49 Phenomenal Photos from National Geographic Traveler Photography Contest

August 25th, 2012 Permalink

National Geographic Traveler magazine reported receiving more than 12,000 entries from 6,615 talented photographers in 152 countries around the globe for its 24th annual traveler photo contest. Photos, like music, are subjective and stir up different emotions for different people. What makes each of us unique also guides us to individually interpret art as it influences us. The winners have been chosen, but it must have been extremely difficult to select the best from four travel photography categories: Sense of Place, Outdoor Scenes, Travel Portraits, and Spontaneous Moments. Over the 14 weeks of the contest, the editors picked their favorites among the many awesome shots and turned them into wallpaper. Here’s a look at few of those winning photos and many more that seemed like winners to us. While National Geographic often runs various photo contests in different categories, did you know that it also has photography guides and free tips like the “Ultimate Field Guide to Photography” to help photographers take better photos? Even if you don’t travel, if you keep your camera handy then you might be ready to snap a spontaneous moment that happens around you. Maybe next year you can enter the traveler’s photo contest? We can’t encourage you strongly enough to browse through the 12,000 traveler photo entries. You can be awed while virtual globe hopping and have a ‘staycation’ if you can’t afford a vacation to travel right now . . . all thanks to National Geographic which is kind enough to share these images with all of us. Congratulations and thank you to all the talented photographers! Keep up the great work and fantastic captures! [49 Phenomenal Photos]

Family Time Outdoor Scenes a mother's love

Family Time: One of the Outdoor Scenes in the National Geographic Travel Photo Contest. The winners have been chosen, but all of these photos seem like winners to us! There’s nothing like a father’s and a mother’s love. “A lion and lioness share some quality time with their cubs.” Location: Governor’s Camp, Kenya. Photo #1 and “quoted” caption by © Brandon Harris/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Merit Winner The Village of Gásadalur

Merit Winner: The Village of Gásadalur. Outdoor scene category. “The village of Gásadalur and the island of Mykines in the background. Until a tunnel was built in 2004, the 16 residents living in Gásadalur had to take a strenuous hike or horseback over the steep 400 meter mountain in order to make it to the other villages. It was a rare sunny day in the Faroe Islands and I had to wait until the clouds rolled in to provide some softer light. I decided to go with a long exposure (1 minute 10 seconds) to illustrate the force of the wind and a serene sea among the isolated islands.” Location: Gásadalur, Faroe Islands. Photo #2 and “quoted” caption by © Ken Bower/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Merit Winner: Lost in Time - An Ancient Forest

Merit Winner: Lost in Time – An Ancient Forest. “Near the city of Morondava, on the West coast of Madagascar lies an ancient forest of Baobab trees. Unique to Madagascar, the endemic species is sacred to the Malagasy people, and rightly so. Walking amongst these giants is like nothing else on this planet. Some of the trees here are over a thousand years old. It is a spiritual place, almost magical.” Location: Avenue du Baobab, Morandava, Madagascar. Photo #3 and “quoted” caption by © Ken Thorne/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Butterfly Sense of Place Winner

The first place winner was Butterfly: Sense of Place Winner. “This image was shot in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. The intimacy of this everyday life moment, shot inside of a family yurt, is in total contrast with the harsh environment these nomadic tribes live in. On the right we notice a television and a sound console. These tribes live weeks away from any village by foot. In spite of being located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan they are equipped with solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones. Ancestral ways of living, with touches of modernity.” Location: Wakhan Corridor Afghanistan. Photo #4 and “quoted” caption by © Cedric Houin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Merit Winner Underwater Surf Fiji

One of seven Merit Winners — Underwater Surf: Sense of Place. “Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean.” Location: Cloudbreak, Fiji, Pacific Ocean. Photo #5 and “quoted” caption by © Lucia Griggi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Third Place Winner Devotees

The Third Place Winner was Devotees: Travel Portrait. “During the Easter holy celebration called ‘Misteri’ in Trapani, the devotees carry the scenes of Christ’s passion on their shoulders all night long. When the day comes they take a break.” Photo #6 and “quoted” caption by © Andrea Guarneri/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Second Place Winner My Balloon: Outdoor Scene

Second Place Winner My Balloon: Outdoor Scene. “H’mong children play with their balloons on a foggy day in Moc Chau, Son La province, Vietnam; photographed January 2012.” Photo #7 and “quoted” caption by © Vo Anh Kiet/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Bagan Bliss Sense of Place

One of Seven Merit Winners — Bagan Bliss: Sense of Place. “More than 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas fill the plains of Bagan. Once the capital of the Pagan Empire, farmers now raise their livestock within the centuries old complex. The best way to see Bagan, apart from a ride on a hot air balloon, is by bicycle. It’s easy to get off the beaten path and live out your wildest Indiana Jones fantasy.” Location: Bagan, Myanmar (Burma). Photo #8 and “quoted” caption by © Peter DeMarco/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Viewers' Choice Winner: Huset aurora

Viewers’ Choice Winner: Huset in Outdoor Scenes category with amazing aurora. “A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finnmark, Norway.” Photo #9 and “quoted” caption by © Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Merit Winner Looking into Another World Japanese Maple in Portland

Merit Winner: Looking into Another World. “This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens.” Photo #10 and “quoted” caption by © Fred Anby/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

What's Up Spontaneous Moments

What’s Up? Spontaneous Moments. “Hundreds of adolescent elephant seals live on the beach eating and learning adult behavior before leaving the island. It is a cacophony of sound and activity until noon, when everyone seems to take a siesta. As I walked by these sleeping seals, one of them popped up his head as if to ask, ‘What’s up’?” Location: South Georgia Island. Photo #11 and “quoted” caption by © Barbara Engel/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Stacked Supercell with Lightning

Stacked Supercell with Lightning: Outdoor Scenes category. “This huge mesocyclone supercell was near the Nebraska / Kansas border on the night of June 22nd, 2012. What a stunning structure!” Location: Nebraska, USA. Photo #12 and “quoted” caption by © Jennifer Brindley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Lava Kiss. Spontaneous hot moment on Kalapana, Hawaii

Lava Kiss. Spontaneous red hot kissing moment erupts on Kalapana, Hawaii. “My husband and I, along with a tour guide and a group of friends, hiked up to what was formerly the Royal Gardens subdivision above Kalapana, Hawaii, where the last standing house was just recently taken over by the active lava flow. While waiting for the rain to pass, we started taking back-lit portraits of each other in front of the lava flow after I set up my camera on the tripod. For the last photo, my husband spontaneously dipped me in a kiss. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment!” Photo #13 and “quoted” caption by © Dallas Nagata White/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The ice cave experience Sense of Place

The ice cave experience: Sense of Place. “Deep, blue and cold. The frightening experience of climbing inside an ice cave on the north face of alpine summit at 3800 m above sea level is very difficult to describe in words. Especially in summer, when all the glacial ice melts making the place for completely new formations. You need to stay focused, pay attention to every single move and commit yourself entirely to this climb. The reward?! An amazing experience of climbing something pure and truly unique.” Location: Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, Haute Savoye, France. Photo #14 and “quoted” caption by © Kamil Tamiola/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Sunrise on Palouse Hills

Sunrise on Palouse Hills: Sense of Place. “The sun’s first rays warm the rolling hills of the Palouse Country in Eastern, Washington.” Location: North of Colfax, Washington. Photo #15 and “quoted” caption by © Randall Roberts/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Fly by Sense of Place Arctic Bay

Fly by: Sense of Place. “This photo was taken on the ice near Arctic Bay last month. As far as we know, it is the highest latitude passenger flight on a hot air balloon ever. It was quite the sight to see a hot air balloon fly between the iceberg columns — it is one iceberg but looks like two.” Location: Arctic Bay, Nunavut Canada. Photo #16 and “quoted” caption by © Michelle Valberg/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Dust Dance -- a spontaneous moment mother nature's fuy in Kansas - National Geo Travel Photo contest submission

Dust Dance — a spontaneous moment in Norton, Kansas. “A tornado tightens up and kicks up a lot of dust as it heads straight for me, roping out and dissipating approximately 1/2 mile from my location less than a minute later. The tornado was on the ground for a total of 4 minutes. To the right of the main tornado another funnel with a debris cloud on the ground can be seen.” Photo #17 and “quoted” caption by © David Mayhew/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Down the Hatch Spontaneous Moment

Down the Hatch! Spontaneous Moment. “American Alligator downing a Florida gar.” Location: Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, FL. Photo #18 and “quoted” caption by © Marina Scarr/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Beneath the Ice Outdoor Scenes Shiretoko, Japan

Beneath the Ice: Outdoor Scenes. “A magical moment as tons of sea ice floats above while we explored the world beneath the waves.” Location: Shiretoko, Japan. Photo #19 and “quoted” caption by © Aaron Wong/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

abandoned Blizka Sense of Place abandoned

Blizka: Sense of Place, abandoned and forgotten. “The Buzludzha Monument on a 1,441-meter-high peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organized socialist movement. It was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse. Approaching and visiting the building in the middle of winter was a real adventure.” Location: Bulgaria. Photo #20 and “quoted” caption by © Thomas Jorion/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Tunnels Beach Outdoor Scenes

Tunnels Beach: Outdoor Scenes. “The protective coral reef that makes Tunnels Beach a great place for beginners to snorkel & scuba dive can be seen from the air. The beach is located on the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i.” Photo #21 and “quoted” caption by © Scott Chapman/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Left Behind Outdoor scene

Left Behind: Outdoor Scene. “It was hard picking out interesting compositions during a flyover, but I thought this one worked out well and gives some idea of the immense numbers of flammingo.” Location: Kenya/Tanzania Lake Natron. Photo #22 and “quoted” caption by © Bryan Pereira/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Lenticular over Mt Rainer Outdoor Scenes

Lenticular over Mt Rainier: Outdoor Scenes. “The wonder of the weather.” Location: Orting Washington. Photo #23 and “quoted” caption by © Rolland Hartstrom/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Flying Through the Arch extreme outdoor scene Moab

Human soaring like an eagle. Flying Through the Arch: Outdoor Scenes. “A paramotor pilot flies through the Corona Arch near Moab, Utah. This daring feat was captured with a GOPRO Hero 2 camera and made possible by the incredible flying machine called the Paramotor.” Location: The Corona Arch, Moab, Utah. Photo #24 and “quoted” caption by © Glenn Tupper/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Gotcha Spontaneous Moments

Gotcha! Spontaneous Moments. “Another day on safari but not an ordinary one. Suddenly my guide starts the ignition and away we go toward the river. He just received word the migration was happening just a short drive away. We arrive at the rivers edge with not an inch to spare between vehicles. Tourists gather to watch one of the natural wonders of the world. We pull a bit further up river. The jeep didn’t even stop. My guide yells to me ‘Take Picture Take Picture!’ Caught by surprise crossing the river just outside of Bataleur camp in the Masai Mara. And believe it or not-he got away!” (African Safari) Location: Masai Mara Kenya. Photo #25 and “quoted” caption by © Irene Nathanson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Sand Spirit Outdoor Scenes

Sand Spirit: Outdoor Scenes. “My son, Skye, named this image because he said that it looked like ghost floating in the air. I agreed with him, and thought it slightly ironic because the Navajo people who have permits to guide this canyon had closed it for the entire day. They closed Upper Antelope Canyon to bless it, and give back to the ancestors. Vern, our guide, informed us that they take from the canyon by profiting from the tour guides, and that sometimes they just need to give back to the spirits in the canyon. For some reason the wind was howling through the canyon the day after the blessing, and I got this shot.” Location: Upper Antelope Canyon. Photo #26 and “quoted” caption by © Matt Walker/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The perfect Waterfall Outdoor Scenes

The Perfect Waterfall: Outdoor Scenes. “Huang Xi – thats how this waterfall is callled. It`s 50 km away from Luang Prabang, Laos. I arrived early in the morning long before the first tourist set a foot into the crystal clear water. So many cascades where the water runs above. But you have to pick the right time in the year. Summertime when the waterlevel is low it`s a good time. A saw a lot of different waterfalls but this one was one of the best.” Photo #27 and “quoted” caption by © Thomas Hagenau/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Moonlit Hohokam Road, Saguaro National Park West, Arizona

Moonlit Hohokam Road, Saguaro National Park West, Arizona: Outdoor Scenes. “After a full day’s hike around Saguaro, I found myself returning in the darkness, having once again miscalculated my daylight allowance. I stepped carefully along the darkening trail, scanning the ground for silhouettes of rattlesnakes and spiny chollas. Luckily, this was a full-moon night, and my path was soon illuminated with a blue-grey haze, criss-crossed with shadows of tall cactus sentinels. I finished my hike by moonlight, and stopped to take this picture on the drive back to my campsite.” Location: Hohokam Road, Saguaro National Park West, Arizona. Photo #28 and “quoted” caption by © Matt Relkin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

This photo was taken from the rocks at Ke'e beach. The wave formed into the shape of a dragon.

Dragon Wave: Outdoor Scenes. “This photo was taken from the rocks at Ke’e beach. The wave formed into the shape of a dragon.” Location: Ke’e Beach, Kauai, HI. Photo #29 and “quoted” caption by © Lace Andersen/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest


Meteora Monastery (Greece, Meteora): Sense of Place. “One of the monasteries in the region of Meteora in Central Greece. These huge monoliths are a very rare geological phenomenon. During the period between 11th and 14th century, on the top of these rocks, the Greek monks built 24 monasteries, in order to be protected from the bandits and pirates.” Photo #30 and “quoted” caption by © Karolos Trivizas/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The Lady Outdoor Scenes

The Lady: Outdoor Scenes. “A close view of the Stirling Falls. It’s just one of the stunning falls edging the fiord of Milford Sound – New Zealand. At the right side the rocks look like a gentle lady clothed by a white shawl.” Location: Milford Sound – New Zealand. Photo #31 and “quoted” caption by © Roberto Bettacchi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Reality Travel Portrait homeless beggar

Reality: Travel Portrait. Food for thought ’cause that’s all some homeless folks have. “I spotted this old beggar at the entrance of the Gadaladeniya Temple, Pilimathalawa, Kandy, Sri Lanka. He was so quiet, seated on ground very still and was staring at the temple with his deep eyes. Wrinkles on his face and his deep eyes says a story of a life.” Location: Gadaladeniya Temple, Pilimathalawa, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Photo #32 and “quoted” caption by © Sachi Wickramage/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Fairy Tale Circles from above Outdoor Scenes

Fairy Tale Circles from above: Outdoor Scenes. “What a magic moment on our honeymoon trip – sunrise in the namibian desert and all these fairy tale circles from a ballon’s perspective. Wow!” Location: Namib desert, Namibia. Photo #33 and “quoted” caption by © Bruno Kaeslin-Kuemmelberg/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Popocatepetl Volcano Explosion Spontaneous Moment

Popocatepetl Volcano Explosion: Spontaneous Moment. “Last year I was climbing for the 18th time the Iztaccíhuatl volcano (5287 masl), it was Sunday 20th November 2011 and it was my last weekend living in Mexico before I left my country because of a new job. I was climbing with some of my best friends and it was a kind of farewell. We were at the south summit when suddenly the terrain vibrated and we heard a roar. The result was this image and one of the most amazing memories I’ll have for the rest of my life.” Location: Parque Nacional Izta-Popo, Mexico Photo #33 and “quoted” caption by © Miguel Valencia Villaseñor/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Rio de Janeiro Sense of Place

Rio de Janeiro: Sense of Place. “Rio de Janeiro, Cidade Maravilhosa. After spending two months in this beautiful city, with carioca people, samba, and lots of caipirinha, finally there was a perfect day to go up to Sugarloaf mountain and take this picture.” Location: Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Photo #34 and “quoted” caption by © Ignazio Sciacca/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The Angel's Share extreme outdoor scene

The Angel’s Share: rock climbing Outdoor Scene. “Visiting Italian climber Michele Caminati climbs at sunset in the Peak District National Park on the aptly named ‘Angel’s Share’ route. Originally the climb was far more dangerous but with the introduction of bouldering mats (crash pads used to break the climbers fall), the climber can now focus purely on the technical difficulty of the climb. It is rumoured that the first ascentionist Johnny Dawes used a combination of tree branches and car seats in order to break his fall.” Location: Black Rocks, Matlock, Derbyshire, England. Photo #35 and “quoted” caption by © Nick Brown/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Under the ice

Under the ice: extreme diving Outdoor Scene. “When diving under the 50cm thick ice, all you see is green around you and a ray of white from the hole you came in through… An incredible out of this world feeling. You realize how small and fragile you are compared to the power of nature.” Location: White sea, Russia. Photo #36 and “quoted” caption by © dafna ben nun/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Dreaming of catching the big one

Dreaming of catching the big one: Sense of Place. “This pic is of a seal sun bathing amongst quite a few marine iguanas. Not a care in the world. Possibly dreaming of catching the big one!” Location: Galapagos islands. Photo #37 and “quoted” caption by © Matthew Colucci/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Harlequin shrimp Spontaneous Moment

Harlequin shrimp: Spontaneous Moment. “It is about conservation and pollution…I found this creature under the water-in Indonesia, Lembeh strait, between many pieces of garbage.” Photo #38 and “quoted” caption by © Girts Kravalis/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Dallol volcano Spontaneous Moment

Dallol volcano: Spontaneous Moment. “During the expedition to Dallol volcano, we were constantly accompanied by Ethiopian soldiers because of the proximity to the border with Eritrea.” Location: Ethiopia, Danakil desert, East rift Depression. Photo #39 and “quoted” caption by © Michel Hanse/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Ciucas Mountains Outdoor Scenes Carpathians of Romania

Ciucas Mountains: Outdoor Scenes. “A beautiful view of the Ciucas Mountains in the Curvature Carpathians of Romania.” Photo #40 and “quoted” caption by © Szallo Laszlo/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Ship in the Distance Outdoor Scenes

Ship in the Distance: Outdoor Scenes. “A ship approaches in the Bering Sea. They are coming to unload their catch of pollock to the mothership. The cold air steams in the even colder air. Seagulls and Northern Fulmars follow behind the ships while they process the fish.” Location: Bering Sea, Alaska. Photo #41 and “quoted” caption by © Jennifer Padilla/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Great Sand Dunes Travel Portraits

Great Sand Dunes: Travel Portraits. “Walking on the dunes looking towards I could appreciate how small we are compared to the dunes. The dunes seems neverending while you walk.” Location: Great Sand Dunes NP. Photo #42 and “quoted” caption by © Matteo Berte/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Burj Khalifa Sense of Place

Burj Khalifa: Sense of Place. “At 829.84m (2,723 ft), the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. However, plans are underway to construct an even higher building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. If completed, that structure will be the first in the world to surpass the 1km (3,280ft) mark.” Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo #43 and “quoted” caption by © Sandra Leduc/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Great Light Shark Spontaneous Moments

Great Light Shark: Spontaneous Moments. “A couple of bull sharks come close to investigate the divers. At 75ft the conditions are perfect, great light, no drift, and both of the sharks posing for the perfect shot.” Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo #44 and “quoted” caption by © Jorge Cervera Hauser/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Mt Assiniboine on an Autumn Morning Outdoor Scenes

Mt Assiniboine on an Autumn Morning: Outdoor Scenes. “Mount Assiniboine & Sunburst Peak on a beautiful autumn morning.” Location: British Columbia, Canada. Photo #45 and “quoted” caption by © Henry Liu/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Flower Island of the Azores Outdoor Scenes

Flower Island of the Azores: Outdoor Scenes. “Traveling from Bermuda to Europe, the first grass, trees and cows sailors see after days of just Atlantic Ocean is the island of Flores. Overlooking the small town Fajãzinha, on the right one of at least 20 waterfalls of Ribeira Grande that flow into see here. On the horizon Fajã Grande, Europe’s westernmost village. 4000 inhabitants life very remote, visited by a few tourist per year only. Flores and the smaller Corvo are part of the North American tectonic plate, unlike all other Azorean islands which sit on the European plate. Flores on UNESCO’s list of World Network of Biosphere Reserves.” Location: Fajãzinha, Flores, Azores, Portugal. Photo #46 and “quoted” caption by © Sybrand Treffers/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Hiking in Heaven

Hiking in Heaven: Outdoor Scene. “While backpacking in Glaciares National Park in Argentina Patagonia the trail included numerous man-made trail improvements. While the famed Patagonia wind kept blowing rain and snow I tried to snap off a few photos before drops could find my lens glass.” Photo #47 and “quoted” caption by © Dan Gindling/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Man vs Nature Outdoor Scenes Australia

Man vs Nature: Outdoor Scenes. “A balmy 41 degree day and ominous storm clouds promised a little more excitement than normal at Perth’s Australia Day celebrations. The crowd was more impressed with the lightning than the million dollar fireworks and this photo shows why. In the battle for awe inspiring sky shows…. nature wins, hands down.” Location: Perth, Western Australia, Australia. Photo #48 and “quoted” caption by © Matthew Titmanis/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

A snapshot from mountaineer's life Sense of Place

A snapshot from mountaineer‘s life: Sense of Place. “Have you ever wondered how does a mountaineer’s day start? I will give you a hint: you wake up at 3 am, set the stove, wake up your partner, pretend it is warm, quickly consume a high-calorie breakfast, watch your friends slowly ascending the icy slopes of your dream summit with their tiny head torches glimmering against perfectly blue ice, and hope for the good weather. One would ask: why all this trouble? The answer is easy: for the love of the adventure and the unknown.” Location: Chamonix, Haute Savoye, France. Photo #49 and “quoted” caption by © Kamil Tamiola/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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