Explore The Elements 2015 – The Winners Are Revealed!

At the beginning of the year we launched our first ‘Explore The Elements’ photography competition searching for the perfect shots to best represent the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
The level of the entries was unbelievable and we were especially impressed by the broad range of creative skills used to approach the brief.

Over the course of eight weeks from 19th January we received over 270 entries. Our four judges lent their trained eyes to well over 1000 stunning images to find the best in each of the four categories. It wasn’t an easy task but they finally came to their decisions on a winner for each element as well as an overall winner.

And here they are. We’re sure you’ll agree that the standard of photography is truly exceptional.


John Ramer at - Edge of the Earth - Shore Acres State Park - Oregon - North America - Earth
Shore Acres State Park – Oregon

Our earth judge, Dave Bouskill, says: “As soon as I saw John's entry I knew it had the potential to be the winner. He captured the Earth Element perfectly. I interpret the photo in this way: In this shot the earth acts as hard solid stopper against the fury of the sea and even though it will still keep pounding relentlessly the earth will never give up. A perfect interpretation of the definition for the category that we put forth.”


Sathya at

"Morning Glow @ Bryce"
Morning Glow, Bryce, Utah

Dave Bouskill says: “What I loved about Sathya's entry is the layers. It was almost as if we were looking at a photo of the earth sliced in half. It really captured the essence of the hard, solid objects we were looking for in the Earth category and combined it with the fragility of the hoodoos which are affected by all of the elements through time.”

Sarah at - After the rain - Republic of Congo - Africa - Earth
After the rain

Dave Bouskill says: “I chose Sarah's entry because she really thought outside of the box for her interpretation of earth. A lot of the entries were of landscapes but this one took a different approach. She combines the human element and the vulnerability of the earth, something that I thought was a creative approach to the element.”

Check out all of the entries for the Earth category on our Pinterest Board

Follow Thomas Cook UK's board Explore The Elements - Earth on Pinterest.


  Marius Vieth at - Retina - Dusseldorf - Germany - Europe - Water
Retina - (Dusseldorf, 2013)

Our water judge, Ken Kaminesky, says: “Marius Vieth's interpretation of water was to me by far the most unique. I loved the colours, the composition, and the mysterious quality to the ethereal image. Everything in this photo just works on so many levels and it makes me want to go out walking in the rain.”


Tanya at - Lake Wanaka Tree - Otago - New Zealand - Water
Lake Wanaka Tree, New Zealand

Ken Kaminesky says: “Tanya has a beautiful way of looking at the world and her shot of a very iconic tree in New Zealand has a fun twist to it. The melancholy mood to the image made me stop and inspect it for some time. That's always a good sign.”

 Alin at - Winter Reflection - Water
Winter Reflection

Ken Kaminesky says: “It took me a moment to realize that the image had been inverted but even if it had not been, I would still really like this cool photo. Water is represented in the form of liquid in the lake, snow on the trees, and vapour in the clouds...Nicely done.”

Check out all of the entries for the Water category on our Pinterest Board

Follow Thomas Cook UK's board Explore The Elements - Water on Pinterest.


Patrick Asselin at - Sunrise over Rialto Bridge - Venice - Italy - Europe - Fire
 Sunrise over the Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

Our fire judge, Elia Locardi, says: “I know Venice very well and this specific location was captured perfectly. Though the scene contains a strong water element as well, the sun definitely burns strong in the sky and creates great warm tones against the cool tones below. This was my favourite addition to the fire category and a very lovely image overall.”


Motaz at - Light Tornado - Fire
Light Tornado

Elia Locardi says: “This is a fantastically executed steel wool shot and I specifically like the way the cool tones of the sky clash with the fiery embers. This shot was close to taking the number one fire spot!”

Fakrul at = Fiery sunset over dead trees - Malaysia - Asia - Fire
Fiery sunset over dead trees, Malaysia

Elia Locardi says: “What I love most about this image is the simplicity that was achieved through long exposure. The strong heat from the warm tones is a perfect complement to the twisted shape of the dark branches.”

Check out all of the entries for the Fire category on our Pinterest Board

Follow Thomas Cook UK's board Explore The Elements - Fire on Pinterest.


Karen at - Where the air rarely stops moving - Santa Cruz - California - North America - Air  Freedom in air, Santa Cruz

Nicole Young says: “When I saw this photo, it immediately stood out. I love the ethereal, fine-art mood - the entire image is in movement. And the colours! The artist did a beautiful job with this photograph.”      


Joel Robison at - She of the Air - Air
  She of the Air

Nicole Young says: “In this photo, I can feel the air. The out-of-focus elements in the foreground really made this photo stand out. Excellent work, and a beautiful composite.”      

Tanya Wallis at - Oh to be as light as air - Byron Bay - New South Wales - Australia - Air
Byron Bay, NSW

Our air judge, Nicole Young, says: “This image is very playful, and very clever! It was a unique take on the topic and I fell in love with it right away.”

Check out all of the entries for the Air category on our Pinterest Board

Follow Thomas Cook UK's board Explore The Elements - Air on Pinterest.


Motaz Alnahdy - - Motion - Water
Water - Motion - Crater - Aden - Yemen - Asia - Earth
Earth - Crater - Time Gate - Air
Air - Time Gate - Light Tornado - Fire
Fire - Light Tornado

Judges' comments:

Ken ( –

Motaz Alnahdy was the clear overall winner to me with four strikingly beautiful images that showed vision, creativity, and photography skills. The final result was a series of images that overall best exemplified the spirit of the Explore the Elements photo competition. Hearty congratulations to our lucky grand prize winner.  Bravo Motaz!​

Nicole ( –

What I loved about these photos was that each image represented more than one element. They each have "life" and make you feel like the world is moving around you.

Dave ( –

Going through hundreds of entries can be a daunting task. But when I came across Motaz’s post it left me with the feeling of wanting to see more images. All of the photos were strong contenders for the individual categories and as an overall winner his stood out to me the most. He was able to capture each element with skill and creativity. I can't wait to see what he does with the winnings and can't wait to see the photos!

Elia ( –

Motaz's work really struck a chord with me specifically for the consistent quality of each of the four entries. Each piece fits perfectly with each theme, the work has striking detail and it's post-processed really well. Nicely done and congrats!

We want to say a very huge well done to all of our winners and runners-up, you’ve done incredibly well! We also want to thank each and every one of the bloggers who took part and entered their amazing photos – we hope you had lots of fun.

Check out the prizes our lucky winners will be receiving here:

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  • Motaz Alnahdy

    thank you so much Thomas cook UK and all the judges for choosing me it's really honor and I'm so much glad , and congratulations to all the categories winners and runners-up .

  • Nishat Mirza

    so amazing

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  • Yeeeeah thanks guys!!

  • WOO HOOO to @tanyawallis:disqus & @karen Hutton!!! CONGRATS!!!

    • Tanya Wallis

      Thanks @laurinovak:disqus!
      Congrats to all the winners and thanks to the judges, So many incredible images!

  • Tanya Wallis

    Congrats to the winners!! Awesome collection of images!

    Thank you to the judges for my two runner ups!! Stoked!


  • Guest

    Was #exploretheelements a global comp?As you implied £5k(UK) which is now on it's way to Yemen. Seems to be alot of professional photographer enteries. Perhaps pro and amateur class next time.

    • Tanya Wallis

      Yes it was worldwide. I am an amateur and got 2 runner ups! woot! 🙂

  • Guest

    Congratulations! Amazing images!

  • Congrats to all the winners and runners! Great images!

  • Ken, thanks for selecting my image as a runner up for the Water category. I'm glad you loved it but I have to clarify a thing: it's in the summer, there's no snow involved and also, no inversion :).. This image was shot in Infrared with a modified camera 😀 ... the only trick was rotating it 180 degress so the leafs floating on the water would look more like stars on the sky 😉

    • Well then I stand corrected on several levels! I think I like the photo even more now 🙂

      • I didn't want to get you corrected because I really loved your interpretation! I just wanted to give the audience the truth behind the image :). Thanks for your appreciation!

        Also, as a matter of fact, you confirmed more the value of this image because it was selected before as Top 10 Best Abstract Photos of 2014 on 500px and also a Commended image (Top 50) in Travel category on Sony World Photography Organisation this year 🙂 Adding this runner up title it makes me more than happy 😀

        • Tanya Wallis

          Great image Alin! Congrats!

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