Nat Geo's Travel Photographer of the Year 2016 Contest Winners Capture Breathtaking Images Of Our World

Double Trapping by Massimiliano Bencivenni/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Awards

National Geographic is showcasing the winning entries of its Travel Photographer of the Year competition. These breathtaking images document a range of visually striking aspects of our planet, from the raw power of nature to the unique facets of human culture.

These images prove that photography immortalizes moments in time like nothing else – it is technological magic akin to capturing light in a bottle.

Grand Prize Winner (People category): Winter Horseman by Anthony Lau

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This photograph, which captures a team of Mongolian riders showing off their skills in the frigid mist, was taken after an early morning hike. “With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses,” Lau said in a statement.

For his efforts, Lau was awarded a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild – Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

First Prize, Nature: Wherever You Go, I Will Follow You!! by Hiroki Inoue

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Romance is in the air as two red foxes chase each other around in heavy snow in Hokkaido, Japan. Describing the scene to National Geographic, Inoue said: “Around the end of the winter, they meet the season of love; they care for and love each other enough to make us jealous.”

Second Prize, Nature: Double Trapping by Massimiliano Bencivenni

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A yacare caiman, a reptile somewhat similar to alligators, was captured in the Brazilian Pantanal along the Rio Negrinho gobbling up its latest lunch. “The whole thing lasted only a fraction of a moment,” Bencivenni explained.

Third Prize, Nature: Lagunas Baltinache (Atacama Desert) by Victor Lima

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Lima wanted to find a place in this vast region that hadn’t been heavily documented before, pointing out that this desert is “one of the best places on the planet to do night photography.” Here, he proves his point by framing the cosmos against the Baltinache Ponds.

Honorable Mention, Nature: Bears on a Berg by John Rollins

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A couple of polar bears – a mother and her youngling – hanging out off the coast of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. “To me, the relative smallness of these large creatures when compared to the immensity of the iceberg in the photo represents the precariousness of the polar bear's reliance on the sea and sea ice for its existence,” Rollins noted.

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