The most incredible nature photography of 2013

Highlights from this year's National Geographic Photography Contest

Topics: wildlife, nature, Photography, National Geographic, ,

When the editors of National Geographic choose the winners of their 2013 photography contest — three top entries that will be published in a future issue of the magazine — they’ll have some truly stunning contenders to consider. Selecting just ten to feature was itself no easy task.

Below, ten photos from this year’s contest capture the beauty of the natural world, from waterfalls in Oregon to ancient salt caves in Turkey, with some birds and beasts thrown in for good measure. Captions written by the photographers describe the amount of skill — and luck — that went into capturing the perfect shot. Check out our picks, then head here to view thousands more.



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    Antonio Chiumenti/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "Carezza Lake is a pearl of the Dolomiti. Nestled between an ancient forest of grand firs and the Latemar Mountain is place of legends and beauty. A nymph lives under its emerald waters. I threw a little stone in the water to add a little mystery to the scene."

    Mac Kwan/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "We went to Cappadocia for the wonderful balloon trip on the land of beautiful horses. However, we didn't have a chance to enjoy ourselves on the balloon after 3 days waiting there due to the windy and cloudy weather in the morning. Never mind, we can still enjoy this lonely balloon trip of our own by flying it into this pretty sunset."

    Majed Ali/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "We just want to move to search to the Leopard at that morning but we found a group of giraffes come toward a small lake and start drinking it was a nice moment when the Giraffe finish from drinking and leave a letters S with motion in the air."

    Melih Sular/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "This area known as Çankr Salt Cave and believed that it was operated by Hittites (3000 BC), since 5000 years. This area has the largest rock salt reserve in Turkey. This area stated 25 km. east from Çankr and rock salt production made by the mining method, room and pillar system. Although a relatively narrow entrance gallery, the galleries where production made resemble highway tunnels. Salt cavities, 400 m. under the earths crust, thick of blood vessel, separated orderly room and pillars. In other words, parallel galleries designed in salt cavities."

    Alexey Kharitonov/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "Russia, Baikal Lake, cape Pokoyniki. The cape is one of the most interesting places at the shore of Baikal Lake. "Pokoyniki" in Russian means "dead men", the legend tells about Buryat settlement, suddenly died of unknown disease. Another name of this cape - Pokoyniy, means "quiet", because of very quiet bay behind the cape. March, evening twilight, -20C."

    Gavin Hardcastle/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "Autumn sun pours into Punch Bowl Falls to create some stunning atmospherics. I didn't have long to capture the moving light beams so I frantically started shooting as soon as I arrived on the scene."

    Max Seigal/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "A long penguin standing in the surf on South Georgia Island."

    Giacomo Ciangottini/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "A trabocco is an old fishing machine built from wood jutting out into the sea, from where two (or more) long arms called antenna stretch out suspended some feet above the water and supporting a huge net."

    Sarah Neal/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "This little plant was struggling to survive in an extremely inhabitable place, an abandoned train yard depot. It's surround by 30 year of rust, decay and toxins, no direct sunlight, very little water and no soil. All the things we are told plants need to survive. Yet this little plant has still risen up and even seems to Glow!"

    Scott Bechtel/National Geographic Photo Contest

    National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

    "While photographing hummingbirds in British Columbia I shot this male Rufous just as he fanned out to show his authority when another male Rufous appeared over my head."

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Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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