Matt Payne Wins Special Recognition for SATW’s 2018 Bill Muster Photography Awards in Two Categories

By Matt Payne

Great news! Last week, I was fortunate to win two special recognition awards in the Bill Muster Photography Awards at The Society of American Travel Writers convention held in Barbados. I’ve got to pinch myself when I look at the other talented folks who took home prizes. Photography came into my life a couple of years back during an intense spell of writer’s block, when I was only (and barely) working as a writer. I began taking photos in an effort to reframe my perspective. Slowly it became an obsession and as I look through my portfolio, which spans the globe in the last year from Panama to Australia; Oklahoma to Africa, I can’t help but see how much my perspective has indeed changed. Below is the portfolio I submitted for the awards. Looking back at these images brings me a lot of joy. What a life!  Tell me which ones you like the best!  I hope you enjoy!

Special recognition People category, Taken in the San Blas Islands off of the coast of Panama. A face tells a story of many decades, but this woman’s village doesn’t keep track of age. 


A lion in the Serengeti,  At first, when we came across this lion, he was terrifying. When he stood though, we realized he’d been injured in a fight with another lion and banished to heal or to die.
Purple Spring. Taken five miles from my house in Edmond, Oklahoma.
VividEach year in May, Sydney puts on Vivid Sydney, an innovative and inspiring light show that spans the city. The sails of the Opera House light up each night in dramatic fashion.

Winner Scenic Category.

Enkereri School outside the Maasai Mara in Kenya- Ten years ago, school for these Maasai children was held under a tree. Now, thanks to donations from Abercrombie and Kent and Sanctuary Retreats, these children have a building where they can learn.
 Each Monday in Oklahoma City’s famed stockyards, cattlemen participate in a livestock auction.
Special Recognition Scenic– Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. I could not have timed my interaction with this sunset better… 
As we pulled into the island of Ukupseni, of the east coast of Panama, these boys ran along the shore, through the village and met us at the dock as we arrived.
Adventure Company UnCruise drops guests off on a remote beach off at a wildlife research station off of the southern coast of Costa Rica.
Maasai Mara- Two young bull elephants going head to head. When they get older, they will leave the herd to find a mate.
Taken inside the home of a Maasai villager. This child will go on to attend the Enkereri School.
Greenspot Travel is a small but mighty travel company that incorporates cultural immersion into their trips creating more meaningful travel.
Vivid Sydney inspired both young and old. I adore the look on the face of the young girl in the right hand corner as it captures everything magical about the event.
An eerie tree outside Pawhuska in Osage County, Oklahoma. I had the privilege of  making a documentary for OETA/PBS about this incredible part of the world. Thanks to the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond and renewed interests in the Osage murders in the book Killers of the Flower Moon, Osage county has become a tourism phenomenon.
Taken in Panama, it is hard to believe that I had just a second to capture this woman smoking a pipe as she cooked over an open fire. One of my favorites.
I played catch with these young Maasai girls for about fifteen minutes. So much joy. Strange to be an outsider observing a life so different occurring in front of you.
The wonder of a safari doesn’t take place only on the savannah. The sky explodes with stars each night.