National Geographic Travel photography is revealing, transporting, and inspiring. We looked for images that showed us the world: its people, places, and cultures. Photos that told a story of a place and travel moments that revealed what inspired you. It was your turn to inspire us. Announcing the winners of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year:
Grand Prize Winner
Mermaid / Photo & caption by Reiko Takahashi
Location: Kumejima, Japan
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.
Second Place Winner, Nature
Flamingos Take Off / Photo & caption by Hao J.
Location: Lake Natron, Tanzania
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.
Third Place Winner, Nature
Mars / Photo & caption by Marco Grassi
Location: Brunico, South Tyrol, Italy
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.
People’s Choice, Nature
Formation / Photo & caption by Niklas Weber
Location: Camaronal, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
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.
First Place Winner, Cities
Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Japan / Photo & caption by Hiro Kurashina
Location: Nagasaki, Japan
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.
Second Place Winner, Cities
Geometry of the Sun / Photo & caption by Enrico Pescantini
Location: Teotihuacan, Mexico
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!
Third Place Winner, Cities
Reflection/ Photo & caption by Gaanesh Prasad
Location: Dubai, Uae
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.
People’s Choice, Cities
Traveling to Heaven / Photo & caption by Trikansh Sharma
Location: Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India
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.
Honorable Mention, Cities
Alone in the Crowds / Photo & caption by Gary Cummins
Location: Hong Kong, China
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.
First Place Winner, People
Tea Culture / Photo & caption by Alessandra Meniconzi
Location: Altai Mountains, Western Mongolia
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.
Second Place Winner, People
Leida and Laelle – I Will Lift You Up / Photo & caption by Tati Itat
Location: Estrela, Rio Grande Do Sul State, Brazil
Leida and Laelle, 9, are twin sisters and are living in Brazil recently, came refugees from Haiti. They say that here is like living in paradise, very different from the reality of their country of origin. They are extremely connected, while the parents are working, they take care of each other. They dream and make plans together to become models and teachers as a way to obtain money to bring their relatives that are in Haiti. They are very creative, faithful and lovely children.
Third Place Winner, People
Challenging Journey / Photo & caption by MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh
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.
People’s Choice, People
The Girl Who Leapt through Time / Photo & caption by Daniel Cheung
Location: Shenzhen, Guangdong Sheng, China
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.