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Nature, 1st place and grand prize winner: ‘Mermaid’

Photograph and caption by Reiko Takahashi/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. — “I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day snorkeling near Japan’s Kumejima Island. Most of the time, the calf stayed close to her mom. At one point, the calf began jumping and tapping its tail on the water near us — it was very friendly and curious. Finally, the mother, who was watching nearby, came to pick up the calf and swim away. I fell in love completely with the calf and its very energetic, large and beautiful tail.” Kumejima, Japan.

Reiko Takahashi is 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

A photograph of a humpback whale calf’s tail has earned Reiko Takahashi of Japan the prestigious grand prize in the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest. Takahashi will receive a $10,000 prize. Her incredible photo was selected by a panel of National Geographic judges from more than 13,000 entries.

Takahashi took the photo, titled “Mermaid,” off the coast of Japan’s Kumejima Island. The longtime photographer left her office job to pursue her passion for underwater photography and traveled to Kumejima Island on a mission to photograph humpback whales with their young calves.

“It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters,” said Takahashi. “I really cannot believe it. It was my dream to win. I am honored, and it will be the driving force for my future shooting,”

The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest celebrates stunning pictures taken by all levels of photographers around the world. The contest recognizes spectacular photos taken within the last two years, with entries in three categories: Nature, People and Cities.

In addition to the grand prize winner, top photos were selected in each of the three categories. Takahashi’s photo was also chosen as the winner in the Nature category. Hiro Kurashina of Japan took top honors in the Cities category for his photo titled “Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki,” while “Tea Culture” by Alessandra Meniconzi of Switzerland won the People category.

All of the winning and honorable mention photos can be viewed at natgeo.com/travelphotocontest.

This year’s competition was judged by Whitney Johnson, vice president of visual experiences at National Geographic, as well as two National Geographic contributing photographers — ocean and adventure photographer Andy Mann and polar photographer Camille Seaman.

“I was amazed at the quality of images and the sensibility towards subject in all three categories for this competition,” said Seaman. “Looking at hundreds of images, choosing the winners was a daunting task. The images that stood out did so based not solely on their technical execution but also a sensitivity for a feeling of the moment and originality.”

Here’s a look at this year’s winners: Reiko TakahashiHao j.Marco GrassiHiro KurashinaEnrico PescantiniGaanesh PrasadGary CumminsAlessandra MeniconziTati ItatM.D. Tanveer Hassan Rohan.

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