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HILTON HEAD STUDENT A FINALIST IN NATIONAL PHOTO CONTEST

Seventeen-year-old Julia Gigante is busy. A senior at Hilton Head Preparatory School, she was the captain of both the varsity basketball and cross-country teams, is president of the student council, and senior class representative for the honor council. She founded the school newspaper, is a member of the school’s Zonta Club, and has played on the varsity chess team since fifth grade.

But none of those are her real passion.

“I really love photography,” she said. “That’s been a big part of my life the last two years.”

gigante2And it turns out, she’s pretty good at it. Julia was recently chosen as a finalist for the 2018 National Geographic Student Expeditions photo contest.

For the contest, National Geographic asked students to upload up to five photos — including descriptions — that captured the spirit of exploration. According to the National Geographic website, student submissions were judged on creativity, photographic quality, composition and execution of theme.

Julia’s photo “Sand Storm” earned her a spot as was one of 28 finalists. It’s a photograph of her younger brother kicking sand on a Hilton Head beach at sunset. She took it with her cellphone, but said she is excited to get more practice with the Canon camera her mother recently bought her.

“It was a really pretty sunset,” Julia said of the image. “I was shocked that it made it to the finalists because there were so many people in so many different places.”

I JUST REALLY LOVE BEING ABLE TO TAKE A MOMENT AND HOLD IT THERE.

This month, National Geographic will announce three winners and the People’s Choice award for the contest. Winners had not been announced at the time of publication.

The grand prize winner for the high school category wins a spot at a photo workshop in one of several locations, including Barcelona, New York City, Prague, Tokyo, Yellowstone, Yosemite and San Francisco, according to the National Geographic website.

gigante3Julia’s dream photo session would probably be in the Galápagos Islands, but she said there are many places she’d like to shoot. That’s part of her love of travel — and why she’s thinking globally when it comes to college. She recently visited Ireland to look at Trinity College in Dublin. She’s also considering Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her photography skills, Julia also dabbles in digital media. She’s built websites for several local doctors, including her father, local internist James Gigante.

When she’s not taking photos or building websites — or participating in one of her many extra-curricular activities — she likes going to the beach, watching Netflix with friends and, of course, taking photos wherever she goes.

“I just really love being able to take a moment and hold it there,” she said. “And then you get to kind of experience it again and again … and what it felt like taking the picture.”