Grand Prize and Nature Winner. Photo and caption James Smart / National Geographic  2015 Photo Contest. “DIRT" Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. Location: Simla, Colorado, United States
Grand Prize and Nature Winner. Photo and caption James Smart / National Geographic  2015 Photo Contest. “DIRT" Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. Location: Simla, Colorado, United States

Here Are the Winners of the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

Grand Prize and Nature Winner. Photo and caption James Smart / National Geographic  2015 Photo Contest. “DIRT" Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. Location: Simla, Colorado, United States
Grand Prize and Nature Winner. Photo and caption James Smart / National Geographic  2015 Photo Contest. “DIRT" Jaw-dropping, rare anti-cyclonic tornado tracks in open farm land narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. Location: Simla, Colorado, United States

The 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest has come to a close and the publication has officially announced the grand prize winner (out of more than 13,000 submissions) as well as the winners in three categories: Nature, Places, and People.

The grand prize and Nature winner is Melbourne, Australia-based photographer James Smart. His photo, titled Dirt (above), shows a tornado touching down near a home in Simla, Colorado. "The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland, Smart told NatGeo. "It wasn’t moving very fast, so we kept getting closer as it tracked next to the home as you can see in the image." Smart won $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic's headquarters in Washington, D.C. for the National Geographic Photography Seminar this month.

In the Places category, the first-place photograph, titled Asteroid, was taken by Francisco Mingorance of Andalusia, Spain, and shows a marsh destroyed by "radioactive discharges." The winner of the People category, Joel Nsadha, photographed a Ugandan man who takes his custom bicycle to watch people play soccer in the slums every day. Check out the winning photos below, as well as others that have been recognized as Honorable Mentions, and head to the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest page to view the full gallery of submissions.


Places Winner. Photo and caption by Francisco Mingorance / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. "Asteroid"

"On the occasion of the preparation of a report on Ríotinto from the air, I decided to include phosphogypsum ponds located in the marshes of red and whose radioactive discharges has destroyed part of the marsh. As an environmental photojournalist had to tell this story and report it but had to do with an image that by itself attract attention of the viewer. I discovered this on a low-flying training that caught my attention for its resemblance to the impact of an asteroid on its green waters." Location: Cardeñas, Andalusia, Spain.

"At the Play Ground"

People Winner. Photo and caption by Joel Nsadha / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “At The Play Ground”

"Bwengye lives in a slum called Kamwokya in Kampala, Uganda's capital city. He cherishes his bicycle more than anything else. He brings it to this playground in the slum every evening where he watches kids playing soccer." Location: Kampala, Central Region, Uganda.

"Orangutan in the Rain"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Andrew Suryono / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Orangutan in The Rain”

"I was taking pictures of some Orangutans in Bali and then it started to rain. Just before I put my camera away, I saw this Orangutan took a taro leaf and put it on top on his head to protect himself from the rain! I immediately used my DSLR and telephoto lens to preserve this spontaneous magic moment." Location: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

"Overlooking Iraq from Iran"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Overlooking Iraq from Iran”

"There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open." Location: Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran.

"Surrealist painting in nature"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Tugo Cheng / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Surrealist painting in nature”

"As the largest mountain ranges in Central Asia, Tian-shan ('sky-mountain' in Chinese), has one of the best collections of natural landscapes in the world and is seen by many as a paradise for outdoor adventures. Thanks to the richness of sediments compounded with the power of erosion by rivers flowing down the mountains, the north face of Tian-shan is carved into stunning plateaus and colorful canyons hundreds of meters deep, resulting in this surrealist painting in nature." Location: Shihezi, Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu, China.

"Changing Shifts" 

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Mohammed Yousef / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Changing Shifts”

"In Masai Mara, the cubs of the famous cheetah called Malaika became young enough to start hunting. They moved from one hill to another scanning the lands. Here, they seemed to change shifts as one cheetah leaves the hill while the other takes her place." Location: Masai Mara, Rift Valley, Kenya.

"The Game"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Simone Monte / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “The Game”

"The game (Altinho) in Ipanema - Rio de Janeiro." Location: Rio de Janeiro.

"From Generation to Generation"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Jackson Hung / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “From Generation to Generation”

"This photo was taken during Chinese New Year's Eve of 2015 in Taiwan. While paying respects to our ancestors, I noticed how the light was coming into the room and saw the passing of incense sticks to each of our family members after sending our prayers. The photo is symbolic since the passing of incense sticks resembles and knowledge and wisdom passed down from generation to generation." Location: Taiwan.

"Colorful Chaos"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Bence Mate / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Colorful chaos”

"White-fronted Bee-eaters getting together on a bough before going to sleep to their burrows, scraped into a sand wall. I was working on this theme for 18 days, as there were only 5-10 minutes a day, when the light conditions were appropriate, 90% of my trying did not succeed. I used flash lights to light only the ones sitting on the branch, and not to the others, flying above. When in the right angle, the backlight generated rainbow colouring through the wings of the flying birds." Location: Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

"Acrobats of the Air"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Alessandra Meniconzi / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Acrobat of the Air”

"A flocks of Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus), mountain-dwelling birds, performs acrobatic displays in the air. I was able, during a windy day, to immortalize their impressive flight skills." Location: Appenzell, Canton d'Appenzell Rhoden-Interieur, Switzerland.

"Nothing to Declare"

Honorable Mention. Photo and caption by Lars Hübner / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Nothing to Declare”

"Taiwan - In the countryside, the funerals are usually accompanied by local chapels. When a family member dies, their body is kept in the house, or in a tent built specifically for this purpose. After a set period of time, the deceased, accompanied by a funeral procession is buried." Location: Douliu, Taiwan, Taiwan.

"Hill of Crosses"

Honorable Mention.Photo and caption by Hideki Mizuta / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest. “Hill of Crosses”

"There are many hundreds of thousands of crosses, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression. Standing upon a small hill is the place where many spirits of the dead lives. When I visited this place, a girl in the pink dress ran through as if she brought the peace, hope, love." Location: Šiauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania.

Live Smarter
8 Pro Tips for Taking Incredible Pictures of Your Pets

Thanks to the internet, owning a photogenic pet is now a viable career option. Just ask Theron Humphrey, dog-dad to Maddie the coonhound and the photographer behind the Instagram account This Wild Idea. He gained online fame by traveling across the country and sharing photographs of his dog along the way. But Maddie’s impressive modeling skills aren’t the only key to his success; Humphrey has also mastered some essential photography tricks that even the most casual smartphone photographer can use to make their pet look like a social media star.


Based on her Instagram presence, you’d guess Maddie is either in the middle of a road trip or a scenic hike at any given time. That’s no accident: At a pet photography workshop hosted by Adobe, Humphrey said he often goes out of his way to get that perfect shot. “You need to keep situating yourself in circumstances to continue making great work,” he said, “even if that means burning a tank of gas and going someplace you’ve never been.”


Dog and owner on a couch.

That being said, it’s important to know your pet’s limits. Is your dog afraid of flying? Then leave him with a pet sitter when you vacation abroad. Does your cat hate the water? Resist the temptation to bring her into the kayak with you on your next camping trip, even if it would make for an adorable photo opportunity. “One thing I think is important with animals is to operate within the parameters they exist in,” Humphrey said. “Don’t go too far outside their comfort zone.”


Not every winning pet photo is the result of a hefty travel budget. You can take professional-looking pictures of your pet at home, as long as you know how to work with the space you’re in. Humphrey recommends looking at every element of the scene you’re shooting in and asking what can be changed. Don’t be shy about moving furniture, adjusting the blinds to achieve the perfect lighting, or changing into a weird outfit that will make your pup’s eyes pop.


Two dogs in outfits.

Ella and Coconut Bean.

Trying to capture glamorous photos of a moving, barking target is a hard job. It’s much easier when you have a human companion to assist you. Another set of hands can hold the camera when you want to be in the picture with your pet, or hold a toy or treat to get your dog’s attention. At the very least, they can take your pet away for a 10-minute play session when you need a break.


The advent of digital cameras, including the kind in your smartphone, was a game-changer for pet photographers. Gone are the days when you needed to be picky about your shots to conserve film. Just set your shutter to burst mode and let your camera do the work capturing every subtle blep and mlem your pet makes. Chances are you’ll have plenty of standout shots on your camera roll from which to choose. From there, your hardest job will be “culling” them, as Humphrey says. He recommends uploading them to a photo organizing app like Adobe Lightroom and reviewing your work in two rounds: The first is for flagging any photo that catches your eye, and the second is for narrowing down that pool into an even smaller group of photos you want to publish. Even then, deciding between two shots taken a fraction of a second apart can be tricky. “When photos are too similar, check the focus,” he said. “That’s often the deciding factor.”


When it comes to capturing the perfect pet photo, an expensive camera is often less important than your cat’s favorite feather toy. The most memorable images often include pets that are engaging with the camera. In order to get your pet to look where you want it to, make sure you're holding something your pet will find interesting in your free hand. If your pet perks up at anything that makes noise, find a squeaky toy. If they’re motivated by food, use their favorite treat to get their attention. Don’t forget to reward them with the treat or the toy after they sit for the photo—that way they’ll know to repeat the behavior next time.


Person with hat taking photo of dog and dog food.

According to Humphrey, your pet’s eye should be the focus of most shots you take. In some cases, you may need to do more to make your pet the focal point of the image, even if that means removing your face from the frame altogether. “If there’s a human in the photo, you want to make them anonymous,” Humphrey said. That means incorporating your hands, legs, or torso into a shot without making yourself the star.


This is the mantra Theron Humphrey repeated throughout his workshop. You can scout out the perfect location and find the perfect accessories, but when you’re shooting with animals you have no choice but to leave room for flexibility. “You have to learn to roll with the mistakes,” Humphrey said. What feels like a hyperactive dog ruining your shot in the moment might turn out to be social media gold when it ends up online.

ESA/Hubble, NASA
Hubble Telescope Image Shows Two Galaxies Colliding 350 Million Light-Years Away
ESA/Hubble, NASA
ESA/Hubble, NASA

Since launching in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured some magnificent images of our corner of the universe, from neighboring planets to distant nebulae. An updated picture released by the European Space Agency shows two galaxies colliding 350 million light-years away, a process the ESA has been tracking for 52 years, Gizmodo reports.

Galaxies are constantly changing shape and creeping through space. When two of these massive networks cross paths, their stellar material begins to intermingle, and they eventually merge into one entity under the force of gravity. In this image depicting two barred spiral galaxies in the Cetus constellation, the two nuclei are still separate, but the explosive merging process has already been set in motion. Long tidal tails—streams of gas, dust, and stars—feather out from the top of the cluster. The bright blue patches indicate "stellar nurseries" where gas and dust stirred together by gravity are producing new stars.

The photograph was first released in 2008, but this latest version has been updated using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). According to an ESA statement, the galaxies "are like a natural experiment played out on a cosmic scale, and by cataloguing them, astronomers can better understand the physical processes that warp spiral and elliptical galaxies into new shapes."

Galactic mergers are a vital part of the evolution of the universe: Even the Milky Way is on course to crash into a neighboring galaxy 4 billion years down the road. But the process, though violent, is slow-moving. It will be millions of years before these two galaxies in Cetus settle down into one.

[h/t Gizmodo]


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