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The Winners of the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

A photograph of a horseman in Inner Mongolia has earned Anthony Lau of Hong Kong the prestigious title of 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. Lau, whose photo was selected from thousands of entries, also wins a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.


Lau took the photo, titled “Winter Horseman,” in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China after an early morning hike. He and his travel companions were driving back to their hotel for breakfast when they came across a team of riders showing off their skills.

First-place category winners received a Sony a6300 camera supplied by B&H Photo, second-place winners received National Geographic’s The Art of Travel Photography course on DVD and third-place winners received a National Geographic book. All winners received a subscription to National Geographic Traveler magazine. The winning photos may be viewed online on the National Geographic Travel website.

Grand Prize
Winter Horseman – Anthony Lau

The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist.

“The snow was getting heavier, the wind was getting stronger, the morning snow was getting thinner and the light was moving away from its optimal position,” Lau said. “I knew I only had a couple of shots to get the best out of this encounter. With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses.”

Photo and caption by Anthony Lau / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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Nature First Place
Wherever you go, I will follow you!! – Hiroki Inoue

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.

Photo and caption by Hiroki Inoue / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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Cities First Place
Ben Youssef – Takashi Nakagawa

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.

Photo and caption by Takashi Nakagawa / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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Nature Second Place
Double trapping – Massimiliano Bencivenni

Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal… when I downloaded the CF did not want to believe it …. The nature knows we always give magnificent events but sometimes extraordinary.

Photo and caption by Massimiliano Bencivenni / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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People Second Place
Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi – Yasmin Mund

I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am, I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. 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.

Photo and caption by Yasmin Mund / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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Cities Second Place
Silenced – Wing Ka H

This photo was taken on my last trip to Guangzhou, China. This place is a school dormitories of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of them were taking a break. After the lunch time, they need to go back to study. The dormitories were smelly and messy.

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Nature Third Place
Lagunas Baltinache (Atacama Desert) – Victor Lima

The Baltinache Ponds, also called Hidden Ponds are a set of seven salt ponds located in the area of the Salt Cordillera, near San Pedro de Atacama, in the second region of northern Chile, in the Atacama desert. After much research, I believe to be the first photographer to publish night photos of this place, but it is still necessary to confirm this information. Tech Details: Photography done in one shot. Foreground was illuminated by the moonlight.

Photo and caption by Victor Lima / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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People Third Place
Remote life at -21 degree – Mattia Passarini

Kinnaura tribal old women in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying big log back home to warm up her house.

Photo and caption by Mattia Passarini / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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Cities Third Place
Celestial Reverie – Jeremy Tan

Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia. 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. While many of its old neighbourhoods fell into neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s, UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2008 sparked a transformation, and today, they are all part of a vibrant tourist destination.

Photo and caption by Jeremy Tan / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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People Honorable Mention
Muscle Beach Gym – Dotan Saguy

A weightlifter lifts a barbell loaded with heavy plates while a bodybuilder performs an aerial handstand at the Muscle Beach Gym in Venice Beach, CA.

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Cities Honorable Mention
Divide – Kathleen Dolmatch

In the helicopter looking south on Central Park West – dividing the architecture and Central Park, on November 5th 2014, a day before my 27th birthday. The flight was my birthday gift.

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Nature Honorable Mention
Bears on a Berg – John Rollins

This photo was taken far out on the sea ice in the Davis Straight off the coast of Baffin Island. This mother polar bear and her yearling are perched atop a huge snow covered iceberg that got “socked in” when the ocean froze over for the winter. 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.

Photo and caption by John Rollins / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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