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National Geographic Photo Contest 2015: Winners revealed from dust tornados and orangutans to colourful canyons

Dust and soil swirl in James Smart's dramatic image of a tornado in Colorado

Jess Denham
Wednesday 30 December 2015 11:16
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James Smart wins $10,000 for his photograph 'Dirt'
James Smart wins $10,000 for his photograph 'Dirt'

A jaw-dropping rare photo of a swirling tornado has won the National Geographic Photo Contest 2015 grand prize.

Australian photographer James Smart spent 15 days chasing storms with a group of meteorologist friends last June and shot “Dirt” near Simla, Colorado on the last day.

“The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland,” he said. “It wasn’t moving very fast so we kept getting closer as it tracked next to the home as you can see.

“We were lucky enough to be on the west of the tornado so it was front lit. This really helped to get great detail out of the image and the perfect light for the sky and foreground.”

Smart’s photo was chosen by professional judges from over 13,000 entries and also triumphed in the Nature category. He receives $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic’s Washington headquarters for its annual photography seminar in January.

Other winners included Joel Nsadha from New York, who placed first in the People category with his portrait of a young man on a bicycle in a Ugandan slum, and Francisco Mingorance from Spain, who won the Places group with his photo of a Spanish marsh partially destroyed by radioactive waste.

'At the Playground' by Joel Nsadha
'Asteroid' by Francisco Mingorance

Honourable mentions were awarded to photos including an orangutan sheltering under a leaf in the rain in Bali, Indonesia; Alpine Choughs flying in Switzerland; a little girl in a pink dress running through thousands of crosses in Lithuania; Iranian students climbing on an army tank; and the colourful canyons of Tian Shan mountain range in Central Asia.

'Orangutan in the Rain' by Andrew Suryono
'Hill of Crosses' by Hideki Mizuta

Photos were selected based on creativity, quality and authenticity of content. Other submissions are available to view on the National Geographic website.

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