The winning shots in competition judged by photographer Steve McCurry

Billowing fishing nets, a monk watching hot air balloons and mist-shrouded mountains: The prize-winning travel photos that show beauty in all corners of the planet

  •  Scenes of Chinese fishermen, Cuban farmers and Japanese Geisha are captured in striking images
  •  The Independent Photographer competition attracts photography talent from around the world
  •  The winning image was shot by a hobby photographer who beat competitors from more than 50 countries

Fishing nets billowing in the breeze; a young Buddhist monk watching hot air balloons at sunrise; and a group of Geisha strolling through a Japanese garden in all its autumnal glory – these are some of the scenes captured by the finalists in the Travel Awards of The Independent Photographer competition.

Steve McCurry, one of the world’s most revered contemporary photographers, judged the contest, lending it a serious amount of prestige. 

The winning shot, titled Fishing Nets Drying in the Sun, was taken by a young hobby photographer based in Singapore, Claire Tan, described by the competition organisers as ‘an emerging talent’. She was awarded $1,000 in prize money for her artfully composed image of a fisherman tending to his nets in the Fujian Province of China.  

The competition is held monthly, with a different theme each time, and for the Travel Awards entrants were asked to submit images ‘that communicate the life of a place in all its splendour, and trigger our memories’. 

Submissions flooded in from more than 50 countries, and as the shortlisted images below show, there is incredible beauty to be found in every corner of the planet.

Scroll down to see all the finalists’ submissions, which might well inspire you to take up photography too. 

The winning image, Fishing Nets Drying in the Sun, was taken by Singapore-based hobby photographer Claire Tan in Xiapu County, part of the Fujian Province on the east coast of China. Steve McCurry, the legendary photographer who judged the competition, praised the photo for its creative composition. ‘What first caught my attention, and ultimately deemed this image as first place, is the poetic composition and interesting symmetry taking place,’ he explained. ‘The harmonious color scheme, with the pop of red in the bucket really works well for this photo. The movement of the image suggests that a gentle breeze was happening, and almost makes me feel like I was there when this photograph was made’

The spontaneity in this image of a boy jumping off a boat, captured by photographer Germán Rodriguez Laverde in his native Colombia, earned it second place in the competition and $600 in prize money. Judge Steve McCurry said of the entry, titled Thirst for Freedom: ‘It takes me back to times that I’ve photographed on water. The water seems to help create spontaneous moments to be captured. This whimsical instant within an interesting landscape particularly caught my attention’

A fisherman navigates his way into a network of fishing cages in this tranquil scene captured by the German-American fine art photographer Hilda Champion, who claimed third place and was awarded $400. Just like the winning image, it was shot in the Fujian Province of China

The beauty in this snapshot of fishing nets being mended – simply titled Fixing Nets – got the Spanish photographer Luis Maria Barrio shortlisted. The image was taken in Vietnam

Tshechu is a Buddhist festival held annually in each district of Bhutan. Photographer Stuart Chape, from Samoa, captured the celebrations in this striking image, titled Tshechu Festival

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In Cuba, farmers are referred to as ‘Guajiros’. Florida-based photographer Carlos Antonorsi spent a day with a Guajiro family, who have been working the land for many generations in the valley of Viñales, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Here, traditional techniques are still in use for agricultural production, particularly of tobacco

Japan’s ancient Geisha tradition is captured in Anoush Abrar’s shortlisted image, titled Five Maikos. ‘Geisha are a symbol of Japanese culture, instantly recognisable around the world,’ commented Abrar, a Tehran-born internationally acclaimed photographer based in London and Lausanne. ‘Several trips to Japan, a lot of negotiation and a close relationship with the right people were necessary to finally be allowed into this mystical and secret world’

A young Buddhist monk watches hot air balloons take off at sunrise in the ancient Myanmarese city of Bagan in this soulful image, titled Little Buddha, shot by Basque photographer Iñigo Bravo Saez

Young monks studying at their local temple in Myanmar are captured by local photographer Thi Ha Maung in this beautiful image titled Teaching and Learning at Night

This moody snap of stormy weather in the Italian Alps shot by Italian photographer Matteo Garzonio is titled Sturm und Drang

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