Shadowy figures stalk the streets of Mexico during Day of the Dead celebrations. A friendly Beluga whale smiles as a scuba diver swims alongside in the White Sea. Hundreds of laborers pile on top of a passenger train in Bangladesh, waving to an unseen cameraman. This is merely a smattering of the exotic scenes on display Friday at the Royal Geographic Society in London.

The new exhibit, on view through Aug. 19, showcases the award-winning shots from the Travel Photographer of the Year contest, a prestigious global competition that attracts entries from over 90 countries annually. The 2011 winners make their public debut at the free-to-view show.

According to Dr. Rita Gardner CBE, Director of the Royal Geographical Society, the photos will be shown alongside a number of archive images from the Society's own collection, giving visitors a chance to view pictures dating back to the pioneer days of photography.

Photography has a unique power to instantly inspire and inform us in equal measure about the landscapes, people and places of our world, she said. As an avid photographer, I welcome this opportunity for the Society's historic collection to be linked with some of the very best contemporary images, reflecting our long-term commitment to the photographic image as both a means of visual record and also as a source of pleasure and inspiration.

The annual Travel Photographer of the Year exhibit has been a sweeping success for the Society. Last year's show broke all attendance records, bringing in thousands of British and international tourists. With London gearing up to welcome the world for the 2012 Summer Olympics, this year's exhibition is sure to be equally well-received.

Have a look at some of the captivating images now on display at the museum: