A panel of judges have announced the winners of this year's International Drone Photography Contest after sifting through a record 8,000 photographs. 

Aerial photography website Dronestagram and National Geographic run the annual contest, which began in 2014. The winning photographs will appear in National Geographic magazine. The contest had four categories: Nature, People, Urban and Creativity.

Nature: Lavender fields and Arctic ice

Jerome Courtial's Provence, summer trim was the first-place winner in the Nature category. It was taken above a lavender field near Valensole in southern France.

Jeff Heimsath, a photo editor for National Geographic Traveler and a judge for the contest, said it was one of his favourite images.

"As a travel photo editor, I've seen countless images of lavender fields, but I had never seen one in such an abstract and beautiful way," Heimsath wrote in an email. 

Nature/1st Prize winner, category nature, Provence, summer trim, France by jcourtial.jpg

(Jerome Courtial/Dronestagram)

The Infinite Road to Transylvania won second place. It was taken above the Cheia DN1A road in central Romania, which winds across forested mountains.

"As the legend says, this is the view that Count Dracula himself saw on his nocturnal flight," photographer Calin Stan told Dronestagram.

Nature/2nd Prize Winner, category nature, Infinite road to Transylvania, Romania by Calin Stan.jpg

(Calin Stan/Dronestagram)

Third-place winner Ice Formation shows sea ice in Greenland in February 2017. Photographer Florian Ledoux wrote on Dronestagram that the photograph illustrates the impact of climate change on Greenland's ice.

Ledoux said the drone flew three kilometres above ice in east Greenland. He had a "lot of trouble" shooting in sub-zero temperatures, and the drone crashed a month later in Norway, he said.

Nature/3rd prize winner, category nature, Ice formation, Greenland by Florian.jpg

(Florian Ledoux/Dronestagram)

People: Waterlilies and Spanish fiestas

Martin Sanchez's End of the Line won first place in the People category. The aerial self-portrait was taken on an empty tennis court on the coast of New Jersey.

"While driving, I noticed an empty tennis court that just stood out like a treasured story in a book of empty words," Sanchez said.

1st Prize winner, category people, End of the line, USA by Martin Sanchez.jpg

(Martin Sanchez/Dronestagram)

Second-place winner Waterlily provides an aerial view of a woman harvesting water lilies in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. National Geographic Traveler Photo Editor Jeff Heimsath said it was also one of his favourites.

"The waterlilies in Vietnam [photo] has a very graphic quality but also makes me want to learn more about what's going on in the photo," Heimsath told CBC News.

2nd Prize Winner, category people, Waterlily, Vietnam by helios1412.jpg

(Le Thai Duong/Dronestagram)

The third-place winner of the People category shows an overhead view of La Vijanera, a winter fiesta held in Silio, Spain, on the first Sunday of each year.

3rd Prize winner, category People, La Vijanera, Spain by feelingmovie.jpg

(Javier Bustamante/Feelingmovie/Dronestagram)

Urban: Skyscrapers and graveyards

Dronestagram's managing director Guillaume Jarret said the panel asked themselves what made a great drone photograph when they judged a photo.

"It is taken at a low altitude, near the target of the picture, and you must see on the picture that it is impossible it has been taken with a device other than a drone," he told CBC News. He said the composition, lighting, framing and fit to the category also made a difference.

Concrete Jungle won first place for the Urban category. It shows an aerial view of downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at sunset.

1st Prize winner category Urban, Concrete jungle, Dubai, EAA by Bachirm.jpg

(Bachir Moukarzel/Dronestagram)

In the second-place photograph, industrial climbers work on the Mercury City Tower in Moscow, Russia.

Photographer Alexey Goncharov, a physicist at Moscow State University, said he saw the climbers while he was flying a drone in the morning before work.

"I liked the way their work looked from that perspective: they seemed to wash the city itself, not just the building's windows," Goncharov said.

2nd Prize Winner, category Urban, Dawn on mercury tower, Russia by Alexeygo.jpg

(Alexey Goncharov/Dronestagram)

This aerial photograph of Madrid's Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery won the third-place prize. The cemetery is the one of the largest in Europe and is said to house five million graves.

Luis Saguar Domingo, a 24-year-old student who took the photograph, said it looked "really cool and symmetrical."

3rd prize winner, category Urban, Peace, Spain by luckydron.JPG

(Luis Saguar Domingo/Dronestagram)

Creativity: Farmer's fields and sandy beaches

Contest organizers added a fourth "Creativity" category this year for photographs that didn't quite fit into the other three categories. 

Contestant Luke Bell took this aerial shot of cattle in Paarl, South Africa. 

"Two cows take their morning drinks as the sun casts their shadows across the water," he wrote in the photo's description.

Two moo by Luke Bell

(Luke Bell/Dronestagram)

Ugo le marin shows the photographer Romain Gaillard's young son in trouble — at least in his imagination — while he's on the open seas. It was taken on the northern coast of France near Saint-Quay-Portrieux.

Ugo Marine

(Romain Gaillard/RGA/Dronestagram)

Drone photographer Thibault Beguet and his girlfriend will soon be new parents. He said this aerial photo was a "funny and original way" to announce the news to their friends and family.

It was taken off the coast of France near the town of Agon-Coutainville.

New parents

(Thibault Beguet/Macareux Produ/Dronestagram)