An endangered humpback whale in Japan
From massive, looming cities to an intimate portrait of immigrant girls, this year's National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year images capture a world that is constantly evolving and changing through nature, cities and people.
This year's grand prize winner was Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi for her image of the tail of an endangered humpback whale calf taken off the coast of Kumejima Island in Japan. Takahashi quit her day job to pursue underwater photography, and she traveled to this island to photograph humpback whales.
"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 it’s very energetic, large and beautiful tail," Takahashi wrote in her photo caption.
More than 13,000 images were submitted in three categories — nature, cities and people. A panel of National Geographic judges selected first-, second- and third-place winners in each category, including one honorable mention. Each image includes a detailed caption written by the photographer that explains how and why they captured the photo.