Each year National Geographic opens its creative doors to highlight talented photographers from around the world through the National Geographic Travel Photo Contest and similar competitions. The travel photo contest challenges contenders to “help us explore and experience our world through your travels” – and this year’s images rose to the occasion. The entry period for this years contest closed noon ET on May 3 and every submission selected shows breathtaking snapshots of the awe-inspiring world we live in.
Broken down into three categories nature, cities, and people – these images “tell the story of a place, show us the natural world, or share visions of people from around the globe.” Scroll down to see the National Geographic editors’ favorites thus far and experience the world seen through these unique lenses. You can check their site May 13-17 to vote for the People’s Choice winning photos. Final winners will be announced in June.
The grand prize winner will receive $7,500. Their winning image will be featured on the @natgeotravel Instagram account. Individual category prizes include: First place winners will receive $2,500, second place winners will receive $1,500, third place winners will receive $750.
#1 Motherhood, Sonalini Khetrapal, Nature
We were lucky to find new born lion cubs in the plains of Masai Mara, Kenya. The mother is extremely protective of the cub and was often seen hiding them behind the bush and away from predators. In this instance, as the cub unknowingly walked very close to the side of a cliff, the mother lioness quickly tried to grab it from its head to protect it from falling over. It looks dangerous, but it is an endearing way for the lioness to pick up the cub and place it back to safety.
#2 Hi-Five Polar Bear Cubs, Michelle Theall,nature
I rode an icebreaker along the Beaufort Sea in Kaktovik, Alaska to capture these two cubs playing in the snow. I was fortunate to grab this high-five moment, among so many other favorites. It’s difficult to photograph the bears in snow at eye level on the ice and this close, because once the water freezes, the season is over for small skiffs. If you go to early, you only capture polar bears on dirt.
#3 Close Up Of The Dalmatian Pelican, Damilice Mansur, Nature
On my recent trip to Lake Kerkini, Greece, I got up close and personal with the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelicans. Being the largest of the Pelicans in the world, these birds are amazing to photograph, especially during winter when their breeding reddish/orange colors brighten up the shot
#4 Let The Fire Fall, Daniel Yee, Nature
The famous “Firefall” of Yosemite National Park is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the Horsetail Falls waterfall glows orange due to the angle of sunlight hitting the water, and will only occur when certain time and weather conditions are met. Some firefalls may glow a pale yellow, while others may glow like burning fire. I was lucky to witness the latter combined with strong winds, creating a spectacular sight to see. I went the extra mile up a snowy mountain to get the eye level shot.
#5 Leviathan, Eric Seidner, People
Xiapu is a giant mudflat in Fujian, China. Most famous for a battalion of bamboo poles stretching to the horizon and thrust into the mud to hang and dry seaweed, the area has preserved traditional ways of coastal living. After having visited an ancient forest we got lost on the country roads back towards the highway. I happened to look out the passenger window and see these giant nets floating in the breeze like tentacles clawing at the boatman. I parked, slid down a muddy bank and took picture.
#6 Glitz And Grit, Gonçalo Lobo Pinheiro, Cities
Rundown neighborhoods contrast with the glitzy Grand Lisboa hotel on Macau’s skyline
#7 Tip Of The Iceberg, David Edgar, Nature
I took this photo of an adolescent humpback whale in the South Pacific, several miles off the coast of Tongatapu, Tonga. I captured this as a split-shot with half my dome port submerged, and the other above the surface. This playful whale came right up to me and looked directly into my eyes as the tip of his rostrum glistened in the afternoon sun. Looking closely, you can see Loni, our expert skipper, lining up a surface shot of this incredible encounter from the roof of our dive boat.
#8 Pachyderm Afire, Greg Davison, Nature
The mama elephant did not like our jeep getting so close, so she kicked up some bushveld dirt at sunset.
#9 Lava Under Plumes Of Smoke, Michael Perea, Nature
Looking down at the Kilauea eruption from Fissure 8, as it enters the ocean, and the plume of smoke opens up, revealing the newly created island underneath.
#10 Caught In The Act, Michelle Theall, Nature
On safari in the Mara, these Maasai men were going to perform a morning dance for us, but before they did, I saw this man taking a selfie with his smartphone. It seems technology invades every space of our world.