This year The Nature Conservancy's global photography contest had a record number of entries with over 50,000 submissions from over 135 countries.
The organisation's director of photography, Bill Marr said "TNC's Photo Contest is a wonderful intersection for those who love nature and those who love photography. We have wonderful entries from all over the world, from beautiful Western landscapes to squirrels in a backyard in Austria. Photography is a common language for all."
As you can imagine, the entries are fairly magnificent and the judges no doubt had trouble choosing the winners. We've collected some of the best for you to enjoy.
Stallions Playing - grand prize winner
This incredible image by Camille Briottet was selected as the grand prize winner this year. The photographer describes the scene unfolding before our eyes:
"Two young stallions play on the Rhône Delta in the Camarguais region of France. They are training for future fights against other stallions for reproduction rights within the herd. This image inspires me because it shows both the strength and freedom of nature. My photograph is telling the story that life is a fight! Nature is magnificent, albeit, hard and sometimes cruel; but at the same time, nature is whole and true."
The end is near - second place
This lone shard of an iceberg seems to speak volumes about global warming. This photograph, perfectly titled "the end is near" was taken in Iceland by photographer Andre Mercier and chosen as the second place winner for the competition.
"This ice could be thousands of years old, and only recently broke off the Vatnajokull Glacier at Jokulsarlon Bay in Iceland, and will soon melt into the sea..."
The third place winner shows a young girl discovering the joys of nature. The photographer's daughter caught on camera giving a small bullfrog a gentle cuddle, like a princess trying to release her prince.
Photographer, Terra Fondriest, said:
"Down at the mud puddles on our road, we found several young bullfrogs hopping around. Up on our hilltop, wet spots are few and far between, so our mud puddles are home to a constant flow of tadpoles, frogs and toads. My daughter loves all critters, her goal is to create a wildlife rehab centre someday. She constantly inspires me with her care towards every living thing."
Outside of the winners, there are many other incredible shots worth marvelling at. This image shows just how fierce nature can be. A school of fish dash for freedom as a large white shark strikes in the waters of Guadalupe Island, Mexico.
From the ferocity of nature, to the incredible, breath-taking beauty. This image from Jeremy Stevens shows the peaceful beauty of Iceland.
"Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall in Iceland, January 2018. The places that are hardest to get to are often the best and most peaceful."
Meeting of the alligators
These alligators casually sitting around in the waters make them seem docile and beautiful too. Another simple nature photograph that shows just how different our world can be.
"Lagoon with many alligators in the Northern Pantanal, Poconé region. Late afternoon left the scene a bluish colour."
This photo by Aristo Risi shows the destructive forces of man colliding with the depths of nature. Strangely beautiful.
"A plastic bag in its natural habitat, the ocean. Shot in Shellharbour in 2017. Plastic was once worshipped, now it destroys everything we love. Nature connects us all, we have a duty to protect her."
Floating in the dead sea
This image seems to show just how peaceful nature can be and, perhaps, just how insignificant mankind can be in the grand scheme of things. The waters of the dead sea are only slightly disturbed by a lone swimmer at the very edge.
Photographer Aline Fortuna describes the scene:
"One of the most unique experiences of the world in the lowest point on earth. We belong to nature and not the reverse. Without nature, we do not live, but without us, it lives."
Pure energy and fire
This photo shows the sheer destructive force hidden beneath the surface of our humble planet. An incredibly clear night's sky makes a magnificent backdrop for the Colima volcano in Mexico.
"Colima volcano erupting during the night showing its strength, was taken in the Yerbabuena, Comala, Colima. Volcanic eruptions in small quantities help reduce global warming."
The desert sands have retaken the lands previously claimed by man as sand dunes fill abandoned homes in the United Arab Emirates. This photograph looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic film but is a real-world snap of nature by Jesse Yang who said:
"The eeriness of exploring this ghost town in the United Arab Emirates went away after an hour or so of exploring. But, I still felt uneasy about entering some of these 'homes.' It felt like I was trespassing, so I tried being oddly respectful. The Arabian Desert obviously didn’t feel the same way, reminding me that nature will always reclaim what we abandon."
Penguins in paradise. This brilliant photo shows the magnificent creatures in their natural habitat before a refreshing morning dip. The photographer tells the tale of the effort that went into taking this incredible competition entry:
"King penguins gather on beach at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island for a morning swim. Making it ashore at sunrise in South Georgia requires a bit of planning since it is really about 3 am. South Georgia is a natural paradise."
Cosmic Cany Cane
The folding plains of nature, the incredible curves of the landscape and a view that's awash with colour and wonder. This brilliant photograph by Dustin Gregory shows the majesty of our world, with untouched nature on display under an incredible night's sky.
"Geologic wonders unfold beneath the starry skies of Valley of Fire State Park in May 2017. The immense light pollution emanating from Las Vegas illuminates the landscape making it almost appear to be daytime in the dead of night. This place had a spooky aura that night and I felt as if I was being watched, making for one of my most uneasy yet memorable nights of shooting the night sky."
This perfectly timed photograph shows the moment a Kingfisher plunges into the water to capture a light snack. Another amazing image of nature and the wonder of our world.
Petar Sabol describes his photo in more depth:
"Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) hunting for small fish on fishpond. It was taken on November 2nd, 2014. in Croatia, near Palovec village, local fishpond. It is very important that we keep nature clean in every aspect, but especially water. Water is the essence of our lives on Earth and it gives us so much to discover. "
Sunlight strikes through the depths of this towering forest of massive redwood trees in Northern California. These huge trees have seen years and years of growth, somehow avoiding being cut down by man in all that time.
Photographer Patrick McDonald commented:
"A huckleberry tree sits perched beneath towering redwoods in Northern California. Only 5% of the original old-growth redwood forests remain, and they are invaluable."
Nature is incredible, right down to the finest most minuscule detail. We've often marvelled at how amazing snowflakes can be - each one different from the last, each a perfect and intricate gift from Mother Nature.
Kathleen Greeson's photograph was one of those highlighted as a favourite by the judges and it's easy to see why. A perfect moment captured in a second.
"A perfect snowflake rests in my daughter's hair during a snow shower at our home on Signal Mountain, TN. Completely fascinating to see all of the different individual flakes falling in our yard."
Super blue blood moon
Over the rises of the Yosemite Valley, a supermoon hangs in the sky for all to see. We like how the mountain tops appear to be reaching up towards the moon in this photo. Another beautiful example of all the brilliant photos submitted to the contest.
Sometimes in nature, undisturbed beauty also means perfect symmetry. This incredible image is from Iceland and once again shows the attraction of that part of the world. Photographer Stephen Dean explains:
"Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland - An iceberg in Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon that has calved from the Vatnajokull Glacier. The iceberg is perfectly reflected in the calm water of the lagoon- I particularly liked the symmetry of this particular iceberg"
Pink Flamingos in Celestun
A much warmer image from Mexico shows Flamingos knee-deep in the waters, blissfully unaware of the photographer snapping this brilliant image.
These were some of the best images of nature we've seen. An incredible view of our world and an astounding look at how wonderfully varied nature can be. Let us know what you thought in the comments.