National Geographic announced the winners of its annual photo contest today, and the grand prize-winning photo captures a furious brown tornado ripping through a flat grassy expanse in Colorado. Titled “DIRT,” it was taken by James Smart, an Australian who went storm-chasing in the United States for 15 days last Spring.
In what makes for a neat anecdote, Smart captured the shot on the last day of his venture. He describes how he got the shot in a press release announcing the win:
The tornado was slowly getting bigger as it picked up the dust and soil from the ground on the farmland. It wasn’t moving very fast, so we kept getting closer as it tracked next to the home as you can see in the image. Driving down a Colorado dirt road, we were lucky enough to be on the west of the tornado, so it was front lit. This really helped to get great detail out of the image and the perfect light for the sky and foreground.
The glory of seeing his photo published in the magazine is accompanied by $10,000 and a trip to D.C. next month to the National Geographic Photography Seminar.
As per contest rules, judges picked winners from the over 13,000 entries, in three categories: people, places and nature. They chose the grand-prize winner from among the three category winners. Smart won the nature category. Joel Nsadha was the winner of the people category and Francisco Mingorance won places [photos below].