See the Pictures That Earned Nat Geo Photographers Top Awards

A prestigious photo contest honored three National Geographic photographers for their work photographing rhinos, pandas, and a 3,000-mile-long train trip.

Three National Geographic photographers were recognized by the World Press Photo's 60th annual photography contest, a competition that honors the best in journalistic and documentary photography each year.

Photographer Brent Stirton, on assignment for National Geographic's story, "Inside the Deadly Rhino Trade", won first place in the "nature" category for his work photographing illegal rhino horn trading in southern and eastern Africa. Stirton's photographs exposed the graphic and harrowing ways the animals are poached and their horns removed.

Second place in the contest's "nature" category was awarded to photographer Ami Vitale for her images taken at a panda reserve in China. Featured in the story, "Pandas Get to Know Their Wild Side," her work documented as young bears, in serious decline in the wild, are raised by human parents (in panda outfits) as they develop the ability to survive in wild environments.

Matthieu Paley was awarded third place in the category "daily life" for his images capturing passengers on one of the longest train routes in the world, a stretch from Hong Kong to the Xinjiang province of China, in all 3,000 miles. Paley captured the wildness of China's landscape and the diverse group of train passengers traveling through it. (Read more about Paley's experience in, "Travel 3,000 Miles Through China’s Wondrous Wild West.")

"We are so proud to have the work of our photographers Brent Stirton, Ami Vitali and Matthieu Paley selected by the World Press Photo jury," said Sarah Leen, director of photography at National Geographic. "Winning at World Press is to receive one of the highest honors in photojournalism."

The annual competition awards winners for superior performance in eight different categories, including contemporary issues, general news, sports, people, and spot news. Judges this year selected 45 winners among 5,034 photographers, who collectively had submitted more than 80,000 photos. The 2017 winners represented 25 different countries.

The prize-winning photographs will be featured in a traveling exhibit later this year that will visit 45 countries. More information on how to visit these exhibitions can be found here.