Uplifting travel photography

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National Geographic Traveler has announced the winners of its 2013 Traveler Photo Contest - and the results are as moving and imaginative as you'd expect.

The magazine hailed the standard of entries to their annual photo competition, now in its 25th year, and announced Wagner Araujo of Belo Horizonte, Brazil as the overall winner.

His winning photo, Dig Me River, (below), captures Brazilian Aquathlon participants running into the Rio Negro. For his prize, Araujo will travel to the Galápagos with National Geographic Expeditions to experience up-close encounters with unique species such as domed giant tortoises, sea lions, flightless cormorants and marine iguanas.

Over 15,000 people entered this year's awards, with images judged on their creativity and photographic quality.

"Every year the task of judging the contest gets tougher. The quality of photos increasingly gets better — and the range of imagery more diverse. It’s exciting to see the emergence of such huge numbers of imaginative photographers," said Keith Bellows, National Geographic Traveler magazine editor in chief.

Scroll down to see the winning images from the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest or click here to see the photos in full. The images will appear in the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

First Place: Dig me river

Photo and caption by Wagner Araujo/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

I was in Manaus, Amazonas, during the Brazilian Aquathlon (swimming and running) championship. 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 that.

Second Place: Thunderstorm at False Kiva

Photo and caption by Max Seigal/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

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.

Third Place: Say cheese

Photo and caption by Yanai Bonneh/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Cheetahs jumped on the vehicle of tourists in Masai Mara national park, Kenya.

Merit: The TataHonda sect

Photo and caption by Gergely Lantai-Csont/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The photographer could get inside of an enclosed sect named Tatahonda in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ladies are preparing for their religious ceremony.

Merit: Sakura

Photo and caption by Hideyuki Katagiri/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Cherry blossom is called Sakura in Japanese.Cherry blossom is Japanese symbolic flower.There are various kinds in a cherry tree and an especially old cherry tree has many kinds called Edo-Higan. The trees of the cherry tree exceeding hundreds of years are located in a line with a nebula this temple, and if spring comes every year,can looks at a powerful spectacle can do it. This photograph focused on Edo-Higan and photographed Beni-Sidare which is back together.

Merit: Children of Reindeer

Photo and caption by Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Mikael Ánde, a child of Sámi reindeer herders, takes a break indoors after a long, cold day of rounding up the animals for vaccinations and slaughter. Children of reindeer herders learn to handle these animals and the land they thrive in from infancy - young Mikael here knew far more about the ways of nature than I could ever hope to learn.

Merit: Piano play at sunset

Photo and caption by Nikola Smernic/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Streets of Queenstown, New Zealand at the end of one more day filled with adrenaline. Calming and doleful scene with piano sound in the background.

Merit: Portrait of an Eastern Screech Owl

Photo and caption by Graham McGeorge/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Masters of disguise. The Eastern Screech Owl is seen here doing what they do best. You better have a sharp eye to spot these little birds of prey.

Merit: Guanjiang Shou

Photo and caption by Chan Kwok Hung/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Guanjiang Shou troupes are one of Taiwan most popular activities that may be seen all over Taiwan at traditional folk religion gatherings. With their fiercely painted faces, protruding fangs and powerful, choreographed performances, they are easily recognized, They may be described as underworld police or gods' bodyguards.

Merit: Lady in Water

Photo and caption by Marcelo Salvador/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

A lady collects water in the river by a village in Bagan, Myanmar, 2013

Viewers Choice: Another perspective of the day

Photo and caption by Dody Kusuma/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The fisherman at Bira Beach