A photo by 17-year-old Julia Gigante, a Hilton Head Preparatory School senior, has been selected as a finalist in a National Geographic competition.
Her photo is among 28 finalists selected from more than 5,000 entries submitted on the theme “the spirit of exploration.”
“It’s a testament to our island’s natural beauty, as many of the shots are in the most exotic parts of the world,” said Julia’s father, Dr. James Gigante.
Other photos selected as finalists were taken in Mongolia, Kenya, Iceland, Cuba, Peru and even Antarctica, among other exotic locales.
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“Sand Storm,” Julia’s photo, shows her 14-year-old brother, Jack, kicking up sand on Hilton Head Island’s Tower Beach with a brilliant sunset in the background.
“My mother, brother and I went to the beach to take a walk at sunset, when I noticed my brother kicking sand, and the sun caught the particles in a way that made them glimmer,” Julia said. “I told Jack to kick the sand just as he had before, and within a second I had my shot.”
The teen said that after developing an interest in photography while traveling, she took an AP Photography class in school last year. She credits teacher Kathryn Ramseur-Riley for inspiring her to follow her passion.
Still, she said, she’s never won a photography contest before and never competed nationally.
“I have always been intrigued by National Geographic. I frequently go on their website to look at their expedition galleries, and a few weeks ago I noticed a competition that sparked my interest,” Julia said.
The photo that she submitted, she said, was taken with her phone.
“It only feels right to start a series about adventure with where it starts: home. ... While it’s true that Hilton Head is incredibly photogenic and naturally beautiful, there’s always been a wanderlust within me. I’m eager to kick up some sand and explore the unknown,” Julia wrote in the description that goes with the photo on the National Geographic website.
Judges have not announced the winners of the competition. One grand prize winner will have the opportunity to participate in a National Geographic photography trip.
Meanwhile, separate from the judge-issued prizes, all 28 finalists — all students in grades 7-12 — are currently vying against each other for the “people’s choice” title.
Members of the general public can vote once a day through the end of February for their favorite photo here.
“I’m excited to be a finalist in the contest and represent Hilton Head,” Julia said.