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Avid pop culture fanatic. Amateur food trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble travel junkie. Hipster-friendly alcohol geek.
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Selected from more than 18,000 entries, a photograph of a dramatic storm cloud, taken by Marko Korošec of Sezana, Slovenia, has been chosen as the grand-prize winner of the 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. Korošec has won an eight-day National Geographic Expedition to Alaska’s Inside Passage for two aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion or the National Geographic Sea Bird. Shot near Julesburg, Colorado, the winning photo is titled “The Independence Day” because the spaceship-like cloud formation reminded Korosec of the 1996 movie.“It’s such a beautiful structure created by Mother Nature and dangerous at the same time,” Korošec said. “I decided to submit this photo because it does look kind of surreal and gives a feeling of how small we are against nature.”Agnieszka Traczewska of Krakow, Poland, placed second for her photo, “First Time.” She receives a five-day National Geographic Photography Workshop for one in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The third-place photo, “Diver in Magic Kingdom,” was made by Marc Henauer of Geneva, Switzerland, and he wins a six-day cruise for two on a Maine windjammer schooner. Seven merit-prize winners will receive a print of their photo, matted and framed by the National Geographic Imaging Lab, a $200 gift certificate to B&H Photo and “The Art of Travel Photography” course on DVD from National Geographic and The Great Courses. All of the winning photos may be viewed online on the Traveler Photo Contest website.This year’s contest received over 18,000 entries from photographers around the world. Contestants submitted photographs in four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. Judging consisted of two rounds of evaluation based on creativity and photographic quality. Several of the judges will participate in a Google+ Hangout On Air on Aug. 4, 2014, at 11 a.m. EDT to share a behind-the-scenes look at the contest. They will be joined by some of the winners to discuss what makes an award-winning shot.

1. Grand Prize – The Independence DayMarko Korošec

01-Grand-Prize---The-Independence-Day© Marko Korošec / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestWhile on storm chasing expeditions in the Tornado Alley in USA I have encountered many photogenic supercell storms. This photograph was taken while we were approaching the storm near Julesburg, Colorado on My 28th, 2013. The storm was tornado warned for more than one hour, but stayed an LP storm through all its cycles and never produced a tornado, just occasional brief funnels, large hail and some rain. Location: Julesburg, Colorado, USA

2. Second Place – First TimeAgnieszka Traczewska

02-Second-Place---First-Time© Agnieszka Traczewska / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestMea Shearim, ultra Orthodox district of Jerusalem. Newly married, Aaron and Rivkeh after the wedding ceremony are to stay together for the very first time, alone. Their marriage was arranged by families. 18 years old candidates confirmed the choice in result of the one meeting only. Since then until the wedding day they were prohibited to meet or even talk. Location: Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel

3. Third Place – Diver in Magic KingdomMarc Henauer

03-Third-Place---Diver-in-Magic-Kingdom© Marc Henauer / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestGreen Lake (Grüner See) is located Tragöss Austria. In spring snowmelt raises the lake level about 10 meters. This phenomenon, which lasts only a few weeks covering the hiking trails, meadows, trees. The result is magical to watch diving landscapes. Location: Grüner See at Tragöss – Austria

4. Merit – End of the WorldSean Hacker Teper

05-Merit---End-of-the-World© Sean Hacker Teper / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestThis 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. Location: Banos, Ecuador

5. Merit – Foggy Small TownDuowen Chen

04-Merit---Foggy-Small-Town© Duowen Chen / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestThis photo was captured at noon, 25.12.2013, 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. Location: Český Krumlov, South Bohemian, Czech Republic

6. Merit – A well earned rest in the SaharaEvan Cole

07-Merit---A-well-earned-rest-in-the-Sahara-© Evan Cole / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestThis photo, of Moussa Macher, our Touareg 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 10 minutes of rolling, running and jumping to get 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. Location: Summit of Tin-Merzouga, Tadrat, Tassili N’Ajjer National Park, Algeria

7. Merit – Divine MakeoverMahesh Balasubramanian

08-Merit---Divine-Makeover© Mahesh Balasubramanian / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestTaken during “The Mayana Soora Thiruvizha” festival takes place every March in the small village of Kaveripattinam, the day after Mahashivarathiri (The great night of Shiva). The festival is devoted to Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity worshipped widely in Southern India. Location: Kaveripattinam, Tamilnadu, India

8. Merit – Ladies in WaitingSusie Stern

06-Merit---Ladies-in-Waiting© Susie Stern / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestWhile 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. Location: Burough Market, London, England

9. Merit – Khotso Peace at Devil’s KnucklesByron Inggs

09-Merit---Khotso-Peace-at-Devil's-Knuckles© Byron Inggs / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestOn 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 afternoons glow how could i not take advantage of these magnificent creatures rejoicing in the afternoons glow . This was the end of the first of a three day horse back ride through Bushman’s Nek, up the Drakensberg escarpment and into Lesothos’ Sehlabathebe National Park. Location: Jonathans Lodge, Qachas Nek, Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho

10. Merit – LightSourceMarcelo Castro

10-Merit---LightSource© Marcelo Castro / National Geographic Traveler Photo ContestYoung Monk finds a perfect light source to read his book inside of his pagoda – Old Bagan, Burma Location: Old Bagan

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Avid pop culture fanatic. Amateur food trailblazer. Infuriatingly humble travel junkie. Hipster-friendly alcohol geek.