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Vision quest: Rotary magazine’s 2024 Photo Awards

Rotary members fan out across the globe to capture the light

In March 2014, Thangavelu Saravanaraj, a member of the Rotary Club of Madurai North, India, accompanied Rotaractors volunteering at a tollbooth during a National Immunization Day in his hometown. Each time a bus stopped, the eager Rotaractors would hop on to administer polio drops to children. As one of the buses was about to roar away, volunteers spotted an unvaccinated baby inside. “They jumped to action,” recalls Saravanaraj. “As the mother brought the baby close to the window, one Rotaractor reached out to steady the child while another gave the drop.”

Saravanaraj, an avid photographer, captured the fleeting moment and submitted the photo for this magazine’s annual photography awards.

Nearly a decade later, we tracked down Saravanaraj, who now chairs the International Fellowship of Rotarian Photographers. Founded in 2012, the fellowship includes as members more than 1,400 professional and amateur photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. They connect and share work through a lively Facebook page. Local chapters organize photo contests, workshops, and photography outings.

We worked with Saravanaraj to invite four fellowship members to judge this year’s Rotary magazine Photo Awards. In total, we received 856 entries covering a broad range of genres, from landscape and nature to portraits, events, and food. After the judges evaluated the technical skill and aesthetics of our finalists’ work, we selected 14 of the best images to share with you in this issue. They include a spectacular night photo of the Milky Way over a canyon in eastern Washington state, a novel campaign by Rotaractors in Nigeria to educate not just girls but their male peers about menstrual health, the tranquil birthplace of the Lord Buddha in Nepal, and an enchanting early morning scene in the holy city of Vrindavan in northern India pictured on the cover.

Saravanaraj says photography and Rotary have opened the world for fellowship members. “The Photo Awards enable us to share the work of Rotary members and learn from each other,” he says. “It is a new level of exposure.”


Photographer: Keith Marsh
Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley, California

The Milky Way dazzles above Palouse Falls in eastern Washington state. The faint trails of three meteors appear in the upper center part of the image. The Palouse River carved this canyon more than 13,000 years ago, leaving behind a narrow cataract through which rushing water drops 200 feet. Judges say: I love to shoot the night sky myself, and I know this shot is difficult from many perspectives. The meteors make it even more special. — Tami Phillippi

Winner: People of Action

Photographer: Joshua Uwagboi
Rotaract Club of Abuja Wuse II, Nigeria

Volunteer Ruth Ameh and members of the Rotaract Club of Abuja Wuse II educate students about menstruation at a school in Nigeria’s capital. Their primary audience was not girls but boys. The initiative is reshaping boys’ perceptions and behavior toward female classmates and fostering empathy. Judges say: The woman’s expression is captivating. That is what attracted me most and that she is educating students on menstruation to build empathy among the boys. — Madhumita Bishnu

Honorable mention

A morning scene along the sacred Yamuna River in northern India where Hindus perform purification rites. Judges say: I can almost feel the warmth of the morning light hitting the river and the tile floor. — T.P. 

Hansruedi Frutiger, Rotary Club of Gombak, Kuala Lumpur

Friends paint the face of an excited Olga Alcaraz for Mexico’s Día de los Muertos festivities in the town of Cofradía de Suchitlán. The high schoolers receive scholarships and academic support from Project Amigo, a nonprofit organization that began as a Rotary club project. Judges say: The image beautifully conveys the traditions and communal ties that characterize this celebration of life and those who died. The monochromatic treatment enhances the emotional depth and texture of the moment. — Shankar Subramanian

Keith Marsh, Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley, California

The Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal, is part of an ancient complex revered as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha. A place of pilgrimage since antiquity, the site includes a sacred pool and garden. Judges say: The peace, the quiet, and the way the photographer weaves together the complementary primary colors of red/green and blue/yellow make this image very strong. — Lára Stefánsdóttir

Raquel D’Garay-Juncal, Rotary Club of Worldwide Impact, District 1550

The dye-filled pits of the Chouara tannery burst with color in the ancient city of Fez, Morocco. In a process little changed for centuries, laborers prepare hides to be turned into leather goods in surrounding workshops. Judges say: Well framed and good structure. The circular form of the dye containers and the lines that control how the eye moves over the image are irresistible. — L.S.

Larry Wilson, Rotary Club of Western Henrico County, Virginia

The rising sun illuminates weathered sandstone hoodoos, the slender spires of rock at Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah. Judges say: This photograph captures a serene moment, showcasing the beauty and solitude of nature. The composition balances the canyon’s rugged textures with the soft early morning light. — S.S.

Leigh Ann Wilson, Rotary Club of York, Pennsylvania

A formation of T-34 Mentor aircraft tears across the sky during a practice run for the annual EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Judges say: The photographer demonstrates skill in timing and composition, and this perspective invites the viewer into the cockpit. We can almost feel the rush of air. — S.S.

Eric Strand, Rotary Club of Fergus Falls Sunrise, Minnesota

Midday mystery: A shaft of sunlight illuminates a camper van improbably parked at the bottom of a cooling tower at a decommissioned power station in Meppen, Germany. Judges say: I love the abstract nature of this image. I want to know where the photographer is and how he got that camper inside a power plant. — T.P.

Claus Muchow, Rotary Club of Steinfurt, Germany

Captured on a cold, misty spring morning, the enchanted Yarrein Creek runs through a rural section of New South Wales, Australia. River red gum trees loom over the creek, seen here near the town of Moulamein. Judges say: This image is almost surreal. I love the reflections, and I’m drawn to the hazy fogginess. I can feel the cool, damp air. — T.P.

David Redfearn, Rotary Club of Moreland, Australia

A cyclone of silverside fish in Indonesia’s Misool Marine Reserve mimics a starry sky behind a colorful collage of other marine life: fusiliers, butterflyfish, anthias, cardinalfish, feather stars, and corals. The 300,000-acre conservation area includes no-take zones that prohibit all extractive practices, such as fishing and collecting turtle eggs. Judges say: This image captures the expression in the eyes of the fish in the foreground so well. Very clear and sharp. The small fish give the impression of lights. — M.B.

Bonnie Wong, Rotary Club of Wanchai, Hong Kong

A duo of traditional Dunhuang dancers depict the flying apsaras, celestial beings in the Buddhist religion, during a performance in Hsinchu County, Taiwan. Each performer is carrying a pipa, an ancient Chinese stringed instrument resembling a lute. Judges say: The light illuminating the dancers gives this photo a dreamlike feel. It captures a sense of happiness. — M.B.

Tin Yu Yu (spouse of Yi-Cheng Chen), Rotary Club of Taipei Asia Link, Taiwan

Otto Dollinger, an ophthalmologist and a member of the German Rotary Volunteer Doctors, examines a child’s eyes at the Holy Family Hospital in Techiman, Ghana. The volunteers are part of a multidistrict association that has been working for 25 years to improve health care in Ghana; it also works in India and Nepal. Judges say: The image nicely captures the light emitted through the doctor’s glass instrument, which signifies to me the gift of a doctor bringing light to his young patient. — T.P.

Florian Quanz, Rotary Club of Hamburg-International, Germany

The first warmth of summer becomes an irresistible invitation for residents of the island of Favignana, off the coast of Sicily, to head to the water. Calamoni Beach comes alive with color as people bask in the sun, relax under umbrellas, have fun on the sand, and enjoy their first swim of the season. Judges say: The spirit of community pervades this photograph. There are many stories within the image, which evokes some impressionist paintings, where you find something happening in different corners of the canvas. — L.S.

Luca Venturi, Rotary Club of Siena Est, Italy

The judges

  • Madhumita Bishnu

    Madhumita Bishnu has been involved with wildlife photography for more than 15 years. She is a board member of the International Fellowship of Birdwatching Rotarians and the Rotary Fellowship of Wildlifers for Conservation. A past president of the Rotary E-Club of Melbourne, Australia, she currently lives in Kolkata, India.

  • Tami Phillippi

    Tami Phillippi is the owner of a picture framing business in Eagan, Minnesota. She worked briefly as a news reporter and photographer and moved into similar corporate work before striking out on her own. Phillippi is a member of the Rotary Club of Eagan.

  • Lára Stefánsdóttir

    Lára Stefánsdóttir is a headmaster in an upper secondary school in Ólafsfjördur, Iceland. She holds an MFA in art photography and enjoys photographing forms in nature such as the northern lights, cliffs, stones, and landscapes. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Ólafsfjördur.

  • Shankar Subramanian

    Shankar Subramanian has pursued photography for 20 years and won several international awards. He is the founder of the photography company Pixel Hearts and a member of the Rotary Club of Bangalore Rajmahal Vilas, India.

This story originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Rotary magazine.

Get ready for your close-up!

The next edition of Rotary magazine’s photo contest will open in October.