On Friday July 1 2016 the winners were announced for the 2016 inaugural National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year competition. Notably, rather than being scooped by a professional, the grand prize went to amateur Hong Kong photographer, Anthony Lau.
Picked from among thousands of entries, Lau’s photo ‘Winter Horseman’, captures the image of a rider from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China herding horses at dawn.
According to Lau, the encounter occurred as he returned to his hotel from a pre-breakfast hike and discovered a group of Mongolian riders displaying their talents. Describing the situation at that moment he says, “The snow was getting heavier, the wind was getting stronger, the morning snow was getting thinner and the light was moving away from its optimal position.” Lau says he knew he that this golden opportunity had to be seized quickly: “I only had a couple of shots to get the best out of this encounter. With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses.”
George Stone, editor in chief of National Geographic Travel says, “We are thrilled to name Anthony Lau as our first-ever National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year,” adding that the judges were “…blown away by the entries we received from around the world, and it’s clear our passion for visual storytelling is shared by our readers.” The judging panel consisted of such Nat Geo notables as Anne Farrar, director of photography for National Geographic Travel, and Corey Arnold, contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine. It also featured photographer and filmmaker Foster Huntington.
Along with winning the overall grand prize, Lau’s picture also placed first in the ‘People’ submission category. The other two of the three winning category entries were both by photographers from Japan. Takashi Nakagawa from Tokyo entered the ‘Cities’ category with his tranquil portrait ‘Ben Youssef’ (taken in Morroco) while Hiroki Inoue from Hokkaido won first in the ‘Nature’ category with his winter wolf submission ‘Wherever you go, I will follow you!!’ (taken in Biel, Japan).
Each of the first-place winners received a Sony a6300 camera, while second and third placers received some National Geographic reading/training materials, as well as a subscription to Nat Geo. As the grand prize winner Lau has also won a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two, which we’re sure he’ll use to get some more choice snaps.
Lau’s win should be cause for inspiration among amateur photographers everywhere. It’s very intimidating to put your work out there, especially when you feel it may be judged harshly alongside the work of professionals. ‘Winter Horseman’ proves that a keen eye and the right moment can also be huge factors in a competition win.
There are always photography competitions taking place, and they are a great way to hone your skills. Like for Lau, they can also reap great rewards.
More winning photos may be viewed on the National Geographic Travel website.
(Images used with permission)