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.