The winning photo in National Geographic's Travel Photographer of the Year contest shows Mexico’s Colima volcano erupting on Dec. 13, 2015. Aptly titled "The Power of Nature," photographer Sergio Tapiro Velasco says shooting the image was one of the most exciting moments of his life.

"I was in the town of Comala when I suddenly saw incandescence above the volcano's crater and started shooting. Seconds later, a powerful volcanic explosion expelled a cloud of ash particles and a massive lightning bolt illuminated most of the dark scene," Velasco wrote for National Geographic.

Velasco's grand prize is a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Islands, but he wasn't the only winner. The annual contest had three categories — nature, cities and people — and the publication named some "people's choice" winners after allowing the public to vote.

Take a look at more of the gorgeous winning shots below, and see all of them here.

'To Live.' was the second place winner in the nature category.
'To Live.' was the second place winner in the nature category. (Photo: Hiromi Kano/National Geographic)

This photo of swans in a protected wetland in Kabukurinuma, Osaki, Japan, took home second place in the nature category.

"Since many of Japan’s wetlands have been lost, this area has become a rare wintering place for birds and may be a last paradise for them," wrote photographer Hiromi Kano. "I took into account wind direction and shutter speed to capture the strength and elegance of their flapping wings."

'Levels of Reading' won first place in the cities category.
'Levels of Reading' won first place in the cities category. (Photo: Norbert Fritz/National Geographic)

In the cities category, first prize went to photographer Norbert Fritz for this photo titled "Levels of Reading," taken at the library in Stuttgart, Germany.

"Natural light fills the modern interior," wrote Fritz. "With its stark white floors, open spaces and large windows, it provides a unique atmosphere to broaden your knowledge."

'Under the Wave,' taken in Tavarua, Fiji, won third place in the people category.
'Under the Wave,' taken in Tavarua, Fiji, won third place in the people category. (Photo: Rodney Bursiel/National Geographic)

"Under the Wave" won third place in the people category. Photographer Rodney Bursiel traveled with professional surfer Donavon Frankenreiter to Tavarua, Fiji, where they tried new angles and perspectives to get the unique surf shot.

'Marble Caves,' taken in Patagonia, won an honorable mention in the nature category.
'Marble Caves,' taken in Patagonia, won an honorable mention in the nature category. (Photo: Clane Gessel /National Geographic)

This stunning photo of the marble caves in Patagonia's Torres del Paine National Park won an honorable mention in the nature category. Photographer Clane Gessel traveled there with his father, and they wanted to see something off the beaten path.

"After a 10-hour drive and traversing a long, dirt trail, we finally came upon the marble caves. We chartered a boat to take us closer, and I waited for the perfect light to capture these intricate blue swirls," he wrote.

'Walled City #08' shows an aerial view of Whampoa Garden in Hong Kong. It won second place in the cities category.
'Walled City #08' shows an aerial view of Whampoa Garden in Hong Kong. It won second place in the cities category. (Photo: Andy Yeung/National Geographic)

The densely packed buildings in Whampoa Garden, Hong Kong, are seen from above in "Walled City #08" by Andy Yeung, who won second place in the cities category. He says he was inspired by the former Kowloon Walled City, which was torn down 30 years ago.

"Hundreds of houses were stacked on top of each other and there was very little open space. The Kowloon Walled City may be gone, but its legacy remains. It exists in Hong Kong’s modern architecture and stacked apartments, which have been built to accommodate the masses," he wrote.

Angela Nelson ( @bostonangela ) is an exhausted mom of two young daughters and two old cats, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning digital editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and information to audiences worldwide.