The Winners Of National Geographic Travel Photographer Of The Year Will Blow Your Mind

The grand prize winner: MERMAID by Reiko Takahashi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Lovers of travel and photography, be prepared to burn with envy. The winners of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest have just been revealed, showcasing some of the most incredible scenes of wildlife, natural wonder, and culture found on our strange little planet.

The grand prize was taken home by Reiko Takahashi for her tail-side photograph (above) of a humpback whale calf cruising the seas off Japan’s Kumejima Island, aptly titled “Mermaid.” Along with the title and glory, Reiko also pocketed a $10,000 prize. Not bad, especially considering she recently left her office job to pursue her passion for underwater photography.

“It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters,” explained Reiko. “Most of the time, the calf stayed close to her mom. At one point, the calf began jumping and tapping its tail on the water near us—it was very friendly and curious. Finally, the mother, who was watching nearby, came to pick up the calf and swim away. I fell in love completely with the calf and it’s very energetic, large and beautiful tail.”

Along with the grand prize, top photos were selected in each of the three categories. Reiko was the winner in the Nature category, while Hiro Kurashina of Japan won the “Cities” category for his photo titled “Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu”, and Alessandra Meniconzi of Switzerland swept the honors of the "People" category for her image “Tea Culture.” They both also took home a $2,500 prize.

You can check out a selection of the winners and runner-ups. Be sure to read the photographs captions for further insights, all of which are written by the photographer themselves.

Enjoy: 

FLAMINGOS TAKING OFF: Thousands of flamingos are seen taking off from the colorfulLakeNatron in Tanzania. Before taking off, flamingos need to take a short run on water to build up some speed. At that moment, their long, red legs create a series of water ripples on the surface of the lake. Looking down from the helicopter, these ripple lines look like giant aquatic plants flowing in the water. This photo was taken from a helicopter. hao j./ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
MARS: These natural sand towers, capped with large stones, are known as the Earth Pyramids of Platten. They are situated in Northern Italy’s South Tyrol region. Formed centuries ago after several storms and landslides, these land formations look like a landscape from outer space and continuously change over the years and, more accurately, over seasons. This natural phenomenon is the result of a continuous alternation between periods of torrential rain and drought, which have caused the erosion of the terrain and the formation of these pinnacles. As the seasons change, the temperatures move between extremes and storms affect the area, pyramids disappear over time, while new pinnacles form as well. Marco Grassi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Geometry of the Sun: Teotihuacan means 'the place where the gods were created,' and that's the exact feeling visitors have when they walk along the Avenue of the Dead at this Mexican archeological site. This pyramid was dedicated to the god of Sun, and I found it mesmerizing how the rising sun in the picture conquered just half the image, while the other half is in the shadows.I have always loved archeology and ancient civilizations, so I couldn't wait to visit Mexico and explore the remains of the pre-Columbian civilization. I planned my visit to Teotihuacan at sunrise, to get a combination of golden sunlight, play of shadows, and few crowds around. I flew my drone to see if the image I had in my mind was really out there: luckily for me, this frame was just waiting for my camera! Enrico Pescantini/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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