The Best Nature Photographs of the Year, Including This Too-Human Monkey Portrait

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This is not your average Tumblr full of cute animal pics. Prepare for the sublime.

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There are animal photos and there are animal photos. While I'm a fan of Instagrams of cats and dogs, the images in the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year show at the Natural History Museum in London are no mere social-media fodder.

Here we see a Japanese macaques in repose. A Dutch photographer, Jasper Doest, visited the hot springs of Jigokudani Valley in central Japan, and found about 30 monkeys soaking in the warm water. This one fell asleep right in front of him.

'The warm water has a very relaxing effect on the monkeys, and most of them were asleep.' He watched with delight as this youngster became increasingly drowsy and eventually closed its eyes.

The eyelashes! The bridge of the nose! I know that we have to be careful about projecting human emotions onto non-humans, but... who doesn't recognize this as Hot Tub Face? Doerst named the photograph, "Relaxation."

There are dozens of other delightful images of animals of all kinds. I'll include just two more here, but the microsite at the Natural History Museum is full of them (albeit with some janky gallery navigation).

The first is dark, nearly sinister, almost ruin porn. Finnish photographer Kai Fagerström captured a squirrel in an abandoned cottage in Finland. Check out that reflection. Ghostly! (Also: memeable.)

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And finally, I leave you with pure delight. A fox in Yellowstone leaping high to pounce on unsuspecting earthbound prey. 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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