Exploring the Elements Through Photos


For me, capturing my adventures in photos is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Yes, I sometimes have to remind myself to put the camera down and see things through my own eyes, but being able to go through my photos months or years later and remember things so vividly really is priceless.

I’m certainly no pro when it comes to photography, but whenever I read about a travel photo competition, my ears perk up. And it was no different when I heard about the Explore The Elements Photo Contest being hosted by Thomas Cook.

The premise is simple: share four photos that capture each of the four elements — Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.

Never one to turn down a creative challenge, here’s my best attempt:


Earth represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. It’s associated with stubbornness, collectiveness, physicality and gravity.

Road to Mount Cook

For me, nothing represents gravity and stubbornness as much as mountains. They are solid and stoic and make everyone and everything make room for them. This particular photo is of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. With its distinctive shape, this is definitely a mountain that commands attention.


Water represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. It’s associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.

Hubbard Glacier in Alaska

For this category, I chose water in its frozen form. This is the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. While you might THINK of a glacier as being more “earth-like” because of how big and solid they appear, the truth is that glaciers are more fluid and flowing than you probably realize. Glaciers are constantly changing in shape and color, and they can “flow” (either advance or recede) up to 300 feet in just one day!


Fire represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. It’s associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit.

Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia

I had trouble with this category — I didn’t want to be generic and show you a sunset photo, or a photo of something that was actually on fire. Eventually, I decided to focus more on what fire represents as opposed to the word itself. I ended up deciding to share this photo of a tree growing up through the ruins of the Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia, because, n my mind, nothing is more forceful or filled with desire and intention than nature — the will to survive and thrive is definitely fire-like.


Air represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. It’s associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.

Northern Lights

When reading the description of air, I immediately pictured the Northern Lights, mostly due to the mentions of elusiveness and “freedom of movement.” The aurora borealis is a scientific phenomenon that has to do with elements interacting with one another in the atmosphere. But, for anyone who has “chased” the Northern Lights and been lucky enough to watch them dance in the night sky, you’ll know that they seem alive. They are often fickle in appearing, and never put on the same show twice — the perfect example of “air.” This particular shot was captured in Churchill, Manitoba, in -40 degree weather!

So there you have it — my entries to the Explore the Elements photo competition.

I’m nominating the following 5 bloggers to take part, too:

  • Alex from Alex in Wanderland
  • Liz from Young Adventuress
  • Pete from Hecktic Travels
  • Lindsay from Frugal Frolicker
  • Stephen from A Backpacker’s Tale

And if you want to enter yourself, here are all the important details about the contest:

  • Contest runs through March 16, 2015.
  • In order to enter, you need to publish an Explore the Elements post on your blog with an image for each element (or as many as you want to capture), nominate 5 other bloggers to take part, and let Thomas Cook know of your entry by either tweeting them (@ThomasCookUK) or emailing them.
  • The overall winner will receive £5,000. The four individual category winners will receive a MacBook Air, a Fujifilm X-T1 camera, or an iPhone 6 with Bose noise canceling headphones, depending on their personal choice. 

Which photo is your favorite?



  1. Earl – great post and I like your take on the world and life in general. It’s super refreshing and honest and you don’t care about any of the other ‘stuff’ that’s out there. I like that a lot!

    It works for YOU and that’s what’s important. Do you have any thoughts on those who feel ‘stuck’ in their current situation (obviously you don’t). For example, those who want something to happen, but don’t do anything to get it…almost expecting it to find them. Would a plan work for them?

    I think once you’re living in true alignment with yourself (which you are), non-doing…in this case non-planning….is actually propelling you through life. Life is flowing through you and effortlessly guiding you and telling you where to go. Unfortunately some aren’t in this position and are lost….their internal compass is sort of spinning out of control so to speak. I wonder if setting some goals and even a basic plan would work for those types of people?

  2. Enjoy your Eurail trip and it’s great that you got help from your readers on planning your trip. If you get the chance, stop by Novi Sad in Serbia (just north of Belgrade), it’s very charming and it’s got town-wide WiFi in the old town with a ton of cafes and great night life.

    Looking forward to your updates!

    – Lily

  3. There’s so much of France I still need to explore and some of it not so far from where I live on the South Coast – Honfleur springs to mind. I had two French weekenders this year; one in Biarritz and another near Amiens and I’d happily revisit both.


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