“Mermaid” by Reiko Takahashi / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Grand Prize Winner and 1st place Nature. “I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day of 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.”
The winning photo in National Geographic’s 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year is a quiet shot of a humpback whale calf, swimming in the deep blue waters of Japan’s Kumejima island.
After scouring more than 13,000 submissions, National Geographic‘s panel of experts has chosen the Travel Photographer of the Year for 2018. Meet Reiko Takashi, whose astonishing underwater photo of a humpback whale calf, took home this year’s prize of $10,000 USD.
The 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year winner proves that pursuing your passion can bring great rewards. Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi left her job as a semiconductor engineer last year to follow her dream of becoming an underwater photographer.
In an interview with National Geographic, the Japanese photographer explained what inspired her to pursue undersea photography full time and how that brought her to the winning image.
“I felt that life was finite and I wanted to use time for what I really love,” she told National Geographic. For her, that meant meticulously studying behaviors of ocean life, and spending what time she could to document them in their natural habitat. Her renewed dedication to photography paid off in February 2018, when she came across a mother whale and calf while snorkeling.
Below are some of the other highlights of this year’s contest.
“Geometry of the Sun” by Enrico Pescantini / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 2nd place Cities. “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!”
“Leida and Laëlle – I Will Life You Up” by Tati Itat / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 2nd place People. “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.”
“Flamingos Taking Off” by hao j. / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 2nd place Nature. “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.”
“Reflection” by Gaanesh Prasad / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 3rd place Cities. “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.”
“Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Japan” by Hiro Kurashina / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 1st place Cities. “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.”
“Alone in the Crowd” by Gary Cummins / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Honorable mention Cities. “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.”
“Tea Culture” by Alessandra Meniconzi / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 1st place People. “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.”
“Challenging Journey” by MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 3rd place People. “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.”
“Mars” by Marco Grassi / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. 3rd place Nature. “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.”
Photo by Niklas Weber/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. “When we arrived at the Río Grande de Tarcoles in Costa Rica, I saw a fantastic formation of the sharp-mouthed crocodiles. I couldn’t help myself, and I started my drone and began to photograph them from the air. My heart was beating like crazy because I was incredibly excited, on the one hand I was a bit scared for the drone, on the other hand I was so happy about the unique moment”.
“Fog Taking Over a Town During Sunset” by Ricky Batista/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. “I decided to take a cross-country trip by myself, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had. Seeing our country and how much it has to offer was magical. This was Sausalito, Calif., being overwhelmed by fog. It was amazing to watch from above. This was taken with a drone”.
“The Ultimate Pool Party” by Raja Iliya/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Raja Iliya captures the idyllic scene of a summer pool party in Koh Samui, Thailand.
“Ipanema Beach” by M. Raccichni/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. M. Raccichni captures the movement at Ipanema Beach in Brazil.
“The Invasion” by Paul Tsui/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. A quiet street in Macau. Modernization around is quickly changing the city, as documented by Paul Tsui.
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