2023 Vaya Photo Contest Winners

Posted by on February 23rd, 2024

Vaya travelers are known for being genuinely curious and respectful, for delving into the destinations they visit with open hearts and open minds. This approach is reflected in their photographs – images brimming with warm human connection, responsible wildlife encounters, and breathtaking landscapes. That’s what makes judging Vaya’s annual photo contest so much fun.

After reviewing almost 200 submissions captured from five of our planet’s seven continents, we are delighted to announce the winners of the 2023 Vaya Photo Contest: Drue Freeman, Harry Zimmerman, and Tom Biancaniello.

Congratulations! To celebrate their spirit and skill, each of these photographers will receive a Patagonia® Better Sweater.

Hats also off to the Vaya travelers whose images earned honorable mentions! And thank you to all who submitted photos to the 2023 contest.

We invite you to feast your eyes on these remarkable photographs below.




Drue Freeman

Photo Location: Detaille Island, Antarctica   (Dec, 2023) 

“Shortly after surviving the Drake Passage and arriving in Antarctica, we crossed below the Antarctic Circle and entered the iceberg strewn Isacke Passage. With the flesh and blood Greg Mortimer, himself, as our zodiac driver, we were ringing in the New Year cruising around the ice near Detaille Island when we encountered this ridiculously surreal iceberg, complete with bridges, windows, spirals, and icicles in varying shades of blue. Greg drove us around to get a better look at the bridge when we spotted a lone Adélie penguin on the far side of the berg. Truly a case of being in the right place at the right time. A few minutes later the penguin hit the water in search of its mate. the center piece of an exciting 30+ day adventure that Gabrielle at Vaya put together for us that also included Patagonia and Buenos Aires.”


Harry Zimmerman

Photo Location: Rapa Nui, Chile (March 2023)

“This long exposure image of Moai statues and the rising Milky Way was the photographic culmination of my trip, and chance at getting a shot I’ve dreamt about ever since I got serious about my photography. Much thanks to Vaya for getting me in touch with my local guide, Tokarau who got me into the national park after hours to attempt this series of shots. He and I shared laughs, photographic techniques, he pointed out stars – it was a night I’ll never forget not only to do the photography but to share a great time with a Rapa Nui local too. We had a very short window to attempt this type of photography and I was thrilled with the way it worked out – a terrific way to end my trip!”


Tom Biancaniello

Photo Location: Greater Kruger Park, South Africa (Sept 2023)

“Thronybush Lodge at Kruger National Park in South Africa. We found a leopard cub alone in the bush, our guide said that meant mom was out hunting for food. Our guide explained that Leopard moms do the hunting leaving their cubs alone. The tracker followed the foot prints thru the bush to find mom perched in a tree looking for prey. Picture was obtained with the vehicle at the base of the tree using a 35 mm Cannon camera with Zoom lens (75-300mm). We also saw a pride of 18 lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceros, elephants, hippos, hyenas, and wild dogs. We visited Cape Town before safari and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe after safari.”



Honorable Mentions

Mary Robinson
Botswana, Zimbabwi  
(April 2023)

Barbara Samardzich
Costa Rica
(Nov 2023)

Sandra Lo
 Peru (June 2023)

Shelly Frontenot
Patagonia (Feb 2023)

Dan Swisher
South Africa (June 2023)

Mark Johnson
Galapagos Islands (April  2023)

Christina Holtz
Morocco (Sept 2023)



And So Many More

A variety of other wonderful images were submitted (and received votes). Our job is a tough one! We’ve included a few more below for your enjoyment.

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