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10 Winning Shots From National Geographic’s Instagram Competition That Will Take You To Incredible Places

Whether it’s stampeding wildebeest alongside zebras, a park ranger hugging a mountain gorilla or a thunderstorm spinning over the Grand Canyon, get ready for your senses to explode.

Adam Kiefer Photography

To mark reaching 100 million followers on Instagram, National Geographic recently held a photo contest. The #natgeo 100 competition was open for just 24 hours, however an impressive 94,000 pictures were submitted. Photo editors from the company that shows what’s going on in the world through the eyes of explorers, photographers, journalists and filmmakers narrowed the entries to the top 10 photographs. Then it was up to the 100 million followers on the image-based social media platform to decide on the grand prizewinner, who was awarded a Nat Geo photo safari to Tanzania. The winner and finalists received photo books signed by National Geographic (@NatGeo) photographers.

Here are the top 10 captivating photos, with commentary from contributing photographers, which National Geographic posted on their extremely popular page.

1. This image of zebras peacefully drinking water while wildebeest charge through the watering hole in the Maasai Mara National Reserve won photographer Ketan Khambhatta the grand prize.

 "The image is so dynamic, with a powerful depth that keeps me looking. A moment well captured," photographer Muhammed Muheisen said.

2. Adam Kiefer snapped this shot of National Park Ranger Matthieu Shamavu embracing Matabishi, an orphaned juvenile mountain gorilla. The picture was taken at the Senkwekwe Center, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is the only rehabilitation centre for mountain gorillas in the world.

“The image is sublime because we immediately understand that it's a metaphor for unspeakable brutality but also great tenderness," photographer Ami Vitale said. “This image illustrates our complex bond with the natural world.”

3. With their huge size and unmatched power and grace, whale sharks must be one of the most interesting terrestrial animals. Matt Potenski captured this bold and curious one, who approached the boat anytime it came near.

“I have done a lot of swimming with whale sharks, and you never get to see an absolutely beautiful moment like this that exemplifies the abundance of healthy oceans,” photographer Cristina Mittermeier commented.

4. Photographed by Khatia Nikabadze, two white lambs are caught staring out the window of a car that is parked at a livestock market in Marneuli, Georgia.

“This photograph wasn’t made in the wild, yet the picture, in one moment, tells the seemingly bittersweet story of the young lambs,” photographer David Guttenfelder said.

5. Shutterbug Chris O'Bryan secured this image of galahs, a species of cockatoo, scouring their surroundings for some much-needed water. Waterholes are an important source of life in the parched Outback in Western Australia.

“Of all of the images of wildlife, this one seems less clichéd and stood out because of the masterly use of colour and composition,” photographer Wayne Lawrence explained.

6. The sea was unusually rough and the undertow treacherously strong on the day Sandra Cattaneo Adorno took this image. Naturally, the bathers on Ipanema beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were hesitant about taking a dip.

“A surreal scene—this image highlights an eclectic mix of light, human impact, and the power of the environment,” photographer Michaela Skovranova said. “It’s as if the heat of the Earth and the humans is radiating off the sand, creating their own micro climate.”

7. While great egrets appear tranquil and still in wetlands, they are also vicious hunters who eat anything they can catch, as seen in this image by Frank Haluska .The victim, a bullfrog, is fighting hard for its life.  

“This moment is so bizarre and confusing that I had to zoom in to make sure another animal’s foot wasn’t sticking straight out of the water to block the distressed frog from certain death,” photographer Cory Richards commented.

8. Shot by Felice Simon, these families seem to be having fun while gliding around an ice rink in Brooklyn's New York’s Prospect Park on a beautiful, sunny day in January.

“This photograph of skaters large and small somehow reminds me of a memory from childhood,” photographer Maggie Steber said. “The way the pristine light shoots across the ice creating long shadows feels symbolic of how we have to stay the challenging course of raising our children, always being there to catch them if they fall.”

9. Francisco J. Perez managed to capture a summer thunderstorm rolling over the Grand Canyon. The arresting image is a combination of three successive long exposure photos of the storm.

“This is an exceptional image of lightning striking the Grand Canyon,” photographer Charlie Hamilton James described. “It is muddy, dramatic and demonstrates excellent technical ability.”

10. This picture by Sara Stein shows the frenetic energy of wildebeest as they cross the Mara River in Tanzania.

“I enjoy photos that aren't that obvious,” Saudi photographer Tasneem Alsultan said. “Is it wasps of hair? Or shards of wood? The mass of horns rushing my way seem lethal, and yet the photographer made us see the image from an artistic view.”

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