National Geographic is known for their stunning photo journalistic and landscape photographs, so it is no surprise that the winners of the National Geographic Traveler Magazine 24th Annual photo contest have some absolutely incredible talent.
National Geographic Traveler Magazine received more than 12,000 entries from 6,615 talented photographers in 152 countries around the globe. Using the power of photography, contestants shared their lives through their work. Taken in locations ranging from Afghanistan to Vietnam, the winning pictures show everything from peaceful landscapes to unexpected moments. However, all of them depict the beauty of the places and people that make traveling memorable.
Here are the 12 winning photographs – each with an amazing story behind them.
FIRST PLACE WINNER: BUTTERFLY
Photo and caption by Cedric Houin
This image was shot in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. The intimacy of this everyday life moment, shot inside of a family yurt, is in total contrast with the harsh environment these nomadic tribes live in. On the right we notice a television and a sound console. These tribes live weeks away from any village by foot. In spite of being located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan they are equipped with solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones. Ancestral ways of living, with touches of modernity.
SECOND PLACE WINNER: MY BALLOON
Photo and caption by Vo Anh Kiet
H’mong children play with their balloons on a foggy day in Moc Chau, Son La province, Vietnam; photographed January 2012.
THIRD PLACE WINNER: DEVOTEES
Photo and caption by Andrea Guarneri
During the Easter holy celebration called “Misteri” in Trapani, the devotees carry the scenes of Christ’s passion on their shoulders all night long. When the day comes they take a break.
MERIT WINNER: LOOKING INTO ANOTHER WORLD
Photo and caption by Fred An
This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. I tried to bring a different perspective of this frequently photographed tree.
MERIT WINNER: LOST IN TIME – AN ANCIENT FOREST
Photo and caption by Ken Thorne
Near the city of Morondava, on the West coast of Madagascar lies an ancient forest of Baobab trees. Unique to Madagascar, the endemic species is sacred to the Malagasy people, and rightly so. Walking amongst these giants is like nothing else on this planet. Some of the trees here are over a thousand years old. It is a spiritual place, almost magical.
MERIT WINNER: UNDERWATER SURF
Photo and caption by Lucia Griggi
Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean.
MERIT WINNER: BAGAN BLISS
Photo and caption by Peter DeMarco
More than 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas fill the plains of Bagan. Once the capital of the Pagan Empire, farmers now raise their livestock within the centuries old complex. The best way to see Bagan, apart from a ride on a hot air balloon, is by bicycle. It’s easy to get off the beaten path and live out your wildest Indiana Jones fantasy.
MERIT WINNER: OLD MEN WITH DJELLABA
Photo and caption by SauKhiang Chau
The Last Supper Of Da Vinci? No, They are just some old men of Chefchaouen with djellaba, sitting and talking each other.
MERIT WINNER: THE VILLAGE OF GASADALUR
Photo and caption by Ken Bower
The village of Gásadalur and the island of Mykines in the background.
Until a tunnel was built in 2004, the 16 residents living in Gásadalur had to take a strenuous hike or horseback over the steep 400 meter mountain in order to make it to the other villages.
It was a rare sunny day in the Faroe Islands and I had to wait until the clouds rolled in to provide some softer light. I decided to go with a long exposure (1 minute 10 seconds) to illustrate the force of the wind and a serene sea among the isolated islands.
MERIT WINNER: SWIMMING IN THE RAIN
Photo and caption by Camila Massu
My sister in the south of Chile. We are sitting at home next to the fireplace in our southern lake house when it suddenly began to pour uncontrollably. Had to rush into the lake to take this snapshot!
VIEWERS’ CHOICE WINNER: HUSET
Photo and caption by Michelle Schantz
A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finnmark, Norway.
You can see the full stories behind each photo here: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/traveler-magazine/photo-contest/2012/.