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The winning images have been selected from this year’s edition of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year competition, with the grand prize being awarded to Reiko Takahashi for her image of a humpback whale calf swimming near Japan’s Kumejima Island. National Geographic was kind enough to share some of the winning entries with us here, gathered from three categories: Nature, Cities, and People. Be sure to click the link above to see all the winners and the People’s Choice winners as well. The captions were written by the photographers, and lightly edited for style.

Mermaid. Grand prize winner, and first place, Nature. "I was fortunate to have encountered a humpback whale with her calf on my first day snorkeling near Japan’s Kumejima Island. Most of the time, the calf stayed close to her mom. 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 it’s very energetic, large, and beautiful tail.
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Alone in the Crowds. Honorable mention, Cities. "In this photo, I tried to bring the intense and stacked living conditions that Hong Kong is famous for into perspective for the viewer. With so many people living in small spaces, it's strange to see all these amenities empty. As a solo traveler, I’m often alone in crowds and this photo resonates with me. I barely scratched the surface of this incredible urban environment, but this image really summarizes my experience here."
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