This photograph of a team of horses charging through the snow and morning mist, with a mysterious horseman raising his whip behind them, has earned Hong Kong amateur photographer Anthony Lau the title of National Geographic’s travel photographer of the year.
The photograph was shot while Inner Mongolia’s temperatures in December 2015 reached between -20 to -30 degrees Celsius (about -4 to -22 Fahrenheit), says Lau in an interview. The shot was taken during his second photography tour to the Saihanba National Forest Park, three years after his first visit to the natural reserve located between the border of China’s Inner Mongolia province and Hebei province.
The forest park, located at altitude 1,800 meters (5,900 feet), used to be the Manchurian imperial family’s private hunting ground during the Qing dynasty in China, says Lau.
“A lot of horsemen in Inner Mongolia rely on tourism during the winter months, so they would sometimes demonstrate their herding skills to people,” says Lau, “I saw two horsemen leading their horses up and down a slope, so I negotiated with the help of my local guide to have their pictures taken.” Lau also says that often these horsemen would expect a “reasonable compensation” from photographers.
“I only had about 10 minutes to take the best shot during the morning magic hours,” he adds. “Right before the mist disappears as soon as the sun is out.” Lau won the grand prize of the contest, placing first in the people category.
Here are a few more photographs which won prizes in the nature and cities categories.