“Stunned.” That’s the word that Stubborn Mule founder, Liddy Pleasants (below left) has used to describe her reaction to this year’s photo competition entries. And believe us, it takes a lot!

Joking aside, her sentiment is shared not just by the rest of us in the office, ooo-hing and aaah-ing as each entry came in over the course of the summer break, but by this year’s fellow judges, Sasha Kay (last year’s winner, below centre) and professional travel photographer, John Warburton-Lee (below right).

Three competition judges

Without further ado, scroll on to find out who has won this year’s awards in the categories of ‘Best cultural’, ‘Best natural world’, ‘Best active family photo’ and, of course, who has been crowned, ultimate winner.

Best Cultural Photo

Your interpretations of this admittedly broad but popular category were inspired, embracing everything from portraits of local people to awe-inspiring shots of temples, churches or ruins, bustling markets or mouth-watering meals and weird and wacky ingredients. These, though, were chosen as the stand-out winners. A huge ‘well-done’ to both of you!

Winner – 11 and under

Tribesman in Tanzania - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Ewan Williams, aged 9, Tanzania

Judges’ comments:
“I loved the colours and lighting in this picture. Effective use of depth of field and superb composition.”
Sasha Kay

“This is a very striking portrait with excellent use of colour. It’s dramatic and enticing.”
Liddy Pleasants

Winner – 18 and under 

Lantern making in Vietnam - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Toby Carley, aged 13, Vietnam

Judges’ comments:
“I love this picture. It’s beautifully shot, with an interesting angle and it captures a story. I enjoyed seeing the lanterns at all stages of the construction process clearly on show. The colours are stunning.”
Liddy Pleasants

Joint Runner ups – 11 and under 

Iguana in front of Mayan pyramid at Uxmal, watching as people climb - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Jacob Parker, aged 10, Mexico

Judges’ comments:
“This is an excellent picture, and I enjoyed the contrast of the natural and cultural world and how these blend together.
Sasha Kay
Portrait of Nepalese women - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Caitlin Moore, aged 11, Nepal

Judges’ comments:
“Nicely caught, candid portrait capturing the character and real life situation of this Nepalese women”
John Warburton Lee

Runner up – 18 and under

Octopus on grill - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Poppy Davenport, aged 17, Vietnam (1 of 2)

Judge’s comment:
“This is one of my favourite pictures of the competition. It’s such an unusual subject but instantly evocative with superb use of colour. Fabulous picture.”
Liddy Pleasants

Hanoi fish market - Vietnam - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Poppy Davenport, aged 17, Vietnam (2 of 2)

“I loved all of Poppy Davenport’s market images and it was hard to pick out just one. Her photos capture a real sense of atmosphere.”
Sasha Kay

Best Natural World Photo

Again, a broad topic, including landscapes (mountains, beaches, sea-scapes, deserts, jungles) and animals. The latter is a perennially popular subject choice for children and teens and, coincidentally, proved the winning formula when it came to judging time. We were blown away by the volume of images sent in for this category, so an extra ‘well done’ to the winners for ‘standing out’.

Winner – 11 and under

Oyster catchers in Ecuador - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Grace Hutchinson, aged 11, Ecuador

Judges’ comments:
“Perfect composition, capturing the moment and precise interchange between the two birds. Very well done.”
John Warburton Lee

“This is such a funny picture but also has excellent composition. I love how the background colour ties in with the birds.

Sasha Kay

Winner – 18 and under

Portrait of a camel in Jordan with blue sky - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Josie Briggs, aged 16, Jordan

Judges’ comments:
” This is a very humorous picture with great composition. The whiskers on the camel’s chin are pin sharp and you can almost smell his breath on your face!”.
Liddy Pleasants

“I love everything about this picture. I like the lighting, the colours, the way that the colour of the camel blends in with the sand in the background, the expression on the camel’s face, and the angle of the shot.”
Sasha Kay

Runner up – 11 and under

Lizard captured by a Snake in Punta Laguna, Mexico, Young Photographers Competition 2019

Tilly Parker, aged 8, Punta Laguna, Mexico

Judge’s comment:
“What an incredible shot, an amazing moment to catch on camera. I love how you can see the snake’s eyes but everything else blends into the background.”
Sasha Kay

Runner up – 18 and under

Panda in tree - China - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Imogen Richings, aged 17, China

Judge’s comment:
“This is just an incredibly cute picture and it’s so clever to have managed to capture the face of the panda through the gap in the branches.”
Sasha Kay

Most Inspiring Family Travel Photo

Of the three categories, this is the toughest and most ambiguous, we believe. Capturing on camera Stubborn Mule’s raison d’etre, ‘families experiencing the world together’ elicited some wonderful (hilarious!) and inspiring pictures. Thank you for all your entries and again, give yourselves a huge pat on the back, runners up and winners!

Winner – 11 and under

Sisters jumping against the sky line - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Adam Robbins, aged 11, Namibia

Judge’s comment:
“Full of youthful energy and exuberance, Adam has caught the moment perfectly for both girls.”
John Warburton-Lee

“This is a great shot, and I am impressed by how the children continue the same line as the slope on the grass behind”
Sasha Kay

Winner – 18 and under

Family rafting in Patagonia - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Sam Newman, aged 15, Patagonia, Argentina?

Judges’ comments:
“Great expression captured on the child’s face and all the family as they raft in the wilds of Patagonia. It’s not easy to photograph a moving object, but this is well composed and sharp.”
John Warburton Lee

“The photographer noted that the family hadn’t quite realised how scary the rafting would be, and this is encapsulated perfectly in the look on the child’s face as they go over the rapids. A great shot that really captures the moment.”
Liddy Pleasants

Runner up – 11 and under

Young tourist standing next to old rusty truck in Namibia

Freya Teasdale, aged 8, Namibia

Judge’s comment:
Nice juxtaposition of a young girl against the old rusty truck, well framed and set in context by the background vegetation of Namibia.”
John Warburton-Lee

Runner up – 18 and under

Family silhouette - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Josie Briggs, aged 14,

Judge’s comment:
“I really like the colours and silhouette effect in this unusual family portrait. It’s very effective in conveying a real sense of atmosphere and calm.”
Sasha Kay

Best Overall Photo

“Agonising,” is the only way to describe the choice that had to be made to choose the best-of-the-best from the images above. Frankly, going school shoe shopping would have been easier. After much discussion, a few minor differences of opinion and several rounds of coffee and cake, though, we’re delighted to announce the overall winner.

Drum roll please!!! On behalf of Stubborn Mule, we have great pleasure and delight in awarding Grace Hutchison, 11, the accolade of best overall photo for her outstanding image of two precariously positioned swallow-tailed gulls, captured during her family’s trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.

What a shot! We see a great future for you, Grace, and do hope your winnings will encourage you to keep up the fabulous work.

Oyster catchers in Ecuador - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Grace Hutchinson, aged 11, Ecuador

Judge’s comment:
“This was a clear favourite amongst all the judges, as well as the rest of the office. A beautifully crafted shot with very striking colours that balance perfectly. Hugely impressive.”
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule

Highly Commended

It’s a truism that there can only be one winner when it comes to competitions. But with so many shots in such close contention, we wanted to recognise this and share a selection of the images that the judges particularly liked. In no particular order, the highly commended photographs are…

Woman set against the Salinas in Peru - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Harper Stannard, aged 15, Peru (Culture)

“Pin sharp rendition of a woman walking though the Salinas de Maras in Peru. A pleasing play with the colour of her clothing and the cloth used to carry her load and the saline. Nicely done.”
John Warburton-Lee

“I love the composition of this picture and how there are different layers. You don’t even notice the person at first, and then get drawn into the different layers.”
Sasha Kay

Great Wall of China - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Hannah-Maria Tamimi, aged 9, China (Culture)

“Nicely composed shot that leads the eye into the picture – well done.”
John Warburton-Lee

“A clever picture, I like the composition and how the wall continues on as far as the eye can see. You get lots of different views of the same wall but from different perspectives.”
Sasha Kay

Hummingbird Costa Rica - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Maeve Shankar, aged 11, Costa Rica (Natural World)

“Eye-catching, sharp image of a hummingbird at rest with beautiful contrasts in the colours.”
Liddy Pleasants
Flash flood in Vietnam - Young Photographers Competition

Adam Morley, aged 12, Vietnam (Culture)

“Culture is about the unexpected as well as the obvious. This shot is well observed, capturing a sense of immediacy as the people push their motorbikes through the flood waters.”
John Warburton-Lee
Family posing in front of Mayan ruin in Mexico

Alistair Outram, aged 13, Mexico (Family)

“I like the colours in this picture and the sharp contrasts.”
Sasha Kay

“Nicely set up family portrait in front of Mayan ruins”
John Warburton-Lee

Poon Hill at sunrise - Nepal

Ben Feeney, aged 13, Nepal (Natural World)

“Nicely composed landscape shot with interesting play of light and shadows in the high Himalayas.”
John Warburton-Lee
Bright yarn in Peruvian market - Young Photographer 2019

Evie Marsden, aged 14, Peru (Culture)

“Pleasing composition of brightly dyed balls of yarn, conveying all the colour of a Peruvian market.”
John Warburton Lee
Purple plant in Costa Rica - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Theo Lewis, age 14, Costa Rica (Natural World)

“Well composed, detailed shot of an exotic plant in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, with strong graphic element.”
John Warburton-Lee

Portrait of a Hadzabe hunter in Tanzania

Max Williams, age 13, Tanzania (Culture)

“This is an excellent shot. I like the bright and striking colours. The blurring of the background contrasted with the sharp outline of the face is very effective”
Sasha Kay

Lizard on salt flat - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Sam Newman, aged 15, Patagonia (Natural World)

“I really like the vibrant colour of the lizard against the white of the rock behind. You don’t even notice the lizard at first but then it comes into focus and in this way the photo takes you on a journey.”
Sasha Kay

“Interesting portrait of a lizard in Patagonia, a subject that is hard to capture well. Nice colours.”
John Warburton-Lee

Flower on path - Vietnam and Cambodia - Young Photographer competition 2019

Lily Morley, aged 9, Cambodia (Natural World)

“The contrast of the pure white flower against the dirt background is very striking. The photographer clearly has a keen eye for composition. Excellent photo.”
Liddy Pleasants
Sally Lightfoot crab in the Galapagos - Young Photographers Competition 2019

Nicholas Taylor, aged 11, Galapagos (Natural World)

“Nicely observed portrait of waves washing over a Sally Lightfoot crab, presented it in an original manner.”
John Warburton-Lee
Tree with extensive roots and child standing in the roots - Young Photographer Competition

Seb Williams, aged 11, Tanzania (Family)

“A fun play on the idea of a family tree!”
Liddy Pleasants
Hat on raft Thailand - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Amelia Marks, aged 11, Thailand (Culture)

“I really liked this picture; the colours and textures all tie in beautifully, capturing the moment. ”
Liddy Pleasants
Zip-lining in Costa Rica

Sam Kalra, aged 13, Costa Rica (Natural World)

“I like the depth of field in this picture, and how the photographer focuses on a person but that person is then completely surrounded by the forest.”
Sasha Kay

Chameleon in Namibia - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Adam Robbins , aged 11, Namibia (Natural World)

“A beautifully shot picture, with great contrasting colours and excellent focus.”
Liddy Pleasants

Seal on beach in front of cruise ship in Galapagos - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Nicholas Taylor, aged 11, Galapagaos (Natural World)

“A well framed shot, contrasting the natural world of the sea lion as it basks on the beach with the cruise ship in the distance. A favourite with the marketing department! ”
Liddy Pleasants

Elephant in Tanzania - Young Photographer Competition 2019

Jacob Evans, aged 15,  Tanzania (Natural World)

“On the face of it this is a straight forward shot, but perfectly composed for use on a front cover, with space for a logo and text top, bottom and sides.”
John Warburton-Lee

On behalf of all of us at Stubborn Mule, a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who submitted entries into our Young Photographer Awards. We do hope that you had as much fun composing and taking them as we did judging them. And thank you to Stubborn Mule traveller Barney Worfolk-Smith for our masthead image of his son in Zanzibar.

Liddy Pleasants
MD Stubborn Mule Travel

All ages mentioned in this blog relate to the date the photograph was taken, on a Stubborn Mule Travel holiday.

Please do share this blog on social media with your friends and family – the photographers really do deserve a huge amount of credit. Thank you.

Check out our Destinations page if you’d like to find out more about all the wonderful countries our young photographers visited.