A BU Student Risked Encountering a Grizzly Bear to Capture This Award-Winning Photograph
Global Programs annual photo contest drew more than 650 submissions from nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff
Bill Yao went on a grueling 14-hour hike and risked a grizzly bear encounter in order to capture the photograph that earned him the People’s Choice award in BU Global Programs’ 11th annual photo contest. On a trip to the Canadian Rockies, Yao photographed the pristine Lake O’Hara, illuminated by the starry night sky. “I can confidently say that this image is the hardest image I’ve ever worked for,” says Yao (CGS’22, COM’24), an undergrad majoring in advertising.
How hard? Despite the fact that he is an experienced hiker, Yao recalls initially feeling daunted while loading up his 50 pounds of equipment in the dark, mapping out the terrain’s many challenging elevation changes, and accounting for variables like visibility and rapid temperature changes…not to mention the possibility of disturbing a hungry bear. When he and his travel partner were finally done with their shoot at 4 am, Yao says the results were well worth it.
“Photography is what enables me to explore so many places in the world and connect with some of the most important people in my personal development,” he says.
After Global Programs put out a call for submissions in mid-March, nearly 300 students, faculty, and staff sent in more than 650 photos illustrating their travels abroad as well as their explorations closer to Boston. They took photos in 81 countries and 28 states. The most photographed building on campus was the new Center for Computing & Data Sciences, a 19-story architectural showstopper that is now a prominent part of the Boston skyline.
“This year’s theme of Global Engagement is not only a nod to the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan [Global Engagement is one of the plan’s five priorities], but an opportunity to celebrate—through inspiring photography—how global our BU community is,” says Willis Wang, vice president and associate provost for Global Programs. “We have an impressive community engaged in countless global endeavors, and these photos reflect the diversity of experiences, people, opportunities, and places that we’ve come to associate with BU.”
The 11 judges who chose this year’s winners were unaware of the photographers’ names, affiliations, or the locations of the photos. Close to a thousand members of the BU community voted for the People’s Choice award. Winners had a choice of receiving either a GoPro Hero 11 waterproof camera and 64 GB memory card or a Meta Quest 2 (a virtual reality headset), plus a carrying case.
Sushil Sasheendran (Questrom’23), a graduate student in the dual-degree MBA-master’s digital technology program, was deemed the winner in the judged category. To capture his shot of the leadup to the fast-breaking evening meal—“Iftaar”—that concludes Ramadan, the month-long period of fasting observed by Muslims across the globe, Sasheendran climbed to the rooftop of a building near his family’s home in Manama, Bahrain.
“Every year during the period of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I step out deep into the streets of the city to do street photography,” he says. “Bahrain follows a strong community-driven culture. As a part of it, different local shops and businesses sponsor fast break meals, ‘Iftaar,’ for anyone who would like to participate.”
Both Yao and Sasheendran selected the Go Pro camera for their prize.
Photos by this year’s contest runners-up, ranged from a street vendor in the Philippines to a closeup of an elephant’s eye in India to a rain storm in Slovenia.