National Geographic Announces 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year

National Geographic Announces 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year

This year’s winner of National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year competition has been announced. Here is a look at the winners and the stories behind their stunning photos.

After over 13,000 entries, Reiko Takahashi comes away with this year’s grand prize for her photo of a humpback whale calf’s tail. The image was taken in Japan off of the coast of Kumejima Island. Takahashi, who recently left her day job as an engineer to pursue her passion for underwater photography, was able to capture her winning image in February of this year.

“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 honored and it will be the driving force for my future shooting.” In addition to the prestige of winning, she will also receive $10,000 for earning the grand prize.

The travel competition is broken down into three categories: nature, people, and cities. All images had to be captured within the past two years, and only minor editing was allowed. Prizes of $2,500 were also awarded to the individual category winners.

Below are some of the other top photos from this year's competition.

Nature, 1st Place

"Mermaid" | Image and caption by Reiko Takahashi

"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."

Nature, 2nd Place

"Flamingos Taking Off" | Image and caption by Hao J.

“Thousands of flamingos are seen taking off from the colorful 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.” 

Nature, 3rd Place

"Mars" | Image and caption by Marco Grassi

“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.”

People, 1st Place

"Tea Culture" | Image and caption by Alessandra Meniconzi

“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.”

People, 2nd Place

"Leida and Laelle, I Will Lift You Up" | Image and caption by Tati Itat

“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 Leida’s face and lifted her head up, showing her where she should look. At this brief moment, I took the photo.”

People, 3rd Place

"Challenging Journey" | Image and caption by MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan

“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.”

Cities, 1st Place

"Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu" | Image and caption by Hiro Kurashina

“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. This view presents quite a contrast to busy urban centers in Japan, such as Tokyo and Osaka. The ride on a vintage tram through the relatively quiet main street was a memorable experience during our week-long visit to the historic city of Nagasaki.”

Cities, 2nd Place

"Geometry of the Sun" | Image and caption by Enrico Pescantini

“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. 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 archaeology 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!”

Cities, 3rd Place

"Reflection" | Image and caption by Gaanesh Prasad

“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 that I was in. I immediately opened the window to the maximum permissible amount and clicked a single shot with stretched hands.” 

The full gallery of winning photos can be found at National Geographic’s Travel website.

Levi Keplar's picture

Levi Keplar is a wedding and portrait photographer and educator. He currently owns and operates his studio, Katie & Levi Photography, with his wife and is based in the Wichita, Kansas area. He has a passion for both the technical and the business sides of photography and helping others to grow in those areas as well.

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Oh, so now Fstoppers is just a shill for Big NatGeo. Distrusting! Am I supposed to just goosestep along with whatever THE MAN thinks should be “winners” of a photographer contest?! Wake up, sheeple!

If you post another few dozen articles like this, I swear I’m outta here!



What am I missing? I only gathered your sarcasm from the other replies. The sad part is that I see comments like this far too often. Just curious if there's more to your joke than what I'm seeing (sarcasm and making fun of the outrage over EVERY post).

No you got it. I didn’t dig too deep into the recesses of my wit for this one.

thx for the clarification...and don't knock nailed the tone your were going for

The images are all great, yet they do show the cul de sac not only competitions, but also National Geographic, is in and has been for some time now. I don´t know how many times I´ve seen the winning photo, or the lead article in that respect, to be one of a humpback whale. I don´t know how many more times it´s going to be an image of Dubai. And as for the social reportage photographs, I cannot be sure anymore that they´re authentic or staged.

Imagine a humpback whale on top of the Burj Khalifa. Now that should win!

Now that's hilarious

does it make it photoshopped by adding the "not photoshopped" part to it ? no soup for you !

wow this is so racist. not one image with a white person in it. sure everybody wants to hang a photo of two black girls on their wall. white culture matters. using black girls for contrast against a light wall, disgusting.

White culture is toxic to humans. White culture can spread and destroy symbiotic environments. I had some white culture living in my basement, and I killed it so it wouldn't hurt my children.