National Geographic Announces 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year

A photograph of a horseman in Inner Mongolia has earned Anthony Lau of Hong Kong the prestigious title of 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year. Lau, whose photo was selected from thousands of entries, also wins a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

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“Winter Horseman,” The winning photo by Anthony Lau of Hong Kong

Lau took the photo, titled “Winter Horseman,” in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China after an early morning hike. He and his travel companions were driving back to their hotel for breakfast when they came across a team of riders showing off their skills.

The snow was getting heavier, the wind was getting stronger, the morning snow was getting thinner and the light was moving away from its optimal position,” Lau said. “I knew I only had a couple of shots to get the best out of this encounter. With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses.”

National Geographic Travel photography captures the awe-inspiring diversity of the world’s people, places and cultures. This contest recognizes the most compelling travel photography taken in the past two years, with entries in three categories: Nature, People and Cities.

First-, second- and third-place prizes were awarded in each category. Lau’s photo placed first in the People category, while Takashi Nakagawa of Tokyo took top honors in the Cities category for his photo “Ben Youssef,” and “Wherever you go, I will follow you!!” shot by Hiroki Inoue of Hokkaido, Japan, led the field in Nature.

First-place winners received a Sony a6300 camera supplied by B&H Photo, second-place winners received National Geographic’s The Art of Travel Photography course on DVD and third-place winners received a National Geographic book. All winners received a subscription to National Geographic Traveler magazine. The winning photos may be viewed online on the National Geographic Travel website.

We are thrilled to name Anthony Lau as our first-ever National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year,” said George Stone, editor in chief of National Geographic Travel. “We were blown away by the entries we received from around the world, and it’s clear our passion for visual storytelling is shared by our readers.

Anne Farrar, director of photography for National Geographic Travel, was joined on the judging panel by Corey Arnold, contributing photographer for National Geographic Magazine, and Foster Huntington, a photographer and filmmaker.

As grand-prize winner, Lau will embark on a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, where guests can settle into a cozy lodge on the banks of the Hudson Bay, and head out on guided excursions by foot to photograph polar bears and other wildlife against a dramatic landscape of snow and ice. Guests will also enjoy incredible cuisine and stories around the fireplace, and then step into the night to capture the mesmerizing northern lights. The trip is provided by National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, a collection of extraordinary properties that are selected for the outstanding guest service and experiences they offer, and for their leadership in sustainable tourism and commitment to protecting cultural and natural heritage.

National Geographic Travel creates authentic, meaningful and engaging travel experiences through National Geographic Traveler magazine; National Geographic Expeditions; National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World; travel books; maps; digital travel content; and travel photography programs. National Geographic Traveler (six issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 16 local-language editions. National Geographic Expeditions offers a variety of unique travel experiences led by top experts to more than 80 destinations across all seven continents. Travel opportunities include family and student expeditions, active adventures, journeys with G Adventures, private jet trips and voyages on the six expedition ships in the National Geographic-Lindblad fleet, as well as photography workshops, expeditions and seminars. The National Geographic Travel digital group, shares its inspiring and authoritative digital content such as trip ideas, photo galleries, blogs and apps with its @NatGeoTravel community of 14 million. National Geographic Travel books bring readers curated travel advice, photography and insider tips.

“Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale” Coming to Movie Theaters in Spring of 2017 for Nationwide First-run Release

[SAO] Feature Key Visual

“Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale” Key Visual

Sword Art Online, the mega anime hit that has sold 16.7 million copies worldwide, will come back as an animated feature with a brand new original story by author, Reki Kawahara. Based on the wildly popular light novels published in Kadokawa’s Dengeki Bunko, Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale is set to be released nationwide in spring of 2017. Since the first volume of the novel was published in April 2009, the series has proved extremely popular, spawning two TV anime adaptations, video games, comic books, and merchandise.

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Preview still Image from “Sword Art Online The Movie – Ordinal Scale” Coming to Movie Theaters in Spring of 2017

The series takes place in the near-future and focuses on various virtual reality MMORPG worlds. In 2022, a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online (SAO) is released. With the NerveGear, a helmet that stimulates the user’s five senses via their brain, players can experience and control their in-game characters with their minds. On November 6, 10,000 players log into the SAO’s mainframe cyberspace for the first time and discover that they are unable to log-out. They quickly discover from Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of SAO and NerveGear, they must reach the 100th floor of the game’s castle and defeat the final boss if they wish to be free. Those who suffer in-game destruction or remove the NerveGear out-of-game will result in their real-life deaths.

One of the players, Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya, is one of the 1,000 beta testers in the game’s previous closed beta. With the advantage of previous VR gaming experience and a drive to protect other beta testers from discrimination he isolates himself from the greater group and plays the game alone, bearing the mantle of “beater”, or “beta cheater”. As the players progress through the game Kirito eventually befriends a young girl named Asuna Yūki, forming a relationship with and later marrying her in-game. After the duo discover the identity of Kayaba’s program Heathcliff in SAO, who was discovered to be the leader of the guild Asuna joined in, they confront and destroy him, freeing themselves and the other players from the game.

In the real world, Kirito discovers that 300 SAO players, including Asuna, remain trapped in their NerveGear. Several months later, he is informed by Agil, another SAO survivor, that a figure similar to Asuna was spotted on a giant tree (known as “The World Tree”) in another VRMMORPG cyberspace called Alfheim Online (ALO). Assisted in-game by his cousin Suguha “Leafa” Kirigaya and Yui, a navigation pixie, he quickly learns that the trapped players in ALO are part of an evil plan conceived by Nobuyuki Sugō to perform illegal experiments on their minds. The ultimate goal is to perfect mind-control for financial gain and to subjugate Asuna, whom he intends to marry in the real world, to assume control of her family’s corporation. Kirito eventually stops the experiment and rescues the remaining 300 SAO players, foiling Sugō’s plans. Before leaving ALO to see Asuna, Kayaba, who has uploaded his mind to the Internet using an experimental and destructively high-power version of NerveGear at the cost of his life, entrusts Kirito with The Seed – a package program designed to create virtual worlds. Kirito eventually reunites with Asuna in the real world and The Seed is released onto the Internet, reviving the VRMMO industry.

Soon after, at the prompting of a government official investigating strange occurrences in VR, Kirito takes on a job to investigate a series of murders involving another VRMMORPG called Gun Gale Online (GGO), the AmuSphere (the successor of the NerveGear), and a player called Death Gun. Aided by a female player named Shino “Sinon” Asada, he participates in a gunfight tournament called the Bullet of Bullets (BoB) and discovers the truth behind the murders, which originated with a player who participated in player-killing in SAO. Through his and Sinon’s efforts, two suspects are captured, though the third suspect, Johnny Black, escapes.

Kirito is later recruited to assist in testing an experimental FullDive machine, Soul Translator (STL), which has an interface that is far more realistic and complex than the previous machine he had played to help develop an artificial intelligence for the Ministry of Defense (MOD) named A.L.I.C.E. He tests the STL by entering a Virtual Reality cyberspace created with The Seed package, named UnderWorld (UW). In the UW, the flow of time proceeds a thousand times faster than in the real world, and Kirito’s memories of what happens inside are restricted. However, Black critically injures Kirito with suxamethonium chloride but the MOD recovers Kirito and places him back into the STL to preserve his mind while attempts are made to save him. Continue reading