13 stunning photographs that placed in the 2015 National Geographic photo competition

Each year photographers from around the world enter their pictures into the annual National Geographic photo competition.

With more than 13,000 entries, here are the winners from this years’ contest.

All photos published with permission by National Geographic.

Honorable Mention: 'From generation to generation' by Jackson Hung

Jackson Hung/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Places

Location: Shalu, Taiwan, Taiwan

This photo was taken during Chinese New Year's Eve of 2015 in Taiwan. I noticed how the light was coming into the room as our family members passed incense sticks to each other, sending our prayers and paying respects to our ancestors.

The photo is symbolic, as the passing of incense sticks represents the knowledge and wisdom passed down from generation to generation.

Honorable Mention: 'Surrealist painting in nature' by Tugo Cheng

Tugo Cheng/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Shihezi, Xinjiang Uygur Zizhiqu, China

As the largest mountain ranges in Central Asia, Tian-shan ('sky-mountain' in Chinese), has one of the best collections of natural landscapes in the world and is seen by many as a paradise for outdoor adventures.

Thanks to the richness of sediments compounded with the power of erosion by rivers flowing down the mountains, the north face of Tian-shan is carved into stunning plateaus and colourful canyons hundreds of meters deep, resulting in this surrealist painting in nature.

Honorable Mention: 'The game' by Simone Monte

Simone Monte/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Places

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Honorable Mention: 'Colourful chaos' by Bence Mate

Bence Mate/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Mkuze, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

White-fronted bee-eaters gather on a bough before going to sleep in their burrows, scraped into a sand wall. I was working on this theme for 18 days, as there were only five to ten minutes each day when the light conditions were appropriate.

Ninety per cent of my efforts to capture this image were not successful. I used flashlights to light the bee-eaters sitting on the branch, but not the others flying above. At this angle, the backlight generated rainbow colouring through the wings of the flying birds.

Honorable Mention: 'Nothing to declare' by Lars Hübner

Lars Hübner/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: People

Location: Douliu, Taiwan, Taiwan

After a family member passes away in Taiwan's countryside, their body is kept in the house or in a tent built specifically for this purpose.

After a set period of time, the deceased is given a funeral procession before their burial.

Honorable Mention: 'Changing shifts' by Mohammed Yousef

Mohammed Yousef/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Masai Mara, Rift Valley, Kenya

In Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the cubs of the famous cheetah Malaika learned to hunt. They moved from one hill to another, scanning the lands.

Here, they seemed to change shifts as one cheetah left the hill while another took her place.

Honorable Mention: 'Acrobats of the air' by Alessandra Meniconzi

Alessandra Meniconzi/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Appenzell, Canton d'Appenzell Rhoden-Interieur, Switzerland

A flock of Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus), mountain-dwelling birds, performs acrobatic displays in the air.

I was able, during a windy day, to immortalise their impressive flight skills.

Honorable Mention: 'Hill of crosses' by Hideki Mizuta

Hideki Mizuta/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Places

Location: Šiauliai, Siauliu Apskritis, Lithuania

There are many hundreds of thousands of crosses on the Hill of Crosses near Šiauliai, Lithuania. It represents Lithuanian Catholicism's peaceful resistance to oppression.

Many spirits of the dead are thought to live here on this small hill. When I visited this place, a girl in a pink dress ran through as if she brought peace, hope, and love.

Honorable Mention: 'Orangutan in the rain' by Andrew Suryono

Andrew Suryono/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

I was taking photos of orangutans in Bali, Indonesia, when it started to rain. Just before I put my camera away, I saw this orangutan take a taro leaf and put it on top on his head to protect himself from the rain!

I immediately used my DSLR and telephoto lens to preserve this spontaneous magic moment.

Honorable Mention: 'Overlooking Iraq from Iran' by Yanan Li

Yanan Li/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: People

Location: Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran

In October 2014 in Khuzestan, Iran, I came across a group of female Iranian students on the border between Iran and Iraq.

Some of them climbed up the tanks left after the war between the two countries and took pictures of themselves. I pressed the shutter when I saw this girl stretch out her arms and turn to face the Iraqi border.

1st Place: 'At the playground' by Joel Nsadha

Joel Nsadha/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: People

Location: Kampala, Central Region, Uganda

Bwengye lives in a slum called Kamwokya in Kampala, Uganda's capital city. He cherishes his bicycle more than anything and brings it to this playground in the slum every evening, where he watches kids playing soccer.

1st Place: 'Asteroid' by Francisco Mingorance

Francisco Mingorance/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Places

Location: Cardeñas, Andalusia, Spain

While preparing a report on Spain's Rio Tinto from the air, I decided to include the phosphogypsum ponds located in the marshes of red, whose radioactive discharges has destroyed part of the marsh.

As an environmental photojournalist I had to report this story, but had to do it with an image that by itself attracts the viewer's attention. On a low-flying training flight, this image caught my attention for its resemblance to the impact of an asteroid on its green waters.

Grand Prize: 'Dirt' by James Smart

James Smart/National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest

Category: Nature

Location: Simla, Colorado, United States

A rare and jaw-dropping anti-cyclonic tornado touches down in open farmland, narrowly missing a home near Simla, Colorado.

NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.