2009 Winners

Over 28,000 people voted, and our judge, National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, has chosen the Grand Prize winner.

These six photographs were chosen as finalists in their respective categories and the Inspiration / Keep Going® category finalist is the winner of the Grand Prize!

Grand Prize winner Bernardo Medina won an all-expenses paid 10-day trip for two to the Galapagos Islands! His winning photo was also featured in an Energizer ad in the December 2009 issue of National Geographic magazine.

  • Photo:  Peddling in Wind
  • Photo: Polar Bear
  • Photo:  Light shaft on sea
  • Photo: Boy and Boats
  • Photo: Boardwalk and Ocean
  • Photo: Sultry porch and cloud reflections
  • Photo: Peddling in Wind
    2009 Grand Prize Winner
    Photo and caption by Bernardo Medina

    Inspiration / Keep Going ®

    I was captured by a cry of sadness when taking this photo, but later I realized that the amazing man probably had the heart of a lion...instead of lamenting, he had turned his life into a fight...and he wasn't going to lose it. Every time I look at it I feel a sad happiness.

    Jim's Comments

    I have no idea where this man's story began, or where it will end, but I know the subject of the story perfectly: human courage. Head down, hunched over, hardly seeing where he's going. The picture speaks so clearly over the howl of the wind.

    Each and every finalist in Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest would have been a worthy winner. I'm sorry I can't award the prize to all of them. But one photo so captured the essence of the category it was entered in that I ultimately chose it as the Grand Prize winner. That photo is of the courageous bicycle rider forging ahead into the storm. I have no idea of what sort of storm this rider faced, but the photographer drew on every creative tool available to produce an image which captured the heart of the theme: Inspiration: Keep Going ®. Congratulations to one and all!

  • Photo: Polar Bear Photo and caption by Ruston Agte

    Animals / Wildlife

    Kobe the polar bear out for a swim at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona. At first I thought the glaring sun on the water was going to ruin the picture. What a surprise!

    Jim's Comments

    Except for the fact that he would probably eat you if he could, this polar bear is just so obviously a nice guy. All those little body gestures speak of lazy curiosity in the midst of a refreshing swim, the twinkling reflections on the water speaking of cool delight. Just kind of friendly (maybe).

  • Photo:  Light shaft on sea Photo and caption by Tracy Hagen


    The sun only shines through this natural "door" at just the right angle to create a beam of light, for two weeks out of the year—one week before and one week after the winter solstice. In order to see this spectacular sight other conditions need to be just right as well: no fog or clouds on the horizon, and a low tide. The light does not last long, so being prepared is key!

    Jim's Comments

    Nature never holds still for us and this picture celebrates that never ending change in such a beautiful way. The magical shaft of light will soon be gone, the tides will transform the waves, the eons will change the rocks. And such a vocabulary of color!

  • Photo: Boy and Boats Photo and caption by Bernardo Medina

    People / Cultures

    Once upon a time in southern China...a boy and the sea.

    Jim's Comments

    For all the stunning beauty of this landscape with the exotic sky and the sweep of the boats, it is the boy whose presence transforms this picture into an act of contemplation. The horizon is lost in some cloudy infinity, the boy is lost in his thoughts. Nice.

  • Photo: Boardwalk and Ocean Photo and caption by Glenn Traver


    Taken at Ocean View Fishing Pier in Ocean View, Va. This is an early morning shot just before sunrise. I shot this @ ISO 50 F-22 fpr 99 seconds @ 54 mm using a Canon 24-70 L lens with a Singh Ray Galen Rowell 3 stop soft GND filter. It was a very quiet morning with all the serious fisherman at the end of the pier.

    Jim's Comments

    It would be fruitless to talk about this picture without marveling at how those subtle colors transmit some subtle emotion we can't quite distinguish but which is just as powerful as it is serene. The composer Debussy could do this with music. Something like the power of a whisper.

  • Photo: Sultry porch and cloud reflections Photo and caption by Frederick Abels


    I shot this on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia, in 2004 just as a storm was approaching the lagoon. The sun was beginning to set and the clouds were lit up beautifully. The sky only remained this way for a few minutes before the rain came.

    Jim's Comments

    It is the rare actress who can manage to be so seductive or sultry as this scene. The colors are subtle, the water tranquil. But it is the chair that keeps tempting me, promising some escape into a timeless moment.

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Six Categories

Animals / Wildlife

Our Partners in Life

Photo: Zebras

The animals of planet Earth share our home and bring joy to our lives. Whether we see them in some remote vast wilderness, or snug asleep on our sofa at home, these creatures share our world and enrich us with their beauty, bravery—and sometimes with their antics. Pictures in this category should celebrate our partners in life.


Earth in All Its Glory

Photo: Volcano

From the grandeur of the cosmos down to the world within a drop of water, nature casts a spell on us with stunning landscapes, towering forests, graceful geology, and the never-ending wonder of how our planet is clothed in beauty. Pictures in this category can explore everything from insect life to landscapes and flowers. (But anything focusing on animals should be entered in that category.)

People / Cultures

The Lives We Live

Photo: Men in Traditional Dress

As citizens of the planet, we find a lot of ways of expressing who we are, what we like to eat, what calls for a celebration, what we wear, and how we look at life. We are rich in cultures. Photography can help us share that richness. Pictures in this category should focus on how people live and make their lives meaningful.


The Joy of Encounter

Photo: Pyramids

Travel photographs bring back our experiences as we travel the world (even if that exotic location is in our own backyard.) This category is about the joy and adventure of traveling and exploring. Pictures here should show the experiences of traveling and the unexpected joys of encountering the world and making new friends.


Redecorating the Earth

Photo: Rainbow

Weather constantly remakes our world into something we hadn't quite expected. Children delight to wake up to a world covered in snow, farmers give thanks for long-awaited rain, frost casts its magic on our windowpanes, and sultry afternoons make us drowsy. Pictures here should convey all the ways that weather keeps us guessing and delighted.

Action / Energy

The World in Motion

Photo: Men Rowing

Energy makes action and action makes great pictures. The top of the leap, the speed of flight, the arc of the throw, the splash of the stream, and the blur of laughter—all make for great pictures of life as it happens. Pictures in this category can be crystal clear stop-action or dreamy blurs of motion-in-time. Either way the action and energy are fun to capture.

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