PHLEARN MagazineThe Incredible Photos from Nat Geo’s Travel Photographer of The Year 2017

The Incredible Photos from Nat Geo’s Travel Photographer of The Year 2017

With over 15,000 entries submitted, 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year competition never ceases to amaze. This year’s winner, Sergio Tapiro Velasco, took a photo of the erupting volcano, Volcán de Colima, miraculously capturing a giant flash of lighting. The resulting image, featured above, seems impossible without Photoshop, but was straight out of his camera.

“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.”

Sergio will now get the Grand Prize of a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands and $2,500 spending cash!

The entire collection of winners is full of images where years of training and timing all came together for a perfect moment. Covering three categories (Nature, Cities, and People), here are all the winners.


2nd Prize in Nature Category. “To live”

© Hiromi Kano | Location: OINUKAKE, MIYAGI, JAPAN

“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.”

3rd Prize in Nature Category. “Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles”


“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 verses their enormous size while on full display.”

Honorable Mention in Nature Category. “Marble Caves”


“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.”

Honorable Mention in Nature Category. “Forest of the Fairy”

© Yutaka Takafuji | Location: VILLAGE, TAMBA REGION, JAPAN

“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.”

Honorable Mention in Nature Category. “Mt. Bromo”

© Reynold Dewantara | Location: MT BROMO, EAST JAVA, INDONESIA

“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.”

Honorable Mention in Nature Category. “In Your Face”


“The Gardens of the Queen is a remote marine area south of Cuba, and has been protected since the 1960s. Predators, like these Caribbean reef sharks, are abundant—a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Large and fully-protected marine areas like this may be our best chance in the fight to save our fragile oceans. To get this image I placed my camera on a rock where I knew the sharks frequent, and backed away so I wouldn’t frighten them. I used a remote to take pictures while the sharks bumped my camera.”


Winner, People Category. “Workship”

© F. Dilek Uyar | Location: KONYA, KONYA, TURKEY

“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 revolution 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.”

2nd Place in the People Category. “Interesting Moment”


“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.”

3rd Place in the People Category. “Under the Wave”

© Rodney Bursiel | Location: CLOUDBREAK, TAVARUA, FIJI

“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.”

Honorable Mention, People Category. “Bridging Generation”

© Jobit George | Location: NEW DELHI, NCT, INDIA

“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.”

Honorable Mention, People Category. “The Man’s Stare”

© Moin Ahmed | Location: GAZIPUR, BANGLADESH

“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.”



Winner, Cities Category. “Levels of Reading”

© Norbert Fritz | Location: LIBRARY, STUTTGART, GERMANY

“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.”

2nd Place, Cities Category. “Walled City #08”

© Andy Yeung | Location: WHAMPOA GARDEN, HONG KONG

“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.”

3rd Place, Cities Category. “Henningsvaer Football Field”

© Misha De-Stroyev | Location: HENNINGSVÆR, NORDLAND, NORWAY

“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).”

Honorable Mention, Cities Category. “Colorful Apartment”

© Tetsuya Hashimoto | Location: KITAGATA, GIFU, JAPAN

“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.”

Honorable Mention, Cities Category. “Al Ain”

© Andrzej Bochenski | Location: AL BURAYM?, MUHAFAZAT AL BURAYMI, OMAN

“New buildings rise from the desert floor near Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.”

Until Next Year

Remember to check out all of the photos here, including the People’s Choice. Also, all the images are available for download in wallpaper size as well!

Seth Kravitz

Seth is the CEO of PHLEARN and an avid writer, photographer, startup investor, and business mentor in Chicago. He joined PHLEARN in 2016 and has been focused on expanding the community to reach millions of new Phans and make learning fun for the next generation of great artists.

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