National Geographic Photo Contest 2013: The Winning Shots

on December 22 2013 6:22 PM
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A polar bear peers up from beneath a hole in the melting sea ice of the Hudson Bay while a setting midnight sun turns the Arctic sky cotton candy pink. For a wildlife photographer, such a surreal encounter doesn’t happen everyday. But veteran Paul Souders put himself in the right place at the right time to snap a shot that would ultimately win him the top prize in the 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest.

“The bear swam up to the iceberg, ducked under and stayed underwater for several seconds as I moved my zodiac into position and then held out the camera on a six-foot boom near the entrance,” Souders told National Geographic of the encounter. “I didn’t fire until she came up to breathe and take a look at me, and I kept firing the shutter as she submerged again.

“She hung there, just below the surface, watching me, then came up for another breath before swimming away,” Souders continued. “I couldn’t see her from where I sat in my small zodiac boat; I was shooting blind with the wide angle. I sensed it was a unique situation, but the first thought in my mind was that I really didn’t want to screw up. I’d already dunked the remote radio trigger and camera into the salt water, and had to jury rig a replacement cable by chewing off the copper wires and hand-splicing it together. I don’t know how, but somehow it worked.”

“The Ice Bear” beat out more than 7,000 entries from over 150 countries to win both the Nature category and $10,000 top prize. Cecile Baudier of Jylland, Denmark, placed first in the People category for the image “Together, Alone,” while Adam Tan of Selangor, Malaysia, took first in the Places category for his image “Long Road to Daybreak.”

Keith Jenkins, director of photography for, noted that the overall caliber of entries in the 2013 National Geographic Photo Contest was outstanding. “We were thrilled to see a global community of picture lovers connect and share each other’s photos of our world,” he said.

The 10 honorary mentions, each prize-worthy in their own right, paint a colorful portrait of our incredibly diverse world. Combined with the three winning shots, which will be published in National Geographic magazine, this dazzling collection of images reaffirms the beauty of the people, places and natural landscapes that call planet earth home. Scroll down to have a look.


Grand Prize and Nature Winner: The Ice Bear ("A polar bear peers up from beneath the melting sea ice on Hudson Bay as the setting midnight sun glows red from the smoke of distant fires during a record-breaking spell of hot weather. The Manitoba population of polar bears, the southernmost in the world, is particularly threatened by a warming climate and reduced sea ice.") Paul Souders/National Geographic Photo Contest


People Winner: Together, Alone ("This portrait of two identical twins (Nils and Emil, 15 years old) in Fyn, Denmark, is part of a series of pictures, portraying people who have a strong connection to another person and who often think of themselves as a 'we' instead of 'me'.") Cecile Baudier/National Geographic Photo Contest


Places Winner: Long Road to Daybreak ("Realizing this old town (Laocheng, means old town in Chinese) would soon be transformed into a new town through the speedy economic growth in China and perhaps lose its raw beauty in no time, I was pleased to capture this working mother carrying her child in her basket walking through the thick mist in a very early foggy morning, 2012.") Adam Tan/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention Nature: Crows Nest ("The crows that live in Tokyo use clothes hangers to make nests. In such a large city, there are few trees, so the natural materials that crows need to make their nests are scarce. As a result, the crows occasionally take hangers from the people who live in apartments nearby, and carefully assemble them into nests. The completed nests almost look like works of art based on the theme of recycling.") Yosuke Kashiwakura/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention Nature: Indian Rhino, Canadian Winter ("An Indian rhinoceros, far from home and stuck inside with late-winter blues at the Toronto zoo.") Stephen De Lisle/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention Nature: Flying Egrets ("On a good day in the field, a birder might see flock of birds. Great Egrets; Tidal area of the Danube in Hungary.") Réka Zsirmon/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention Places: Cows And Kites ("I was driving along the beach highway when I noticed the bulls sunbathing on the empty beach. I initially thought I was seeing things, but no it really was sunbathing cows! I had to park my car a fair distance away and that meant a long walk along the beach in 35-degree heat. It did not matter because I had to get the shot! When I got closer to them I was careful not to spook them so I crawled on my stomach on the hot sand to get a good picture of them. Mission Accomplished! It was worth the effort!") Andrew Lever/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention Places: Graveyard ("I cannot describe the eerie feeling I had when I walked in on this scene. I followed a massive storm front several 100 kilometers hoping to capture something special but this blew my mind. The surreal milky green water is a natural phenomenon caused by electromagnetic activity from the lightning hitting the waters surface. There was no rain where I was and not much wind either but in the distance the sky was charged and angry subjecting its wrath over the graveyard of dead trees in this normally very dry lakebed. I was able to capture a series of unique images this being one of the best.") Julie Fletcher/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention People: Arabic in Gambia ("Arabic born in one of the biggest city in the World, New York. Right in the middle of the Bronx she grow and go to school. As she's 13 years old, her Father decides to send her to her family in a small town named Bajakunda. Now she lives here without electricity and a two hours bus drive away from the next city. Working every day from early morning til late night. No chance to leave this country. Arabic is the only person in this small town whit an official American Passport, everybody dream about that one but she can’t use it anymore because of family tradition.") Bisig Maurin/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention People: Ida ("This is Ida. She is seven years old and born in Greenland. A year ago her mother, Marie, decided to move to Denmark in search of an easier life and to give her daughter everything that she never had, but even though the two countries are tied historically, the two cultures are very different and they have no Danish friends or any strong connections to Denmark. In Denmark, Greenlanders are seen as second-class citizens, drunks and socially challenged. This photo is part of an on-going series that is trying to show a different side to the greenlandish minority in Denmark.") Cecile Baudier/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention People: Francesca ("My girlfriend in her car at the stop street.") Michele De Punzio/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention People: Life Along The Polluted River ("A boy plays with balloons by Buriganga River as smoke emits from a dump yard during sunset in Dhaka, Bangladesh.") Andrew Biraj/National Geographic Photo Contest


Honorable Mention People: Laurentiu ("This picture is a part of the series of my work ëFrumoasaí. 'Frumoasa' is Romanian for 'beauty'. It's a work about Laurentiu and his family. They live in shacks next to the railway near the Ghent Dampoort. I met him and his family in December 2012. They have to deal with all kind of obstacles on a daily basis. The lack of a legal address gave them administrative problems and made it hardly impossible for them to find a decent job. They form a happy, warm and close family, despite the constant uncertainty in which they live.") Aurélie Geurts /National Geographic Photo Contest

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