Every year there are countless photography competitions, but a select few get world renowned recognition. These photos are some of the most amazing, magical, and downright astounding photos of wildlife, nature, and the world around us that you will ever see.
We’ve selected the 26 top photos from the last few years of the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year, Velux Lovers of Light Photography Competition, Royal Horticultural Society Photographic Competition, Astronomy Photographer of the Year put on by The Royal Observatory Greenwich, and the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest and we’re positive that you’ll be stunning by how amazing some of these images are!
26. “The Storm” by Aytül Akbaş
Captured in Kocaeli, Turkey just as a storm comes in. The crashing waves and wall of mist towering over the edge of this small stage creates an interesting visual against the storm filtered sky. The photographer, Aytül Akbaş, caught this image of her nephew climbing the steps just as a gust of wind tries to tear away his colorful umbrella.
25. “Magic Mountain” by David Clapp
Photographer David Clapp traveled to Iceland to photograph the stunning auroras. Luckily they didn’t disappoint! He decided to visit the Snaefellsnes peninsula because of its spectacular scenery; what he ended up with was so much more. Around 2am, the intensity of the aurora suddenly changed and a great burst pulsed across the sky to create this astounding formation of light.
24. “An Exhibition” by Manuel Paz-Castanal
This photo, captured in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, showcases the opening of a photography expo at the Casa do Cabildo exhibition hall. The uniform symmetry of the exterior of the building is at odds with the ornate stonework decorating the surface and the towering stone statue that stands sentinel before it. The exposition attendees perfectly framed in each red trimmed window adds life and breaks up the straight lines posed by the building.
23. “Guiding Light to the Stars” by Mark Gee
This photo of the Milky Way was captured, in all its brilliance, over Cape Palliser on the North Island of New Zealand. The photographer, Mark Gee, achieved this panoramic shot by stitching together 20 individual images. The bright light to the right of the image is the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. The large cluster of light in the center of the image marks the bulge of stars at the heart of our galaxy, over 26,000 light years away. The sunrise was only a few hours away in this image, giving the edge of the horizon a faint pinkish glow.
22. “Underground, Egypt” by Nader Saadallah
This photo of a metal casting workshop owner in his workshop gives us a peek into a different lifestyle. The black soot on his face and clothes is thanks to the the metal he smelts and casts. Temperatures in his workshop, located in Egypt, regularly reach 60°C (140°F) while the temperatures inside the furnace reaches well over 1000°C (1832°F).
21. “Mother’s Little Headful” by Udayan Rao Pawar
Taken in India on the banks of the Chambal River, photographer Udayan Rao Pawar camped near a nesting colony of gharials, fish-eating relatives to the crocodile. Just before daybreak he hid behind some rocks, keeping an eye on the babies he could hear nearby. This female, in charge of keeping an eye on the hatchlings, surfaced nearby and some of the babies swarmed to her and sat on her head. With only about 200 breeding gharial adults left, there are many efforts to try and protect these creatures.
20. “Cows And Kites” by Andrew Lever
While driving along a beach highway in Spain, photographer Andrew Lever noticed bulls sunbathing on the empty beach. He first thought perhaps it was a mirage, but he parked his car a fair distance away and trekked across the beach in 95°F weather. He was so determined to get the shot that, in order to not spook the cows, he crawled across the hot sand on his stomach!
19. “Crows Nest” by Yosuke Kashiwakura
In Tokyo, Japan, crows build their nests out of hangers. In such a large city, there are few trees and the natural materials that crows need are scarce. Because of this, crows occasionally take hangers from nearby apartments and carefully assemble them into nests. Photographer Yosuke Kashiwakura compared them to a work of art based on the theme of recycling, and we can’t help but agree.
18. “Graveyard” by Julie Fletche
After chasing a massive storm front for several hundred kilometers in the hopes of catching something special, photographer Julie Fletche stumbled across this surreal scene. This usually very dry lake bed of Lake Menindee in remote New South Wales, Australia had been flooded with rain, through there was no rain in sight. The milky green water is a natural phenomenon caused by electromagnetic activity from the lightning hitting the surface.
17. “Aurora Over a Glacier Lagoon” by James Woodend
In Iceland’s Vatnajokull National Park, James Woodend captured this mesmerizing photo of the aurora in a vivid green color. A complete lack of wind and current combined in the sheltered lagoon to create this mirrored effect, giving the image a sense of stillness despite the movement felt in the arcs and swirls of the constantly shifting aurora.
16. “Ripples in a Pond” by Alexandra Hart
This stunning display of solar photography shows off the twisted and warped surface of the sun. The outer layer of the sun behaves as a liquid and is constantly under the influence of intense magnetic forces, giving it the appearance of ripples and waves. The region of solar activity on the left could engulf the Earth several times over with room to spare.
15. “Bluebell Wood” by David Shandley
This dreamy and surreal photo was taken by photographer David Shandley in the Bluebell Wood of Aberdunant Park in the United Kingdom. The sun was just breaking through the dense foliage of the park to light up the low fog clinging to the bright bluebells that grow throughout the woods. Thanks to the play of light on the fog it gives the image the soft, glowing quality.
14. “The Flight Path” by Connor Stefanison
After months of planning, photographer Connor Stefanison caught a photo of this gorgeous barred owl that lives and hunts near his home in Burnaby, British Columbia. He watched her flight patterns and set up his camera near one of her favorite perches. He linked it to a remote and set up several off-camera flashes, diffused and on low settings. He put a dead mouse above his camera and waited for her to swoop in and grab it.
13. “The Cauldron” by Sergey Gorshkov
36 years since its last eruption, photographer Sergey Gorshkov was excited to hear that Plosky Tolbachik – one of two volcanoes in the Tolbachik volcanic plateau in central Kamchatka, Russia – had begun to erupt. It took some time, due to the cloud of ash, smoke, and steam, but he strapped himself to the door of the helicopter and snapped as many images as he could, knowing that he would only get one shot at this.
12. “The Ice Bear” by Paul Souders
This photo of a polar bear in Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada just before it surfaces. In the background the setting midnight sun glows red from the smoke of distant fires during a record-breaking spell of hot weather. This bear is a member of the Manitoba population of polar bears, the southernmost in the world, and are threatened by warming climate and reduced sea ice.
11. “Sunrise” by Belvin Corriette
This beautiful image of a sunrise over Brighton Pier in the United Kingdom. The soft blue haze and surreal lighting of the photo highlights the white cliffs of the British coast against the green grass and dark pebbles of the beach. In the distance you can see the faint lights of civilization, a reminder that even here, seemingly on the edge of the world, humanity has had its effect.
10. “The Independence Day” by Marko Korošec
This photo of a supercell storm just outside of Julesburg, Colorado was captured by storm chaser and photographer Marko Korošec. The funnel shape of the clouds is offset by the normalcy of the landscape below it. The storm carried a tornado warning for an hour but stayed a low precipitation storm and never produced a tornado, allowing for this stunning image to be captured.
9. “Diver in Magic Kingdom” by Marc Henauer
In the spring, Green Lake, located in Tragöss, Austria, snowmelt raises the lake level around astounding 10 meters (about 32 feet). This phenomenon lasts for only a few weeks and it covers the surrounding hiking trails, meadows, and trees creating a magical wonderland for divers to enjoy. Photographer Marc Henauer captured this image while on one of these dives in the area.
8.“End of the World” by Sean Hacker Teper
The ‘end of the world’ swing in Banos, Ecuador set the stage for this stellar image taken by Sean Hacker Teper in February, 2014. It captures a man on a swing overlooking the erupting Mt Tungurahua and the resulting towering ash cloud. The photographer said that minutes after the photo was taken, they had to evacuate the area because of the incoming ash cloud.
7. “A Well Earned Rest in the Sahara” by Evan Cole
Taken at the summit of Tin-Mersouga, the largest dune in the Tadat region of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria, this photo captures a moment of rest for the tour guide while the group made the 45-minute struggle to the top of the dune. The area is famous for its red sand, engravings, and rock paints of animals that lived in the area when the climate was milder.
6. “Divine Makeover” by Mahesh Balasubramanian
This image of a young girl was taken in Kaveripattinam, a small village in Tamilnadu, India during the Mayana Soora Thiruvizha festival by photographer, Mahesh Balasubramanian. This festival takes place the day after Mahashivarathiri (the great night of Shiva) every March and celebrates Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity that is widely worshipped in southern India.
5. “Mask of Society” by Marius Veith
Winner of the CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year award for 2014, this image taken by Marius Veith in Düsseldorf of a woman setting up a jewelry display window shows of the juxtaposition of wealth and working class and the essence and reality of the working life of a city, with all of its beauty and day-to-day routine.
4. “The View” by Christine Fitzgerald
Four Children take in the view overlooking an immaculate and expansive garden on an estate. This image by photographer Christine Fitzgerald came in second place in the category of ‘Celebrating Gardens’ in the 2014 Royal Horticultural Society’s Photographer of the Year competition. The vibrant colors of the image set the children apart from the lush green foliage of the garden.
3. “Net Mending” by Ly Hoang Long
This striking image of women mending fishing nets in Vietnam netted the first place Asia Pacific region award for photographer Ly Hoang Long. The bold blue of the fishing nets gives the appearance of crystalline waters with the bright colors worn by the women like little islands in the sea of soft, foamy nets. The delicate-looking lines need to be mended on a regular basis.
2. “The Last Great Picture” by Michael Nichols
After following the Vumbi lion pride’s movement patterns and habits for nearly six months, photographer Michael Nichols caught this stunning image of five females resting with their cubs on a rock formation in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. The image won him first place in the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
1. “Touché” by Jan van der Greef
Photographer Jan van der Greef took a trip to Ecuador just to find the gorgeous sword-billed hummingbird. This is the only bird with a bill that is longer than its body (excluding its tail). Its 11-centimeter bill is designed to reach nectar at the base of equally long tube-shaped flowers — but Jan captured this gorgeous image of another use for it.
The world around us is an amazing and beautiful place; you only have to take the time to stop and take notice of these instances of photographic hidden gems.