Are you ready? After months of anticipation, it's finally time to reveal the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contest! A few of our early favorites took home some of the top prizes including Ashley Vincent's perfectly timed photo of a tigress drying off and Nenad Saljic's incredibly majestic portrait of the Matterhorn.
This year, more than 22,000 entries from over 150 countries were submitted from both professional and amateur photographers. Photos were judged based on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts. Here are the three winning images as well as the viewers' choices and honorable mentions. They're all wonderfully inspiring photos, to say the least.
Congrats to all the winners! (Love this contest.)
Above: "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!"
(Photo and caption by Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"The Matterhorn 4478 m at full moon."
(Photo and caption by Nenad Saljic/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"At the end of the day women are allowed to pick through the dump site."
(Photo and caption by Micah Albert/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"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."
(Photo and caption by Adam Coish/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"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."
(Photo and caption by Kai-Otto Melau/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"Every day in Mara starts with something new and different. This is one of the tender moments between Malaika, the name of the female cheetah, and her cub. I was very lucky to capture that moment."
(Photo and caption by Sanjeev Bhor/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"With his exceptional hearing a red fox has targeted a mouse hidden under two 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."
(Photo and caption by Michael Eastman/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"Dragon boating is a Chinese traditional entertainment. As an aquatic sport to memorize qu yuan, a patriotic poet in ancient China, it is usually held in festivals, which can be traced back to two thousands years ago."
(Photo and caption by 关嘉城/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"Yayasan Galuh Rehabilitation Center is an impoverished mental health facility based in Bekasi, Indonesia that hosts over 250 patients. Most come from poor families no longer interested in managing their conditions, 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, uncontrollable and dangerous."
(Photo and caption by Wendell Phillips/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"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. "
(Photo and caption by Jason Ching/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"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."
(Photo and caption by Ulrich Lambert/National Geographic Photo Contest)
"I was surrounded by thousands of fish that moved in synchrony because of the predation that was happening. It was an incredible experience."
(Photo and caption by Fransisca Harlijanto/National Geographic Photo Contest