It was a year ago, today, that I found out I had won National Geographic's iPhone photo contest. The theme of the contest was "Untamed Americas". Here is my photo that won:
At first when I got the email from National Geographic stating I had won, I thought it was a joke. I was laying in bed, having just woken up from a pestering alarm clock, checking emails on my phone. I read it, laughed, closed it, re-opened it, read it, read it again, got up and ran to my computer, read the email on my computer, started screaming, then did a happy dance.
Winning this contest, with an iPhone photo of all things, was very humbling and encouraging. It made me think of how many times we do things or take photos that seemingly go unnoticed. Sometimes you put so much work into something and, other than personal satisfaction, get nothing out of it. Over time it can be defeating. But this moment really opened my eyes and showed me that no matter what it is you do in your life, it does NOT go unnoticed. People notice the things you do. They may not always comment or say anything (in fact, most people only comment when they disagree), but trust me, your work is being noticed and you will reap what you sow. Months may go by before anything happens. Years may even go by. But don't stop working as hard as you possibly can, because your work will be recognized. You can make it as a photographer, or whatever else you are doing.
I took that photo one day while hiking with friends on Mount Tamalpais. This was before I even knew about the contest. I was snapping as many iPhone photos as I could but mainly, I was being present and enjoying the hike with my friends. I posted the photo to Instagram (along with many others), and went on with my time. It wasn't until a few days (maybe weeks? can't remember now) that I saw National Geographic post on Instagram about the contest. I quickly entered a few of my photos without thinking much about it. I forgot about the contest and it wasn't until a month or so later that I got the email stating I had won.
No matter what it is you do, don't give up! Don't follow your passions for the money or the fame, do it because it's what feels right in your heart. Be present, work hard, and be kind.
Here are a few of the other photos I took that evening.