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Our World in Motion

This assignment ran from Jul 25 to Aug 16, 2016.

As we sit here writing this at our kitchen table in the Hudson Valley of New York the world seems quite still. The bowl of fruit next to the keyboard – two apples, an orange, two bananas is a still life. The potted plant – although in desperate need of a watering – just sits there. The room seems silent. No movement.

The ticking of the clock shatters this illusion, reminding us that the second hand is hurtling forward forever chasing the future. Through the window a breeze sends the slightest ripple across Maple leaves that magically un-furled themselves from tiny buds only a few weeks before. A lace curtain shutters. Children’s voices echo through the neighborhood – traveling at the speed of sound – and by the time the laughter reaches our ears the children are older than they ever have been. We are listening to their younger versions – for they have changed ever so slightly, grown a little older, and we smile at the giggles of their past selves.

We live in a world in motion. Forever changing and growing, moving and blurring. Our job as still photographers - and your assignment - is to capture it. How do you show a world in motion? Of course, you think of bicycles blurring, people dancing, or birds in flight but also think of ripples on a lake, or wrinkles on skin. Star trails hint at the earth’s rotation as a lava flow builds a new world. Motion is progress and propulsion. Cultures and norms are forever in flux – advancing and contracting – they too are in motion.

So we ask you to sit quietly for a moment contemplating Our World In Motion, then grab your cameras and capture it!

In return for the Sponsor's support of this Assignment, National Geographic may provide images from the Assignment to the Sponsor, Canon, for use on it's website, social media platforms, and other outlets to promote and publicize the Assignment.

Curated by:

Amy Toensing
National Geographic Photographer

Matt Moyer
National Geographic Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Aug 25, 2016.
Thank you for your contributions!

New Your Shot assignment: "The Love of Parents"

Posted jun 8, 2018

Hi everyone -

In case you missed it, National Geographic photographers Amy Toensing and Matt Moyer are currently curating a Your Shot assignment called "The Love of Parents." I hope you all consider participating.

David Y. Lee
Producer, Your Shot

New Matt Moyer Assignment

Posted dec 12, 2017

Hi everyone —

Thanks to everyone for submitting to our “Our World in Motion” assignment, curated by Nat Geo photographer Matt Moyer. I want to let you know that he and I are curating a new Your Shot assignment called “My Best Photos of 2017” where we are inviting you to share your best photos taken in the 2017 calendar year.

I hope you all participate.

David Y. Lee
Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot

Facebook Live

Posted aug 25, 2016

We are LIVE with photographers Amy Toensing and Matt Moyer from their studio in the Hudson Valley of New York, talking about the editing process for Our World in Motion assignment.

Moody Moments

Posted aug 13, 2016

Ok folks, we are in the final days of the “Our World In Motion” assignment. As you may have seen from the previous update, we have extended the deadline for submission until Tuesday, August 16 and are allowing a FOURTH submission so keep shooting and keep submitting!

We have been looking through all your images and are so excited by the amount of engagement and the diverse interpretations of the assignment. Let's make a big push to see creatively as we approach the deadline!

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Try to make images with mood: Mood is one of those special things that photographs have enormous power to convey. Color, composition, and especially light, play important rolls in how an image makes you feel.

The three images below are oozing with mood. Tonality, color palette, tiny details like ripples on water, elongated shadows, or mist in the air all help communicate story on an emotional, almost tactile level.

Find real moments: These can be some of the most difficult types of photographs to make. We photographers must become experts on interpreting our subjects and anticipating behavior. We have to be students of the world around us—hunting for those fleeting moments that convey so much. These photographers captured wonderful, real moments—gifts for the rest of us to see.

Lastly—push yourself beyond the literal and strive for the lyrical.

For example: Which of these two approaches will score Matt more points when complimenting Amy?

A. “You look pretty.”


B. “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And too often is his gold complexion dimm'd:
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance or natures changing course untrimm'd;
By thy eternal summer shall not fade…”

—William Shakespeare

These images are great examples of lyrical images that also say something.

Thanks and hope to connect with you on Monday during our live chat!

—Amy & Matt

One More!

Posted aug 12, 2016

Hello photographers! We've had to reschedule Amy and Matt's live chat on the discussion board to Monday, August 15 at 10:00 a.m. ET. Please send them your questions at that time. Because of this, we are extending the assignment submission phase by one more day and allowing one more photo to be entered.

Thanks again for your patience as we dealt with these technical issues. 

—The Your Shot Team

Live Chat

Posted aug 11, 2016

Hi everyone! A couple quick notes…

We’ve noticed many great shots submitted to our assignment that have previously been published in other stories. While we may like these photos, we will not be selecting them for the final story so that other photographers can be published and new images seen. Also, we have been looking at the latest submissions and are really liking what we are seeing. Keep pushing yourselves to find real moments and unique perspectives. Keep them coming!

And join us for a live chat on the discussion board! We will be offering feedback and answering questions on Friday, August 12, between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m. ET. Post your questions during that time.

—Matt & Amy

Use Blur Wisely

Posted aug 9, 2016

We have had a great second week of looking at images. It is such a pleasure to be able to see how all of you see the world!

A few thoughts:

First, we have seen many of you using pan blur and motion blur to impart movement into photographs. These are great techniques for a photographer to have in their toolbox, but be sure that you have good reasons to use them. The subject matter and the mood of the subject, composition, and action should work with the blur. Don’t just use it because you can. Use it with purpose!

Second, be conscious of the edges of your frame while shooting. Make sure you are only including the things you want and excluding everything you don’t want. Some of you may ask why you can’t just crop out what you don’t want in Photoshop later. The best way to gain full control of your photography and how you express something with your camera is to compose and shoot the image just as you want it. Relying on Photoshop or another similar program to crop becomes a crutch. Strive to make those choices in the field with your camera and you will become a better photographer!

Keep shooting! Wishing you all nice light.

—Matt & Amy

Look for the Story

Posted aug 1, 2016

We had a great time looking through the images submitted in the first few days. Thanks to everyone for engaging and sending in so many moving pictures (ha).

A few thoughts:

First, a good number of images are overprocessed to the point of distraction with unrealistic color shifts, strange purple skies, oversharpening, etc. We encourage everyone to make images in the field—in your camera—and not rely on post-processing software on a computer to make images stand out. We promise you will be rewarded the more intentional and present you are in the field with your subject and with the settings on your camera. For the purposes of this assignment, feel free to do some light toning (contrast, the standard sharpening required for any RAW image, etc.), but we want to see what you connected with in the field—not what you came up with at the computer.

Second, strive to photograph how your subject feels rather than showing them in a literal way.

And finally, look for the story. For example, these are images of two very similar looking dogs:


I’m Free:

Both images have beautiful, fun energy, but “I’m Free” brings it to another level with the leash dragging behind the dog. Suddenly there is a wonderful mystery about the human who should be holding that leash, and there is room for viewers to bring their imagination to the image to create a broader, more evocative story.

That’s all for now. Thanks again for engaging, and keep the images coming! 

—Amy & Matt

Amy Toensing

Amy Toensing

National Geographic Photographer
Amy Toensing, an American photojournalist committed to telling stories with sensitivity and depth, is known for her intimate essays about the lives of ordinary people. Toensing has been a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine for over a decade and recently completed her fifteenth feature story for them. She has covered cultures around the world including the last cave dwelling tribe of Papua New Guinea, the Maori of New Zealand and the Kingdom of Tonga. She has also covered issues such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and Muslim women living in Western culture. For 4 years she documented Aboriginal Australia which was published in the June, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Matt Moyer

Matt Moyer

National Geographic Photographer
Matt Moyer is a photojournalist committed to documenting the social and cultural issues that affect our world. His intimate photographs go behind the headlines to put a human face on the biggest issues of the day. For the past decade Moyer has spent his time photographing feature stories for National Geographic magazine and documenting social issues for non-profit foundations. He has also worked on assignment for other prominent publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, The Independent, and The Guardian. He has covered the major events of the past decade including the fall of the twin towers, security contractors in Afghanistan, healthcare in America, and the Iraq war.