These Are the Winners of the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

Thousands of Volkswagen and Audi cars sit idle in the middle of California’s Mojave Desert. Models manufactured from 2009 to 2015 were designed to cheat emissions tests mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Following the scandal, Volkswagen recalled millions of cars. By capturing scenes like this one, I hope we will all become more conscious of and more caring toward our beautiful planet. Photograph and caption by Jassen Todorov / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

An eerie photo of recalled Volkswagen and Audi cars sitting idly in the Mojave Desert (above) has been chosen as the grand-prize winner of the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. The photo, titled “Unreal,” was captured by Jassen Todorov of the United States.

The image was selected from nearly 10,000 entries in the National Geographic Photo Contest. Todorov won $5,000 and will have his winning image featured on the @NatGeo Instagram account, contest organizers said.

Todorov shot the image from his 1976 Piper Warrior airplane while flying over the Southern California Logistics Airport, which stores retired airplanes to be use as scrap metal or parts.

“But following the 2015 news that Volkswagen was manufacturing cars that subverted emissions tests, the vast stretch of land adjacent to the airport became a boneyard for recalled (Volkswagen and Audi) vehicles,” Nat Geo explained in a news release. “When Todorov read news that the recalled vehicles were being housed at the airport, he was struck by the scale of the story—he wanted to see the scene for himself.”

On the importance of the photo, Todorov said, “By capturing scenes like this one, I hope we will all become more conscious and more caring for our beautiful planet.”

Pim Volkers of Laren, Netherlands, won first place in the Wildlife category for a photo of wildebeest crossing the Mara River in Tanzania. See image below.

It was early morning when I saw the wildebeests crossing Tanzania’s Mara River. The layering of dust, shade, and sun over the chaos of wildebeests kicking up water gives this picture a sense of mystique and allure. It’s almost like an old painting—I’m still compelled to search the detail of the image to absorb the unreal scene. Photograph and caption by Pim Volkers / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

Mia Collis of Westlands, Kenya, won first place in the People category for a portrait David Muyochokera on his last day working at his studio in Kibera, Nairobi. See image below.

I was looking to do a series of portraits showing people wearing their Sunday best when I made this photo of David Muyochokera. It was taken on his last Sunday working as a photographer at Weekend Studio, in Kibera—a large shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya. My friend Peter, a local resident, had pointed me to the photo studio just as I was about to leave the area. It was a stunning space, with whimsical backdrops and natural light coming through the doorway. David had worked there for 37 years, but Weekend Studio was about to close permanently. Phone cameras were so common now, he said, and fewer people wanted studio portraits. David planned to retire and return home to the countryside. I was troubled by the studio’s imminent closure, so I eventually took over the rent. A portrait of David now hangs at Weekend Studio in his memory. Photograph and caption by Mia Collis / 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

See more of the winning photos from the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest here.