"I photographed it from the water and my lens got completely wet, but there was so much energy in these boys that I just didn't worry about it," said photographer Wagner Araujo of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
National Geographic Traveler director of photography Dan Westergren, one of this year's judges, said: "This photo really captures my attention because of the peak action it depicts. I love the horizontal tension caused by the main subject on his way out of the picture to the right."
The 25th annual photo contest received more than 15,000 entries in four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. (See all the entries.)
"I hiked out to these ruins at night hoping to photograph them with the Milky Way, but instead a thunderstorm rolled through, creating this dramatic image," wrote photographer Max Seigal of Boulder, Colorado, who earned second place in the contest. (See the viewers' choice winners.)
"I really like the two different color palettes—warm inside and purple outside," noted judge Westergren.
Photograph by Max Seigal
Third-Place Winner: "Say Cheese"
Cheetahs jump on a vehicle carrying tourists in Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in the third-place winning photograph taken by Yanai Bonneh of Negev, Israel.
"It's a fun photo to look at because of all the secondary activity," Westergren noted.
"The photographer in the front seat is turned around with camera to eye, but then there's the woman in the middle row, trying to capture a selfie with the cheetah in the background. Danger and subtle humor combined in one picture. What could be better?"