It's the most wonderful time of the year! That is, we've reached the announcement of the winners of National Geographic's annual photo contest. This year's grand prize winner, featured below, is an exquisite examination of public and private life in the era of smart phones. Winning photographer Brian Yen of Hong Kong told the magazine's photography blog, "I feel a certain contradiction when I look at the picture. One the one hand, I feel the liberating gift of technology. On the other hand, I feel people don't even try to be neighborly anymore, because they don't have to."
Yen said that with the "advent of mobile communication... a profound change in our civilization" has taken place. He feels "a bit guilty, more and more, that I'm just like that lady in the middle of the train lost in her own world."
National Geographic's Monica Corcoran wrote about the extremely competitive competition:
Photographers from over 150 countries submitted 9,289 photos that fell into three categories: people, places, and nature. This year's category winners all had one thing in common: They tell a story. Whether they show a migrating wildebeest taking a dramatic plunge or a thermal spa bathed in blue light, these images say something. They are layered and nuanced and invite the viewer to think.
With his prize, Yen will receive $10,000 and a trip to the NatGeo headquarters in Washington D.C. to participate in the magazine's annual photography seminar this January. The first place winner in each category wins $2,500 and has his or her photo published in the magazine.
Check out the slideshow below to see the winners in all three categories as well as some of our favorite honorable mentions.
[slide_show id ="13846850"]