Winners revealed: National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition 2021

We asked for your best shots — and thousands of you answered the call. Now into its 10th year, we present the winners of the National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition 2021, sponsored by Nikon.

Iceland, by Andro Loria. 

Photograph by Andro Loria
Published 5 Oct 2021, 07:12 BST, Updated 11 Oct 2021, 16:58 BST

Seeking to highlight the best in travel photography, our prestigious competition invited photographers of all levels to submit their travel images in up to six categories. This year's competition opened for entries in March 2021 and we have seen thousands of entries across all categories.

"We might have spent 18 months in a global pandemic, but that hasn’t diminished the consistent quality in our annual competition. Whether shot in the UK, or abroad during windows in which people could travel, this year’s winners remind us how photographers see the world around us and the magic of capturing a once-in-a-lifetime moment."

"A huge congratulations to our grand prize winner but also to those who made the shortlist — all 18 photographers are exceptional talents. From the abstract and mesmerising overhead shots taken from drones and airplanes to studied portraits of people and wildlife, together these images capture human behaviour, changing landscapes and nature’s beauty in a way that resonates with the National Geographic brand," said Pat Riddell, editor of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Below, we present the winner and runners up across six categories:

WILDLIFE
URBAN
FOOD AND TRAVEL
PEOPLE
LANDSCAPE
PORTFOLIO

Plus, we reveal the winner of the Grand Prize.
 

THE WILDLIFE CATEGORY

Photography has long been used to demystify animals. But they don’t play by our rules, making photographing them challenging — and rewarding.

A lone rabbit in Richmond Park, London, by Mitchell Lewis.

Photograph by Mitchell Lewis

The winner: Mitchell Lewis
A lone rabbit in Richmond Park, London
All through spring I’d been visiting Richmond Park at sunset trying to capture an image in golden light. Focusing on a colony of rabbits, I was finally able to capture this guy enjoying the last few minutes of light. Follow Mitchell on Instagram

What the judges said: The most important thing in wildlife photography is light, not subject, and this photo shows this in spades. The backlit scene gives the shot a compelling warmth and helps emphasise some of the most delicate features of the rabbit, from its paper thin ears to its silky whiskers.

Left: Top:

Bumblebee at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey, by Dimitrios Zacharopoulos.

Right: Bottom:

Osprey catching a fish in Aviemore, Scotland, by Hari Kumar Prasannakumar.

Photograph by Dimitrios Zacharopoulos(Left)(Top)
Photograph by Hari Kumar Prasannakumar(Right)(Bottom)

Runner up: Hari Kumar Prasannakumar
Osprey catching a fish in Aviemore, Scotland
Ospreys migrate from Africa to Scotland every year. I was waiting for the bird from 4am, I got the first jump at 5am but it was a noisy image due to low light. Another bird came and this time I got the shot. Follow Hari on Instagram

Runner up: Dimitrios Zacharopoulos
Bumblebee at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey
The colours of the flowers contrasted with those of the bumblebee to striking effect. I had to create darkness in the shot so I dropped my compensation down. I took around 50 photos and this was my favourite. Follow Dimitrios on Instagram

THE URBAN CATEGORY

Each urban centre has a personality that can be captured, be it ant-like movements of a crowd or residents enjoying their own space in a city.

The Veles e Vents building in Valencia, Spain, by Clara Dip Wan Cheung.

Photograph by Clara Dip Wan Cheung

The winner: Clara Dip Wan Cheung
The Veles e Vents building in Valencia, Spain
On a trip to Valencia, we stopped at this amazing building. I captured my friend Sarah walking up the first staircase of the horizontal platforms, gazing at the uninterrupted views extending out towards the Mediterranean Sea. Follow Clara on Instagram

What the judges said: The composition of this shot is as architectural as its subject. The leading lines of the staircase and floors all point towards the figure that’s the subject of the photograph. The choice of light complements the architecture, creating an overall soft, white palette to the piece that’s cohesive and pleasing.

Left: Top:

Sunset in Rainham, UK, by Vai Meng Chan.

Right: Bottom:

Maha Bandula Garden Street, Yangon, Myanmar, by Joshua Paul Akers.

Photograph by Vai Meng Chan(Left)(Top)
Photograph by Joshua Paul Akers(Right)(Bottom)

Runner up: Vai Meng Chan
Sunset in Rainham, UK
The picture was taken from a railway bridge. This sunset can only be seen one week a year and depends on the weather and a train that passes every 30 minutes — planning the shot took months. Follow Vai on Instagram

Runner up: Joshua Paul Akers
Maha Bandula Garden Street, Yangon, Myanmar
The once-grand facades of the buildings opposite my downtown guesthouse had turned into a sort of vertical urban jungle, with trees and plants growing out of the cracks in the faded yellow walls. Follow Joshua on Instagram

THE FOOD AND TRAVEL CATEGORY

The essence of a destination can be discovered by diving into its food culture. In this new category, we were looking for images that tell a story from any stage of the journey from field to fork — from scenes of harvesters, vintners and fishermen at work to shots of markets, smoky street food kitchens and grateful diners.

Veracruz, Mexico by Nic Crilly-Hargrave.

Photograph by Nic Crilly-Hargrave

The winner: Nic Crilly-Hargrave
Stallholders ready the catch for market in Veracruz, Mexico
I took this image early one morning in a warehouse behind Veracruz market — it’s where meat is prepared and deliveries are unloaded, so it’s a hectic place to shoot. It’s a race against time to get everything ready before shoppers arrive, so everyone’s pretty focused — but I spotted this moment of companionship between two men as they gutted fish. When they saw I’d taken their picture, one pointed to the other, uttering one word: ‘brother’. Follow Nic on Instagram

What the judges said: A seemingly simple photograph, the brilliance of this shot lies in the interaction between the two subjects. We feel as if we’re sharing a personal joke and this helps the image feel inclusive and intimate, drawing us into their world. The side lighting is soft and flattering, adding a warm and gentle glow that helps saturate the colours and bring life to the two men’s faces.

Left: Top:

Cooks craft their famed dim sum in Shanghai's Yu Garden District, by Ian Douglas Scott.

Right: Bottom:

Fresh produce on sale at a market in Urubamba, in Peru's Sacred Valley, by Karolina Wiercigroch.

Photograph by Ian Douglas Scott(Left)(Top)
Photograph by Karolina Wiercigroch(Right)(Bottom)

Runner up: Karolina Wiercigroch 
Fresh produce on sale at a market in Urubamba in Peru's sacred valley
This is where locals shop for their daily groceries while chatting to vendors. I climbed the stairs to eye the market from above. This particular scene caught my attention because of the combination of shapes and colours, perfectly depicting the variety of Peruvian ingredients, while offering harmony among the chaos. Follow Karolina on Instagram

Runner up: Ian Douglas Scott 
Cooks craft their famed dim sum in Shanghai's Yu Garden District 
The roadside stall framed the scene naturally. It’s so good to see people enjoying themselves as they create such beautiful delicacies. They seemed so immersed in their happy conversation that they didn’t notice the camera. Little did we or they know that behind this joyful scene a virus was already spreading right here in this city and things would soon change so much for all of us the world over.

THE PEOPLE CATEGORY

It’s our encounters with other people that make trips unforgettable. Travel portraiture seeks out the human stories within a destination, responsibly. And the key elements of a powerful shot are a compelling subject and an interesting backdrop. 

Ice fishing on the frozen sea in Hokkaido, Japan by Claire Waring.

Photograph by Claire Waring

The winner: Claire Waring
Ice fishing on the frozen sea in Hokkaido, Japan
I drove down the Notsuke Peninsula, a sand bar protruding into the Nemuro Strait on the east coast of Hokkaido. My primary aim was to photograph the elegant, red-crowned cranes, huge Steller’s sea eagles and other wildlife. The sea was frozen and several ice fishermen were out on the bay, fishing for wakasagi (smelt). Each had made a hole with an auger and dropped down a line with coloured lures and bait attached. Several fishermen had erected small tents for protection but this man was braving the weather. With his gear on a small sled, he just sat — and waited — looking very cold. I lay down on the ice to get the shot of an activity I’d never seen before.

What the judges said: This was selected as the category winner due to its minimalism and the sense of intrigue it inspires. The angle is also fantastic, as it shows not just him fishing but the tools of his trade.

Left: Top:

Vietnamese woman in traditional clothing in the Imperial City of Hue, Vietnam, by Walter Monticelli.

Right: Bottom:

A local boatman in remote northern Myanmar, tackling a challenging water channel, by Rajiv Joshi.

Photograph by Walter Monticelli(Left)(Top)
Photograph by Rajiv Joshi(Right)(Bottom)

Runner up: Walter Monticelli
Vietnamese woman in traditional clothing in the imperial city of Hue, Vietnam
While walking between temples in the Imperial City, I heard a faint melody playing in the distance. Following the sound, I reached a room in which a group of women wearing traditional clothing were playing music with traditional Vietnamese instruments. I’d been standing there for a while taking in the sound when I noticed this lady sitting next to the entrance enjoying the music her friends were playing. Follow Walter on Instagram

Runner up: Rajiv Joshi
A local boatman in Northern Myanmar, tackling a challenging water channel
I was in Putao, a remote region in the far north of Myanmar, heading to an island where Buddhist monks make a pilgrimage. A boatman was found who could get me there. I was amazed by his skill and calmness as he navigated through rapids and between rocks using only rudimentary equipment: an old small motor and worn, wooden boat. I wanted my photo to convey his ease amid the turbulence. Follow Raj on Instagram

THE LANDSCAPE CATEGORY

From vast, sweeping vistas to aerial shots that reveal the patterns of a terrain, this category is all about capturing unusual perspectives.

Marble Hill Beach, Donegal, Ireland by Ozgun Ozdemir.

Photograph by Ozgun Ozdemir

The winner: Ozgun Ozdemir
Marble Hill Beach, Donegal, Ireland
I’d been trying for this shot for months but couldn’t get a calm early morning. On this November day, my friends and I agreed to meet at the beach at sunrise, but after checking the forecast I realised that would mean missing the ideal conditions, so I arrived an hour early to set up. Follow Ozgun on Instagram

What the judges said: The planning and execution of this shot is the most striking aspect. The photographer was able to capture a moment to allow us to experience a much deeper view of the landscape. The use of a drone is incredibly impactful, making the stream from land to water feel like a magic spell.

Left: Top:

Emerald Lake, Qinghai Province, China, by Jianbo Jia.

Right: Bottom:

Diamond Beach, Iceland, by Jordan Banks.

Photograph by Jianbo Jia(Left)(Top)
Photograph by Jordan Banks(Right)(Bottom)

Runner up: Jianbo Jia
Emerald Lake, Qinghai Province, China
It took us eight hours to drive from the nearest city to Emerald Lake, hidden like a jewel in the north west of China. When we pulled up at the lake, I was still preparing my drone for take-off when my friend excitedly dashed into the lake, which I then filmed with my drone. Follow Jianbo on Instagram

Runner up: Jordan Banks
Diamond Beach, Iceland
I found myself on Diamond Beach in southern Iceland, surrounded by these ginormous pieces of ice, and was struggling to highlight the wildness of the location and magnitude of the ice blocks from the ground. I took to the sky with a DJI Mavic 2 drone with 28mm Hasselblad lens to achieve a new perspective. Follow Jordan on Instagram

THE PORTFOLIO CATEGORY

Shooting a full photography feature involves telling a story through a series of images. Entries included up to 10 images of a destination to tease out different facets of the narrative and create a nuanced portrait. The images were judged as a cohesive set, in terms of subject and style.

Iceland, by Andro Loria.

Photograph by Andro Loria

Iceland, by Andro Loria.

Photograph by Andro Loria

The Grand Prize winner: Andro Loria
Iceland
The images were all taken in Iceland from a small airplane on my trips during summer and autumn last year. Iceland is unique, as it has a great variety of landscape types within a relatively short range of distance. You can see deserts, volcanoes, glaciers, mountains, braided rivers and lakes, sea coast and highlands all in one flight. It’s like a continent in miniature. And what an amazing ‘continent’ it is. Follow Andro on Instagram

What the judges said: What an incredible selection of landscapes, mixing abstract swirling colours with frozen geyser-filled vistas that are at once cohesive and distinct. The skill with portfolios is to curate a selection of images that complement each other to elevate each above the single frame, while each working individually and the photographer has certainly succeeded with this.

Sierra Leone, by Renato Granieri.

Photograph by Renato Granieri

Runner up: Renato Granieri
Sierra Leone
The Sorbengi Women’s Oyster Group was founded by Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in 2018 and aims to teach the residents about sustainable ways to harvest oysters. This initiative targeted women oyster harvesters as a form of female empowerment in the area; the group now boasts a total of 40 harvesters. During my stay at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, I was part of the team that visited this remote are of Sierra Leone. It was a fantastic chance to spend a few days witnessing the hard work achieved by the community. The work they do is truly remarkable. Follow Renato on Instagram

Australia, by Jonathan Doyle.

Photograph by Jonathan Doyle

Runner up: Jonathan Doyle
Australia
In 2020, I was documenting an expedition to complete the first human-powered vertical crossing of Australia. I captured the images in the Namadgi National Park near Canberra. It was closed to the public due to the bushfires that had devastated the area, but we were invited to visit by Brett McNamara, the park manager. The scene could only be described as apocalyptic. But it was the silence that struck me first. We just stood there in the middle of the road, surrounded by dead white limbs thrusting up from the ground like giant skeletal fingers. No bird calls, no buzzing insects, no rustling leaves. Just suffocating silence. Follow Jonathan on Instagram

The judging panel 


Becky Redman
Art director, National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Harry Skeggs
Award-winning wildlife photographer

Lola Akinmade Åkerstrom 
Award-winning freelance photographer

Annapurna Mellor
Award-winning travel photographer

Alex Stead
Award-winning Nikon photographer

F Dilek Uyar
Award-winning freelancer photographer

Cathy Harlow
Guide and photographer, Discover the World

Oliver Puglisi 
Picture editor, National Geographic Traveller (UK)

The National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition 2021 highlights the best in travel photography.

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller

The prizes

Grand prize
The grand prize winner receives a state-of-theart Nikon Z 6II mirrorless camera and 24-70 f/4 lens, worth £2,549. With a massive 24.5MP FX-format CMOS sensor, dual card slots and 4K video capacity, this is the perfect kit for capturing rich, professional travel imagery.

Nordic expert Discover the World is also offering the grand prize winner a four-night Northern Lights trip for two people in Swedish Lapland, worth around £4,500. Flying from Manchester or London, the trip combines three nights at Brändön Lodge with one night at the Treehotel.

Category winners
The five category winners each receive a Nikon D3500 SLR camera and AF-P 18-55mm VR lens worth £419. A 24.2MP CX-format sensor, razorsharp auto focus system and ergonomic grip make it a great on-the-go companion for travel photographers.

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