National Geographic reveals best travel photographers for 2018

Photo of a humpback whale made Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi winner of this year’s National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photographers from all over the world competed in the annual National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest – and from more than 13,000 entries in total, the jury has finally selected the absolute best for this year.

Grand-prize and Nature category winner: Mermaid – Kumejima, Japan

"I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day snorkeling near Japan’sKumejima 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." — Reiko Takahashi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day snorkeling near Japan’s Kumejima Island,” Takahashi said – Reiko Takahashi / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

This year’s competition focused on outstanding and spectacular photos taken within the last two years, with entries in three categories: Nature, People and Cities.

And with her stunning photo of a humpback whale calf’s tail, Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi won the grand-prize.

Her picture, called Mermaid, was taken on the coast of Japan’s Kumejima Island when the long-time photographer decided to leave her office job to pursue her passion for underwater photography. She travelled to the island on a mission to photograph humpback whales with their young calves.

“It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters,” said Takahashi. “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.”

Takanashi will receive e a $10,000 USD prize for her snap.

Cities category winner: Another rainy day in Nagasaki, Kyushu 

"The quiet streetscape seen through the front windshield of the tram somehow caught my attention. This view presents quite a contrast to busy urban centres in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka." — Hiro Kurashina/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Kurashina said: “The quiet streetscape seen through the front windshield of the tram somehow caught my attention. This view presents quite a contrast to busy urban centres in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka” – Hiro Kurashina / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

In addition to the grand-prize winner, top photos were selected in each of the three categories. Takahashi’s photo was also chosen as the winner in the Nature category. Hiro Kurashina of Japan took top honours in the Cities category for his photo titled Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu.

“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,” Kurashina said.

Winner of People category: Tea Culture – Kazakhstan

Tea isn't just a drink, but a mix of tradition, culture, relaxation, ceremony, and pleasur  — Alessandra Meniconzi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Tea isn’t just a drink, but a mix of tradition, culture, relaxation, ceremony, and pleasure – Alessandra Meniconzi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Alessandra Meniconzi’s photo, called Tea Culture, captures a Kazakh lady sipping tea topped the People’s category.

“I’m fascinated by the ancient Kazakh method of hunting with Golden Eagles. I followed a family during their migration from winter to spring camp. Mongolia is sparsely populated, but the inhabitants have a very hospitable and welcoming culture,” the Swiss photographer said.

Nature category, 2nd place: Flamingos taking off – Lake Natron, Tanzania

Thousands of flamingos take off from the colorful salt Lake Natron in Tanzania. Before taking off, flamingos need to take a short run on water to build up some speed. at this time, Their long, red legs trod 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 helicopterm — hao j./ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“Looking down from the helicopter, these ripple lines look like giant aquatic plants flowing in the water” – hao j./ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

The main judge of this year’s competition was Whitney Johnson, vice president of visual experiences at National Geographic, as well as two National Geographic contributing photographers – ocean and adventure photographer Andy Mann and polar photographer Camille Seaman.

“I was amazed at the quality of images and the sensibility towards subject in all three categories for this competition,” said Seaman.

“Looking at hundreds of images choosing the winners was a daunting task. The images that stood out did so based not solely on their technical execution but also a sensitivity for a feeling of the moment and originality.”

Nature category, 3rd place: Mars – 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 — Marco Grassi/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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 – Marco Grassi / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

People category, 2nd place: Laida and Laelle – I will lift you up – Estrela, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil

"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."  — TATI ITAT/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“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” – TATI ITAT / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

People category, 3rd place: Challenging journey – 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." — MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“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” – MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Cities category, 2nd place: Geometry of the Sun – 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 archaeological site."— Enrico Pescantini/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“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 archaeological site” – Enrico Pescantini / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Cities category, 3rd place: Reflexion – Dubai, UAE

"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." — Gaanesh Prasad/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contes
“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” – Gaanesh Prasad/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Honorary mention: Alone in the Crowds – Hong Kong, China

In this photo, I tried to bring the intense and stacked livingconditions thatHong 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 urbanenvironment, but this image reallysummarizesmy experiencehere — Gary Cummins/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
“As a solo traveller, 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 summarises my experience here” – Gary Cummins/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest