Breathtaking Visions of Earth – National Geographic (20 photos)

Reed Flute Cave – Guangxi Zhuangzu region, China (James P. Nelson, TCS)

Our friends over at National Geographic take some of the most amazing photographs. Every month, the editors pick a few choice shots to add to their Visions of Earth collection, showcasing some of the best nature images from around the world. Collected here are my top 20 picks from the last four years.

Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia – A banded toadfish hides among the coral on 185-mile-long (298 kilometers) Ningaloo Reef. Branching skin growths help camouflage the foot-long (0.3 meter) fish from both predator and prey. (Takako Uno)

Pusztaszer, Hungary – Two herons fight over a fish snatched from a hole in an ice-covered lake. Neither bird won. During the quarrel the fish fell to the ice, and another hungry heron snagged the catch. (Bence Mate)

Democratic Republic of the Congo – The silverback Senkwekwe, one of six mountain gorillas slain in Virunga National Park last July, is carried from the crime scene. Fewer than 700 remain in the wild. (Brent Stirton, Reportage by Getty Images)

Ethiopia – The infernal glow of a lava lake in the Ertale volcano rivals moonrise over the Danakil Desert. Molten surface temperatures range from 550F (260 Celsius) near the 262-foot-high (80 meters) walls to nearly 1000F (538 Celsius) at the center of the pit. (Olivier Grunewald)

Monterey Bay Aquarium, California – Sparkling like underwater fireworks, this six-inch-wide (15 centimeters) Olindias jellyfish displays an extravagantly curled and colored armament of tentacles loaded with stinging cells. (Frans Lanting)

Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar – Rocks turned to razors, eroded limestone pinnacles rise 300-plus feet (91.4 meters) from the forest floor of this park–challenging researchers who study the island's rare and endangered species. (Olivier Grunewald)

Chile – The fury of Chaitn volcano seems to set the sky on fire. Highly charged particles of pumice roar upward in spreading clouds of gas and smoke, generating crackling tangles of lightning. (Carlos Gutierrez, UP/Digital Railroad)

Shodo Shima, Japan – Huddled for warmth, macaques press their bodies into a vast ball of fur. The monkeys' relaxed social hierarchy allows high- and low-ranking individuals to share the same tight space. (Yushiro Fukuda)

Gulf of Aqaba – Surrounded by thousands of golden sweepers, photographer Magnus Lundgren spun his camera to capture this shifting school off Elat, Israel. After 200 tries he got it: a whirlpool of four-inch fish. (Magnus Lundgren)

Germany – The see-through skin of an inch-long glass frog reveals her eggs. Native to Venezuela, the frogs lay eggs in bushes and trees overhanging streams. Tadpoles hatch, then tumble into the current to be swept away. (Heidi and Hans-Jurgen Koch)

Zambia – The 355-foot (108 meter) drop of Victoria Falls just inches away, a swimmer stands at the lip of a hidden pool–an eight-foot-deep (2 meter) divot in the riverbed rock–accessible only when the Zambezi River runs low. (Annie Griffiths Belt)

Cameroon – At the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, more than a dozen residents form a gallery of grief, looking on as Dorothy–a beloved female felled in her late 40s by heart failure–is borne to her burial. (Monica Szczupider)

United States – A kayaker plunges 70 feet into winter water at Washington State's Outlet Falls. (Jed Weingarten)

Mexico – Thirteen feet and a thousand-plus pounds of great white shark bump a diver's cage and roil the waters off Guadalupe Island. The region, rich in seal and sea lion rookeries, is a hot spot for the powerful predators. (Brandon Cole)

India – In Jammu, a flower of flame blooms from a man's kerosene-filled mouth. Devotees of Sikhism, the world's fifth largest organized religion, were marking the 342nd birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, a founder of the faith. (Jaipal Singh, EPA/Corbia)

South Georgia Island – A snowy morning offers a peaceful study in contrasts as southern elephant seals and king penguins share a rookery. Antarctic spring brings some 400,000 of each species to this remote British territory. (Yva Momatiukand and John Eastcott)

Indonesia – See dusk in the Dampier Strait through a half-submerged lens and glimpse two distinct worlds. Under a cloud-slung sky, fishermen work on wooden boats. Beneath a mirror-calm surface, waters flash with baitfish. (David Doubilet)

Thailand – In a race to emerge at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, one eight-inch Siamese crocodile wins by a head. Few such crocs exist in the wild, yet 20,000 are born each year during the zoo's May-to-August hatching festival. (Sukree Sukplang, Reuters)

Zambia – A lone bull elephant breakfasts at first light near the precipice of Victoria Falls. With the Zambezi River near its seasonal ebb, once submerged walkways–and fresh foraging possibilities–present themselves. (Marsel van Oosten)

National Geographic website

Eugene Kim

Eugene Kim is the Editor-in-Chief of My Modern Met. In May, 2008, he co-founded the website to create one big city that celebrates creative ideas. His mission is to promote a positive culture by spotlighting the best sides of humanity—from the lighthearted and fun to the thought-provoking and enlightening.
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