We're pleased to share some of the top images from this year's contest! You can also view our 2016 winning images.
Darter bathing. © Geo Jooste
"I captured this Darter in a conservation area, late afternoon, in Freestate province, South Africa, just as it got out of the water for a night’s rest."
Camera details: Canon1Dm4, with 100-400mm lens (180mm), iso....400, shutter...1/320, app.....f5
Canyon Lake Dam, Canyon Lake Texas © Phil Lewis
"It was a day of strange weather as a front had just blown in, on the lake there were very low-lying clouds hanging over the still water and masking the horizon, the reflections created an illusion of a cliff over a large open sky."
Camera details: Canon 5DM3
Black Skimmer, St. Pete, Florida © Thomas Chadwick
"This is my favorite Black Skimmer photo that I have taken in all the years following a little-known colony. Every year I select a nest when the parent is on eggs, and follow that same nest until they fledge. At this nest, another baby was born a day or so before the one pictured. Because of the time advantage the other baby bullied the little one by always eating first, stealing meals and pecking the little one to death until he left the shade under the parent. To get out of the Florida heat the baby often used the shadow I casted from lying down near the parent. After getting into position one hour prior to sunrise, and lying there for another hour or so, a parent flew in directly to the smaller baby giving him the meal first. The baby was inches away from me, so I couldn’t get the feeding photo. However, after the baby gobbled down the fish, I captured him running up to the parent and displaying the behavior pictured."
Camera details: Canon 5DS R, 600mm f/4 IS II @ f/11 1/2500 ISO 200 600mm
Nature & People
Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong © Jessica Li Ka Wai
"When facing this spectacular view of nature, the shutter freezes this beautiful and touching moment. This night, a dream came true."
Walking the highline © Tyler Meester
"This photo was taken in Yosemite Valley on the iconic Lost Arrow Spire, a very prominent spire right next to the world renowned Yosemite Falls. Most of the day was spent rigging, by the time it was my friend Kristen's turn to walk the highline the sun was getting ready set over the edge of the valley... I felt pressed for time and was rushing to try and find the best shot. I had walked the highline an hour or so beforehand and the exposure was almost overwhelming, I had never walked a line so far off the ground and with such a breathtaking view! I needed to get a photograph that captured the exposure I experienced while on the line… more for my own memory but also because I love getting a good photo. To get the shot I rappelled part way down the cliffside until I was 20 feet above the highline anchor. Once in position I reached into my bag for my camera, locked off my rappel device, and started swinging around to the left and to the right on the granite wall until I found the perfect angle. The lighting ended up being way better than I could have asked for, Kristen was glowing in the sunlight. It seemed like the whole valley stopped to watch her walk the line. Shooting into the sunlight can be tricky but I love using lens flares to direct the viewer’s eyes in the photograph. In this situation at Kristen and her bright jacket that contrasts with the shadow drenched cliffs in the background. After messing around on my camera I stopped to watch Kristen make her final steps to the top of the spire, some things are best experienced without a camera viewfinder in the way. Once she got back to the cliffside we all celebrated, walking the line was extremely rewarding for me but half the fun was being able to share the experience with good friends. I couldn’t spend too much time hanging around, though. Everyone else had permits and gear to camp near the top but I had to trail run back to the valley floor before it got dark!
I love living in Yosemite Valley, where nature is my front yard, back yard, and my living room. Nature gives me an outlet to push myself and experiences like these give me a sense of confidence that transcends into every other aspect of my life. It’s there for everyone, all you have to do is show up and do something that is just slightly out of your comfort zone."
Nature & Cities
Prairie Sky Scrapers © Joel Porterfield
"The location of the picture is Montrose Point in Chicago. The point is a large, man-made peninsula in Lake Michigan which contains a harbor, beach, dunes restoration area, and bird sanctuary. After World War II, the US military used the point as a radar and NIKE missile base. Since the early 2000s, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with the Chicago Park District to manage the ecological restoration and maintenance of both the dunes area as well as the bird sanctuary. For me, Montrose Point is the closest "wild" natural area close to my home and, in my opinion, has the best view of the Chicago skyline. I go here often to disconnect and think, taking in the skyline views and enjoying the sounds of the waves and birds. On the particular day of this photo, the late-July weather was hot, humid, and still. A fog had developed over the cool water of Lake Michigan and made it seem as if the city was floating above the clouds. The summer prairie was in full bloom and melted together with the dreamy skyline. From the low perspective of the photo, the compass plants towering above the prairie appear to be the real skyscrapers in the scene.”
Camera details: Taken with my Canon Rebel T5, Canon EFS 18-55mm lens, Aperture f/8, Exposure 1/400, ISO-100, Focal length 55mm.
Reaching for the Sky © Reina Smyth
"This was taken at the Botanic Gardens in Encinitas, CA. My son (3) and I go there on a regular basis to wander around and play in the kids area. Even though the bamboo forest is further away from our end destination, we like to park near there so we have a nice long walk through the peaceful bamboo. It was a sunny day after another rather rainy week (especially for California)."
Live on Mars © Sean Steininger
"We wait on the dive boat and watch the sun set over Hawaii's Kona coast. Underwater lights turn on beneath the boat and enormous winged-shapes begin to silhouette against the rippling waves. It's time to dive into another world. We spend an hour entranced, while the Reef Mantas glide in and out of the black abyss surrounding us, barrel rolling over our heads, feasting on plankton irresistibly drawn by the light.
Quite by accident, the resorts around Kona created one of the most breathtaking scenes you can experience underwater. The hotels had spotlights shining over the ocean, so their guests would have a lovely view. People started to notice large gatherings of mantas at night, feeding on the microscopic plankton. It was only a matter of time before local dive shops began to explore this underwater phenomenon."
Camera details: Panasonic DMC-GH2, Focal Length: 9 mm, Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec, Aperture: f/4, ISO: 2500
Long-horned Bee © Shaun Johnson
"My nature is generally the kind with more than two pairs of legs – the kind that often goes unnoticed or gets overshadowed by the popularized sort, like this stunning long-horned bee. While most may be familiar with the more common honeybees, we might forget that pollinators come in all shapes and sizes – ranging from beetles to flies and, of course, a myriad of wild bees. Pollinators are an essential aspect of nature and we can do our part to increase our local biodiversity in and around cities by planting wildflowers and native plants near our homes. At the time this photo was taken, the flowerbed containing these sunflowers was a relatively new addition to our backyard and just a few years ago, this particular species of bee would have been a rare sight! I hope this photo will serve as a reminder to all that you don’t need to be in the remote wilderness or to travel to exotic locations to appreciate the beauty of nature and all it has to offer – it is often waiting for us in our local parks and gardens and even in our very own backyards."
Camera details: This photo was taken with a Nikon D7000 digital camera paired with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 wide-angle macro lens and a diffused flash mounted off-camera (settings: f-stop unknown, 1/160s, ISO400).
Harvest Mouse - Lunch on the go © Hayley Whalvin
"During an outdoor workshop, I spent an hour an a half with these harvest mice, a few at a time, watching them play, sleep, and eat. I took this photo, had a look on screen, and knew I had my shot. So excited ever since!"
Camera details: Canon 700/d, Focal Length 163mm, Aperture f/5.4, Lens 55-250mm
Vitória Régia Flower © Wendell Azevedo de Medeiros
"The photograph was captured in the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, located in the city of Belém, state of Pará. I went out to take some photos and decided to go to the museum, where there are many species of animals and Amazonian plants; After photographing there, I decided to visit a lake of aquatic plants and I came across this Victoria Regia (scientific name: Victória amazonica) that was unfolding and had a heart shape; I quickly took out my camera and took several pictures."
Camera details: Nikon Coolpix, Focal Length 13.3 mm, Aperture f/3.0
Hey Honey, Wasn't There A Hole In Our Tree Before? © Anthony VanSchoor
“A friend of mine was taking his evening walk around the neighborhood one evening when. He heard the trill of an Eastern Screech Owl. Knowing how much passion I have for our migrant and resident Owls. He called me immediately! When I arrived he had located the Owl in a neighbors yard. We went and knocked on the door begging for permission to observe it. When the homeowner said "Yes" it turned into an evening I will never forget. The husband who had just gotten home from work was asking what was going on and his wife said to him "You were right all along"! The husband had asked his wife a number of times "Hey Honey, Wasn't There A Hole In Our Tree Before?" Little did they know that this Brown Morph Eastern Screech Owl was sleeping in the tree hole during the day and would perch in the opening every once in a while and fill the hole. His plumage blends in so well with his choice of tree that the two become one! The husband and his wife were some of the nicest people that I have randomly met!”
Camera details: This photo was taken by myself with a Nikon DSLR. Camera-Nikon D7100, Lens-Tamron 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 super telephoto lens Shot Handheld-No Tripod, Aperture ƒ/6.0, Focal Length 400.0 mm, Shutter