Explore the Elements


Explore the Elements photography

Earth, water, fire and air – the four elements that make up life on earth and which we tend to take for granted. But a new photography challenge got me thinking about the elements – how they’re expressed in the world around us and how you can capture them in a photo. In the Explore the Elements competition, bloggers are being asked to share photos which represent each of the elements. The categories are open to interpretation though, and you don’t need to be too literal. So I’ve been scouring the photo archives to find the images that capture the essence of the elements for me – and here are my choices…


“Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness, physicality and gravity.”

I had trouble deciding which photo to choose, but my earth shot was always going to be from the southwest USA. This part of the world has some incredible landscapes formed over millions of years, long before people existed. And one of the most spectacular is at Bryce Canyon, where layers of ancient rock have been eroded into pinnacle-shaped formations called hoodoos in a palette of sunset shades. Although it’s my choice for the earth category, this strange landscape looks like something from another planet.

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Earth – Bryce Canyon National Park, USA


“Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness and magnetism.”

Most of the water I photograph is moving – whether that’s waves or waterfalls – but my favourite water shot is of a pool that’s so still you can hardly even see it’s there. In this photo from Flåm on the edge of the Norwegian fjords, the water makes up almost half of the photo, but it’s almost invisible. Instead it’s taken on the form of the things that surround it – like the sky, the mountains and the trees – with just a couple of ripples on the surface to show that it’s still fluid underneath.

The fjords at Flam, Norway

Water – The fjords at Flåm, Norway


“Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention and an outgoing spirit.”

Fire was the earliest source of light, and although it’s been replaced by electricity today, it can still be incredibly powerful. Like at Petra by night in Jordan, where over 1800 candles are used to light the route through the steep-sided Siq gorge to the Treasury. The firelight gives the place a totally different feel, and despite the crowds the walk was almost silent. Then when you reach the end, the rock face of the Treasury glows bright orange in the light and almost looks like it’s on fire itself.

The temples of Petra in Jordan lit up by candles at night

Fire – Petra by night, Jordan


“Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion and wisdom.”

Air’s probably the most difficult of the elements to photograph, as most of the time you can’t see it. But in this shot of a boat off the coast of Santorini in Greece, a misty air had settled over the sea as the sun started to go down. The mist made it hard to tell where they sky ended and the water started. It looked like we were inside a huge pale pink cloud, and the little boat could almost be floating in the air, free to go anywhere.

Sailing out of Santorini

Air – Off the coast of Santorini, Greece

Many thanks to Penelope & Parker’s Travels and Eff It I’m On Holiday for the nominations. My five nominees are Emily Luxton, Grown Up Gap Year, Need Another Holiday, Two for the Road and A Bit of Culture. The contest is open until 16 March (so you’ll need to get in there quick) and the best shots from each category each win a prize and the overall winner gets a fantastic £5000 travel fund. Good luck!


  1. So cool! I stayed in a Four Seasons in Istanbul that was also a converted old prison, but unfortunately they didn’t maintain any elements of the old prison other than the building itself – just turned it into a swanky and fabulous hotel, so I can’t complain! It’s apparently the prison the movie “Midnight Express” was based upon, but I’ve never seen the film.


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