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Winning Shots From the ‘National Geographic Travel Photographer’ Contest

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From the Brazilian wetlands to the crowded rooftops of Varansi, the prize-winning images from the 2016 “National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year” contest span the far reaches of Earth. The competition was divided into three categories: nature, cities, and people. Anthony Lau, who earned the grand prize with his photo of Mongolian horsemen (see below), won a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari at the Churchill Wild-Seal Heritage Lodge in Manitoba, Canada. Other prizes inlcude a Sony a6300 camera, a travel photography lessons, and a National Geographic photo book. Learn more about the contest here. See the winners below.

People

The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist .
“The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist.” (Anthony Lau/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

First Place (Grand Prize)

I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am, I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families - mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sister and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was mid summer in Varanasi and sleeping sans AC was difficult.
“I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am, I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families – mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sister and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was mid summer in Varanasi and sleeping sans AC was difficult.” (Yasmin Mund/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Second Place

Kinnaura tribal old women in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying big log back home to warm up her house
“Kinnaura tribal old women in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying big log back home to warm up her house.” (Mattia Passarini/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Third Place

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.
“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.” (Dotan Saguy/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Honorable Mention


Nature

Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. "Wherever you go, I will follow you" the voice says.
“Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. ‘Wherever you go, I will follow you’ the voice says.” (Hiroki Inoue/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

First Place

Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal... when I downloaded the CF did not want to believe it .... The nature knows we always give magnificent events but sometimes extraordinary
“Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal… when I downloaded the CF did not want to believe it …. The nature knows we always give magnificent events but sometimes extraordinary” (Massimiliano Bencivenni/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Second Place

The Baltinache Ponds, also called Hidden Ponds are a set of seven salt ponds located in the area of the Salt Cordillera, near San Pedro de Atacama, in the second region of northern Chile, in the Atacama desert. After much research, I believe to be the first photographer to publish night photos of this place, but it is still necessary to confirm this information. Tech Details: Photography done in one shot. Foreground was illuminated by the moonlight. Reduced exposure in Lightroom in +/- 1EV.
“The Baltinache Ponds, also called Hidden Ponds are a set of seven salt ponds located in the area of the Salt Cordillera, near San Pedro de Atacama, in the second region of northern Chile, in the Atacama desert. After much research, I believe to be the first photographer to publish night photos of this place, but it is still necessary to confirm this information.” (Victor Lima/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Third Place

This photo was taken far out on the sea ice in the Davis Straight off the coast of Baffin Island. This mother and her yearling are perched atop a huge snow covered iceberg that got "socked in" when the ocean froze over for the winter. 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.
“This photo was taken far out on the sea ice in the Davis Straight off the coast of Baffin Island. This mother and her yearling are perched atop a huge snow covered iceberg that got “socked in” when the ocean froze over for the winter. 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.” (John Rollins/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Honorable Mention


Cities

Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time.
“Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time.” (Takashi Nakagawa/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

First Place

At Mainland China university, students work like slaves or more like prisoners. Serious academic corruption, dry and irrelevant to society curriculum, and rote memorisation teaching methodsÓ were leading to students developing Òrigid ways of thinkingÓ, progressively losing interest in learning and ultimately emerging from university as Òsoulless zombiesÓ.
“At Mainland China university, students work like slaves or more like prisoners. Serious academic corruption, dry and irrelevant to society curriculum, and rote memorisation teaching methods were leading to students developing Òrigid ways of thinkingÓ, progressively losing interest in learning and ultimately emerging from university as soulless zombies.” (Wing Ka H./National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Second Place

Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia. It 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. While many of its old neighbourhoods fell into neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s, UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2008 sparked a transformation, and today, they are all part of a vibrant tourist destination.
“Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia. It 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. While many of its old neighbourhoods fell into neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s, UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2008 sparked a transformation, and today, they are all part of a vibrant tourist destination.” (Jeremy Tan/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)

Third Place

In the helicopter looking south on Central Park West - dividing the architecture and Central park, on November 5th 2014, a day before my 27th birthday. The flight was my birthday gift. Taken with Canon 5D Mark iii & EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM - edited in Adobe Lightroom (I previously incorrectly had this as Park Ave)
“In the helicopter looking south on Central Park West – dividing the architecture and Central park, on November 5th 2014, a day before my 27th birthday. The flight was my birthday gift.” (Kathleen Dolmatch/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year )

Honorable Mention