Therese Iknoian named Photographer of the Year, we win multiple medals

by Mar 18, 2024Awards

Silent Dunes GOLD T

Therese Iknoian, co-owner of HITravelTales.com, named NATJA Travel Photographer of the year, while both Michael Hodgson and Therese took home multiple gold and silver medals.

HI Travel Tales co-founder and owner Therese Iknoian was named Photographer of the Year in the 32nd annual North American Travel Journalists Association awards for excellence in travel journalism.

The award is based on points for medals won in the competition. After some careful calculation, the duo determined that she had edged out Michael Hodgson, her husband and HI Travel Tales business partner, by a mere one point.

“It most certainly is a thrill to have such a title, and to be awarded that title from among so many wonderful photojournalists,” Therese said. “At HI Travel Tales, we both pride ourselves not only on great storytelling in words, but also on excellent imagery that truly captures the feeling of a place by storytelling in photos.”

The HI Travel Tales team has won multiple medals in every NATJA competition since they began entering in 2018, as well as medals and awards in many other international photography and writing competitions.

Golds and silver medals for the duo

This year, Therese won gold for her image (the cover image in this story), “Silent Dunes,” in the Landscape and Nature category – an image she actually took a little more than three years ago but just last year decided to try with some black-and-white processing. That choice alone led to the photo of the Mesquite Flat Dunes in Death Valley National Park really coming to life at night. Michael earned a silver medal in the same category with his image of a brown bear charging a salmon.

Coastal Brown Bear Charging Salmon SILVER

She also won a gold in the Action and Adventure category for her photo “Pedaling in the Woods,” showing the motion as well as the redwood forest and tracks as they pedaled Skunk Train railbikes in Mendocino County.

Pedaling Rail Bikes GOLD T

Going first and second in another category, Michael grabbed a silver medal with his photo, “Dune Buggy Sand Storm,” which showcased the adventure of riding dune buggies in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area near Coos Bay.

Dune Buggy Coos Bay Oregon Dunes SILVER

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Michael took home gold for his photo, “Joy of Dance,” in the Cultural category of Maasai warriors engaging in a dance celebration filled with chants, yips and jumping. This was taken on a trip to Kenya as a volunteer citizen scientist.

Njapit Maasai Warriors Jump Dance Ol Chorro Conservancy GOLD

Therese also won a silver medal in the “Illustrated Story” category that highlighted in photos Basel, Switzerland’s plethora of modern and classic architecture.

VIsit Basel Architecture SILVER T

With these wins, the duo behind HITravelTales.com continues to demonstrate with its awards that they both rank among the best travel journalists and photographers in the country, including those from major publications they beat out, such as National Geographic Travel, Travel + Leisure, Bloomberg Pursuits, The New York Times, and Conde Nast.

“I am extremely proud that we continue to receive national attention for the quality of our photography,” Michael said. “Realizing — of course unofficially — that I finished second to Therese for the Photographer of the Year award is further recognition that the extra care and effort we both put into creating compelling stories with our images matters.”

Together, through words and photographs, HI Travel Tales looks to guide readers to places all over the globe, hopefully inspiring them to take their own adventures and discover their own travel memories.

Read more about each photo and how each photo was captured in their HI Travel Tales newsletter. You can also subscribe there to stay up to date on their travel pursuits.


Iknoian and Hodgson, both longtime journalists and photographers, have run HI Travel Tales for about nine years. They have been to all seven continents, 49 countries, and all 50 states. They focus on immersive travel that connects readers with the culture, food, history, people, and natural wonders of a destination, with the hope their discoveries will inspire others to connect with the world.

You can also see more of their photography at ThereseIknoian.com and MichaelHodgsonphoto.com.

Founded in 1991, the North American Travel Journalists Association fosters high-quality journalism by supporting professional development and honoring excellence in journalism globally. See the entire NATJA winners list from the 32nd annual competition in categories for general travel, broadcasting and photography.

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