The winners of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year 2018 have been announced. The impressive contest spans three categories: Nature, Cities and People, with three overall winners chosen from more than 13,000 entries. Here are the best of the most incredible scenes of wildlife, natural wonder, and culture found on our wonderful planet. Reiko Takahasi was named Grand Prize winner and awarded first in the Nature category for an image titled “Mermaid,” which depicts a humpback whale gliding through the waters near Japan’s Kumejima Island. Her caption for the photo reads: I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day snorkeling near Japan’s Kumejima Island. 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 its very energetic, large, and beautiful tail.
Reiko Takahashi was awarded a £7,600 prize. “I really cannot believe it. It was my dream to win. I am honoured and it will be the driving force for my future shooting,” she said.
Thousands of flamingos are seen taking off from the colorful Lake Natron 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.
Marc by Marco Grassi
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 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.
Formation by Niklas Weber
When we arrived at the Río Grande de Tarcoles in Costa Rica, I saw a fantastic formation of the sharp-mouthed crocodiles. I couldn’t help myself, and I started my drone and began to photograph them from the air. My heart was beating like crazy because I was incredibly excited, on the one hand I was a bit scared for the drone, on the other hand I was so happy about the unique moment.
Another Rainy day in Nagasaki, Kyushu by Hiro Kurashina
This is a view of the main street from a tram in Nagasaki on a rainy day. The tram is vintage, but retrofitted with modern ticketing equipment. A conductor is no longer on board—only the lone driver. The quiet streetscape seen through the front windshield of the tram somehow caught my attention. This view presents quite a contrast to busy urban centers in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka. The ride on a vintage tram through the relatively quiet main street was a memorable experience during our week-long visit to the historic city of Nagasaki.
Geometry of the Sun by Enrico Pescantini
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!
Reflection by Gaanesh Prasad
On an early morning, I wanted to photograph the fog, which is epic in Dubai every year from December to January—and almost every photographer’s dream in this part of the world. Sadly, I could not get access to the rooftop and so I peeped through the glazed window on a lower floor. I was overwhelmed and excited to see how beautiful the city looks, and my excitement was quadrupled as soon as I saw the reflection of the road and building on the building facade that I was in. I immediately opened the window to the maximum permissible amount and clicked a single shot with stretched hands.
Alone In the Crowds by Gary Cummins
In this photo, I tried to bring the intense and stacked living conditions that Hong Kong is famous for into perspective for the viewer. With so many people living in small spaces, it’s strange to see all these amenities empty. As a solo traveler, I’m often alone in crowds and this photo resonates with me. I barely scratched the surface of this incredible urban environment, but this image really summarizes my experience here.
Traveling To Heaven by Trikansh Sharma
A traveler is seen riding across Ram Jhula bridge in India. When I was at this location, I suddenly noticed a man on a bicycle coming towards the bridge—luckily the bridge was otherwise empty. I framed this moment in my mind—which is a good example for travel photography—and then pressed the shutter to capture the image. In this photograph, the bridge has no ending point and looks as if the man is traveling towards heaven.
Tea Culture by Alessandra Meniconzi
For a long time, I have been fascinated by the ancient Mongolian method of hunting with Golden Eagles. In early 2018, I followed one family of eagle hunters during their migration from winter camp to spring camp. Mongolia is sparsely populated, but the inhabitants have a very hospitable and welcoming culture. Tea for Kazakh culture is one of the attributes of hospitality. Tea isn’t just a drink, but a mix of tradition, culture, relaxation, ceremony, and pleasure. Damel, seen here wrapped in heavy fur clothes, drinks a cup of tea to keep warm from the chilly temperatures in Western Mongolia.
Leida and Laelle—I Will Lift You Up by Tata Itat
Since 2016, I’ve been involved with Haitian immigrants and refugees living in my city, Estrela. I have become friends with some families, and especially with twin sisters, Leïda and Laëlle. They say living in Brazil is like living in paradise—very different from the reality of their country of origin. They dream of becoming models and teachers, as a way to earn money to bring their other relatives from Haiti to Brazil, to live all near one another. On this day, they were playing in front of their home, improvising exercises to develop their imagination and creativity, as if they were actresses, and playing an imitation game with poses. Laëlle reached for Leida’s face and lifted her head up, showing her where she should look. At this brief moment, I took the photo.
Challenging Journey by MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan
This photograph was taken from Dhaka’s airport rail station during the Eid vacation. People were returning to their village homes to spend Eid with families, and the rush at the last hour was immense. One man caught my attention: he was dangling on a train’s handle with his family, trying to get inside the train. At that time, rain started and the train began to slowly move. The family had tickets to board the train, but couldn’t get to their seats. There are many people like him, who come to Dhaka for work—leaving their families and home villages—so when they get vacation, they don’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time with dear ones, no matter what.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Daniel Cheung
The light illusion is created by artwork that uses an accumulation of light points to create a sculptural body. I saw a little girl in red dress running around the space. Luckily, she ran out again at the right moment—I found this is called “the decisive moment.” I couldn’t wait to press the shutter as the lights were perfectly aligned to create a beautiful moment—like a girl crossing a time tunnel.
The Highly Tolerant Society by Hidetoshi Ogata
On a cold winter day, I captured the moment when mother monkeys formed a huddle after social grooming in Awaji Island. Japanese monkeys are generally considered to be despotic and aggressive, but they are building a social relationships with mutual benefits.
The Doors of Mordor are Open by Jeffry Arguedas
Never before had I seen such a majestic eruption of a volcano and at the same time feel secure. Camping one night in the Acatenango Volcano and having a volcano as active as the Fire a few kilometers away, it was an incomparable experience, I felt trapped in the book “The Lord of the Rings” walking through Mordor. Walking for more than 5 hours with cold clothes near 3900 meters, food, 5 liters of water and a tripod, was exhausting, but each step made it worthwhile.
Wild Iceland by E. Arencibia
If already one of the most beautiful landscape ever seen, imagine to get there and find this wild and majestic Icelandic horse posing for me. That morning I was wondering if it would be worth it to go…bad weather, cold, not good light conditions…but you never know what you are going to find.
Sunset in the Monument Valley by Stas Bartnikas
This aerial shot was taken from a microlight trike in Monument Valley, UT
Future of 2022 Reveal in Fog by Ray Toh
The first WC2022 stadium to be ready, revealed during a foggy morning.
Biker by Mark Zhu
Lucca is an city in central Italy with well-preserved renaissance-era city walls and architecture. This photo was taken during the sunset hours, where the warm sunlight blends everything together, and a local biking through the city seems to be traveling back in time.
Ipanema Beach by M. Raccichini
Maresia or sea spray are generic names used to refer to aerosol deriving from the wind that causes a nebulized cloud that forms on the crest of the waves. On some days a thick blanket accumulates on the beach and there is a strong smell of the sea. For several days i was fascinated and so i went back to this beach to take this picture.
The Invasion by Paul TSU
A quiet street in macau. Modernization around is quickly changing the city.