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
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
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
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
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
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.
First Prize, Cities: Ben Youssef by Takashi Nakagawa
A beautiful, momentary reflection captured in Madrasa, Marrakesh. “It was a cloudy day so I could only see it when the wind stopped blowing and sunlight hit this Islamic architecture,” Nakagawa recalled.
Second Prize, Cities: Silenced by Wing Ka H
The school dormitories of South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China. “When I was hanging around, most of [the students] were taking a break,” said Ka H. “After lunchtime, they needed to go back to study.”
Third Prize, Cities: Celestial Reverie by Jeremy Tan
Lightning surges past Komtar Tower, an iconic landmark of George Town, the capital of Penang state in Malaysia. “[The tower] is symbolic of the rejuvenation that the city, famous for a unique blend of centuries-old buildings and modern structures, has enjoyed in recent years,” Tan explained.
Honorable Mention, Cities: Divide by Kathleen Dolmatch
In a helicopter looking south on Central Park West, showing the clear line between NYC’s architecture and the greenery. “The flight was my birthday gift,” Dolmatch added.
Second Prize, People: Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi by Yasmin Mund
Entire families can be seen snoozing on rooftops – sleeping in the midsummer heat of Varanasi is pretty difficult without AC. Mund remembered: “As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief.”
Third Prize, People: Remote life at -21 degree by Mattia Passarini
This stark image is described by Passarini as such: “An old woman in a remote village in Himachal Pradesh, India, carries a big log back home to warm up her house.”
Honorable Mention, People: Muscle Beach Gym by Dotan Saguy
“A weightlifter lifts a barbell loaded with heavy plates while a bodybuilder performs an aerial handstand at the Muscle Beach Gym in Venice Beach, CA,” Saguy explains.