The Winning Photos of Nat Geo’s Travel Photographer of the Year 2017

National Geographic has announced the winners of its prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year photo contest for 2017. The grand prize winner is Mexican photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco, who shot this incredible photo titled “The Power of Nature,” which shows lightning striking an erupting volcano.

The photo was captured on December 13th, 2015, outside Colima, Mexico, at the Volcán de Colima, one of the most active volcanoes in Latin America. He did extensive research and patiently monitored the volcano for nearly a month prior to this shot. Velasco was positioned 12km (~7.5mi) away from the crater when he saw and shot the biggest volcanic lightning bolt he’d ever witnessed.

“When I looked on the camera display, all I could do was stare,” Velasco tells Nat Geo. “What I was watching was impossible to conceive, the image showed those amazing forces of nature interacting on a volcano, while the lightning brightened the whole scene. It’s an impossible photograph and my once in a lifetime shot that shows the power of nature.”

Velasco’s striking photo — 1st place in the Nature category — was selected from over 15,000 entries submitted by photographers in 30 countries. His prize includes $2,500 and a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions.

Here are the other top photos from the major categories this year:

Nature

2nd Place. Photo and caption by Hiromi Kano/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “To live.” Swans who live vigorous even in mud.
3rd Place. Photo and caption by Tarun Sinha/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles.” This image was captured in Costa Rica when I was traveling from Monteverde to Playa Hermosa. As you cross over this river, you can stop and peer over the edge of the bridge. Below, reside over 35 gigantic crocodiles, relaxing on the muddy banks of the river. I wanted to capture the stark difference between the crocodiles on land and in the water. In the murky waters, the body contours of these beasts remain hidden, and one can only truly see their girth as they emerge from the river.
Honorable Mention 1. Photo and caption by Clane Gessel/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Marble Caves.” The marble caves of Patagoina
Honorable Mention 2. Photo and caption by Yutaka Takafuji/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Forest of the Fairy.” Shooting in the forest This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of Princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.
Honorable Mention 3. Photo and caption by Reynold Riksa Dewantara/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Mt. Bromo.” Mount Bromo volcano is a small, but active volcanic cinder cone on Java, Indonesia. Early 2016, I happened to be in Mt.Bromo during the increase of seismic activity and triggered the alert status to the second highest.
Honorable Mention 4. Photo and caption by Shane Gross/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “In Your Face.” Caribbean reef sharks are usually shy so I placed my camera on a rock where I know they frequent and used a remote trigger to click away as they came in and bumped my camera around.

Cities

1stPhoto and caption by Norbet Fritz/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Levels of reading.” The modern interior of the city library in Stuttgart. With its wide-open space in the central, where natural light comes from through the windows on the top, it has a very unique atmosphere, where you can broaden your knowledge.
2nd Place. Photo and caption by Andy Yeung/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Walled City #08.” The Kowloon Walled City was the densest place on Earth. Hundreds of houses stacked on top of each other enclosed in the center of the structure. Many didn’t have access to open space. This notorious city was finally demolished in the 1990s. However, if you look hard enough, you will notice that the city is not dead. Part of it still exists in many of current high-density housing apartments. I hope this series can get people to think about claustrophobic living in Hong Kong from a new perspective.
3rd Place. Photo and caption by Misha De-Stroyev/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Henningsvær Football Field.” This football field in Henningsvær in the Lofoten Islands is considered one of the most amazing fields in Europe, and maybe even in the world. The photo was taken during a 10-day sailing trip in Norway in June 2017. We arrived at Henningsvær after a week of sailing through the cold and rainy weather. Upon our arrival, the weather cleared up. I was really lucky that the conditions were suitable for flying my drone, and I managed to capture this shot from a height of 120 meters.
Honorable Mention 1. Photo and caption by Tetsuya Hashimoto/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Colorful apartment.” This building is apartment complex in Gifu Prefecture of Japan. It is very colorful, but it is an ordinary collective housing where ordinary people can live.
Honorable Mention 2. Photo and caption by Andrzej Bochenski/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Al Ain.” New city on the desert

People

1stPhoto and caption byF.Dilek Uyar/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “worshipThis photo was taken in Konya. Willing Dervish in an historical place of Sille KonyaTurkey.The ‘dance’ of the Whirling Dervishes is called Sema and is a symbol of the Mevlevi culture. According to Mevlana’s teachings, human beings are born twice, once oftheir mothers and the second time of their own bodies.
2nd Place. Photo and caption by Julius Y./ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Interesting moment.” Museum visitors curiously watching Rembrandt’s painting ” Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild” where it gave the illusion that the people on the paintings too are curiously watching the visitors.
3rd Place. Photo and caption by Rodney Bursiel/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Under The Wave.” I recently traveled to Tavarua, Fiji to do some surf photography with pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter at Cloudbreak. I’m always looking for new angles and perspectives. The usual surf shots have all been done so we decided to get a little creative. Makes you look twice.
Honorable Mention 1. Photo and caption by Jobit George/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Bridging Generation.” A beautiful photo of a father and son sitting in white traditional attire with beautiful blue sky on the day of Eid al-Fitr in a mosque in New Delhi, India. The photo shows the beautiful bond which these two generation have been building up in a very simple and lovable manner.
Honorable Mention 2. Photo and caption by Moin Ahmed/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “The Man’s Stare.” The photo was taken on 23rd of July 2016 at Tongi Railway Station, Gazipur, Bangladesh. I was there for taking photos and waiting for a moment. A train from Dhaka toward another district has reached and stopped at the platform for 5 min for lifting passengers. It was huge raining. Suddenly I found a pair of curious eye was looking at me through the window and on his left, an umbrella has been put for protect the rain. I got the moment.
Honorable Mention 3. Photo and caption by Michael Dean Morgan/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Blessings at Besakih.” Besakih Temple has been known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ for over 1000 years and is perched 1000 metreshigh on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. Here Balinese often come to offer up prayer and take blessing from the temple priests or “Pemangku” who reside there.

You can also find the entire gallery of winning photos on the Nat Geo contest website.

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