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The Year's Best Nature Photos Send a Striking Environmental Message

Time's almost up for sending your photos to the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest. Here's the competition.
November 1, 2016, 6:20pm
Photo and Caption by Denis Budkov/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Aladdin's Cave. "Snow cave on the slopes of the volcano Mutnovsky. Due to global warming, glaciers have begun to decline. As a result, the ceiling of the cave became thin and the sunlight creates a wonderful picture of the different colors."

The Olympics of nature photography is nearly here, as National Geographic gears up to name the winner of the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest. After sifting through thousands of entries, they've released a selection of the best images to pass over their desks, including mesmerizing Pacific island horizons, frozen flocks of water fowl, and bug best-buddies. Professional and amateur photographers alike express the natural beauty of untouched landscapes, highlight humankind's transgressions on those spaces, and humanize the animals whose homes are at stake.

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The images are beautifully-framed works of art, but they also inherently prompt the viewer to think about environmental issues. It's one thing to read statistics about ice caps melting, and it's another to see that they're so thin in some areas that light pours through like stained glass. National Geographic is still accepting entries to the contest, so if you can do better than these offerings, submit your own work here.

Photo and Caption by Eileen Johnson/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Rush Hour. "Thousands of snow geese take flight during a snowy morning fly out at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. It is loud and sounds like a passing train!"

Photo and Caption by Jose Pesquero Gomez/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Friendship Knows No Color. "'Friendship knows no color, nationality, race and social level? friendship knows no age and gender,? friendship knows no distance.' - Luis A Ribeiro Branco. This way must be. And this images perfectly could represent that message. Two Empusa Pennata which seem to play a game on the thin plant. Wildlife image and absolutely uncommon to see a couple of this species together[sic]."

Photo and Caption by NingYu Pao/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, I Am Angry. "We arrived at one of the watering holes in Etosha National Park in the late evening. Four Lions were devouring a large kudu that they killed. A pack of hyenas appeared from the bush nearby attracted by the smell of blood and food for them. What ensued was a fight for the dead kudu between 4 female lions and 16 hyenas. Needless to say, in the end the hyenas won and got the prized kudu."

Photo and Caption by Stas Bartnikas/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Oil Infinity. "Aerial shot was taken over Oil Sands area, Fort McMurray, Canada. Oil sands are one of the biggest sources of harmfull air pollutants."

Photo and Caption by Stas Bartnikas/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Colorado River Trees. "Aerial shot was taken in Baja California, where Colorado river meets the ocean."

Photo and Caption by Andrés Miguel DomÌnguez/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Engagement Present. "Kingfisher (Alcedo athis) male with an engagement present for the female."

Photo and Caption by Christopher Markisz/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Under The Waves. "Waves of fog roll over a neighborhood in Mill Valley, California, as seen from the top of Mount Tamalpais."

Photo and Caption by Jassen T./2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Our Beloved Possessions. "Kalispell, Montana. Aerial Image (shot from a plane). Automobile emissions are the number one source of carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere according to the EPA."

Photo and Caption by Aaron Feinberg/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Oceans XVI. "A surreal palette of colors captured using in camera techniques with dramatic storm light at Polihale State Park on Kaua'i."

Photo and Caption by Mario Suarez Porras/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Puffin Studio. "This image was taken last summer on Skomer Island, Wales. It is well known for its wildlife, the puffin colony is one of the largest in U.K. The photo shows a detail or study of an Atlantic puffin resting peacefully under the rain. As Skomer is inhabited, puffins do not feel afraid of humans, and so people can be close to puffins and the photographer can think about the right composition and take this kind of intimate portraits. Also that morning the conditions came together: rain and light."

Photo and Caption by Kyon. J/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Breaking Through. "Shot at Inner Mongolia, China. Hundreds of horses rushing down across the Mongolia grassland and that was too impressive to hold a breathe and record this moment."

Photo and Caption by Brina Bunt/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Fire Dancer. "Sunrise over the Erta Ale lava lake created a dramatic dichotomy between the power and intimidation of the angry volcano and the childlike innocence of a dancing stick-figure. The spewing and showering of molten lava, the charred, cracking of the newly formed black basalt, and the fiery sunset within the sulfuric haze created for a dramatic, ethereal experience akin to a "gateway to hell." The volcano had erupted only three weeks before this image was taken."

Photo and Caption by Meril D./2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Towards the Mist. "A herd of frosty buffalos walking in the snow towards thick fog produced by the Yellowstone geothermal activity."

Photo and Caption by Emily Riley/2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year, Hummingbird. "This lil humming bird baby was caught in my home. Here he is recouping from what was a stressful time being stuck. Minutes later he flew away."

Entries to the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest are open through November 4. Submit your photos here.

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