National Geographic has announced the winners of its prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year photo contest for 2017. The grand prize winner is Mexican photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco, who shot this incredible photo titled “The Power of Nature,” which shows lightning striking an erupting volcano.
The photo was captured on December 13th, 2015, outside Colima, Mexico, at the Volcán de Colima, one of the most active volcanoes in Latin America. He did extensive research and patiently monitored the volcano for nearly a month prior to this shot. Velasco was positioned 12km (~7.5mi) away from the crater when he saw and shot the biggest volcanic lightning bolt he’d ever witnessed.
“When I looked on the camera display, all I could do was stare,” Velasco tells Nat Geo. “What I was watching was impossible to conceive, the image showed those amazing forces of nature interacting on a volcano, while the lightning brightened the whole scene. It’s an impossible photograph and my once in a lifetime shot that shows the power of nature.”
Velasco’s striking photo — 1st place in the Nature category — was selected from over 15,000 entries submitted by photographers in 30 countries. His prize includes $2,500 and a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions.
Here are the other top photos from the major categories this year:
2nd Place. Photo and caption by Hiromi Kano/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “To live.” Swans who live vigorous even in mud.
3rd Place. Photo and caption by Tarun Sinha/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles.” This image was captured in Costa Rica when I was traveling from Monteverde to Playa Hermosa. As you cross over this river, you can stop and peer over the edge of the bridge. Below, reside over 35 gigantic crocodiles, relaxing on the muddy banks of the river. I wanted to capture the stark difference between the crocodiles on land and in the water. In the murky waters, the body contours of these beasts remain hidden, and one can only truly see their girth as they emerge from the river.
Honorable Mention 1. Photo and caption by Clane Gessel/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Marble Caves.” The marble caves of Patagoina
Honorable Mention 2. Photo and caption by Yutaka Takafuji/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Forest of the Fairy.” Shooting in the forest This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of Princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.
Honorable Mention 3. Photo and caption by Reynold Riksa Dewantara/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “Mt. Bromo.” Mount Bromo volcano is a small, but active volcanic cinder cone on Java, Indonesia. Early 2016, I happened to be in Mt.Bromo during the increase of seismic activity and triggered the alert status to the second highest.
Honorable Mention 4. Photo and caption by Shane Gross/ National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. “In Your Face.” Caribbean reef sharks are usually shy so I placed my camera on a rock where I know they frequent and used a remote trigger to click away as they came in and bumped my camera around.