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National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

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National Geographic is currently holding its annual photo contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 30. For the past nine weeks, the society has been gathering and presenting galleries of submissions, encouraging readers to vote for them as well. National Geographic was kind enough to let me choose among its entries from 2011 for display here on In Focus. Gathered below are 45 images from the three categories of People, Places, and Nature, with captions written by the individual photographers. [45 photos]

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Many people pilgrimage to Uluru, but what is seen there often depends on where you've come from. (© Robert Spanring)
Many people pilgrimage to Uluru, but what is seen there often depends on where you've come from. (© Robert Spanring)
Eruption of the Cordon del Caulle. (© Ricardo Mohr) #
Beluga whales in the arctic having fun. (© Dafna Ben Nun) #
This is a streetcar in New Orleans traveling back towards The Quarter on St. Charles Ave. I held the camera against the window sill, making sure to divide the image equally between the inside and the outside. (© Don Chamblee) #
This image captures almost 6 hours of climbing parties on Rainier going for the summit under starry skies. Wind shifts during the night would cause bands of smoke from fires 100 miles away on Mt Hood to pass over Rainier. This intermittent low-level haze caused the red glow seen in the sky and a Rainier that looks like it was almost painted on. Lights from Sunrise can be seen in the lower right of the frame. (© Chris Morin) #
Russia, polar region of West Siberia, Tazovsky Peninsula. Reindeer breeding is one of the basic means of employment for the indigenous population of this region. All pieces of land suitable for pasture are assigned to families of reindeer breeders, or Sovkhoz brigades. Reindeer grazing freely in search of reindeer lichen overnight can disperse across few kilometers. Here, the foreman of the shepherds examines a herd with the aid of binoculars. (© Dmitriy Nikonov) #
An adult male gelada rests in the early morning light after ascending the steep sleeping cliffs of the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. This male won his right to mate by successfully deposing the old leader. Now he must defend his harem by tending to his females' needs and fighting off anxious bachelors waiting for their chance to become harem leader. (© Clay Wilton) #
An unexpected side-effect of the 2010 flooding in parts of Sindh, Pakistan, was that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters; because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water took so long to recede, many trees became cocooned in spiders webs. People in the area had never seen this phenomenon before, but they also reported that there were less mosquitos than they would have expected, given the amount of standing water that was left. Not being bitten by mosquitoes was one small blessing for people that had lost everything in the floods. (© Russell Watkins) #
Curious cormorants watch the start of the Gatorman part of the La Jolla Roughwater Swim. Athletes swim 3 miles from La Jolla Cove to Scripps Pier and back. (© Lee Sie) #
This place is very special to me. The fèllensee is placed at the bottom of the hundstei (dog stone). I know this might sound silly, but since my dog and I grew up just around the corner and the naming of the mountain, I chose this very calm lake as a final resting place for Spock (my dog) so he would have the biggest gravestone of all dogs out there. That morning we had a farewell ceremony for Spock. I took this picture and we summited the hundstei to his honor (which was a very emotional challenge). This picture of his resting place is now hanging in our kitchen to remember him. (© Nino Benninger) #
Copenhagen, The Gemini Towers, private residential building by the river. I had to wait about 2 hrs and hoped some residents would come in or out and kindly let me in. It was worth waiting coz this building its so unreal. (© Elena Baroni) #
Cage divers confront a great white shark. (© David Litchfield) #
Spark trails from cannon blast captured at the Moorpark Civil War reenactment, sponsored by the Moorpark Rotary Club. Soldiers manning the cannon were silhouetted due to a large light behind them shining down on the battlefield. The large flood light made it possible to also see the smoke from the cannon blasts. (© Robert Jensen) #
Snow Geese in flight. Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. (© Charles Funk) #
The awesome power of a tornado displayed in Mapleton, Iowa April 11th, 2011. (© Timothy Wright) #
Yala National park of Sri Lanka is best known for leopards, but of course very difficult to get them in action. This is one of the well grown three cubs got excited and started jumping between branches. I got it against the light within fraction of a second. (© Lalith Ekanayake) #
Rare and endangered Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) swim and play in the shallows of Hopkins Island, South Australia. (© Michael Patrick O'Neill ) #
This a portrait that I took of my Grandfather. He was a photographer and I wanted to show all his wonderful old cameras and his life in an editorial styled portrait. He just turned 95 years old and still remembers how all his old camera's work. I shot this with my cannon 7d body,and Tamron 17-55mm zoom lens. The lighting is with a 1200w Pro photo 2 head kit with 2 medium soft boxes. As well I used a 580 ex2 canon speed lite and diffused it with a paper lantern that I made into a diffusion for my speed lite. I really love this picture and hope you like it as well. (© Christopher Bellezza) #
Death valley averages just 1.58 inches of rainfall a year. Yet somehow, in my first trip there in four years, we catch a storm. Not just a storm, an electrical storm. At sunset, of all times. This was the reward for years of trips gone awry, blank skies, drenching downpours, and for every other cause of failed photography endeavors. To me, this is an example of the best thing that can happen to a photographer. To be in the right place, at the right time - and to not mess it up too badly. (© Jeff Engelhardt) #
Within an ultra modern society Japan still maintains to hold traditions passed down from generation to generation making it one of the most beautiful and intriguing places in the world. The city of Gion in Kyoto is one of those places that you will walk into and forget about all the flashing lights the rest of Japan has to offer. Its brick paved streets holds some buildings that have been maintained like the old traditional Japan. If you're lucky you will catch a glimpse of a beautiful geisha passing through the streets scurrying to her next appointment, make sure you have your camera ready. (© Clancy Lethbridge) #
This is a shot of one of the many thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park. (© Danielle Goldstein) #
An extraordinary display of spring frost covering everything in sight. This particular image of a frosted fence with a backdrop of a blue metal dumpster from a construction site was taken in late-March of 2011. (© Sara Worsham) #
After school fun at the river, in Laos. (© Danny Griffin) #
A male jawfish mouthbrooding eggs until they hatch. (© Steven Kovacs) #
This image was taken in wintertime in an arid area of the Canadian Rockies. Temperatures were below 30 degrees Celsius, yet because there was no snow fall the surface of the lake was uncovered allowing me to see and capture the bubbles (gas release from lake bed) that were trapped in the frozen waters. (© Emmanuel Coupe-Kalomiris ) #
Flight of an Eagle owl Photo by Mark Bridger A large adult eagle owl in flight. (© Mark Bridger) #
In a mud pool at the sea salt mines near Bourgas, Bulgaria locals gather. He applies the mud from the pool and then stands upright until it is dry only to take a dip in the nearby sea. Afterwards he gets a relaxing swim in the 30cm of water in the salt mine. (© Antoni Georgiev) #
One morning while on the Big Island of Hawaii, I was exploring my surroundings to see if I could find something to photograph. I almost went back inside when something on this huge palm tree leaf caught my eye. I stayed around and it was this little gecko, startled by my presence he was hidden between the ridges of the leaf. He would pop his head up periodically to check his surroundings; as soon as he saw I was still there he would hide again. We played this game for a while until I got the shot. (© Lorenzo Menendez) #
The weirdest market on planet earth must be the voodoo market in Lome,Togo. Thousands of dead animals are used for religious and health purposes. Freaky, frightening but also fascinating (© Jorgen Tharaldsen) #
My son, Jack, dune jumping. (© Betina La Plante) #
Every year around the month of October, Dubai experiences heavy fog due to the still-high humidity and the falling temperatures. With all the new high-rise buildings (including the tallest in the world, Burj Khalifa), this provides a great photographic opportunity. (© Catalin Marin) #
Bonobo Portrait, Jacksonville Zoo, Florida (© Graham McGeorge) #
Climbing the Harding Ice-field trail in the rain, has its rewards. I stopped to admire glacier, only to find an adult black bear eating in front of a glowing blue glacier. (© Colin McCrindle) #
Nathan Fletcher rides one of the biggest waves ever ridden at Teahupoo, in Tahiti. (© Ted Grambeau) #
Pinki Kundu,a 13 yrs old girl is suffering from a chronic disease & is being treated in Mother Teresa TB Hospital in Kolkata. She is under CAT 1 drug therapy & is doing well.The day I photographed her she was very hopeful mood that she would be returning back to her parents soon. (© Saibal Gupta) #
A Rufous humming bird takes a much need break on a pine tree, boasting his beautifully bright chest. (© Cael Cook) #
At safari not only animals can attract attention. (© Dmitry Gorilovskiy) #
The Himba Women of northern Namibia perfome daily rituals where by they annoint themselves with a mixture of ochre, oil and ash to protect themselves from the harsh desert climate. They never take a shower, but rather burn aromatic herbs in a pot each morning with which they smoke themselves as if applying perfume. (© Dominique Brand) #
Lone Tree Yellowstone Photo by Anita Erdmann A solitary tree surviving another harsh winter in Yellowstone National Park. (© Anita Erdmann) #
This lynx (Lynx Canadensis) flinches its ear at bothersome gnats in the late evening summer sun in Alaska. (© Jimmy Tohill) #
This photo was taken in the Upper Antelope Canyon near Page (AZ) and it shows the amazing effect of the sand thrown in the air and struck by the rays of the sun. (© Angiolo Manetti ) #
A "joey" (baby) Eastern Grey Kangaroo pokes a head out from its mother's pouch. The baby kangaroo will continue to peek until if feels safe enough to emerge for short periods. After 7 to 10 months it will leave the pouch for the last time. (© Brent Lukey) #
Morning light breaking through the windows of the 'Temple of Transition' during the Burning Man event 2011. (© Lars Tiemann) #
The sun gives us energy, even when underwater. This image was captured during free diving (diving on a single breath without scuba gear) in the Red Sea. (© Vaclav Krpelik) #
I have been trying to follow a leopard with cubs for the last year, and spend a lot of nights with them. She has no tracking device, so when I find her I try to stay with her as long as possible. On this particular evening a brown hyena stole her kill (a springbok ) and was sitting on a rock ledge with the moon rising behind her. I lit her eyes up with a torch to make it a bit more mysterious. (© Hannes Lochner) #

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