The 70 finalists for the 14th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest have just been announced, and as you can see from this stunning selection, the judges are going to have a seriously difficult time choosing a winner.
The competition received over 48,000 submissions from photographers across 146 countries and territories, and voting is now open for the Reader's Choice winner. Voting closes on March 27 and the winner will be announced alongside the Grand Prize and category winners the following day. Scroll through the finalists below and then head here to vote for your favorite. From an octopus hitching a ride on a turtle's back, to the nomadic Nenets of Arctic Russia, the collection includes some of the most awe-inspiring photographs you could possibly imagine.
More info: Smithsonian Magazine
Winter Is Coming, Altered Images Finalist
The Arctic wolf is a sub-species of the grey wolf and lives in the Arctic regions of North America.
Swamp Raccoon, Natural World Finalist
While I was looking for alligators at a swamp in Louisiana, this beautiful little creature wandered out of the murky waters right into the morning light.
Look Me In The Eye, Natural World Finalist
I am always looking for unique ways to showcase the beauty of elephants in the hope that it will make a difference in the way they are viewed and appreciated. This image was taken when a herd of elephants came down to the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana for an afternoon drink. The opportunity presented itself as the the trunk of the elephant in the foreground framed the eye of the elephant in the background. I focused on the eye, and with some creative cropping, was very pleased with the final result.
Turtle-back Ride, Natural World Finalist
The thing that draws me to the ocean the most is that I never know what I’m going to come across on any given day. I count myself extremely fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to capture this image.
Flying, Natural World Finalist
We were the very last to get on a small plane taking us from Sochi to Saint Petersburg. Little did we know what was waiting for us up above. I took the window seat not expecting to see much, as there was a light drizzle landing on the plane. But as we took off, it became clear I had the best seat on the plane.
Cormorant Fisherman, People Finalist
The traditional cormorant fisherman in China works in the early hours before sunrise. He will sail on his bamboo raft with his trained cormorants to catch some fish.
Snowflakes, Mobile Finalist
Snowflakes on my car windshield.
Take Me Away, Deer! Travel Finalist
Since ancient times, the Nenets have led a nomadic life. Reindeer harnessed to sleds is the most reliable form of transport on the tundra, and the people of the North make use of their navigational abilities. In severe conditions, such as a blinding snow storm, deer are not only loyal companions, but sometimes the only hope for survival.
The Hidden Murder, Natural World Finalist
A spider with a housefly kill, hiding under the petals of a Madagascar periwinkle flower.
Lighting The Old Man, Travel Finalist
On a stormy autumn day a fleeting shaft of light illuminates the Old Man of Storr and other pinnacles of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Long Cow, Mobile Finalist
I’m a vet, and it was late afternoon when I was leaving my department at the University of Parma. I saw the cow and thought: “Is it an optical illusion or gene mutation?!”
Firewalking, Travel Finalist
Firewalking is the act of walking barefoot over burning charcoal. In Ha Giang, a mountain province in northern Vietnam bordered by China, the Pa Then ethnic group observes this practice to wish for prosperity in the new year.
Sustainable Future, Sustainable Travel Finalist
A green sea turtle rises to the surface for a breath just off the coast of Florida. Sustainable travel is something we all should strive to consider and eventually adopt. As often as I can, I go out and explore the world's oceans with my cameras. I also strive to document the work of others who are protecting and conserving our environment, specifically in the world of sea turtle conservation. During nesting season I go out with our amazing biologists, scientists and volunteers who help to protect and document sea turtle habitats in South Florida. These turtles face a huge battle of survival on their upcoming "travels," and every person I can impact with their picture is a win!
Snow Geese At Bosque Del Apache, Altered Images Finalist
Black and white seemed to suit the burst of snow geese in the landscape.
Keel-billed Toucan, Sustainable Travel Finalist
A wild keel-billed toucan perches on a branch during a rainstorm in Costa Rica. I captured this image during a photography tour of Costa Rica focused on documenting its incredible bird population. Costa Rica comprises less than one percent of the world's land mass, but five percent of its biodiversity. I am hoping this image, and others that I captured there, will encourage people to travel to this country, inform them of the marvelous wildlife heritage we enjoy there and inspire greater appreciation of what we still have to preserve for future generations.
Father Calling, Natural World Finalist
This night frog, endemic to the Western Ghats of India, exhibits a unique breeding behavior. The males call for females, the females come and lay the eggs, then the males fertilize them. In this image, the male has successfully fertilized a clutch of eggs from a female. He is calling out for other females to lay eggs.
Red, People Finalist
I'm a street photographer. I search the streets of chaos and try to capture the beauty within that chaos. This is a candid picture and not posed. I was walking up the Royal Mile when it started to rain. People started looking for shelter. I found this subject hiding in a red phone box and caught them by surprise. I prefer viewers to interpret the picture for themselves.
Into The Woods, Mobile Finalist
A tree house in the woods. I was traveling to Bangalore for a week to visit some of my friends. There we went to Nandi Hills for a sunrise view.
Splash, Natural World Finalist
I wanted to capture the break on the rocks during high tide, but as I lost light I had to leave the shutter open longer, and the wave blended in motion.
Bestas, Natural World Finalist
Taking place every year across Galicia, Rapa das Bestas, or 'Shearing of the Beasts,' involves cutting the manes of semi-feral horses that live in the mountains. Horses are rounded up into enclosures called curros, foals are branded and the adults groomed before being freed. The best known is the Rapa das Bestas of Sabucedo, which takes place the first weekend in July.
Individual Communication, Travel Finalist
Commuters on the London Underground are communicating. They are not communicating with each other, but across the world from their cell-like positions on the platform.
Surreal, Mobile Finalist
A man bikes by an octopus statue at the Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada.
Break Time, People Finalist
Break time during a street theater festival known as FITECA. Periphery of Lima, Peru.
An Old Man, Mobile Finalist
I visited to central region of my country, Myanmar, last year. When I arrived to Mingun, I found this old man with an oxcart taxi for visitors. He took me around the Mingun area. Finally we arrived at the famous white temple of Mingun. I loved the background so requested to shoot a photo of him in the oxcart. I liked the frame of the oxcart box and lighting on the face.
Beautiful But Fading Light, Travel Finalist
The world's largest Buddhist academy is located in a remote place in Sertar County, China, named Larung Gar. People from all over China come here to learn Buddhism. However, it is a controversial place. Nuns and monks have suffered from demolition and imprisonment. In June 2016, the authorities imposed new rules, which put thousands of residents at risk of removal. These residents have not been given the chance to practice religion peacefully. If the oppression continues, this unique place will eventually fade from history.
Soaring Crane, Sustainable Travel Finalist
I believe sustainable travel is traveling through a natural experience. For me the most rewarding way is to explore ancient cultures in conjunction with ancient skies. In what is now the Bears Ears National Monument, a friend and I spent hours of wandering until we came upon the Soaring Crane. We sat in the canyon until nightfall and photographed the art by the light of a thin moon. This area of the Utah desert is a land of dark skies and one of the least light polluted places in the continental United States. Its ancient walls and art exist far from urban boundaries. We visit to step out of the modern world and for a brief time remember how the planet was and how our species dwelled for millennia. The stars and planets above our heads comprise the same sky that guided the Crane’s artists. These sites need to be appreciated in their original context under the same dark, starlit sky that inspired our religions, mythologies, mathematics and sciences. For several years I have been documenting prehistoric ruins, ceremonial structures, petroglyphs and pictographs in the context of the night sky. I hope to eventually collect these images into a book.
Love Me, Love Me Not, Altered Images Finalist
I spotted this at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve on a walk. The falling petals got my attention although they are actually caught in a spider web, which can be seen if you look closely.
Where Water Once Flowed, Sustainable Travel Finalist
Patterns in an endorheic lake, now completely dry, of California's Mojave Desert show the constantly transforming beauty of nature. For me, sustainable travel involves traveling around the world, particularly to support national parks and other wilderness areas that exist to protect our natural resources. This photo was taken as part of an ongoing series I have been working on over the past two years, observing transformations in the natural world with special consideration for issues regarding environmental sustainability. A particular focus of this photo series is water management and water patterns.
Texas Winter, The American Experience Finalist
A very symmetrical orchard (I believe apple trees). Aerial Image (shot from a plane).
Violence In El Salvador, People Finalist
There has been an escalation of crime in El Salvador as well as armed confrontation between the state and gangs. Crime can become, dangerously, a demonstration of power.
The Bear Odd Couple, Altered Images Finalist
My wife and I were visiting Cabárceno Natural Park with our kids when we realized that dozens of bears were just in front of us. I got the camera and my 70-200mm and took almost two hundred pictures. Then I saw this bear odd couple that seemed to be upset with each other but together. It reminded me of "The Odd Couple" movie with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
Farm Girl Swimming Pool, The American Experience Finalist
Keeping cool, no bull.
This Party's A Drag, The American Experience Finalist
This photograph shows my experience of the gay community in Rochester, NY.
Ramadan Prayers, Travel Finalist
This shot is of women praying inside Istiqlal Mosque during the month of Ramadan.
Singing For Big Mama, The American Experience Finalist
Lucretia M. Anderson sings a tribute to legendary blues singer Big Mama Thornton at the Blues Gal Musical hosted by Unity Church in Richmond, Virginia, in honor of the famous Richmond-born blues singer Lady E.
Morning Call, Travel Finalist
Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a national park in East Java, Indonesia. To shoot this moment, I climbed the hills at the foot of Mount Bromo in the early morning with my horse.
Jakobshavn Melt, Sustainable Travel Finalist
"Jakobshavn Melt” was captured within the Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland, while on an expedition to document one of the largest calving events in 2016. The objective of the journey was to promote environmental awareness and education about the significant climactic changes occurring in the Arctic. This single calving event produced enough ice to meet the domestic freshwater needs of the United States for six months. The image was captured at 1:00 am during the last sunset before summer’s 24-hour light. Sustainable travel embodies what it means to be an environmental photographer. I believe that each shot should not just be a moment in time, or a beautiful representation of a place. It should be filled with purpose and meaning, providing viewers a means to understand the evolving world at large. The image “Jakobshavn Melt” is but a small glimpse into the reality of a major environmental event.
Big Life Foundation Dog Security Team Bloodhound Bone, Sustainable Travel Finalist
This picture of Bonnie and her handler, Mutinda, on a morning walk captures the actions behind Big Life Foundation's mission of saving and preserving wildlife. Bonnie is one of three security dogs that assist the rangers in tracking poachers. In 2016, one of the dogs in the anti-poaching dog unit played a key role in the arrest of a suspected poacher by following the poacher's scent to his village where rangers uncovered ivory in his home.
Atocha, People Finalist
Last Dance, The American Experience Finalist
A couple dances in the backyard of a home in the West Village neighborhood of Detroit.
Munnar, Travel Finalist
Munnar is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Kerala, India. It is a haven during the monsoon season as nature surprises you with amazing clouds and mists!
Untitled (or The Straight Path), People Finalist
A nun walks slowly next to the chapel of Notre Dame du Hau in Ronchamp, France.
Orangutan, Altered Images Finalist
Dinar the orangutan is visually striking and has an emotive face. The image was constructed by converting the orangutan image to black and white and editing the fur around the edge of his beard. Then I shot a marble headstone and duplicated that image into different layers, played around with the opacity and changed the orientation, before finally painting it across the layers to get the right look.
The Beauty Of Tokyo At Night, Altered Images Finalist
Shinjuku Nights / 新宿区 / 03:25:07 / Rain falls over Tokyo’s red light district. Taken as part of my photo series ‘T0:KY:00’ capturing the beauty of night. Taking real moments and transforming them into the surreal.
Yellow-flecked Sipo, Natural World Finalist
This beautiful yellow-flecked sipo was found at Bosque Protector La Perla near La Concordia, Ecuador. I am always impressed with a snake’s ability to hold itself motionless while sussing out a situation.
Tv School, People Finalist
A couple watches a television literacy program. This photo is part of a series on the impact that media has on the lives of people in rural Brazil.
Dreaming Matera, Altered Images Finalist
A trip to Matera with the woman I love. Double exposure with her face and the Sassi di Matera.
Shelter Pets Project - Peggy Sue, Altered Images Finalist
Ms. Peggy Sue is a five-year-old papillon that was found wandering the streets of Union County, Arkansas. After a month of multiple attempts through social media to locate an owner, no one came forward. She was then put up for adoption at UCAPS. Peggy Sue soon found her new family and is in a loving home. When we first saw Peggy Sue, we fell head over heels for her. She had a royal appearance, and she held her head high despite everything she had been through in the past. We decided she deserved to be a queen in her photograph.
Noon, Mobile Finalist
Shot in Poly Plaza, Beijing, China.
Paper Mill, The American Experience Finalist
Waste from a paper mill is agitated by aerators, producing steam and foam, which are pushed by the wind. Clearwater Paper Reservoir, Lewiston, Idaho. Aerial image (shot from a plane at 1,500 feet).
A Man Looks Out The Door, Sustainable Travel Finalist
Step By Step, People Finalist
I was surprised when I saw this old shoemaker shop with two workers, one of them a young woman doing a job usually done by older men. The look in her eyes is as strong and heavy as her work.
Improvisation, Altered Images Finalist
Dance improvisation in the studio.
Volando En Las Nubes Del Agua, Mobile Finalist
A man swims in the Olympic-size pool in Medellín, Colombia.
Before The Portrait, The American Experience Finalist
Lila Chosa sits on the side porch of her house while her family and friend get ready for a portrait behind her. Lila's grandmother, Heart Warrior, has spent years battling to keep custody of her grandchildren in Minnesota. It’s part of a long history of Native American removal and resistance.
Resting In An Nyc Laundry Room, The American Experience Finalist
This photograph is of a woman that I passed in an NYC laundry room. I'm not sure if she was really doing any laundry. It seems like she's recalling something that recently happened to her. The subject is defeated, hurt and exhausted from this cycle she is in, like the cycle of a washing machine.
Brown-eyed Beauty, Sustainable Travel Finalist
Sustainable travel is travel that does not have a negative impact on the environment and ideally would not only protect the environment, but also provide opportunities for local communities. I see visiting the mountain gorillas in Uganda as sustainable travel because the visits support the local community while protecting the endangered gorillas. Tourists can pay to visit families of these magnificent animals for one hour a day, up to eight trekkers at a time. Over time, the gorillas have habituated to people and are tolerant of their visitors. The rangers dedicate their lives to protecting the gorillas, and you can clearly see that they love their job. Porters are hired from the local community to help the trekkers through the jungle. The porters are rotated on a regular basis so that more people in the community can work. This way, the local community receives a benefit and poaching of the gorillas is less likely. This photo was taken during our one-hour visit with the Mubare Gorilla Family Group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest, Uganda. After about one and a half hours of trekking through the forest, we were fortunate to be able to watch these magnificent animals up close. This photo is of a female gorilla enjoying a midday meal. There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas left on Earth.
Golden Monkey Surveying The Area, Sustainable Travel Finalist
Sustainable travel enables conservation of the things that make a destination desirable in the first place. Rather than denuding forests for a strip of souvenir shops and a tiny fenced reserve, places like Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park protect the native habitat for several rare species, including the golden monkey, mountain gorilla and forest elephant. Park tourism dollars employ guides, trackers and porters and also support community development projects that reduce the incentive to cut forest for illegal farms or set antelope snares, which can kill endangered monkeys and gorillas. Many primate families in the park are comfortable with close human presence. I was thrilled to get within twelve feet of this beautiful golden when it descended from the trees to search for tender bamboo shoots. It paid little attention to me, but surveyed the area briefly, perhaps as a caution against eagles.
The Longing Of An Opera Artist, People Finalist
Mdm Tai, a Chinese opera artist for the past forty odd years, thinks of her children while preparing for her performance. She, like most of the opera artists, is away for months traveling to one place to another, far away from her home. The Chinese opera is a custom that is slowly being diminished, taken over by modern performances. It is worth seeing and it is with hope that, through images, the custom will be sustained for future generations.
Winter Metamorphosis, Altered Images Finalist
Russia. The coast of the Sea of Japan.
Rainy Day, Mobile Finalist
The beauty of a rainy day.
All Souls' Day, Travel Finalist
In Christianity, All Souls' Day commemorates departed souls. A large number of people visited this Dhaka graveyard in November 2016 to remember their dear ones.
116, People Finalist
This shot was taken in China's Shijiazhuang, which is considered one of the most polluted cities in Asia.
Prom Night, The American Experience Finalist
Cádiz Streets, Travel Finalist
City streets in the Andalusian city of Cádiz. Photo taken at sunset from a small plane.
Nevada Solar One, Sustainable Travel Finalist
Spread over an area of 400 acres, the Nevada Solar One is a massive project built in the hot and dry desert, just south of Las Vegas. The plant uses 760 parabolic trough concentrators with more than 182,000 mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays onto more than 18,240 receiver tubes. The projected CO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to taking approximately 20,000 cars off the road annually. It is a refreshing site to look at. I, for one, can't wait to fly a solar-powered aircraft. This image is a part of a large project documenting our transition to clean and renewable energy.
High Tide, Mobile Finalist
Kids dive into the ocean during high tide in Casco Viejo, Panama.
To Be Proud Of, The American Experience Finalist
A big parade in a small town.
Kids At Play, Mobile Finalist
Kids have fun playing in a slide at SM Seaside City Cebu’s Sky Play.