The National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest has been won by a remarkable photo capturing a humpback whale calf off the coast of Japan's Kumejima Island. The photo competition celebrates the vast array of natural wonders found all over our globe.

The impressive contest spans three categories: Nature, Cities and People, with three overall winners chosen from more than 13,000 entries. As well as Japanese photographer Reiko Takahashi's gorgeous Grand Prize-winning image snagging top spot in the Nature category, another strong Japanese entry from Hiro Kurashina took top spot in the Cities category. Alessandra Meniconzi's Tea Culture won first place in the People category, capturing a Mongolian eagle hunter pausing for a cup of tea.

Polar photographer Camille Seaman, one of the judges in this year's competition, noted her amazement at the stunning quality of images submitted, many from non-professional photographers.

"Looking at hundreds of images choosing the winners was a daunting task," says Seaman. "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."

Other stand-out winning images include a truly alien snap from Marco Grassi called Mars. The image features the Earth Pyramids of Platten, large natural sand towers bizarrely capped with stones that are found in Northern Italy's South Tyrol region. Gaanesh Prasad's Reflection also took a prize in the Cities category illustrating the stark beauty of Dubai in beautiful black and white.

Three People's Choice winners were also highlighted, voted on by the general public. These photographs include a compelling drone shot of sharp-mouther crocodiles in Peru, a surreal snap of a bicyclist riding into infinite fog in India, and a psychedelic composition of a little girl running through a mirrored art installation.

Takahashi's Grand Prize-winning humpback photograph wins her a US$10,000 prize, validating this artist's bold decision to leave her office job and take up underwater photography full time. "I really cannot believe it," says Takahashi. "It was my dream to win. I am honored and it will be the driving force for my future shooting."

Take a closer look through our gallery featuring some of the best entries in the massively inspiring photographic contest.

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