Aloha Your Shot! This assignment is a celebration of islands—their people and culture, plants and animals, geology and geography—all the things that make islands unique.
We are launching this assignment from the Big Island of Hawai'i, where the Your Shot team spent several days at Volcanoes National Park for BioBlitz 2015—a partnership between National Geographic and the National Park Service that promotes citizen science through a 24-hour inventory of the park's biodiversity.
In honor of the Hawai'ian people's rich history of storytelling and inspired by their culture and traditions that reflect the beauty that surrounds them, we invite you to share your islands with us. Show us what makes them special!
Thank you for your contributions!
Behind The Edit
We have shared some near misses and final edit rounds from the Islands assignment in the Editor's Spotlight! Thank you for taking us around the world together.
In New Orleans, a town influenced by the Caribbean islands with a tropical twist, a lagniappe refers to a little something extra. A nice surprise like when the baker gives you a thirteenth donut in the dozen you ordered. Well that's what we've done—we are extending the assignment by a few more days and giving you one more submission to share with us. So let us see your one particular harbor, your swaying palm trees and swooshing seabirds, or your friendly island baker serving up the local sweet breads.
What IS an Island?
I've heard several of you ask, What exactly is an island? As Marie said, Manhattan is technically an island, but what about Great Britain or Australia, or any of the continents for that matter? I couldn't really say for sure. Here at HQ, we have an extensive and world-class cartographic department. National Geographic is considered by many to be the foremost experts in maps, and people from all over look to us to tell them the latest division lines and literally visualize what's happening in our world. I decided to turn this into a learning experience for all of us and consulted Juan Valdes, who holds the unique title of "the Geographer" for National Geographic and is the director of editorial and cartographic research. This is what he said:
“Most geographers, especially those trained in the United States, consider an island to be a parcel of land, not nearly the size of a continent, surrounded by water. Some consider Australia—at 2,970,00 square miles (7,692,000 square kilometers)—to be an "island" continent. But that informal usage alludes to the fact that, except for a much larger Antarctica, it is not physically connected to any other continental landmass. Since you need to establish a threshold as to what constitutes an island, I suggest you follow National Geographic atlas convention: an island is a parcel of land surrounded by water that is smaller than Greenland—the world's largest island.” See the "Largest Islands by Area" table below in our tenth edition Atlas of the World.
To sum up, any island smaller than Greenland counts. Semantics aside, I hope that what you're really pondering is how to make a stellar photograph. What I'm gravitating to are real moments. I want to see emotion. Ask yourself, How do I show emotion in a single image? This is whether it's a scene of a family sitting down to a traditional meal, or, even more challenging, a landscape. How do you make the viewer feel something? Use color—go back to your color wheel and remember how colors affect mood. Use action: Read your manual again and slow down your shutter or pan alongside a moving subject. And use light—the golden light of the sunrise and sunset are beautiful, but go against the grain and use the harsh light of the afternoon to cast shadows and create drama. This is not to say we don't want pretty photos— I'm sure there will be at least one stunning beach photo in the final story—but there's only so much space for those types of images.
We want different. We want to be moved.
Beauty in Isolation
I grew up in Manhattan, New York -- an island in its own right, but one that is a mixing pot of hundreds of different cultures. Long gone are signs of the Lenape Native Americans that inhabited the island until the 1600's. It is one of the most visited cities in the world, far from isolated.
For many of the over 18,000 islands that make up Indonesia, or the almost 7,000 of Japan or 6,000 islands and islets of Greece, there are cultures with a rich history that are alive and well. By definition, an island is a land, an ecology, and a people that are isolated -- completely surrounded by water. This isolation has allowed beautiful cultures and traditions to flourish without much outside influence until recent centuries. This isolation has lead to adapted species and flora and fauna that may be unlike any other in the world.
If you live on one of our earth's thousands of inhabited islands, tell us your story. If you are traveling to one, talk to a native and learn their stories. If you are landlocked at home, find someone in your city that is from an island and talk to them. Have they brought any traditions with them?
Is there a particular flower that is plentiful and used in ceremonies? Is there a rare fruit that is prized or a species only found in certain areas? What unique traditions are practiced? Is there a way of fishing that is unlike any other in the world?
There are countless stunning photos of beaches, palm trees and sunsets. Those things will do your photo no harm, but we want to see beyond that. We want you to teach us about an island you know.
There are different types of islands, like continental, oceanic, and artificial. We'd like to focus this assignment on islands that have been able to preserve their particular way of life—places and ecosystems that aren't like everywhere else in the world; plants and animals that are endemic to that location.
So if you are going to submit a photo of Manhattan—yes it is an island—be sure that it shows us something that is specific about that place. What makes it rare? Why is it different?