National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year has announced their 2017 winner. The prestigious competition brought over 15,000 entries from 30 different countries. This year’s grand prize winner was Sergio Tapiro Velasco of Mexico. His photo, “The Power of Nature,” captures an erupting volcano while it is simultaneous being struck by lightning.
Velasco began photographing Mount Colima, located in Comala, Mexico, in 2002 and for years he has watched it very closely. This particular shot was part of a near month-long stretch in December 2015 of tracking the volcano’s seismic activity. For this shot, he set up his camera approximately 8 miles away, and as it began to erupt he took multiple 8-second exposures of the blast. As the volcano began to produce what he called the largest ash cloud he had ever seen, the moment became spectacular when a lightning bolt hit the top of the volcano, lighting up the entire scene. “When I looked on the camera display, all I could do was stare,” said Velasco. “It is the passion of my life. I love this volcano.”
The competition was divided into three categories: nature, people, and cities. All entries must have been taken within the past two years, and were judged on creativity, quality, and composition. Browsing through the other award-winning photos from the competition reveal an incredible combination of talent and timing, but none greater than Velasco’s once-in-a-lifetime image. Molly Roberts, senior photo editor at National Geographic, had this to say about the photo:
A powerful moment, captured in a beautiful way. Sergio’s image surged to the top of the nature photography category by unanimous consent. Sergio has focused his lens on the volcano for 15 years, and his masterful concentration is apparent in the beautiful image of the erupting volcano.
Velasco’s grand prize winnings include a 10-day trip for 2 to the Galápagos Islands, as well as $2,500 in cash for first place in his category. You can see some of the other prize winners below. To see the full gallery of winners, with photo descriptions, visit National Geographic’s contest website.
[via National Geographic]