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Finding joy through a lens

Your Shot is hosting the #NatGeoMomentsofJoy photography challenge. Get inspired by the judge, Nat Geo Photographer Michael George.

Photograph by Olga Danylenko, Shutterstock
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There are many ways to show joy through photography. Show us your best examples for a chance to be featured on the Nat Geo Your Shot community on Instagram!
Photograph by Olga Danylenko, Shutterstock

The Nat Geo Moments of Joy Challenge is designed to help aspiring photographers get recognition for their work through the Nat Geo Your Shot Instagram community.

All entrants have to do is capture a moment of joy, post it on Instagram any time from 25 September to 9 October, and make sure to tag @natgeoyourshot and use the hashtag #NatGeoMomentsofJoy.

The judge, National Geographic Photographer Michael George, has some handy tips for those interested in joining:

“My first criteria is originality. I want to see what your unique perception of joy brings to the table. Images that feel like a surprise, or make me stop and think, will grab my attention. Beyond that, interesting compositions and thoughtful storytelling elements are always a plus.”

It’s a rare shot at getting featured on an Instagram channel with over 4.5 million followers. Learn more about the challenge by visiting this website.

How do you capture joy in a photograph?

George feels that there are plenty of ways to creatively express joy through photography.

“What I love about joy is it can be found almost anywhere, it's just up to you to look for it,” shared George. “There is joy in the obvious: A sunrise or sunset, weddings and parades. There is also joy in stillness, fresh air, and even a heavy grey morning. I often find joy in images that make me wish they were a portal I could jump inside.”

For George, photos don’t need to include people to convey joy. There are many additional creative options, like the majestic views that nature provides.

In a bid to inspire entrants, George has shared a few of his favorite joyful photos.

Friends Meet at Man Sagar Lake

A man feeds monkeys at Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.

Jaipur in Rajasthan, India, was the scene for one of George’s favorite photos.

“Many locals venture to Man Sagar Lake to greet the day, and part of their routine is to feed the animals,” he said. This man walks the shore every morning and greets these monkeys as part of his ritual. I find joy in this daily connection to nature and the relationship they've forged over the years.”

A Tranquil Ride in Italy

A cyclist in Italy enjoys a ride next to the Adriatic sea.

While visiting Italy and exploring a small town next to the Adriatic Sea, a cyclist caught George’s eye:

“Most of my (cycling) training has been in New York City where I face endless traffic just to get to the busy parks, where I can do a few loops. On the contrary, in this small town in Italy, many of the bike paths are along the Adriatic Sea which is a calming and piercing blue. It is a joyful place to exercise, and it also captures the freedom and openness I feel when on a cycling trip.”

Sun, Sand, and Peace

A man enjoys reading a book at the beach while sitting on a deck chair under the hot sun.

George may have lived in New York City for 13 years, but his South Florida roots remain firmly planted in his psyche. That’s why something as simple as a photo of a man reading on the sand makes him happy.

“The idea of baking in the hot sun while reading a good book is one of the most joyous things I can imagine. When most city dwellers are complaining about the heat and humidity, I am singing about how it's like walking through clouds. I sometimes joke that I am a plant person, and this image reminds me that there are others who also get their energy from the sun.”

Who is Michael George?

George grew up in Fort Myers, Florida. His interest in photography as a career was born at his high school, where he attended a talk given by National Geographic photographer Mattias Klum.

Meeting Klum and getting encouragement about his photography made George’s life path clear: he would take photos for a living.

Upon leaving college, he took his first trip outside of the USA and walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. After self-publishing his photographs of the trip, his dream came true when National Geographic approached him to feature his photo essay in the magazine.

These days, George travels the world as a professional photographer. He is currently based in Brooklyn, New York City.

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