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National Geographic Traveler Director of Photography Dan Westergren, one of this year's judges, shares his thoughts on the first place winner:
"This winning photo of a supercell over the plains of eastern Colorado stopped the judges in our tracks. When we first saw the picture we guessed that the photographer probably had dedicated quite a bit of time chasing storms to capture such an amazing sight. But what makes the picture particularly strong is that except for the cloud, the rest of the scene is quite ordinary. The crazy UFO-looking shape gives the impression that it's going to suck up the landscape like a tablecloth into a vacuum cleaner. The unresolved tension in the image makes me want to look at it over and over."
Below are the rest of the winning images, including second place, third place, and seven merit-prize winners, courtesy of our friends at National Geographic.
Above: First Place Winner: The Independence Day
Location: Julesburg, Colorado, USA
While on storm chasing expeditions in Tornado Alley in the U.S. I have encountered many photogenic supercell storms. This photograph was taken while we were approaching a storm near Julesburg, Colorado, on May 28, 2013. The storm was tornado warned for more than one hour, but it stayed an LP [low precipitation] storm through all its cycles and never produced a tornado, just occasional brief funnels, large hail, and some rain.
Second Place Winner: Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel
Location: Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel
Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox district of Jerusalem. Newly married couple Aaron and Rivkeh will be alone together for the first time after their wedding ceremony. Their marriage was arranged by their families. The 18-year-olds met once to confirm the choice; since then they have been prohibited to meet or even talk.
Third Place Winner: Diver in Magic Kingdom
Location: Grüner See, Tragöss, Austria
Green Lake (Grüner See) is located in Tragöss Austria. In spring snowmelt raises the lake level about 10 meters. This phenomenon, which lasts only a few weeks, covers hiking trails, meadows, and trees. The result is a magical diving landscape.
Merit Prize Winner: Light Source
Location: Old Bagan, Burma
A young monk finds a perfect light source to read his book inside of his pagoda in Old Bagan, Burma.
Merit Prize Winner: End of the World
Location: Banos, Ecuador
This photo, taken at the 'end of the world' swing in Banos, Ecuador, captures a man on the swing overlooking an erupting Mt. Tungurahua. The eruption took place on February 1st, 2014. Minutes after the photo was taken, we had to evacuate the area because of an incoming ash cloud.
Merit Prize Winner: A Well Earned Rest in the Sahara
Location: Summit of Tin-Merzouga, Tadrat, Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, Algeria
This photo of Moussa Macher, our Tuareg guide, was taken at the summit of Tin-Merzouga, the largest dune (or erg) in the Tadrat region of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria. Moussa rested while waiting for us to finish our 45-minute struggle to the top. It only took ten minutes of rolling, running, and jumping to get back down. The Tadrat is part of the Tassili N'Ajjer National Park World Heritage area, famous for its red sand and engravings and rock paintings of cattle, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos that lived there when the climate was milder.
Merit Prize Winner: Divine Makeover
Location: Kaveripattinam, Tamilnadu, India
Taken during the Mayana Soora Thiruvizha festival, which takes place every March in the small village of Kaveripattinam the day after Maha Shivarathiri (the great night of Shiva). The festival is devoted to Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity worshipped widely in Southern India.
Merit Prize Winner: Ladies in Waiting
Location: Burough Market, London, England
While exploring Burough Market in London, I was delighted to come across four lovely young women dressed in vintage white dresses, eating ice cream as the local shopkeeper looked on. Are they brides? Or bridesmaids. I don't know, but they are obviously enjoying a very special day.
Merit Prize Winner: Foggy, Small Town
Location: Český Krumlov, South Bohemian, Czech Republic
This photo was captured at noon on December 25, 2013, from the castle which is located on the edge of the small town and is the perfect viewpoint for the panorama of the almost intact historical town. The fog and mist suffused and gave the town a sense of mystery.
Merit Prize Winner: "Khotso" Peace at Devil's Knuckles
Location: Jonathans Lodge, Qachas Nek, Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho
On arrival at Jonathan's Lodge our horses took to celebrating liberation from their heavy burdens. With the backdrop of "The Devil's Knuckles" and the afternoon's glow, how could I not take advantage of these magnificent creatures rejoicing? This was the end of the first of a three-day horseback ride through Bushman's Nek, up the Drakensberg escarpment and into Lesothos' Sehlabathebe National Park.
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