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Visual Masterpieces: Celebrating National Geographic’s Pictures of the Year 




For decades, National Geographic has been synonymous with exceptional storytelling, unlocking the hidden treasures of our planet through its iconic magazine and television programs. The Pictures of the Year Contest represents a pinnacle of this legacy, where photographers from every corner of the globe unleash their creativity and lens mastery to capture moments that transcend time.  

By showcasing the most compelling and thought-provoking photographs, the Pictures of the Year Contest invites us to question, marvel, and take action. It challenges us to see beyond the surface, to witness the unfiltered realities of our planet, and to understand the pressing issues that demand our attention and compassion.  

Behind the Scenes of the Contest  

Once the floodgates open and thousands of awe-inspiring entries pour in from photographers around the world, the real magic of National Geographic’s Pictures of the Year Contest begins. Creativity, composition, storytelling, and the ability to evoke emotions are the cornerstones upon which the winning photographs are chosen.  

Behind the scenes of National Geographic’s Pictures of the Year Contest lies a dedicated team of professionals who meticulously curate a collection of photographs that transcend boundaries, captivate our senses, and inspire us to see the world anew. Through their expertise and discerning eyes, they ensure that the winning images embody the spirit of visual storytelling and reflect the wonder and complexity of our shared human and natural heritage. 

The Magnificent Winning Images 

National Geographic has announced the grand-prize winner of the highly anticipated Pictures of the Year photo contest, chosen from an impressive pool of nearly five thousand submissions. Aligned with National Geographic’s renowned annual Pictures of the Year list, which showcases the top images from over 2 million entries, this photo contest welcomed aspiring photographers from around the world to share their favorite images captured in 2022. The contest was divided into four categories: Nature, People, Places, and Animals, each highlighting the diverse beauty and captivating moments found in these realms.  

Let’s take a look at the images that made it to the May issue of National Geographic magazine!  

The Grand Prize Winner 

Karthik Subramaniam

In the captivating surroundings of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska, a compelling scene unfolds. A majestic bald eagle descends upon a fallen tree log, claiming a strategic vantage point from which to survey the surroundings. This coveted perch offers the perfect vantage point to witness the arrival of other eagles returning from the water, their talons clutching freshly caught salmon.

In this moment captured by photographer Karthik Subramaniam, a software engineer with a profound passion for wildlife photography, we witness the intricate dynamics of these magnificent birds. Patient hours spent observing their patterns and behavior have enabled Subramaniam to immortalize these precious moments. The image stands as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of these eagles as they navigate their surroundings, their instinctual pursuit of sustenance offering a glimpse into the harmonious yet competitive nature of the animal kingdom. 

Honourable Mentions

1. Alex Berger

During a road trip through the majestic Austrian Alps, Alex Berger came across a narrow road that meandered through the mountains before looping back on the map. As he ventured along this scenic route, a small stream adorned with towering walls of forest caught his attention. Amidst the enchanting landscape, something extraordinary captured his gaze—a radiant golden tree emerging gracefully amidst the trunks of the surrounding trees. The sight instantly transported Berger into a realm of wonder and awe, evoking a fantastical dimension that sent shivers down his spine.  

2. Kent Williamson  

Source – WLOS.com

On a cold summer morning, at precisely 3:40 a.m., photographer W. Kent Williamson seized the moment at Tipsoo Lake within Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Braving the frigid temperatures, he captured an extraordinary image that would leave a lasting impression — a procession of headlights illuminating the path as weary climbers ascended towards the majestic summit of the 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. It was the culmination of their arduous multi-day journey. The night sky, exceptionally clear, unveiled the ethereal beauty of the Milky Way gracefully arching just above the towering mountain. As Williamson observed the scene, he was struck by the sheer brightness emanating from the climbers’ lanterns, painting a vivid spectacle against the backdrop of the darkened landscape. 

3. Bruce Taubert

While diligently studying the feeding patterns of the small desert owls in Arizona, wildlife biologist Bruce Taubert stumbled upon an extraordinary discovery – a rare screech owl. Capitalizing on this fortuitous encounter, Taubert embarked on a series of nights devoted to capturing the owls’ behavior through his lens. Employing an innovative technique, he utilized an infrared trip beam coupled with a high-speed flash to document the mesmerizing sight of the owls carrying nourishment back to their eagerly awaiting chicks.  

In one captivating moment frozen in time, Taubert’s camera immortalized an owl clutching a Mediterranean gecko—a remarkable sight considering the geckos are nonnative to Arizona and their presence is steadily expanding. Taubert speculates on the geckos’ origins, suggesting the possibility that landscape companies introducing exotic plants to nearby houses inadvertently facilitated the arrival of these intriguing creatures. This extraordinary encounter offers a glimpse into the intricate dynamics of ecosystems and the interconnectedness of different species, reminding us of the fascinating mysteries that unfold in the natural world.  

4. Tayfun Coskun

From a captivating aerial perspective captured by photojournalist Tayfun Coskun, the serene salt marsh ponds at Alviso Marina County Park in San Jose, California come into view. These extraordinary marshlands, nestled within an urban landscape, face a grave threat in the form of rising sea levels. Urgent conservation initiatives are now in motion, racing against time to reverse the effects and restore the region to its former glory, not only for the flourishing of wildlife and fish but also for the vital purposes of floodwater absorption and carbon dioxide capture. The delicate balance between nature and human impact underscores the pressing need for concerted efforts to protect and preserve these precious ecosystems for future generations.  

5. Tihomir Trichkov  

As photographer Tihomir Trichkov made his way back from an airport run on an early October morning, he unexpectedly took a detour through North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. There, amidst the tranquil surroundings, a breathtaking sight unfolded before his eyes—the gentle ascent of the sun casting its warm rays over the valley. Enveloped in a dense blanket of fog, the vibrant colors of autumn emerged from beneath, creating a vivid contrast. Trichkov quickly adjusted his lens, zooming in to capture the essence of the scene. At that moment, he felt as if he were gazing at a captivating enigma, effortlessly translating the allure into his camera. The previous day’s rainfall had left the air heavy with moisture, intensifying the ethereal atmosphere. Inspired by the scene’s enigmatic beauty, Trichkov aptly named the photograph “Legends of the Fog,” as it evoked a sense of whispered tales and captivating mysteries that linger in the imagination.  

6. An Li  

On the hillsides of the Salt Mines of Maras in Peru, approximately 4,500 terraced salt wells dot the landscape, showcasing a tradition that dates back centuries. The archaeological records indicate that salt extraction began in this region even before the rise of the Inca Empire, tracing its origins as far back as 500 AD. Today, this ancient practice continues to thrive in the hands of local families who own these wells, each yielding around 400 pounds of salt per month. An Li, the photographer behind this captivating image, explains the process: water is channeled from a nearby underground spring, brimming with salt, into the wells. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind delicate crystals of salt. In the photograph, a salt miner skillfully employs a wooden rake, delicately extracting the precious salt. This glimpse into the daily lives of those tending to these wells offers a glimpse into the enduring traditions and the remarkable harmony between humans and nature.  

7. Eric Esterle 

In the vast grasslands outside of Bayan-Ölgii, the westernmost region of Mongolia, a timeless scene unfolds. Asiilbek, a nomadic Kazakh eagle hunter, meticulously prepares his prized golden eagle, Burged, for an exhilarating horseback hunt. This longstanding tradition, deeply rooted in the region’s history, stretches back an astonishing 3,000 years. The training of these majestic birds begins with capturing fledglings from their lofty cliffside nests, teaching them the art of hunting for prey such as hare, fox, and even deer.  

In the captured moment, photographer Eric Esterle recalls the intensity of the experience as he lay on his stomach, peering through the electronic viewfinder at the stream’s edge. The ground reverberated beneath him as Asiilbek’s horse galloped past mere feet away, drenching Esterle with a chilling spray of water. Instinctively, he shielded his camera with his own body, lowering his head to brace against the fleeting moment. This extraordinary encounter offers a glimpse into the symbiotic relationship between humans, animals, and the captivating traditions that have withstood the test of time in these untamed lands.  

8. Riten Dharia 

In a remarkable event that unfolded in May 2021, the Fagradalsfjall volcano roared to life in Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, marking its first eruption in over six millennia. For six months, molten lava surged forth, leaving a trail of hardened obsidian-like rock in its wake, etching a new chapter in the landscape. Riten Dharia, the photographer behind this awe-inspiring image, describes the experience as an astonishing display of unbridled natural might—an exhibition that showcased the raw power and magnificence inherent within the forces of nature. This extraordinary event serves as a humbling reminder of the Earth’s ever-changing dynamics and the profound impact it can have on our surroundings. 

9. Rhez Solano

On the pristine shores of Gold Harbour in South Georgia, a captivating scene unfolds before the lens of Rhez Solano. The viewfinder captures a mesmerizing sight—clusters of majestic king penguins congregating in harmonious unity. Situated in the secluded southern reaches of the Atlantic Ocean, not far from the icy expanse of Antarctica, this remote island serves as a haven for an impressive population of wildlife. Amongst the rugged landscapes, a staggering 25,000 breeding pairs of king penguins proudly call this place home, sharing the habitat with lively gentoo penguins and magnificent elephant seals. This captivating encounter showcases the remarkable biodiversity and harmonious coexistence found in these untamed corners of the world, reminding us of the awe-inspiring wonders that thrive in even the most remote and inhospitable environments. 

National Geographic’s Pictures of the Year Contest serves as a testament to the power of visual storytelling and its ability to forge a profound connection with our planet. This prestigious contest, renowned for its captivating images, celebrates the artistry and creativity of photographers who capture the world’s most breathtaking and thought-provoking moments.  

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