A photograph of a lightning bolt striking within the ash cloud of an erupting volcano has earned Sergio Tapiro Velasco of Mexico the prestigious title of 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. Velasco's photo was selected from over 15,000 entries from participants in more than 30 countries.

2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Grand Prize, and 1st Prize Nature Category: The power of nature by Sergio Tapiro Velasco. "Powerful eruption of Colima Volcano in Mexico on 13 December 2015. That night, the weather was dry and cold, friction of ash particles generated lightning of about 600 metres high that connected ash and volcano, and illuminated most of the dark scene. In the last part of 2015, this volcano showed a lot of eruptive activity with ash explosions that towered 2-3 km above the crater. Most of the night-time explosions produced incandescent rock falls and lightning.Sergio Tapiro Velasco/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

For more than a decade, Velasco has been studying and photographing Mexico's Volcán de Colima, which is one of the most active volcanos in Latin America. He closely watched the volcano for almost a month, carefully tracking any increase in activity . While shooting on a completely clear night just 12 kilometres away from the crater, Velasco heard a booming noise and witnessed the biggest volcanic lightning bolt he'd ever seen. Until he reviewed the photos he'd taken, Velasco had no idea if he'd actually captured the spectacular event.

"When I looked on the camera display, all I could do was stare," said Velasco. "What I was seeing was impossible to conceive, the image showed the amazing forces of nature interacting on a volcano, while the lightning brightened the whole scene.

Velasco will receive a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago with National Geographic Expeditions, as well as a $2,500 (£1,892) prize. Velasco's photo was selected from over 15,000 entries from participants in more than 30 countries.

In addition to winning the grand prize, Velasco's photo was also chosen as the winner of the Nature category. Norbert Fritz of Hungary took top honours in the Cities category for his photo titled Levels of Reading, while Worship by F Dilek Uyar of Turkey won the People category. The judges also chose second and third place and named several honourable mentions in each category.

2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature second place: To live by Hiromi Kano.Hiromi Kano/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature third place: Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles by Tarun Sinha. “This image was captured in Costa Rica when I was travelling from Monteverde to Playa Hermosa. As you cross over this river, you can stop and peer over the edge of the bridge. Below, live over 35 gigantic crocodiles, relaxing on the muddy banks of the river.”Tarun Sinha/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature honourable mention: Marble Caves by Clane Gessel. “The marble caves of Patagonia.”Clane Gessel/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature honourable mention: Mt Bromo by Reynold Riksa Dewantara. “Mount Bromo volcano is a small, but active volcanic cinder cone on Java, Indonesia. Early 2016, I happened to be in Mt Bromo during the increase of seismic activity and triggered the alert status to the second highest.”Reynold Riksa Dewantara/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature honourable mention: In Your Face by Shane Gross. “Caribbean reef sharks are usually shy so I placed my camera on a rock which I know they frequented and used a remote trigger to click away as they came in and bumped my camera around.”Shane Gross/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Nature honourable mention: Forest of the Fairy by Yutaka Takafuji. “Shooting in the forest This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of Princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.”Yutaka Takafuji/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities winner: Levels of reading by Norbet Fritz. “The modern interior of the city library in Stuttgart. With its wide-open space in the central, where natural light comes from through the windows on the top, it has a unique atmosphere, where you can broaden your knowledge.”Norbet Fritz/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities second place: Walled City #08 by Andy Yeung. “The Kowloon Walled City was the densest place on Earth. Hundreds of houses stacked on top of each other enclosed in the centre of the structure. Many didn’t have access to open space.This notorious city was finally demolished in 1990s. However, if you look hard enough, you will notice that the city is not dead. Part of it still exists in many of current high density housing apartments. I hope this series can get people to think about claustrophobic living in Hong Kong from a new perspective.”Andy Yeung/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities third place: Henningsvær Football Field by Misha De-Stroyev. “This football field in Henningsvær in the Lofoten Islands is considered one of the most amazing fields in Europe, and maybe even in the world. The photo was taken during a 10-day sailing trip in Norway in June 2017. We arrived in Henningsvær after a week of sailing through the cold and rainy weather. Upon our arrival, the weather cleared up. I was really lucky that the conditions were suitable for flying my drone, and I managed to capture this shot from a height of 120 metres.”Misha De-Stroyev/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities honourable mention: Blessings at Besakih by Michael Dean Morgan. “Besakih Temple has been known as Bali's 'Mother Temple' for over 1000 years and is perched 1000 metres high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. The Balinese often come to offer up prayer and take blessings from the temple priests who reside there.”Michael Dean Morgan/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities honourable mention: Colourful apartment by Tetsuya Hashimoto. “This building is apartment complex in Gifu Prefecture of Japan. It is very colourful, but it is an ordinary collective housing where ordinary people can live.”Tetsuya Hashimoto/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
Cities honourable mention: Al Ain by by Andrzej Bochenski. “A new city in the desert.”Andrzej Bochenski/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
People winner: Worship by F Dilek Uyar. “This photo was taken in Konya, Turkey. The 'dance' of the Whirling Dervishes is called Sema and is a symbol of the Mevlevi culture. According to Mevlana's teachings, human beings are born twice, once of their mothers and the second time of their own bodies.F Dilek Uyar/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
People second place: Interesting moment by Julius Y. “Museum visitors look at Rembrandt's painting The Sampling Officials, which creates the illusion that the people in the painting are curiously watching the visitors.”Julius Y/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
People third place: Under The Wave by Rodney Bursiel. “I recently travelled to Tavarua in Fiji to do some surf photography with pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter at Cloudbreak. I'm always looking for new angles and perspectives. The usual surf shots have all been done so we decided to get a little creative. Makes you look twice.”Rodney Bursiel/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
People honourable mention: Bridging Generation by Jobit George. “A father and son sitting in white traditional on the day of Eid al-Fitr in a mosque in New Delhi, India.”Jobit George/2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year
People honourable mention: The Man’s Stare by Moin Ahmed. “The photo was taken on 23rd of July 2016 at Tongi Railway Station, Gazipur, Bangladesh. A train from Dhaka arrived in a torrential rainstorm. I realised a man was looking at me through one window and he’d put an umbrella in the other to protect him from the rain.Moin Ahmed./2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year