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Lovers of travel and photography, be prepared to burn with envy. The winners of the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest have just been revealed, showcasing some of the most incredible scenes of wildlife, natural wonder, and culture found on our strange little planet.
The grand prize was taken home by Reiko Takahashi for her tail-side photograph (above) of a humpback whale calf cruising the seas off Japan’s Kumejima Island, aptly titled “Mermaid.” Along with the title and glory, Reiko also pocketed a $10,000 prize. Not bad, especially considering she recently left her office job to pursue her passion for underwater photography.
“It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters,” explained Reiko. “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.”
Along with the grand prize, top photos were selected in each of the three categories. Reiko was the winner in the Nature category, while Hiro Kurashina of Japan won the “Cities” category for his photo titled “Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu”, and Alessandra Meniconzi of Switzerland swept the honors of the “People” category for her image “Tea Culture.” They both also took home a $2,500 prize.
You can check out a selection of the winners and runner-ups. Be sure to read the photographs captions for further insights, all of which are written by the photographer themselves.