What do a bathing tigress, a star-lit mount and a steely-eyed scavenger have in common? They’re all captured in incredible detail by the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest.
Sifting through more than 22,000 entries from more than 150 nations, judges whittled the field down to just a handful of winners and honorable mentions that were announced on Friday. Those photos, in addition to those selected by National Geographic readers, offer a fascinating look at our still wild and mysterious planet.
The judging panel, which included natural history photographer Christian Ziegler and documentary photographers Gerd Ludwig and Debbie Fleming Cafferty, assessed each photo's creativity and photographic quality across three broad categories: people, places and nature.
In the end, the $10,000 Grand Prize went to Ashley Vincent’s transfixing image of an Indochinese tigress named Busaba playing in her private pool at Thailand’s Khao Kheow Open Zoo.
“In all humility, I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favorably on me that day,” Vincent said of the shot, which was the culmination of several visits to the zoo to photograph the animal’s behavioral patterns.
Scroll down for a look at Vincent’s Grand Prize photo, in addition to all of the other winners of National Geographic’s 2012 contest.
Grand-Prize: The subject's name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioral shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favorably on me that day! Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest
First Place for People: At the end of the day women are allowed to pick through the dumpsite. Micah Albert/National Geographic Photo Contest
First Place for Places:The Matterhorn 4478 m at full moon. Nenad Saljic/National Geographic Photo Contest
Viewers’ Choice for Places: Chipping ice off an iceberg is a common way for the Inuit community to retrieve fresh drinking water while on the land. During a weekend long hunting trip, we came upon this majestic iceberg frozen in place. It was a perfect opportunity to grab enough ice and drinking water for the remainder of the trip. Adam Coish/National Geographic Photo Contest
Viewers’ Choice for People: A race that follows in the path of the famous explorer Roald Amundsen brings the contestants to the Hardangervidda Mountainplateu, Norway. 100km across the plateau, the exact same route Amundsen used to prepare for his South Pole expedition in 1911 is still used by explorers today. Amundsen did not manage to cross the plateau and had to turn back because of bad weather. He allegedly said that the attempt to cross Hardangervidda was just as dangerous and hard as the conquering of the South Pole. Kai-Otto Melau/National Geographic Photo Contest
Viewers’ Choice for Nature: Everyday in mara starts with something new and different and day ends with memorable experiences with spectacular photographs . I was very lucky of sighting and photographing Malaika the name of female Cheetah and her cub . she is well known for its habit to jump on vehicles. She learned that from her mother Kike, and Kike from her mother Amber.Like her mother she is teaching lessons to her cub . Teaching lessons means addition of another moment for tourist . This is one of the tender moment between Malaika and her cub . I was very lucky to capture that moment . Sanjeev Bhor/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: With his exceptional hearing a red fox has targeted a mouse hidden under 2 feet of crusted snow. Springing high in the air he breaks through the crusted spring snow with his nose and his body is completely vertical as he grabs the mouse under the snow. Micheal Eastman/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: Dragon boating is a chinese traditional entertainment. As an acquatic sport to memorise qu yuan, a patriotic poet in ancient china, it is usually held in festivals, which can be traced back to two thousands years ago. 关嘉城/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: Glacial ice washes ashore after calving off the Breiamerkurjˆkull glacier on Iceland's eastern coast. During the waning light of summer this image was created over the course of a 4 minute exposure while the photographer backlit the grounded glacial ice with a headlamp for 2 of those 4 minutes. Eric Guth/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: Yayasan Galuh Rehabilitation Center is and impoverished mental health facility based in Bekasi, Indonesia that hosts over 250 patients. Most come from poor families no longer interested in managing their condition, or are unable. Some patients are homeless, deposited after being taken off streets by police The only medical treatment received is for skin conditions. No assessments, psychotherapy or psychiatric medications is available. Over one third of the patients are shackled in chains. These measures are implemented to those thought to be violent, uncontrolable and dangerous. Wendell Phillips/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention:The winter gloomy day worked to my advantage to create this eerie feeling of the famous landmark Eiffel tower. Indra Swari Wonowidjojo/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: I was surrounded by thousands of fish that moved in synchrony because of the predation that was happening. It was an incredible experience. Fransisca Harlijanto/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: This photo of a wild, Alaskan, brown bear digging on a game trail was taken with a home made motion controlled triggering device hooked up to my DSLR. Jason Ching/National Geographic Photo Contest
Honorable Mention: Stilt fishing is a typical fishing technique only seen in Sri Lanka. The fishermen sit on a cross bar called a petta tied to a vertical pole planted into the coral reef. This long exposure shot shows how unstable their position is. Ulrich Lambert/National Geographic Photo Contest