Slava Semeniuta, the Russian photographer known online as Local Preacher (previously) uses ultraviolet light to capture plants in electrifying shades of pink, yellow, and green. For his recent series, Granular Creatures, Semeniuta used macro photography to capture flecks and particles unseen by the naked eye. These opalescent figures have an otherworldly glow—emanating dazzling light from their shiny petals and luminescent stamens. You can see more of his surprisingly hued photographs and digital manipulations on his Instagram and Behance.
Grand Prize & 1st Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Jassen Todorov / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. Thousands of Volkswagen and Audi cars sit idle in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert. Models manufactured from 2009 to 2015 were designed to cheat emissions tests mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Following the scandal, Volkswagen recalled millions of cars. By capturing scenes like this one, I hope we will all become more conscious of and more caring toward our beautiful planet.
A panel of National Geographic photo editors have chosen the winners of the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest from a pool of over 10,000 entries. The grand prize winner, and top pick for the “Places” group is an aerial shot (above) by Jassen Todorov of a Volkswagen and Audi graveyard at the Southern California Logistics Airport in the Mojave Desert. The striking image shows a fraction of the 11 million cars that Volkswagen fitted with devices that could alter performance during emissions tests by the EPA. Todorov’s image uses a plane for scale to visually demonstrate a story of environmental issues. As the winner, Todorov earned $5000 and a feature on National Geographic’s Instagram.
Submitted across three categories (People, Places, and Wildlife), the other winning images and honorable mentions span the globe in terms of content and photographers. To read more about each image, check out their respective captions below, and head over to the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest website.
1st Place (People). Photograph and caption by Mia Collis / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. I was looking to do a series of portraits showing people wearing their Sunday best when I made this photo of David Muyochokera. It was taken on his last Sunday working as a photographer at Weekend Studio, in Kibera—a large shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya. My friend Peter, a local resident, had pointed me to the photo studio just as I was about to leave the area. It was a stunning space, with whimsical backdrops and natural light coming through the doorway. David had worked there for 37 years, but Weekend Studio was about to close permanently. Phone cameras were so common now, he said, and fewer people wanted studio portraits. David planned to retire and return home to the countryside. I was troubled by the studio’s imminent closure, so I eventually took over the rent. A portrait of David now hangs at Weekend Studio in his memory.
2nd Place (People). Photograph and caption by Todd Kennedy / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. On a family holiday driving from Sydney to Uluru, we stopped at a roadside motel in the small rural township of Nyngan, on the edge of Australia’s outback. The area is in the wheat belt, and it was unusually hot for that time of year—over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit and very dusty. Our daughter, Genie, is seen here enjoying a refreshing bath in a rubber ducky perched on the sink.
3rd Place (People). Photograph and caption by Avishek Das / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A Hindu devotee kisses his newborn baby during the Charak Puja festival in West Bengal, India. Traditional practice calls for the devotee to be pierced with a hook and sometimes swung from a rope. This painful sacrifice is enacted to save their children from anxiety. While covering the festival, I was able to view the religious practice from the perspective of Hindu devotees. I tried to capture the moment of love and bonding between a father and his child—and show a father’s concern for his little son.
2nd Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Nicholas Moir / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A rusting Ford Thunderbird is blanketed by red dust from a supercell thunderstorm in Ralls, Texas. The dry, plowed fields of the Texas Panhandle made easy prey for the storm, which had winds over 90 miles an hour ripping up the topsoil and depositing it farther south. I was forecasting and positioning a team of videographers and photographers on a storm chase in Tornado Alley—this was our last day of a very successful chase, having witnessed 16 tornadoes over 10 days. The target area for a storm initiation was just south of Amarillo, Texas. Once the storm became a supercell, it moved southbound with outflow winds that were easily strong enough to tear up the topsoil and send it into the air.
3rd Place (Places). Photograph and caption by Christian Werner / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. While on assignment for Der Spiegel, we made a road trip through Syria to document the current situation in major cities. When I first entered the Khalidiya district in Homs, I was shocked. I hadn’t seen such large-scale destruction before, and I had been to many destroyed cities. The area around the Khalidiya district was extremely quiet. No city sounds, cars—nothing. Only the chirping of swallows and the wind. We walked down the streets of Khalidiya, but the destruction was so large scale that you couldn’t have the big picture from the point of view on the street—you could only manage it with a view from above. To make this image, I asked a Syrian soldier in charge of the area if I could climb onto a ruin. The soldier agreed, allowing me to climb at my own risk. I climbed up the ruins of a former house—which was full of improvised explosive devices—and took the picture. I was very lucky to take the picture when I was on the rooftop. Without any sign of life, it would have been a dead picture. I can recall the memory vividly.
Honorable mention (Places). Photograph and caption by Rucca Y Ito / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. Japan’s Blue Pond in Biei-cho, Hokkaido, has become very famous for attracting tourists from around the world. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees. This pond, frozen during winter, was artificially made to prevent river contamination from the nearby active volcano, Mount Tokachi. The accumulated pond water contains high levels of minerals, such as those containing aluminum. The alluring view of the blue pond can take one’s breath away. To make this image, I made the exposure longer to capture the way the snow was falling. At the same time, I lit up the strobe for a moment to capture the snowflakes that are reflecting in the foreground. I took as many photos as I could and chose the one I thought had the best balance of the falling snow and the unfocused snowflakes. I wanted to express how time is created in just one moment and, by tying together these moments, history is made.
1st Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Pim Volkers / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. It was early morning when I saw the wildebeests crossing Tanzania’s Mara River. The layering of dust, shade, and sun over the chaos of wildebeests kicking up water gives this picture a sense of mystique and allure. It’s almost like an old painting—I’m still compelled to search the detail of the image to absorb the unreal scene.
2nd Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Jonas Beyer / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. A few miles from Qaanaaq (Thule), Greenland, I was on a hike in search of musk oxen when I came upon a group of them. This ox was running on a hillside in deep snow, which exploded underneath it—an amazing sight. The photo came together in a few seconds. I was lucky enough to be at the right spot to observe them frolicking, and then I had the incredible experience of watching them closely for about an hour. I love photographing musk oxen against the wintry landscape: They’re extremely tough Arctic survivors. This photo shows their beauty and their power—and the snow they deal with for about eight months of the year.
3rd Place (Wildlife). Photograph and caption by Alison Langevad / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. As the late-night hours ticked by and my eyelids grew heavy, two southern white rhinoceroses appeared silently from the shadows to drink from a watering hole in South Africa’s Zimanga Game Reserve. On alert, they stood back to back, observing their surroundings before lowering their heads. I felt privileged to share this moment with these endangered animals. While I was well prepared technically, with my camera set correctly on a tripod, I underestimated the emotional impact the magnificent beasts would have on me. I had photographed them months earlier, and now both rhinos sported a new look: They had been dehorned to deter poachers. I had heard about this development but had not yet seen them. I was full of emotion—and horror—that poaching had such a devastating effect. It must have been a hard decision to dehorn their rhinos, and I am grateful for the reserve’s efforts.
Tokyo-based photographer RK explores the far reaches of Japan, as well as neighboring Asian countries, shooting images that capture both timeless and of-the-moment scenes. RK often includes signs of life in his landscape images, whether a fisherman casting a line beneath a vibrant Japanese maple tree, or a carefree skateboarder cruising down a paved road with Hokkaido looming in the distance. The photographer also highlights the densely-packed nature of life in Japan, from masses of commuters forming a sea of umbrellas to shop owners surrounded by huge selections of neatly organized inventory.
Despite the highly composed quality of his photos, RK shares with Colossal, “There’s always new places I want to take photos, so I always try to find new compositions and ideas when arriving at the photo spot.” RK explains that he came across photography by chance: he was immersed in street culture and working as a professional DJ, when he joined an urban running crew and the founder asked him to take some photos of his teammates. From there, he dove into the field, teaching himself to shoot and edit images.
You can see more of RK’s work on his website and stay up-to-date on his most recent photographs and travels via Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
The project Water.Shapes.Earth uses aerial photography and storytelling to bring an understanding to the complex and diverse ways water inhabits our planet, from a radioactive water pond in Huelva, Spain to mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan. The images provide an abstract look at Earth’s surface, presenting purple-hued veins of a divergent river or an icy body of emerald water laced with severe cracks and splinters in its surface. Stories accompany the many images, which bring attention to how each might be a sign of climate change, and to highlight our own destructive mark on our environment. You can read about a salty marsh in Spain or glacial river tributaries in Iceland on Water.Shapes.Earth’s website. (via Colossal Submissions)
They Drive by Night is an ongoing series by photographer Henri Prestes that captures the unsettling feeling of driving through the dim and deserted countryside at night. His darkened landscapes are lit almost exclusively by headlights, and are shrouded in dense fog. The series was photographed near remote villages and forests throughout Portugal and Spain, where the photographer was raised and explored at a young age.
“I started thinking about putting this project together during some night traveling, thinking about how exciting and scary it is traveling alone in secluded places with only the headlights to guide us through the immense darkness ahead,” Prestes tells Colossal. “At the same time I was trying to come up with a cinematic series about exploring the narrative possibilities of a single still frame, using weather conditions as a way to affect the emotional state of a photograph.” You can see more of his night-based images on his website and Instagram. (via Faith is Torment)
In his new series Strange Leaves, photographer Al Mefer (previously) creates an atmosphere of post-disaster biodiversity by shifting the hues of tropical plants to bizarre and even unsettling color palettes. Mefer shares with Colossal that his body of work, including Alien Architecture and Deserts of the Future, aims to “develop a kind of pseudodocumentary in which humans have left Earth because of the current environmental and social issues we’re facing.”
The series is comprised of serene scenes, with the visual field filled entirely by monstera leaves, ferns, and palm branches tinted to intense—almost luminescent—reds, purples, and blues.”In this landscape,” the artist explains, “the grotesque aspect of mutated plants is commonplace in a world where the bizarre is the only beauty to be experienced.”
You can see more of Mefer’s manipulated photography on his website and Instagram. (via Fubiz)
Charles Pétillon (previously here and here) arranges groups of balloons in unlikely places—tying bundles of the light white objects to the top of aircraft loading stairs, or positioning them between concrete blocks at the ocean’s edge. Recently the photographer has been focusing on producing sculptural lines in space by linking several of his preferred subject matter together end-to-end, or placing them on top of polls in open landscapes. These images, along with a site-specific balloon installation, are included in Pétillon’s solo exhibition Stigmates at Danysz Gallery in Shanghai through January 10, 2019. You can see more of his balloon compositions on his website and Instagram.