Winners of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

The winners of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest were just announced, selected from over 13,000 stunning entries from across the colourful planet. James Smart of Melbourne, Australia took home the grand-prize with his spectacular storm cloud shot entitled DIRT. The photograph was captured last spring as Smart and his brother chased storms across Colorado. “The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland,” Smart said. “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.”

Other contest winners include Joel Nsadha of Binghamton, New York, placing first in the People Category with his portrait of a young man and beloved bicycle in Uganda; and Francisco Mingorance of Andalusia, Spain whose photograph of a polluted marsh in Spain took home a win in the Places Category. Evaluation of the thousands of submissions were based on creativity, quality, and content authenticity, and all photographs were submitted in one of three categories: Nature, Places, and People.

Scroll down to see the incredible winning photographs, as well as several honourable mentions.

Above: Grand Prize and Nature Winner: “DIRT” by James Smart
Photo and caption James Smart / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. (Location: Simla, Colorado, United States)

Places Winner: “Asteroid” by Francisco Mingorance
Photo and caption by Francisco Mingorance / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

On the occasion of the preparation of a report on Rotinto 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: Cardeas, Andalusia, Spain)

People Winner: “At The Play Ground” by Joel Nsadha
Photo and caption by Joel Nsadha / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Orangutan in The Rain” by Andrew Suryono
Photo and caption by Andrew Suryono / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Hill of Crosses” by Hideki Mizuta
Photo and caption by Hideki Mizuta / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: iauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania)

Honorable Mention: “From Generation to Generation” by Jackson Hung
Photo and caption by Jackson Hung / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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. (Location: Taiwan)

Honorable Mention: “Overlooking Iraq from Iran” by Yanan Li
Photo and caption by Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Changing Shifts” by Mohammed Yousef
Photo and caption by Mohammed Yousef / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Nothing to Declare” by Lars Hbner
Photo and caption by Lars Hbner / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Acrobat of the Air” by Alessandra Meniconzi
Photo and caption by Alessandra Meniconzi / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “Colorful chaos” by Bence Mate
Photo and caption by Bence Mate / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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: “The Game” by Simone Monte
Photo and caption by Simone Monte / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

The game (Altinho) in Ipanema – Rio de Janeiro. (Location: Rio de Janeiro)

Honorable Mention: “Surrealist painting in nature” by Tugo Cheng
Photo and caption by Tugo Cheng / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

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.

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