Hot off the press: winning pictures from this year's Insight Guides Travel Photography Competition

Entrants to this year's Insight Guides Travel Photography competition weren't afraid to get their fingers burnt. Run in association with The Independent on Sunday, the competition theme was "fire", and we asked everyone to submit three images, either digitally or as prints.

Micah Sarut, 33, from Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, was awarded first prize for his photographs of India. He wins a professional commission worth £3,000 to photograph the Baltic States for a forthcoming Insight Guides book. Micah took the summer off from working as an architect to travel in Australia and Asia. "Winning this is a dream come true, a real stroke of luck," said Micah, an aspiring semi-professional photographer who has degrees in East Asian languages and cultures.

"All three winners amply illustrated the theme," said Steven Lawrence, picture editor, Insight Guides. "But Micah excelled himself. His picture of the woman bending over is a brilliant standout image that told a story."

Second place went to Gavin Burnett, 38, a freelance graphic designer from Stockport in Cheshire. Gavin wins £500 in cash and a Canon Power Shot D10 – a waterproof and shockproof camera worth £489 – from our co-sponsors, Canon. "My interest in photography goes hand in hand with being a graphic designer," says Gavin. "My work has allowed me to travel extensively over the last 10 years." His picture "Fire Eater", was taken at a Kandayan Dance show in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The origins of the dance lie in an exorcism ritual known as the Kohomba Kankariya, originally performed by Indian shamans, which has fire eating at its climax.

Mark Reuby, 33, of Deal in Kent, wins third prize for his pictures of the Masai Mara, taken while on holiday in Kenya. Mark, a co-ordinator in the Learning Resources Centre at Canterbury College, is a keen wildlife enthusiast. He wins a Canon Power Shot SX200 IS, with wide angle 28mm lens and 12 x zoom – perfect for capturing landscapes or distant subjects.

Stanfords hosted the awards at their travel bookshop in Covent Garden, London last week, which included the much anticipated "Meet the Experts" workshop, offering aspiring travel photographers the chance to show their work to the judges, who included Sophie Batterbury, picture editor of The Independent on Sunday, Peter Noble, a former Trustee of the Royal Photographic Society, Frankie Jim, Pro Imaging Professional, Canon, documentary photographer Kevin Cummins, and Insight's Steven Lawrence.

The evening ended in style with a dinner hosted by One Aldwych in its smart Axis restaurant, and overnight accommodation provided for the winners courtesy of the hotel.

Last year's winner, David Hall, from Edinburgh, has been taking pictures for Insight Guide's Copenhagen titles, due for publication shortly. "David has delivered a very high standard of photography and has fulfilled the brief with great creativity and imagination," says Steven Lawrence. "His photographs are very visually appealing and really show Copenhagen at its best." And the competition's legacy continues with many former winners going on to work in the field, including 2006 winner Alex Havret. Alex has worked on several commissions for Insight Guides taking him from Cape Town to Cancun. So get snapping: you never know where your photographs might take you.