Our desire to explore the world and learn more about its inhabitants – human and nature – stem from the depictions and experiences shared by individuals who creatively capture Earth’s diverse beauty through photography.
One of the platforms that never fails to delight and enlighten global audiences, while instilling deep wanderlust and the desire to learn even more about the world, is National Geographic. Serving to share knowledge for 129 years, it also funds work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education.
Added to this, one of National Geographic’s most pivotal roles is inspiring people to explore all corners of the world – and its Travel Photographer of the Year Contest certainly achieves this by revealing remarkable images of nature, cities, and people, shared by travellers on their global journeys.
"For the Travel Photographer of the Year contest, we encourage photographers to show us the world through their own stories of travel and exploration," says National Geographic, which celebrates pictures taken by all levels of photographers.
Whitney Johnson, vice president of visual experiences at National Geographic, and two National Geographic contributing photographers — ocean and adventure photographer Andy Mann and polar photographer Camille Seaman chose the winners of the three categories - Nature, Cities and People.
"I was amazed at the quality of images and the sensibility towards subject in all three categories for this competition,” says 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."
The grand-prize went to Reiko Takahashi of Japan who beat more than 13 000 entries with her photo of a humpback whale calf’s tail, titled “Mermaid”.
Nature 1st Place and Grand-Prize Winner
MERMAID - “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 it’s very energetic, large and beautiful tail.” (Photo and Caption by Reiko Takahashi / 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)
Takahashi, a long-time photographer who left her office job to pursue her passion for underwater photography, took the winning photo off the coast of Japan's Kumejima Island where she ventured 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,” says 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," she adds.
Takahashi receives $10 000 USD (over R137 277 @ R13.73/$), will have the photo posted on the @NatGeoTravel Instagram account, and earns the prestigious title of National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year 2018.
In addition to the grand-prize winner, top photos were selected in each of the three categories, with other category winners being awarded $2 500 (about R34 319) each.
Takahashi’s photo was also chosen as the winner in the Nature category, while Hiro Kurashina of Japan won the Cities category for his photo titled “Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu,” while the People category went to “Tea Culture” by Alessandra Meniconzi of Switzerland.
From 11-15 June members of the National Geographic community also got to vote for their favourite photo in each category from a selection of images chosen by National Geographic photo editors. The photos with the most votes have been named People’s Choice winners - see all the winners here.
Check out all the winning photos
Nature 2nd Place:
FLAMINGOS TAKING OFF – “Thousands of flamingos are seen taking off from the colourful 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.” (Photo and Caption by hao j. / 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest)
Nature 3rd Place: