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An arctic village cloaked in a winter blue hue, a griffon vulture soaring serenely, and two theatre actors in China preparing for a performance inside a cave. These are some of the spectacular images captured by the recently announced winners of the 2019 National Geographic Travel Contest. The winning photos were selected from thousands of global entries in three categories: nature, cities, and people.
The grand prize of $7,500 went to Chinese photographer Chu Weimin for his photograph “Greenlandic Winter.” The photo was taken at dusk time in Upernavik in Greenland, a small fishing hamlet with colorful houses scattered along with a thick carpet of snow. “Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes — a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow,” Weimin wrote in his entry. “This photo was taken during my three-month, personal photo project to present life in Greenland.”
Huaifeng Li took the 1st Place in the People category with “Showtime,” wherein two actors dressed in traditional costumes are seen applying their makeup before a performance at a local theatre in the Licheng County of China. The scene is lit by sunbeams refracting diagonally through the room’s vaulted windows. Winning the 1st place in Nature, Tamara Bulzquiz Haik’s “Tender Eyes” features a close-up camera shot of a wing-spread vulture in mid-flight.
The People’s Honorable Mention prize went to Navis Vasta’s “Mood,” depicting a pensive boy against a seagull-filled sunrise view at the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. Another honorable mention went to Jonas Schäfer’s “King of the Alps” in the Nature category. The photo captures a herd of ibexes crossing a high-altitude mountain ridge in Switzerland’s Bernese Highlands.
Scroll down to see the rest of the winning photos and to read the photographers’ description of their work and journeys in their own words.
2nd Place Cities and Grand Prize: Jassen Todorov, “In the Age of Aviation,” San Francisco, United States
“There are four runways at San Francisco’s International Airport (SFO). This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right. I had dreams of documenting the motion at SFO and [arranged] permission to fly directly overhead. What a windy day it was. Winds at SFO were 35-45 miles per hour, which meant a bumpy flight, and it was much harder to control the plane while photographing. The flight was challenging, but it was also so thrilling that I couldn’t sleep for several days afterward.” — Jassen Todorov
3rd Place Cities: Sandipani Chattopadhyay, “Streets of Dhaka,” Dhaka, Bangladesh
“People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema is one of the major Islamic religious gatherings which is [observed] annually in Dhaka and millions of Muslims visit [during this time]. Dedicated prayer grounds are not [large] enough to handle this huge number of people, so large numbers of people come to [Tongi,] the main street of Dhaka. All the ground transportation and [pedestrian crossings] are suspended during that time.” — Sandipani Chattopadhyay
1st Place Nature: Tamara Bulzquiz Haik, “Tender Eyes,” Monfragüe National Park, Spain
“A gorgeous griffon vulture is seen soaring the skies in Monfragüe National Park in Spain. How can anyone say vultures bring bad omens when looking at such tenderness in this griffon vulture’s eyes? Vultures are important members of the environment, as they take care of recycling dead matter. Vultures are noble and majestic animals — kings of the skies. When looking at them flying, we should feel humbled and admire them.” — Tamara Bulzquiz Haik
2nd Place Nature: Danny Sepkowski, “Dreamcatcher,” Oahu, Hawaii
“What happens before a wave breaks? That question has been my assignment this past year. On this particular day, I decided to shoot the sunset on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. About 100 photographers were out in the morning, but I had the evening to myself. The textures from the trade winds [created] subtle colors from the west and blended well using my 100mm lens. I had to look into my viewfinder while this wave was breaking. Not an easy task when a wave is about to crush you.” — Danny Sepkowski
3rd Place Nature: Scott Portelli, “Dusky,” Kaikoura, New Zealand
“Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. They glide through the ocean effortlessly, coming up only to breathe. Dusky dolphins are fast and will often
keep pace with a speeding boat. I waited on the bow of the boat as the Dusky dolphin almost broke [through the surface.] Their elegance and streamlined bodies are built for speed and maneuverability — accentuated by the smooth, clear water of the New Zealand coastline.” — Scott Portelli
Nature Honorable Mention: Jonas Schäfer, “King of the Alps,” Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
“A herd of ibexes in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland cross a ridge above Lake Brienz. Their powerful and impressive horns show who the king of the Alps are. Ibexes are ideally adapted to live at dizzying heights. The continuing ridge path and the rising fog show the natural habitat of these animals. After a few hours of observing the animals, I spotted the ibex herd on one side of the ridge. Several ibexes stopped at the transition [to view the world around them].” — Jonas Schäfer
1st Place People: Huaifeng Li, “Showtime,” Licheng County, China
“Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. I spent the whole day with these actors from makeup to [stage]. I’m a freelance photographer, and the series “Cave Life” is a long-term project of mine. In China’s Loess Plateau, local residents dig holes in the loess layer [to create cave living spaces, known as yaodongs]. This series mainly records the life, entertainment, belief, labor, and other [daily] scenes of the people living in the caves.” — Huaifeng Li
2nd Place People: Yoshiki Fujiwara, “Daily Routine,” Choi Hung House, Hong Kong
“This photo was taken at a public park at Choi Hung House in Hong Kong. When I visited during the afternoon, it was very crowded with many young people taking pictures and playing basketball. But when I visited at sunrise, it was quiet and a different place. [The area] is [designated] for neighborhood residents in the early morning, and there was a sacred atmosphere. I felt divinity when I saw an old man doing tai chi in the sun.” — Yoshiki Fujiwara
3rd Place People: José Antonio Zamora, “Horses,” province of Avila, Spain
“Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals, called LasLuminarias, is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. The animals [are not hurt,] and it is a ritual that is repeated every year. To make the photo, I moved from Seville to San Bartolomé de Pinares because I am very interested in photographing ancestral rites.” — José Antonio Zamora
People Honorable Mention: Navin Vatsa, “Mood,” Delhi, India
“I captured this layered moment during sunrise along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. This boy was thinking silently, and visitors were enjoying the loud musical chirping of thousands of seagulls. The early morning golden light from the east mixed with the western blue light, creating an [ethereal atmosphere.] I am a regular visitor [here] and have photographed this place for the past three years. Now, many national and international photographers have begun visiting [too.]” — Navin Vatsa