Powerful photo set in Mojave Desert named winner of NatGeo’s annual photo contest

A striking aerial shot of a single plane facing off against thousands of recalled Volkswagen and Audi cars sitting idle in the Mojave Desert following the Volkswagen emissions scandal has been named the grand-prize winner of the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest. 

Photographer Jassen Todorov’s photo entitled “Unreal” was selected from nearly 10,000 entries for its composition and its powerful message. 

“By capturing scenes like this one, I hope we will all become more conscious and more caring for our beautiful planet,” he said in a statement. 

The winning image captures the cars manufactured from 2009 to 2015 which subverted emissions tests. Following the scandal, Volkswagen recalled millions of cars and had to open 37 storage facilities throughout the US to store the cars. 

Todorov, a concert violinist by trade and flight instructor in the US, shot the overhead photos while flying a small 1976 Piper Warrior over the California desert. He won the USD $5,000 jackpot and his winning image will be featured on the @NatGeo Instagram account. 

Contestants submitted photos in three categories: people, places and wildlife. 

In the wildlife category, a dramatic photo of wildebeests crossing the Mara River in Tanzania took first place, while a portrait of a photographer in Kenya, put out of work by the advent of smartphones, took the top prize. Todorov’s photo won best photo for the places category. 

Take a look through all the winning photos and honourable mentions here.

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