The Winning Photographs From the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest

The results are in

Recently we posted 10 amazing submissions for this year’s National Geographic Photo Contest, and today the results are in.

This year’s winning photograph comes from Australian photographer, James Smart, who was chasing storms in Simla, Colorado with his brother and friends when he captured the winning moment.

“The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland. 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. Driving down a Colorado dirt road, we were lucky enough to be on the west of the tornado, so it was front lit. This really helped to get great detail out of the image and the perfect light for the sky and foreground.”

Out of over 13,000 submissions, take a look at the grand prize and category winners, plus other stunning honourable mentions from this year’s contest below. Check out National Geographic to see more submissions.



Photo and caption by James Smart
A rare and jaw-dropping anti-cyclonic tornado touches down in open farmland, narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado. CATEGORY: Nature; LOCATION: Simla, Colorado, United States


Photo and caption by Francisco Mingorance
While preparing a report on Spain’s Rio Tinto from the air, I decided to include the phosphogypsum ponds located in the marshes of red, whose radioactive discharges has destroyed part of the marsh. As an environmental photojournalist I had to report this story, but had to do it with an image that by itself attracts the viewer’s attention. On a low-flying training flight, this image caught my attention for its resemblance to the impact of an asteroid on its green waters. CATEGORY: Places; LOCATION: Cardeñas, Andalusia, Spain


Photo and caption by Joel Nsadha
Bwengye lives in a slum called Kamwokya in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. He cherishes his bicycle more than anything and brings it to this playground in the slum every evening, where he watches kids playing soccer.CATEGORY: People; LOCATION: Kampala, Central Region, Uganda



Photo and caption by Andrew Suryono
I was taking photos of orangutans in Bali, Indonesia, when it started to rain. Just before I put my camera away, I saw this orangutan take 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. CATEGORY: Nature; LOCATION: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia


Photo and caption by Hideki Mizuta
There are many hundreds of thousands of crosses on the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai, Lithuania. It represents Lithuanian Catholicism’s peaceful resistance to oppression. Many spirits of the dead are thought to live here on this small hill. When I visited this place, a girl in a pink dress ran through as if she brought peace, hope, and love. CATEGORY: Places; LOCATION: Šiauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania


Photo and caption by Tugo Cheng
As the largest system of mountain ranges in Central Asia, Tian Shan—which translates to “sky-mountain” in Chinese—has one of the best collections of natural landscapes in the world and is considered a paradise for outdoor adventures. Thanks to the richness of the land’s sediments, compounded by the power of erosion caused 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. CATEGORY: Nature; LOCATION: Shihezi, Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu, China


Photo and caption by Yanan Li
In October 2014 in Khuzestan, Iran, I came across a group of female Iranian students on the border between Iran and Iraq. Some of them climbed up the tanks left after the war between the two countries and took pictures of themselves. I pressed the shutter when I saw this girl stretch out her arms and turn to face the Iraqi border. CATEGORY: People; LOCATION: Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran


Photo and caption by Mohammed Yousef
In Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the cubs of the famous cheetah Malaika learned to hunt. They moved from one hill to another, scanning the lands. Here, they seemed to change shifts as one cheetah left the hill while another took her place. CATEGORY: Nature; LOCATION: Masai Mara, Rift Valley, Kenya


Photo and caption by Simone Monte
Beachgoers kick around soccer balls on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the nation that is home to la joga bonita—the beautiful game. CATEGORY: Places; LOCATION: Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Photo and caption by Bence Mate
White-fronted bee-eaters gather on a bough before going to sleep in their burrows, scraped into a sand wall. I was working on this theme for 18 days, as there were only five to ten minutes each day when the light conditions were appropriate. Ninety percent of my efforts to capture this image were not successful. I used flashlights to light the bee-eaters sitting on the branch, but not the others flying above. At this angle, the backlight generated rainbow coloring through the wings of the flying birds. CATEGORY: Nature; LOCATION: Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa