Photo feature

The year’s most breathtaking travel destinations, from National Geographic’s 2015 Traveler Photo Contest

The scenes range from city heights to sacred caves.

With over 23 million Instagram posts already hashtagged #vacation, competition is increasingly fierce for most photogenic holiday background. Those looking for a little inspiration might consider checking out the latest batch of travel photo submissions from National Geographic’s 2015 Traveler Photo Contest.

Curated especially for Quartz, and captioned by the photographers themselves, the scenes below range from city heights to sacred caves and offer inside tips to the most remarkable views in Thailand, Brazil, Abu Dhabi, Greenland, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.


A group of young monks visiting Khao Luang cave in North Phetchaburi, Thailand.(Carlo Murenu / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



A cyclist passes through the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia(Angiolo Manetti / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



Aerial image of a woman doing kayak in Lagoa da Conceição, Florianopolis, Brazil.(Chris Schmid / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



A stunning sunset colors the floating icebergs of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland. It was a cloudy day so this amazing sunset has been unpredictable, but once we were there, it’s been like living in a dream.(Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



People relaxing in hammocks around 40 meters above the ground. This took part in an annual highline meeting in Monte Piana, in the Italian Dolomites last autumn. For some it might look like a nightmare to dangle so far above the ground but for some this was just the way to take a rest.(Sebastian Wahlhuetter / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



Whitefrost over Pestera village in Romania(Eduard Gutescu / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



A diver stand up front of the Hilma Hooker wreck. He look this boat and seem think it will never go away…it is sure. Also the bubbles seem make an interrogation point. The Hilma Hooker is a 200ft boat wreck. It rests with 100ft of water in the Caribbean Sea in Bonaire (a famous destination for scubadiving).(Marc Henauer / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



The photo is taken near Andaman islands while diving with a unique elephant, who likes to swim in the sea. It is one of the brightest experiences I’ve ever had.(Mike Korostelev / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



A shot at the church in lake Bled at sunrise.(Ruzdi Ekenheim / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



On a very cloudy day, the shoot was taken from a hotel in Copacabana. The wind was strong, so clouds were passing by very fast. I had a brief moment to take the photo capturing the whole Corcovado in the background, before the clouds covered it again. Due to a visual effect, the shoot looks like it was taken from above, but in fact was taken from below the Corcovado.(Hector Olea / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



It’s hard to find words to describe this scene other than “wow.” By the time the sun finally made it above the horizon on this day in early January in the Lofoten Islands, the entire world had turned cotton-candy pink. We sprinted around trying to capture every possible angle in the perfect light…only to realise that it wasn’t going away. In the end, it lasted for over two hours — the entire time that the sun was on the horizon before it set around 1.15pm.(Kristin Repsher / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)



A monochrome version of Paris viewed from Montparnasse. I wanted the city reflects in the background behind the Eiffel tower. The bright sun from the sunset in the west brightened up the left portion of the image.(Jaco Marx / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)


Enter your own photo on the National Geographic website. The grand prize is an eight-day National Geographic photo expedition to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, for two. 

This article was originally published on qz.com.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.