The Winners Of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

It is not easy to select the winners from more than 13,000 entries, a photo of a tornado in Colorado was chosen as the grand-prize winner of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest.

The photo, titled “DIRT,” was shot by James Smart of Melbourne, Australia. It is one of my favorite photo of the year, Picture has won $10,000 (USD) and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2016.

Now something about the winning photo, James Smart spent 15 days chasing storms with his brother and some friends who are meteorologists. On the last day, Smart ended up outside of Simla, Colorado, where he shot the winning photo.

“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. 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.”

Joel Nsadha of Binghamton, New York, placed first in the People category for a portrait of a young man on his cherished bicycle in a slum in Uganda, and Francisco Mingorance of Andalusia, Spain, won in the Places category for his photo of a marsh in Spain that has been partially destroyed by radioactive waste. Smart’s photo won in the Nature category and will be published in National Geographic magazine.

Congratulations to all the winners and to people who submitted their amazing photos for the contest.


1. “DIRT”
Grand Prize and Nature Winner

national-geographic-winners (1)


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



2. “Asteroid”
Places Winner

2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

© Francisco Mingorance


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



3. “At The Play Ground”
People Winner

2015 National Geographic 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



4. “Orangutan in The Rain”

2015 National Geographic 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



5. “Changing Shifts”

2015 National Geographic 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



6. “Colorful chaos

2015 National Geographic 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



7. “Hill of Crosses”

2015 National Geographic 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: Šiauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania



8. “From Generation to Generation”

2015 National Geographic 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



9. “Overlooking Iraq from Iran”

2015 National Geographic 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



10. “Surrealist painting in nature”

2015 National Geographic 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.



11. “The Game”

2015 National Geographic Photo Contest


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



12. “Acrobat of the Air”

2015 National Geographic 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.

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