6 mins

Photo of the Year 2019: The results

Our judges have once again gone through over 9,000 entries to narrow down the finalists of travel’s biggest amateur photography contest. Find out who’s won a once-in-a-lifetime photo commission to Texas...

Hunting wabbits (Giovanni Frescura)

Landscapes

Winner

Winter sunset, Poland (Stefania Urbini)

Winter sunset, Poland (Stefania Urbini)

Where: Poland

By: Stefania Urbini, Manager

Settings: Nikon D750, Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 @ 400mm, 1/100 sec @ f/8, ISO 200, tripod 

Photographer's story: At the end of a winter photography session in a Polish hide, mainly to spot little woodland birds, I noticed the sun was going down in front of me. So, scrambling to make the most of the departing light, I combined the sun and the birches to achieve the best composition I could in the limited time available.

Judges' comments: Superb light. The simple composition of tightly packed birch trees has a wonderful atmosphere and stillness.

Runner Up

Cloudy UFO (Elena Pakhalyuk)

Cloudy UFO (Elena Pakhalyuk)

Where: Crimean Peninsula, Demerdzhi Mountain, Ukraine

By: Elena Pakhalyuk, Computer engineer

Settings: Canon EOS 6D, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L ll USM @ 88mm, 1/4000 @ f/16, ISO 400

Photographer's story: I love to go hiking in the mountains and Demerdzhi Mountain is great in the autumn season – during the very strong winds you can sometimes observe lenticular clouds.

But this time I witnessed a bizarre alien-shaped cloud on top of the mountain during a heavy storm. It was a big present for me from mother nature!

Judges' comments: Lenticular clouds gild any image, but they are notoriously tough to embrace into an effective photo. Top marks for this – unusual, almost mythical.

Highly Commended

Misty morning in Mandalay (Aung ThuYa)

Misty morning in Mandalay (Aung ThuYa)

Where: Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma

By: Aung ThuYa, Government officer 

Settings: Canon EOS 60D, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L @ 160mm, 1/160 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 100

Photographer's story: If you come and visit Mandalay in December, you will see amazing views of Mandalay Palace, the last royal palace of the final Burmese monarchy.

This shot was taken from Mandalay Hill on a misty morning.

Judges' comments: Soft morning light with the bonus of mist adds a wonderful moody atmosphere, punctuated by the temple towers. Strong use of the diagonal.

People

Winner

You want it that big? (Bun Ngo Leung)

You want it that big? (Bun Ngo Leung)

Where: Havana, Cuba

By: Bun Ngo Leung

Settings: Sony A7 Mk I, Leica R 70-210mm f/4, 1/200 sec @ f/8, ISO 200

Photographer's story: This photo was taken of a lady haggling outside a butcher shop in Havana. From the gesture of the shopkeeper, it seemed that she was trying to confirm the size of the piece of pork that her customer was trying to buy.

In Cuba, people love to eat, particularly sweet things like ice cream. Most of the buildings in Cuba, like this shop, are painted brightly – just as the Cubans are colourfully dressed too.

Judges' comments: Love the story this tells. The colours and setting provide vibrancy and life. Great humour.

Runner Up

A celebration of Hindu tradition (Muhammad Amdad Hossain)

A celebration of Hindu tradition (Muhammad Amdad Hossain)

Where: Dhaka, Bangladesh 

By: Muhammad Amdad Hossain, Student

Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mk II, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8L STM @ 50mm, 1/40 sec @ f/6.3, ISO 4000 

Photographer's story: Thousands of Hindu devotees sit on the floor to worship in front of Sri Sri Loknath Brahmachari Ashram in the Narayanganj district during a fasting ritual called kartik brati or rakher upobash.

I had been planning this image in advance; using a prime lens, I took the image from the third floor of a nearby building.

Judges' comments: Wow! To capture so much in one image is sublime. This is not an image that you just glance at. It’s one you gorge yourself on. Superb at every level.

Highly Commended

Old woman (Meisam Abdoli)

Old woman (Meisam Abdoli)

Where: Lorestan Province, Iran

By: Meisam Abdoli, Librarian 

Settings: Canon EOS 8OD, Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM @ 50mm, 1/125 sec @ f/4.5, ISO 500

Photographer's story: An old woman with her keys on the streets of the city of Khorramabad.

Judges' comments: Beautifully executed black and white – incredible tone and texture.

The lack of eye contact somehow makes the portrait more engaging. There’s a story behind this face, which keeps you interested.

Wildlife

Winner

Hunting wabbits (Giovanni Frescura)

Hunting wabbits (Giovanni Frescura)

Where: Khwai, Botswana

By: Giovanni Frescura, Lawyer

Settings: Canon 7D Mk II, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM @ 200mm, 1/2500 sec @ f/5, ISO 500

Photographer's story: A young leopard was surprised by a rabbit, which he then tried to catch, but he was not lucky this time. But his mother, watching nearby, didn’t lose her dinner.

Judges' comments: The leopard looks as surprised as I’m sure the photographer was. Razor-sharp – look at those eyes. Technically difficult and superbly captured.

Runner Up

Symphony at the waterhole (Prelena Soma Owen)

Symphony at the waterhole (Prelena Soma Owen)

Where: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa

By: Prelena Soma Owen, General manager 

Settings: Canon EOS 1D X Mk I, Canon EF 600mm f/4L ll USM @ 600mm, 1/1250 sec @ f/9, ISO 1600

Photographer's story: As I was about to leave the park, I was distracted by some red-billed queleas congregating into a single flock at a waterhole.

I followed the cacophony of chirps and saw the small birds descend and ascend en masse at the edge of the waterhole. It was quite a spectacle to behold. The challenge was getting the right exposure. Even at 8:30am, at 36°C, the light was already very harsh.

Judges' comments: So much detail. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. You can look at it for ages.

Highly Commended

Togetherness (Ruta Prendiukaite)

Togetherness (Ruta Prendiukaite)

Where: The Maldives

By: Ruta Prendiukaite, Pre-press operator 

Settings: GoPro Hero4 @ 3mm, 1/320 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 100

Photographer's story: It was a wonderful moment to capture the diving instructor and the subject of his enthusiasm.

Judges' comments: It’s such a powerful shot – really striking to the eye and draws you in. Black and white treatment works well.

Commended

Food (Giovanni Frescura)

Food (Giovanni Frescura)

Where: Pisa, Italy

By: Giovanni Frescura, Lawyer

Settings: Canon 7D, Canon 300mm f/2.8 Is (plus 1.4x extender) @ 420mm, 1/3200 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 400

Photographer's story: This photo was taken in the countryside near my home in Pisa. I found a hoopoe nest in an old house and spent a lot of time watching the bird coming in and out, carrying food to its young.

After a few days a baby put out his head only to find a butterfly flying in front of it… ah, to eat or to see the new world?

Judges’ comments: This is not an accidental photo. It is sumptuous, clean, a frankly ridiculously good depth of field. There is so much anticipation, which is always high–carat value in any image.

Commended

Arctic fox (Giovanni Frescura)

Arctic fox (Giovanni Frescura)

Where: Hornstrandir, Iceland

By: Giovanni Frescura, Lawyer

Settings: Canon 1DX, Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 280mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 800

Photographer's story: This was taken in one of Iceland’s national parks. I went there to snap some photos of the ‘blue’ Arctic foxes, but it was not easy.

The families’ dens are really well hidden – but this little one found me! In his clutches is a bird given to him by his mother.

Judges’ comments: As a portrait this is sensational. There’s tremendous engagement and a beautiful background.

Travel icons

Winner

Loose button (Monika Mazurkiewicz)

Loose button (Monika Mazurkiewicz)

Where: London, UK 

By: Monika Mazurkiewicz, Dental nurse

Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mk III, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM @ 300mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 1250

Photographer's story: The Queen’s Life Guards are stationed at the entrance to St James’ and Buckingham Palaces. Every afternoon, in the courtyard of the Horse Guards, a dismounting ceremony takes place.

However, I arrived quite late so the only available space to watch it was at the rear. As one of the officers moved around the guards I was immediately drawn to his white glove emerging from the sea of red coats, checking up on a loose button.

Judges' comments: A sneak peak behind the formality of the occasion. Great composition and makes you smile.

Runner Up

Into the London Eye (Monika Mazurkiewicz)

Into the London Eye (Monika Mazurkiewicz)

Where: London, UK

By: Monika Mazurkiewicz, Dental nurse

Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mk III, Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM @ 300mm, 1/4000 sec @ f/14, ISO 1250 

Photographer's story: The Trooping of the Colour is a public celebration of the Queen’s birthday and a highlight is the fly-past of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows.

I escaped the crowds and stood on Lambeth Bridge looking onto the London Eye. This turned out to be the ideal view. I followed the nine planes with my camera as they emerged over the horizon and appeared to be soaring into the London Eye.

They carried on towards Buckingham Palace leaving red, white and blue vapours behind them.

Judges' comments: Razor-sharp and well framed. Monotone except for smoke, which makes it even more striking.

Highly Commended

USA A-OK (Philip Tomlinson)

USA A-OK (Philip Tomlinson)

Where: Times Square, New York, USA

By: Philip Tomlinson, Architect 

Settings: Canon EOS 750D, Canon EF 17-55mm f/2.8 @ 37mm, 1/640 sec @ f/4, ISO 100

Photographer's story: The American flag is an iconic symbol of patriotism and freedom to all Americans. For this reason they display or hang the flag wherever and whenever they can.

This image was taken in Times Square, NYC. The illuminated lights were perfect for producing a high contrast image. The cars in the foreground reflect the light perfectly and help to draw the viewer deeper into the image.

Judges' comments: Bright and strong. Made by the reflection on the roof of the car.

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