Explore The Elements Travel Photo Blogging Competition

Don’t you just love a good travel photo blogging competition?! Forget about winning or losing, I thrive on being able to sift through countless old pictures, reliving priceless memories in the pursuit of seeking out some of my favourite captures and snooping voyeuristically at the photos shared by fellow travellers, adding to my never-ending wishlist of destinations still to conquer.

Thomas Cook are challenging you one step further by asking you to select four photos that best reflect the elements, Fire, Air, Water and Earth as part of the #ExploretheElements challenge. And if you happen to impress, you’ll be in with a chance of winning a MacBook Air, a Fujifilm X-T1 camera, an I-phone 6 or even a Β£5000 travel fund!! Click here for full terms and conditions but remember, you only have 7 days left and don’t forget to nominate 5 fellow bloggers to take part and here’s my entry for a little inspiration!


I had toyed with the idea of sharing a smouldering tropical sunset from Havana that radiated the Cuban skies last summer. I had wanted to introduce a motherly warmth into the gusty British blizzards by including a traditional log fire from a Cotswold cottage into this post but what stopped me was a childhood memory.

As much as fire provides light to those paralysed by darkness, fuel to the impoverished and warmth to those unshielded from the winter chills, it can also have more tragic consequences.Torres del Paine trees fire damageAs a child of six, I lived with my family in a block of flats in the Middle East and one humid day, the building caught fire. We were amongst the lucky ones, walking away unharmed with nothing but a singed curtain as evidence. I vividly remember the flats above us in hysteria, shrieking mothers, pandemonium, anxious crowds amassing outside. What was left in me was an etched imprint of fire’s destructive potential and sadly, many years later, our family lost a wonderful woman in a burns accident.

The Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is proclaimed by many to be the unofficial 8th wonder of the world with magnificent rugged terrain and mosaics of water and coloured soil. There was a time when the trees in this photo were enrobed in lush foliage, a far cry from the image above. Unfortunately, hectares of land at the park were damaged during a fire and in the affected region, these charcoal branches are the skeletons that remain. But they stand proud and somehow don’t deflect from the majestic views, reminding us all that despite the far-reaching consequences of fire, there is a resilience that lives on in the survivors.


My experience of water as an element during my travels took a voyage rather akin to a coming-of-age. Initially, I viewed it through the simplistic and childlike lens of warm chlorinated pools, of waves dragging forth shells for my collection, the glue needed for my sand castles. Over time, I learned more of its force, witnessing its vigour and wrath, the Devil’s Throat at Iguazu Falls immediately springing to mind. And where water surprised me most was when seeing how it evolves, taking on new forms, forming solid structures but retaining its lucent purity.Perito Moreno Glacier The water captured here at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina has coalesced and frozen, as if to take on a geological stupor. It does not pour the way I had first encountered water, it does not wash over my fingers. I cannot submerge my cold extremities in it. But its pulse is still evident in its continuing evolution with boulders breaking off and generating thunderous crashes as they plummet into the pristine waters below.


It was not the undulating postcard-perfect landscape where the valleys converge in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains that drew me back to this photo time and again, nor was it the sheer breadth and magnitude of this Moroccan mountain range. I had previously been absorbed by the perfect contours of the Matterhorn in Switzerland and the snow-capped peaks throughout the Alps but it was these North African mountains that embodied the spirit of earth as an element for me.red iron soil Atlas mountains The sheer palette of colours (the iron-rich terracotta soil being the one I was most drawn to) buried within the ground is testament to the delicate fusion of scientific, geological and inadvertently artistic processes that go on in the soils beneath our feet, painstakingly slowly, drawing together over centuries to form this breathtaking panorama.


Selecting a photo that encapsulates the essence of air as an element posed the greatest challenge to me. It is upon the first fragile moments of our existence that we become exposed to air. We rely on it to take our first breaths. It fills our lungs as we expel our first cry. Our mothers exhale deeply into the air as we arrive, perhaps sighs of relief, perhaps apprehension, perhaps pain, perhaps joy.

Probably a prolonged sigh, flooded with all.

There is no limit to air; it is boundless, transcending political divisions and geographical markings. It has the same intangible breadth and kindness of a mother’s love. It is the ever-expanding love my Mother unfailingly shows me and the flawlessly consistent love her Mother showed her.mum and baby Selous safariI would find it one day in the remotest of places, at the Selous game reserve in Southern Tanzania, where the air was dry and humid, where man’s thumb-print was thankfully still minimal. I would spot this mother and baby seeking solace under the shade of a tree branch. I would sense the naivety of the infant as she was cradled in her Mother’s tired but nurturing trunk. In our most friable moments of vulnerability, perhaps this is the air we depend on?

Which one of these entries was your favourite?

Thank you so much to Char from Taylor Hearts Travel for nominating me. I’m now passing on the challenge to these great bloggers:

Anna – Slightly Astray

Upasna – Life on my Plate

Emily – The Cosy Traveller

Nita – Spilling the Beans

Allane – Packing my Suitcase


39 thoughts on “Explore The Elements Travel Photo Blogging Competition

  1. LondonKiwiEmma March 9, 2015 — 1:25 pm

    This has to be one of the most beautifully expressed travel posts I’ve ever read. Beautfiful.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:05 pm

      Oh Emma, your constant encouraging words do wonders for my confidence πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this. One of the reasons I really do love these types of competitions is the way it makes you look back at old photos, see them in a new light and reflect on them a bit.

  2. So so beautiful Shikha!! I think you’ve outdone yourself with the writing on this one! The photos, as gorgeous as they are, are almost second to the colorful words. I love all the photos you chose to represent the four elements!
    And thanks for the nomination! I may do this at a later date just for fun and to exercise my creativity.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:06 pm

      It’d be lovely to see your choices even if you didn’t manage to do it by the competition deadline Anna! Thank you so much for your lovely compliment. It means so much coming from a writer as talented as yourself πŸ™‚

  3. This is the kind of blog post that puts all other blog posts to shame. You’re all kinds of talented, stunning piece of writing x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:08 pm

      Frankie! That has to be one of the loveliest comments I’ve ever received on the blog! You are far too kind but it put a huge smile on my face πŸ™‚ So delighted that you read the post and enjoyed it, really appreciate your supportive words x

  4. What beautiful photos – the water one has to be my favourite though! It’s just amazing how something as simple as water can create something so wonderful!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:10 pm

      Thank you Catherine! That glacier was just breathtaking – I could have just stood there staring at it all day and not tired of its beauty. I’d never seen anything like it in the past and was completely mesmerised and you’re right, it’s hard to believe something so magical is formed from water πŸ™‚

  5. I absolutely LOVE this, Shikha! All the pictures are stunning and your writing is excellent. The descriptions are beautiful. Thank you so much for challenging me πŸ™‚ It seems like a really amazing competition and I’m going to try my best to come up with some nice pictures!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:15 pm

      Thank you SO much for your flattering comment Nita πŸ™‚ I really am grateful not just that you read it but to hear that you liked the descriptions and photos! It’s a great idea for a competition and there are so many ways to interpret the 4 different categories – I’ve really been enjoying seeing other people’s entries and choices of photos. It’d be great if you got a chance to put something together for this and the prizes seem great!

  6. I think it’s really interesting that you’ve shown the aftermath of fire, Shikha. Seeing your photo from the Selous in Tanzania brings back some great memories

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:19 pm

      Thank you so much Suze! I know I’ve said it before but I really am so excited to have “met” someone who shares my love and fondness for Selous as so few people know of it compared to so many other safari destinations πŸ™‚ The blackened branches that were damaged in the fire at Torres del Paine were so dramatic against the rest of the landscape so it was one of the first idea that came to mind when thinking about which photo to choose for fire.

  7. Your water picture is AMAZING!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:20 pm

      Jodie, that’s such a lovely compliment coming from such a talented photographer! The glacier was just so incredible from every angle that I’m pretty sure it’d be next to impossible to take a bad photo of it though πŸ™‚

  8. I love the way you took the elements and used surprising, interesting ways to capture them! There are so many ways to show fire, water, earth, and air, but you really took it to the next level.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:23 pm

      Thank you Carolann πŸ™‚ I found that some of the categories were much harder to choose for than others for example, my choice for air certainly didn’t come instantly but that’s one of the reasons that this has been a brilliant idea for a competition, because it really makes us all think outside the box and allows us to be even more creative with our thinking, writing and photo-picking!

  9. Wonderful little collection here πŸ™‚ LOVE LOVE LOVE the water choice πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:25 pm

      I had a feeling that might end up being the favourite! I’m so happy to hear you like the photo! It was a magnificent glacier – it was a 4 hour journey to reach Patagonia from Buenos Aires and went down there for a few days solely to see this but as soon as I set my eyes on it, I had absolutely no regrets πŸ™‚

  10. Amazing photos! I am trying to get better πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 11, 2015 — 3:27 pm

      Really appreciate your kind words Sally but honestly, I’m no expert! Some of these sights were just so magical that I think anyone could have used any camera and the pictures would still look amazing! I too am trying get a little better with photography and trying to keep my eyes peeled for small little tricks and tips here and there πŸ™‚

  11. Yay! So glad you entered – your choices are really good. I especially love your unique and touching fire entry. I think you’ve totally hit the criteria and then some. x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 9:11 am

      Thank YOU for this lovely comment and for the nomination Char as this challenge really got me thinking πŸ™‚ There have been so many great entries that it’ll be fascinating to see the winning one!

  12. Woooow!! Amazing photos!! I loved the one of the Glacier!!
    Thank you so much once again for thinking of me πŸ˜€

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 9:42 am

      Pleasure Allane and I’m so glad you got to take part! The glacier just took my breath away – spent so long just staring at it in complete awe ☺

      1. Oh my, I would also stand hours there just admiring it! AMAZING! I hope to have the chance to see something so beautiful like this one day ❀

  13. Great photos- I love all of them actually, but Earth is my favourite. Such beautiful colours and perspective.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 9:51 am

      I’m glad you like that one Katie as that was from my most recent trip just last month! It’s been so interesting seeing other entries and looking at how people have interpreted the categories differently. Thanks so much for your lovely comment ☺

  14. Great pictures, and I love the explanations.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 9:53 am

      Thank you ☺ I’m so pleased to hear you enjoyed the post! Not too late to enter the competition if you fancy it – deadline tomorrow!

      1. I was too busy this weekend, but I would have loved to participate. Maybe next time ! πŸ™‚ Have a nice week

  15. I’m loving seeing all the various posts for this competition as each blogger is interrupting the four elements in such unique ways. Gorgeous post as always; ps we need a cake date xx

    1. That should say interpreting rather than interrupting – auto correct challenges on a friday night!

    2. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 13, 2015 — 11:10 pm
    3. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 9:59 am

      Thank you Kelly ☺ Yes I think I thought everyone’s post would be mountains and waterfalls and yet everyone has managed to get in something unique and interstitial so seeing the overall winning ehtry will be very intriguing! Yes we do need another cake date! I need to get onto an email so we can sort a date! And yes I figured that must be a predictive – text glitch but I guess if we’re being philosophical, we all interrupt the elements in our own way πŸ˜€ x

  16. Fabulous photos Shikha – love the glacier and Morocco pics especially and I really like the way each photo has a back story. good luck with the competition πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 15, 2015 — 10:05 am

      Thank you Suzanne! I really enjoyed your entry too! It’s such a simple idea for a competition and yet the variation in interpretation and photo choices has made it such a fascinating one! Good luck to you as well and thank you again for reading ☺

  17. Ahh these are beautiful choices! I particularly like fire and water πŸ™‚

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 26, 2015 — 9:49 pm

      Thanks so much Kirst! I’m so pleased you like the fire one – I was a bit worried it was a bit too dark and depressing but it was the first image that came to mind when I was thinking what to choose so I thought I would stick to my instincts!

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