National Geographic just announced the 2015 winners for its prestigious photo contest. Over 13,000 entries were received from around the world, and just 13 photos were chosen from that number for special recognition.
The grand prize winner this year was photographer James Smart of Melbourne, Australia, who won $10,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. for the photo above, titled “DIRT.”
The caption reads: “Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado.” Smart spent 15 days chasing storms with his brother and some friends, and on the last day he managed to shoot the stunning shot above.
“The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland,” Smart says. “It wasn’t moving very fast, so we kept getting closer as it tracked next to the home as you can see in the image.”
“Driving down a Colorado dirt road, we were lucky enough to be on the west of the tornado, so it was front lit. This really helped to get great detail out of the image and the perfect light for the sky and foreground.”
Here are the other 12 winning photos from this year’s contest:
Places Winner: “Asteroid”
On the occasion of the preparation of a report on Ríotinto from the air, I decided to include phosphogypsum ponds located in the marshes of red and whose radioactive discharges has destroyed part of the marsh. As an environmental photojournalist had to tell this story and report it but had to do with an image that by itself attract attention of the viewer. I discovered this on a low-flying training that caught my attention for its resemblance to the impact of an asteroid on its green waters.
Location: Cardeñas, Andalusia, Spain
People Winner: “At The Play Ground”
Bwengye lives in a slum called Kamwokya in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. He cherishes his bicycle more than anything else. He brings it to this playground in the slum every evening where he watches kids playing soccer.
Location: Kampala, Central Region, Uganda
Honorable Mention: “Hill of Crosses”
There are many hundreds of thousands of crosses, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression. Standing upon a small hill is the place where many spirits of the dead lives. When I visited this place, a girl in the pink dress ran through as if she brought the peace, hope, love.
Location: Šiauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania
Honorable Mention: “From Generation to Generation”
This photo was taken during Chinese New Year’s Eve of 2015 in Taiwan. While paying respects to our ancestors, I noticed how the light was coming into the room and saw the passing of incense sticks to each of our family members after sending our prayers. The photo is symbolic since the passing of incense sticks resembles and knowledge and wisdom passed down from generation to generation.
Honorable Mention: “Overlooking Iraq from Iran”
There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open.
Location: Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran
Honorable Mention: “Orangutan in The Rain”
I was taking pictures of some Orangutans in Bali and then it started to rain. Just before I put my camera away, I saw this Orangutan took a taro leaf and put it on top on his head to protect himself from the rain! I immediately used my DSLR and telephoto lens to preserve this spontaneous magic moment.
Location: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Honorable Mention: “Changing Shifts”
In Masai Mara, the cubs of the famous cheetah called Malaika became young enough to start hunting. They moved from one hill to another scanning the lands. Here, they seemed to change shifts as one cheetah leaves the hill while the other takes her place.
Location: Masai Mara, Rift Valley, Kenya
Honorable Mention: “Colorful chaos”
White-fronted Bee-eaters getting together on a bough before going to sleep to their burrows, scraped into a sand wall. I was working on this theme for 18 days, as there were only 5-10 minutes a day, when the light conditions were appropriate, 90% of my trying did not succeed. I used flash lights to light only the ones sitting on the branch, and not to the others, flying above. When in the right angle, the backlight generated rainbow colouring through the wings of the flying birds.
Location: Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Honorable Mention: “Acrobat of the Air”
A flocks of Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus), mountain-dwelling birds, performs acrobatic displays in the air. I was able, during a windy day, to immortalize their impressive flight skills.
Honorable Mention: “Nothing to Declare”
Taiwan – In the countryside, the funerals are usually accompanied by local chapels. When a family member dies, their body is kept in the house, or in a tent built specifically for this purpose. After a set period of time, the deceased, accompanied by a funeral procession is buried.
Location: Douliu, Taiwan, Taiwan
Honorable Mention: “The Game”
The game (Altinho) in Ipanema – Rio de Janeiro
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Honorable Mention: “Surrealist painting in nature”
As the largest mountain ranges in Central Asia, Tian-shan (‘sky-mountain’ in Chinese), has one of the best collections of natural landscapes in the world and is seen by many as a paradise for outdoor adventures. Thanks to the richness of sediments compounded with the power of erosion by rivers flowing down the mountains, the north face of Tian-shan is carved into stunning plateaus and colorful canyons hundreds of meters deep, resulting in this surrealist painting in nature.