Top Picks from the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

The National Geographic Photo Contest takes place every year and features three categories: wildlife, places, and people. Submissions must be original work and taken within two years of the date of entry. A panel of judges chooses three finalists from all three categories and awards them first, second, or third place. We’ve found some of the best, most breath-taking submissions from the 2018 contest and have listed them in this article.

Dusty Mountain Wrangling

Credit: Photograph by Lauren Summers. Source: nationalgeographic.com

The Hideout Lodge & Guest Ranch is located in a remote town called Shell in Wyoming, the US, where the cows outnumber the people. The horses are the main focus, and every day, a wrangler brings in the herd of more than 120 in during the morning roundup. This photograph, taken by Lauren Summers, shows just that – set against the sun rising behind the Big Horn Mountains, it captures the essence of the Wild West perfectly.

Hunger Games

Credit: Photograph by Thomas Vijayan. Source: nationalgeographic.com

This astonishing chase was captured by Thomas Vijayan in the Masai Mara in Kenya on the second-to-last day of his trip. The photograph shows a cheetah targeting a gazelle calf in what seems to be a deadly chase, with the dust formation framing the dramatic scene. However, the most incredible part of the story happened after this photograph was taken: the cheetah caught the gazelle but started playing with it as though it was its cub, setting it free to its mother sometime later.

Wrath of the Gods

Credit: Photograph by Alexandros Maragos. Source: nationalgeographic.com

This severe summer thunderstorm took place in Athens, Greece, and was captured in photographic form by Alexandros Maragos in 2018 from his position in Kolonaki, Attica. The spectacular formation of forked lightning would be impressive in any setting, but set against one of the most ancient cities in the world; it is even more striking. With the Acropolis positioned between lightning bolts, it almost seems as though the city is feeling the wrath of the Greek gods themselves.

Blurred Lines

Credit: Photograph by Susan Blick. Source: nationalgeographic.com

Susan Blick was leading a photo tour through the streets of the Paharganj in India when she took this photograph using a tripod and ND filter, plus a low exposure of 8 seconds. This adds emotion to the scene and conveys the hustle and bustle of the street through the unfocused appearance, and the viewer can almost imagine the sounds and the smells of the city without actually being there. “It’s all a blur” is really how it can feel on the streets of this busy, intense country.

Waves of Fog

Credit: Photograph by David Odisho. Source: nationalgeographic.com

Photographer David Odisho has perfectly captured the majestic waves of fog sweeping through Marin County, California, on a summer’s day, blanketing the peaks of Mount Tamalpais. The scene looks like something out of a fairy tale and evokes feelings of peace and serenity, and the smooth, cotton candy clouds almost appear to be painted with strokes of a brush. The sun-filled sky in the horizon is the finishing touch to this photograph, providing a splash of color and bathing the clouds in the light.

Breaking Free

Credit: Photograph by Lilian Koh. Source: nationalgeographic.com

This is undoubtedly an incredible photograph of a young grouper and a lizard fish, which was taken by Lilian Koh in Anilao, Calabarzon, and the Philippines. Not only is the focus and angle of the lizardfish perfect but Koh has also captured the struggle faced by the juvenile grouper as it fights for its life while it tries to break free from the deadly grip of its captor. After this photograph was taken, the grouper managed to escape but was subsequently eaten by a nearby snapper.

All Aboard

Credit: Photograph by Noor Ahmed Gelal. Source: nationalgeographic.com

In this photograph, Noor Ahmed Gelal has captured thousands of people traveling on the roof of an overcrowded train from Dhaka to Dewanganj, Jamalpur, India, where people are heading to celebrate the festival of Eid-al-Fitr with their friends and families. The viewer can immediately sense the desperation of the people to reach their destination, as well as the risk they’re taking, which is highlighted by the blurred trees either side of the train that suggest the high speed of travel.

Majestic Mountains

Credit: Photograph by Michael Fung. Source: nationalgeographic.com

This incredible photograph almost looks more like a painting – it’s hard to believe it’s a real scene. Photographer Michael Fung captured this lenticular cloud formation above the famous mountain in Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile, which occurred one evening due to a rapid change of weather. There’s no doubt that this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment that has been preserved forever as a photograph.

Fountain of Fire

Credit: Photograph by Austin Jenanyan. Source: nationalgeographic.com

Taken by Austin Jenanyan in Pahoa, Hawaii, the US, this amazing photograph shows a large lava fissure at the moment it erupts. According to Jenanyan, he was even “close enough to feel the intense heat, breath in the smoky air, and get rained on by black ash.” This photograph captures Mother Nature at her most forceful and shows how we can still find beauty in destruction. Set against the backdrop of the night sky, the explosion is stunning as well as intimidating.

King of the Pride Lands

Credit: Photograph by Klaus Mayer. Source: nationalgeographic.com

Photographer Klaus Mayer was in Arusha, Tanzania, following the Great Migration in the Serengeti when he took this beautiful photograph. It was near a watering hole where a lioness and her cubs were relaxing in the heat of the day. One of the cubs – presumably becoming bored – got up and started to practice hunting with the zebras, which all panicked and scattered wildly. The scene makes for an incredible photograph – the zebras’ instinct is to flee, but the innocent lion cub is not yet aware of the power it holds or its future position in the food chain.