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30/06/2018 12:56 SAST | Updated 30/06/2018 12:57 SAST

The National Geographic Travel Photographer Of The Year Photos Are Here – And They Are Incredible!

A whale of a photo won the grand prize, and it was an amazing fluke. (Sorry...)

Reiko Takahashi/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
Grand prize winner Reiko Takahashi took this photo of a humpback whale.

A beautiful image of a baby humpback whale taken by photographer Reiko Takahashi has claimed the top prize in the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year competition for 2018.

The image, titled "Mermaid," was captured off the coast of Japan's Kumejima Island. A panel of judges picked it from among more than 13,000 entries in three categories, which include nature, cities and people.

"It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters," Takahashi told National Geographic. "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."

Takahashi will receive $10,000 [~R137,000] for her winning photo.

See the rest of the winners below, as well as all of the other entries at the contest website.

  • People
    People
    Alessandra Meniconzi/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    First Place: "Tea Culture"

    "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."
  • TATI ITAT/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Second Place: "Leïda and Laëlle — I Will Lift You Up"

    "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 Leïda's face and lifted her head up, showing her where she should look. At this brief moment, I took the photo."
  • MD Tanveer Hassah Rohan/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Third Place: "Challenging Journey"

    "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."
  • Nature
    Nature
    Reiko Takahashi/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    First Place/Grand Prize: "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 its very energetic, large and beautiful tail."
  • hao j./National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Second Place: "Flamingos Taking Off"

    "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 helicopter."
  • Marco Grassi/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Third Place: "Mars"

    "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 a 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."
  • Cities
    Cities
    Hiro Kurashina/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    First Place: "Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki"

    "This is a view of the main street from a tram in Nagasaki on a rainy day. The tram is vintage and yet retrofitted with modern ticketing equipment. No conductor is on board any more — only the driver. It seems to rain a lot in Nagasaki and the rain in Nagasaki was even made into a popular song some years ago."
  • Enrico Pescantini/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Second place: "Geometry Of The Sun"

    "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!"
  • Gaanesh Prasad/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Third Place: "Reflection"

    "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."
  • Gary Cummins/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
    Honorable Mention: "Alone In The Crowds"

    "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."
National Geographic International Photography Contest For Kids