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2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year tells a humpback’s tale

July 5, 2018 7:46AM News Corp Australia Network

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Mermaid, the winning image from the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Award. Picture: Reiko Takahashi media_cameraMermaid, the winning image from the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Award. Picture: Reiko Takahashi


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A close-up image of the scratched and scarred tail of a baby humpback whale has won the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest.

Photographer Reiko Takahashi’s image, taken off the Japanese island of Kumejima, has

won her the $13,000 first prize from 13,000 entries.

Mermaid media_cameraThe winning photo, titled “Mermaid”. The photo was the winner of the Nature category and the overall competition winner. Picture: Reiko Takahashi

“Most of the time, the calf stayed close to her mum,” Ms Takahashi said.

“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 its very energetic, large, and beautiful tail.

“It was a special scene for me, to be able to take a photo of the calf, completely relaxed in gentle waters. I really cannot believe it.”

Even though the whale is just a calf, its tail shows scars of small injuries that have healed. No one knows how it was injured.

The photographer worked in an office but left her job to follow her dream of being a photographer. Now she’s usually found in the water, looking for the perfect shot.

She found it.

The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest celebrates pictures taken by all levels of photographers — both professional* and amateur* — around the world.

The competition accepts entries under the categories of Nature, People and Cities.

Hiro Kurashina of Japan won first prize in the Cities category for his photo titled Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu, while Tea Culture by Alessandra Meniconzi of Switzerland won the People category.

Another Rainy Day in Nagasaki, Kyushu media_cameraThe winner of the Cities category, titled “Another rainy day in Nagasaki, Japan”. The tram is vintage, but retrofitted with modern ticketing equipment and you can see the relatively quiet street of Nagasaki through the windscreen. Picture: Hiro Kurashina
Tea Culture media_cameraThe winner of the People category, titled “Tea culture”. The photographer visited a Kazakh family of Golden Eagle hunters in Western Mongolia. Tea is an important part of the Kazakh culture. Picture: Alessandra Meniconzi

This year’s competition was judged by Whitney Johnson, vice president of visual* experiences at National Geographic, as well as two National Geographic photographers — ocean and adventure photographer Andy Mann and polar photographer Camille Seaman.

“I was amazed at the quality of images and the sensibility* towards subject in all three categories for this competition,” Ms Seaman said. “Looking at hundreds of images choosing the winners was a daunting* task. The images that stood out did so based not solely* on their technical execution* but also a sensitivity* for a feeling of the moment and originality*.”

media_cameraThis photo of crocodiles taken in Costa Rica was the People’s Choice winner in the Nature category. Picture: Niklas Weber
media_cameraThis photo is called “Travelling to heaven” and was taken on Ram Jhula bridge in India. It won the People’s Choice award for the Cities section. Picture: Trikansh Sharma
LEIDA AND LAELLE - I WILL LIFT YOU UP media_camera“Leida and Laelle — I will lift you up” is the title of the second place winner in the People category, of twin sisters who live in Brazil and are refugees from Haiti. Picture: Tati Itat
Geometry of the Sun media_camera“Geometry of the sun” won second place in the Cities section. The photo is of the remains of an ancient Mexican city called Teotihuacan, which means “the place where the gods were created”. Picture: Enrico Pescantini


Shocking find in dead whale’s stomach


professional: does this as a paid job

amateur: does this as a hobby and may not be paid

visual: things you can see

sensibility: being able to appreciate or be sensitive to something

daunting: seeming difficult

solely: only

execution: the way it is done

sensitivity: being sensitive or aware of

originality: like nothing else



1. What type of whale is in the winning photo?

2. How many entries where in the competition?

3. What are the three categories of photos?

4. Who are Andy and Camille and why would they be good judges?

5. Using the glossary, what is the difference between a professional and amateur photographer?


Choose one of the winning photographs. Plan and write a piece of creative writing that is based on, or inspired by, the photograph. You can write a story, poem, song lyrics or anything you choose.

Time: Allow 25 minutes

Curriculum Links: English

Extension: Imagine that you are one of the judges for the awards. For each of the photos shown here, write a paragraph explaining the reasons why that photo won the award. You will need to spend some time looking carefully at each photo and thinking about exactly what makes it a great photo.

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum Links: Visual Arts


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

QUESTION: Which of these photos would you have chosen to win? What do you like about it?

Explain your answer using full sentences.

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