’s participation and win in the National Geographic contest is a first for the Philippines and it gained accolades from netizens on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

When a link to the announcement of winners was posted on Tapan’s Facebook fan page, it got 67 “likes” and several messages from his supporters, like:

“Congrats po, inspirasyon ko [ang] mga gawa n’yo. Tuloy po kayo sa pagkuha ng magagandang litrato sa 2012” – Jesse Alegre

“I joined in the Nature category but did not win. I am happy, though, that you… have made us Filipinos proud.” – Ely Teehankee

Philippine Airlines also posted the link, which garnered 129 “likes”. Palanca winner and journalist Frank Cimatu posted the photo on his Facebook “wall” and it got nearly 200 “likes.”

On Twitter, celebrity Tim Yap (@officialTIMYAP) “retweeted” the photo and called it “rainbow of hope,” while the account of

Save the Beach Spain (@savethebeach_es) also took notice, calling the shot “preciosa.”

Story behind the shot

Tapan chanced upon his winning shot in Onuk Island, a three-hour ride away from Palawan’s capital, Puerto Princesa.

According to “Our Awesome Planet,” the photo “was taken while George’s team was stranded on the island during their photo expedition.”

The site noted that when the picture was taken, it was raining hard and the wind was strong.

The photographer—who has been recognized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Association and Pacific Asia Tourism Association— is currently finishing a book, also titled “Into the Green Zone,” which showcases nature’s beauty in Palawan.

He told “Our Awesome Planet” that he entered the contest because he “was disappointed with the entries of some photographers, which magnified the poverty in the Philippines.”

In a separate interview with “Mabuhay” magazine, Tapan said he was concerned about how other Filipino photographers present our country, particularly Palawan, which he feels is best showcased “as a paradise.”

The photographer added that he wanted to present an “all-emcompassing idea” of the province—beyond the usual spots like Coron, El Nido, and Puerto Princesa.

While he wanted to promote the beauty of the province, Tapan told visitors to “take care of the place.” He also encouraged the locals to “never let go of their old way of life just to ride on the wave of tourism.” – VVP, GMA News


  1. December 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Agree with you. Also, one of the reasons why this photo is an effective landscape shot is its ‘movement’– it is able to make viewers move their eyes from one point to another in the scene. My two cents.

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