The stunning winners of this year's National Geographic Photo Contest

Electromagnetic storms, sunbathing cows and other incredible shots

By Lindsay Abrams

Published December 19, 2013 9:23PM (EST)

"The Ice Bear"
  (Paul Souders/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"The Ice Bear" (Paul Souders/National Geographic Photo Contest)

Over 7,000 entries were submitted to this year's National Geographic Photo Contest, each with a unique take on the themes of "nature," "place" and "people" set throughout 150 different countries.

The grand prize winner, pictured above, was taken by Paul Souders in Hudson Bay, Canada. A professional photographer, Souders described to National Geographic how he went about obtaining the incredible shot:

The bear swam up to the iceberg, ducked under and stayed underwater for several seconds as I moved my zodiac into position and then held out the camera on a six-foot boom near the entrance. I didn’t fire until she came up to breathe and take a look at me, and I kept firing the shutter as she submerged again. She hung there, just below the surface, watching me, then came up for another breath before swimming away. I couldn’t see her from where I sat in my small zodiac boat; I was shooting blind with the wide angle. I sensed it was a unique situation, but the first thought in my mind was that I really didn’t want to screw up. I’d already dunked the remote radio trigger and camera into the salt water, and had to jury rig a replacement cable by chewing off the copper wires and hand-splicing it together. I don’t know how, but somehow it worked.

Last week, Salon posted some of our favorite entries; a different set was chosen by the contest's panel of judges to be published in National Geographic magazine. Check out the big winners below (captions provided by the photographers):

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