National Geographic has brought the furthest reaches of the world to our doorstep for over 120 years. From the peaks of the Himalayas to the depths of the ocean, the war-torn streets to the hidden beauties of the jungle, their photographers capture breathtaking sights we would never experience otherwise. Each year, they hold a contest for images that capture the raw wonder that our world holds. Here are the winners for 2016, so grab a joint and prepare to have your mind blown at what these cameras captured.
1. “Winter Horseman”
Anthony Lau captured this haunting moment deep in Mongolia to earn the Grand Prize. Despite temperatures of minus twenty or more, horsemen tend their herds. Due to the blistering cold, Lau had a hard time getting out of the car to take the photo.
When I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills and commanding the steed from a distance. I quickly grabbed my telephoto lens and captured the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist.
2. Wherever You Go, I Will Follow
Hiroki Inoue caught these two foxes frolicking in Japan‘s winter wonderland, grabbing first place in the “Nature” category.
Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. “Wherever you go, I will follow you” the voice says.
3. Ben Youssef
Takashi Nakagawa managed to snag this surreal stillness in Morocco. It won him first place in the “Cities” category.
Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time.
4. Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi
“People” second place winner Yasmin Mund traveled to India and found this scene. Despite the heat, families find ways to stay cool together. She arrived just before dawn and consequently climbed the steps of her guest house to see the sunrise.
As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families – mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sister and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was mid summer in Varanasi and sleeping sans AC was difficult.
5. Double Trapping
Massimiliano Bencivenni caught this in the Brazilian Pantanal along the Rio Negrinho, earning second place in the “Nature” category.
I realized that the river, at certain points of the loops, created places where there were many yacare caimans. I saw a yacare sink suddenly, and I immediately looked for the best location to photograph when it resurfaced. The whole thing lasted only a fraction of a moment.
“Cities” second place winner Wing Ka H. wrote:
This photo was taken on my last trip to Guangzhou, China. This place is the school dormitories of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of them were taking a break. After lunchtime, they needed to go back to study.
7. Remote Life
Mattia Passarini won third place in the “People” category. An elderly Kinnaura tribal woman carries a log for firewood back to her home in the Himachal Pradesh, in India.
8. Lagunas Baltinache
“Nature” third place winner Victor Lima traveled to Chile for this stunning scenery.
I embarked alone on this adventure to find images not yet published of the most arid desert in the world and its contrasts. Despite the Atacama Desert being one of the best places on the planet to do night photography, in my prior research I discovered that there were not many night photos in the main tourist destinations there.
9. Celestial Reverie
Jeremy Tan won third place in “Cities” with this rare moment.
Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia, during a thunderstorm. It is symbolic of the rejuvenation that the city, famous for a unique blend of centuries-old buildings and modern structures, has enjoyed in recent years.
10. Muscle Beach Gym
The “People” honorable mention by Dotan Saguy captures the scene of Muscle Beach in the US. Since its early days, heavy duty bodybuilders including Schwarzenegger himself have flocked to the spot to hit the bench on the beach.
11. Bears on a Berg
John Rollins earned honorable mention in the “Nature” category with this stark photo.
To me, the relative smallness of these large creatures when compared to the immensity of the iceberg in the photo represents the precariousness of the polar bear’s reliance on the sea and sea ice for its existence.
Kathleen Dolmatch perched in a doorless helicopter over Central Park in New York City to capture this. A rather profound dichotomy between the world of Man and the beauty of nature, it earned her honorable mention in “Cities”.