PICS: This year's NatGeo Travel photos of the year are gobsmackingly stunning

Cape Town - A photograph of a horseman in Inner Mongolia has earned Anthony Lau of Hong Kong the prestigious title of 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year.

Lau's incredible photo was selected from thousands of entries, across various categories, as the grand prize winner. He wins a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

Lau took the photo, titled “Winter Horseman,” in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China after an early morning hike. He and his travel companions were driving back to their hotel for breakfast when they came across a team of riders showing off their skills.

“The snow was getting heavier, the wind was getting stronger, the morning snow was getting thinner and the light was moving away from its optimal position,” Lau said. “I knew I only had a couple of shots to get the best out of this encounter. With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses.”

This is what the winning shot looks like: 

Photo and caption by Anthony Lau / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Winter Horseman  
"The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist."

National Geographic Travel photography captures the awe-inspiring diversity of the world’s people, places and cultures. This contest recognizes the most compelling travel photography taken in the past two years, with entries in three categories: Nature, People and Cities.

First-, second- and third-place prizes were awarded in each category. Lau’s photo placed first in the People category, while Takashi Nakagawa of Tokyo took top honors in the Cities category for his photo “Ben Youssef,” and “Wherever you go, I will follow you!!” shot by Hiroki Inoue of Hokkaido, Japan, led the field in Nature.

Photo and caption by Takashi Nakagawa / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Ben Youssef  
"Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compared to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time."

Photo and caption by Hiroki Inoue / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Wherever you go, I will follow you!!
"Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. "Wherever you go, I will follow you" the voice says."

YOU CAN SEE A GALLERY OF ALL THE WINNERS HERE: The 2016 NatGeo Travel Photographer of the Year winners

First-place winners received a Sony a6300 camera supplied by B&H Photo, second-place winners received National Geographic’s The Art of Travel Photography course on DVD and third-place winners received a National Geographic book.

All winners received a subscription to National Geographic Traveler magazine. The winning photos may be viewed online on the National Geographic Travel website.

“We are thrilled to name Anthony Lau as our first-ever National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year,” George Stone, editor in chief of National Geographic Travel. “We were blown away by the entries we received from around the world, and it’s clear our passion for visual storytelling is shared by our readers.”

Anne Farrar, director of photography for National Geographic Travel, was joined on the judging panel by Corey Arnold, contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine, and Foster Huntington, a photographer and filmmaker.

As grand-prize winner, Lau will embark on a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, where guests can settle into a cozy lodge on the banks of the Hudson Bay, and head out on guided excursions by foot to photograph polar bears and other wildlife against a dramatic landscape of snow and ice.

Guests will also enjoy incredible cuisine and stories around the fireplace, and then step into the night to capture the mesmerizing northern lights.

The trip is provided by National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, a collection of extraordinary properties that are selected for the outstanding guest service and experiences they offer, and for their leadership in sustainable tourism and commitment to protecting cultural and natural heritage.

What to read next on Traveller24

PICS: Wintery weekend brings more SNOW across SA

The complete guide to a photo safari in the Kruger National Park

Shipwreck Hiking Trail: Pure winter slackpacking magic!

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
Until the matric exams are over, my family is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Self-isolating to ensure we don't miss any exams
13% - 141 votes
Following Covid-19 safety protocols, but still going out like normal
54% - 610 votes
Business as usual, we're not worried about the virus
33% - 377 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo