The Winning Images From Nat Geo’s Travel Photographer Of The Year Contest Will Take Your Breath Away

The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest has ended for 2017, and the winners have been announced! Much to my surprise, for the grand prize, they went with an incredible photograph of a lightning bolt hitting an erupting volcano taken by photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco, and not my entry, “Selfie in a Starbuck’s Bathroom.” I was DEFINITELY robbed, but whatever. Capturing a photo of all the fury, power, and beauty mother nature has to offer is cool too…I guess.

Tapiro has been patiently photographing volcanoes for 15 years, but this moment was definitely a once in a lifetime capture. Not that it was an easy shot to get. He spent 20 whole days just watching this volcano, Mount Colima, in December of 2015. Then, while shooting the erupting volcano, lightning struck, and everything lined up to create this phenomenal image.

“This picture is a gift that nature has given to me,” Tapiro told National Geographic. “When I saw the camera display I was shocked—I didn’t believe it.”

At 13,000 feet, the 5 million year old Mount Colima is a stratovolcano in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt in Jalisco, Mexico. It’s often active, but the last major eruption happened in 1913, which has scientists predicting that the next big eruption could happen any day now. It’s Tapiro’s lifelong goal to be there to capture it. He even built a restaurant at its base just to make sure he’s always close at hand.

“It is the passion of my life,” Tapiro told Nat Geo. “I love this volcano.”

Along with the prestigious title of Travel Photographer of the Year, Tapiro has won a ten-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions.

It’s an amazing photograph, but truly, all of the runners up and category winners were incredible this year. National Geographic was kind enough to share them with us. So check them out below!

All captions were written by the photographer.