Stunning Early Highlights of the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest

Nature and wildlife lovers around the world can now exhibit the stunning photography they’ve captured during expeditions through the 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year contest. The National Geographic Society funds hundreds of research projects and education initiatives around the world each year, and through November 4 2016 the non-profit organization is giving everyone a chance to showcase awe-inspiring visuals of the world, while also helping to inspire others to explore and conserve the planet.

Eligible contestants can submit photographs across one or all four categories: Landscape, Environmental Issues, Action and Animal Portraits. The entry fee is $15 (USD) per photo, and there are no limits to the number of submissions, but the entries must be in digital format and submitted electronically. “The 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year contest is an opportunity for photographers to show us the power of nature and their love of it through their imagery,” said Sarah Leen, Director of Photography for National Geographic Magazine and National Geographic Partners. “Every year, our judges are delighted by the incredible passion and skill evident in the entries, and I expect this year to be no exception.”

Sarah Polger, Senior Producer for National Geographic Travel and Manager of National Geographic photo contests, remarked, “The four categories of this year’s contest will give photographers a chance to capture the complexity and beauty found in the world around us. We anticipate compelling and revealing images.”

Winners will be announced in December 2016, and the grand-prize winner will receive a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos with National Geographic Expeditions and two 15-minute image portfolio reviews with National Geographic photo editors. Each of the four categories will feature First, Second, and Third Place winners with corresponding prizes, and the winning photographs will be published on National Geographic's website.

You can find more details and official contest rules online, and submit your own photos, too. In the mean time, scroll down to see some of the early highlights of this spectacular competition.

Above photo: Hunting for Fish by Eric Esterle, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A mature bald eagle drags the tail of a fish across the surface of the water after picking it up out of the Susquehanna river. It was late in the day when the sun was setting casting an orange hue over the water.

Curious Lions by Kym Illman, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Using a wide-angle lens (16mm) on our remote-controlled camera buggy results in the background being smaller in shot and appearing further away. We fire the camera shutter using the same remote-control transmitter that we use to drive the buggy, allowing us a range of a couple of hundred meters although we rarely sit more than fifty metres away from camera.

Daybreak at Monument Valley by Lidija Kamansky, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A storm was rolling in from the west and the few of us gathered for sunrise were watching and hoping that day would break before the rains came. The moment the sun peeked above the horizon, we were hit with incredible winds and sideways driving rain. My husband jumped behind me to block the blowing sand and to try to shelter me from the wind. I kept shooting as the skies lit up, while gripping the tripod to keep it steady. This image is the result of those efforts from this memorable sunrise!

Let's Picnic by QIAN WANG, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Yellowstone National Park, west thumb geyser basin, a perfect spot for picnic, and I mean not for human.

Priceless by Alison Langevad, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Two very precious endangered beasts gracing me with their presence under the stars in South Africa. So many of these rhino are now being dehorned to save them from poachers that this photographic moment is even more precious to me. A long exposure for the stars while light painting the rhino as they drank makes for an amazing moment captured.

Battle of the Titans by S. Dere, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A pair of Bison square of in the middle of the heard for dominance.

Bear Hug by Aaron Baggenstos, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Brown Bears, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

The Eye of the Gator by Nancy Elwood, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
As I was sitting on the bank of the wetlands, watching a pair of anhingas prepare their nest, when one flew right down in front of me to fish. I quickly focused on her and out of the water came a wonderful fish brunch.

Beauty Beyond Disaster by Li Liu, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Jellyfish by T. King, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

Bull Race by Yh Lee, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Pacu Jawi, or bull race, is held in Indonesia where bulls are coupled, with the jockey standing on the plow harnesses attached to each bull, running a short distance of about 100 feet. Whichever pair runs the fastest in a straight fashion fetches the highest price (as they are deemed the best workhorse in plowing the paddy fields for harvesting).

fjaðárgljúfur by Alejandro S., 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
This is a long exposure shot taken from the top of fjaðárgljúfur Canyon Trail. I achieved this shot using a combination of a polarizer and ND1000 filter. The ND1000 filter created silky smooth clouds and rapids. The polarizer removed the skies reflection of the water allowing us to see the river beds colors, rocks, and sediments. The the moss covered cliffs surrounding the river shows how calm and lively mother nature can truly be.

Swamp Raccoon by Kim Aikawa, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
While looking for alligators at a swamp in Louisiana, this beautiful little creature wanders out of the murky waters right into the morning light, pausing just long enough to capture.

The Best Spot on the Savannah by Natashia B., 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
Female leopard gazing out over the savannah in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

Silence and the Desert by Virginia Zoli, 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year
A breathtaking view of Valle de La Luna from Piedra del Coyote, San Pedro de Atacama, north of Chile.

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