National Geographic Reveals The Year's Best Travel Photos

Each year, the National Geographic organizes a contest to hand out its prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year awards. The results for 2017 have just been announced and the well-deserved winner of this year's competition is Mexican photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco.

Beating 15,000 other contestants hailing from 30 countries, the photographer wowed the judges with his stunning image of a volcano erupting and being struck by lightning simultaneously. 

The Power of Nature. (Photo: Sergio Tapiro Velasco/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

Entitled "The Power of Nature", the photo was taken back on December 13, 2015, in Colima, Mexico. A great deal of work went into capturing just the right moment, with the photographer thoroughly researching his subject and surveying the volcano's activity for about a month before the shot was taken. 

Approximately 12 kilometers from the volcano at the time of the eruption, Sergio Tapiro Velasco explained the thrilling moment to the magazine: 

"I was in the town of Comala when I suddenly saw incandescence above the volcano's crater and started shooting. Seconds later, a powerful volcanic explosion expelled a cloud of ash particles and a massive lightning bolt illuminated most of the dark scene. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life."

Awarded the grand prize of $2,500 and a free trip, the photographer will now be jetting off to the Galapagos Islands, where we hope he can take a few snaps with even half the force of this one.

Check out the rest of the finalists just below:

Cities

'Levels of Reading', first prize, Cities. Natural light fills the modern interior of the city library in Stuttgart, Germany. With its stark white floors, open spaces, and large windows, it provides a unique atmosphere to broaden your knowledge. (Photo: Norbert Fritz/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Walled City #08', second prize, Cities. An aerial view of Whampoa Garden, Hong Kong, reveals its densely packed buildings. I drew inspiration from the Kowloon Walled City—once the densest place on Earth–which was demolished nearly three decades ago. Hundreds of houses were stacked on top of each other and there was very little open space. The Kowloon Walled City may be gone, but its legacy remains. It exists in Hong Kong’s modern architecture and stacked apartments, which have been built to accommodate the masses. (Photo: Andy Yeung/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year.)

'Henningsvaer Football Field', third prize, Cities. In Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the Henningsvær football field is considered one of the most amazing in Europe. This photo was taken during a sailing trip from Tromsø to the Lofoten Archipelago. After a week of cold and rainy weather, the sky finally cleared up enough to fly my drone. We were absolutely astonished to learn that the entire football field is heated, so after lying down and soaking in the warmth, I launched my drone and took this photo from a height of about 390 feet (120 meters). (Photo: Misha De-Stroyev/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Colorful Apartments', honorable mention, Cities. This building is a 20-minute drive from my office—it's a functioning apartment complex in Gifu Prefecture, Japan, where people live. The modern style of the building is a strange contrast to my sleepy country town, and for a long time I couldn’t quite capture its character. The woman dressed in red was perfectly consonant with the mood of this image. Without her, I couldn’t have made this image. (Photo: Tetsuya Hashimoto/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

"Al Ain', honorable mention, Cities. New buildings rise from the desert floor near Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Andrzej Bochenski / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

Nature

'To Live', second prize, Nature. Swans glide over the water in Kabukurinuma, Osaki, Japan, a protected wetland. Since many of Japan’s wetlands have been lost, this area has become a rare wintering place for birds and may be a last paradise for them. I was particularly impressed by the swans, and careful not to disturb them when taking pictures. I took into account wind direction and shutter speed to capture the strength and elegance of their flapping wings. (Photo: Hiromi Kano/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles', third prize, Nature. American crocodiles gather along the bank of the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica. When our guide told us there would be 30 to 40 crocodiles in the river, we thought he was exaggerating. We walked along a narrow bridge and peered over the waist-high railing, where several crocodiles were moving in and out of the water. I wanted to capture the stark contrast between their partially covered bodies in the river versus their enormous size while on full display. (Photo: Tarun Sinha /National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Marble Caves', honorable mention, Nature. My dad and I traveled to Patagonia earlier this year, and we wanted to see something off the beaten path. After a 10-hour drive and traversing a long, dirt trail, we finally came upon the marble caves. We chartered a boat to take us closer, and I waited for the perfect light to capture these intricate blue swirls. The extra effort it took to reach the caves was worth it. (Photo: Clane Gessel/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Forest of the Fairy' honorable mention, Nature. In a remote village in the Tamba region of Japan, twinkling fireflies light up the Forest of the Gods on a summer evening. The fireflies carpet a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people, creating a magical atmosphere. (Photo: Yutaka Takafuji/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Mt Bromo', honorable mention, Nature. Mount Bromo is a small but active volcano on East Java, Indonesia. On January 17, 2016, I was nearby when an increase in seismic activity triggered an alert. This photo was taken from the patio of a local hotel, where I was waiting with my camera. Just as the volcano erupted, the ashes seemed to glow with light. This photo is very special to me—a rare eruption of Mount Bromo with excellent lighting. (Photo: Reynold Riksa Dewantara/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

People

'Worship', first prize, People. Beams of light filter through a historic building in Konya, Turkey, where a whirling dervish performs an ecstatic dance. The ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent towards truth and love, and represents the constant evolution of all living things. For example, the Earth itself is in a state of rotation as well as the atoms that make up everything on it. (Photo: F. Dilek Uyar/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Interesting Moment', second prize, People. A crowd of spectators stands in front of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild, at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As I observed the scene I laughed when I realized that the people in the painting also appear to be curiously watching the visitors. I managed to take two shots before the audience moved away—one is out of focus, but this one was perfect. (Photo: Julius Y./National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Under the wave', third place, People. I recently traveled to Tavarua, Fiji, with professional surfer Donavon Frankenreiter and captured this image at Cloudbreak. The usual surf shots have all been done, so we decided to get creative and looked for new angles and perspectives. (Photo: Rodney Bursiel/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'Bridging Generation', honorable mention, People. A father and son dressed in traditional white clothing sit at a mosque in New Delhi, India, under a blue sky on Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This photo shows the beautiful bond between two generations. (Photo: Jobit George/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

'The Man's Stare', honorable mention, People. A train coming from Dhaka pauses at Tongi Railway Station in Gazipur, Bangladesh, on a rainy morning. Suddenly I saw a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the misty window, and next to him a black umbrella shielded passengers from the rain. Together, it created a dreamy moment. (Photo: Moin Ahmed/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year)

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