National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest has just wrapped up, and judges will soon be selecting the winners -- but voting for the Viewer's Choice award is open until Friday, July 20, at 9 a.m. National Geographic was kind enough to allow me to share some of these amazing entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments.
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1. Lava Kiss: My husband and I, along with a tour guide and a group of friends, hiked up to what was formerly the Royal Gardens subdivision above Kalapana, Hawaii, where the last standing house was just recently taken over by the active lava flow. While waiting for the rain to pass, we started taking back-lit portraits of each other in front of the lava flow after I set up my camera on the tripod. For the last photo, my husband spontaneously dipped me in a kiss. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment!




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2. Fly by: This photo was taken on the ice near Arctic Bay last month. As far as we know, it is the highest latitude passenger flight on a hot air balloon ever. It was quite the sight to see a hot air balloon fly between the iceberg columns -- it is one iceberg but looks like two.




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3. A portrait of an old Burmese woman.




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4. Speeding Fall: Since I discovered this road while driving around the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada, I make sure I can go back any occasion I have to visit this cathedral space made by trees.




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5. African leopard jumping in a tree in the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya.




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6. Spiral down: The beautiful spiral staircase in the Vatican Museum.




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7. Silky Floor: After a dive in the Bahamas, a group of curious silky sharks come to investigate our boat.




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8. The Rainbow Man: During my daily assignments as a local press photographer, I need to find an interesting images to improve my own photography skills. As I saw this beautiful colorful building, which is a hotel in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, a man suddenly appeared and looked out. Without wasting time, I grabbed my camera and waited for the right moment.




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9. Volcanic images at National Geographic are always about lightning, lava and immense cones, but a volcano can also be spewing out mud, allowing you to bathe in them! This volcano is approximately 50 feet high and can accommodate 10 to 15 people in its active crater. It takes a bit to jump in, what if the pressure goes away?




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10. A Louisiana Crane Forest: Living in southeast Louisiana; building post-Hurricane Katrina floodwalls in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.




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11. Dust Dance: A tornado tightens up and kicks up a lot of dust as it heads straight for me, roping out and dissipating approximately 1/2 mile from my location less than a minute later. The tornado was on the ground for a total of 4 minutes. To the right of the main tornado another funnel with a debris cloud on the ground can be seen. The tornado was a rare cold core tornado that had papers written up about it a few days later, referencing my photos. This is one of seven tornadoes I saw that day, making it my most successful storm chase to date. June 20th, 2011 near Norton, Kansas at 2:32pm.




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12. The Cave: Deep, blue and cold. The frightening experience of climbing inside an ice cave on the north face of alpine summit at 3,800 m above sea level is very difficult to describe in words. Especially in summer, when all the glacial ice melts making the place for completely new formations. You need to stay focused, pay attention to every single move and commit yourself entirely to this climb. The reward?! An amazing experience of climbing something pure and truly unique.




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13. Sun-Kissed Faces: A newly emerging paradise sits in the northwestern coast of Cebu, the Philippines' tourist capital. First celebrated in 2008, the municipality of San Remigio commemorates its beautiful coastline with an annual event called the Lapyahan festival. Children dress in colorful sea-themed costumes that highlight the town's pearly-white coastline, which is also the longest one in the island. The group portrait captures the well-coordinated and pompous nature of this event, as well as the sun-kissed faces of children immensely enjoying their presentation to tourists and travelers.




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14. Dusk at Patar Beach: Fishnets strung out from the beach towards the sea at the village of Patar in Bolinao town, Pangasinan, Philippines.




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15. Maiko: Picture was taken in Kyoto, Japan. Her name is Toshimana, a Maiko in Kyoto, Japan. I caught her on her walk in small alley ways of Shijou. Being denied the first time for a picture she gave me a few seconds on her walk back.




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16. Peek-a-boo: The Waianae coast of Oahu is a visiting area for many Cetaceans, but the Hawaiian Spinner dolphins are the most common marine mammal seen off this coast. One beautiful day we found ourselves amongst one of the largest pods of Hawaiian Spinner dolphins we had ever swam with. They swam with us and around us, all together the encounter lasted an hour. However, it seemed to all happen so quickly, this is the only photo of this magical moment we managed to take.




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17. Tamblian Lake is a lake located on the north slope of Mount Mortar, Munduk Village area, District of Banjar, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia. This lake is one of the three twin lakes that formed in a large caldera. To the east there is a row of Lake Buyan and Lake Beratan. On the edge of the Tamblingan Lake there is a Gubug Temple. Unfortunately due to heavy rainfall and flooding the surface of the lake rises the temple.




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18. This shot was taken during sunset at Chobe National Reserve in Botswana.




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19. Joyful: Kids enjoying themselves inside a Jeepney in Cebu City, Philippines. Their smiles make me feel peaceful and joyful. I think this is pure happiness for them.




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20. Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak on a beautiful autumn morning on the British Columbia/Alberta border in Canada.




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21. Reality: I spotted this old beggar at the entrance of the Gadaladeniya Temple, Pilimathalawa, Kandy, Sri Lanka. He was so quiet, seated on ground very still and was staring at the temple with his deep eyes. Wrinkles on his face and his deep eyes tell the story of a life.




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22. Leading Lines: A slow shutter image of the Kuching Waterfront located in Sarawak, Malaysia.




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23. Good Bye Old Friend: Elephants are legendary for their memory and intelligence including attributes associated with grief, making music, altruism and compassion. We came across this elephant whose corpse was overcome by vultures and jackals. From a distance we heard and then saw another elephant approaching at a fast pace. She was successful at chasing away the predators and then very slowly and with much empathy wrapped her trunk around the deceased elephants tusk. She stayed in this position for several hours guarding her friend.




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24. Stacked Supercell with Lightning: This huge mesocyclone supercell was near the Nebraska / Kansas border on the night of June 22nd, 2012. What a stunning structure!




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25. Holi Explosion: Holi is a flamboyant festival where colored powder or watercolors are thrown on one another in celebration of the beginning of spring. Many take it as an excuse to run wild and at times act inappropriately. As hindus often say "Bura na mano, Holi hai" (Don't feel offended, it's Holi)" Photos taken in Bombay/Mumbai 2012.




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26. Hunger knows no boundaries: A lone lioness stalked a family of giraffes in Moremi Reserve, Botswana. Waiting for the opportune moment when the family entered the foliage before pouncing on the baby giraffe.




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27. Taking Off From Chelatna Lake: Alaska Bush float planes are amazing. Believe it or not, many remote cabins, hunting and fishing properties remain only accessible by float plane service, an added bonus to owning property in Alaska in our opinion.




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28. Blizka: The Buzludzha Monument on a 1,441-meter-high peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organized socialist movement. It was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse. Approaching and visiting the building in the middle of winter was a real adventure.




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29. Yosemite Valley: It was an early morning in April of 2011. I went to the Tunnel View of Yosemite National Park. Fog was floating in the Yosemite Valley, making it such a wonderful spectacle.




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30. Your life is your own: This photo was inspired by my favorite author. It embodies life, and freedom. "Your life is your own. Rise up and live it." - Terry Goodkind, Faith of the Fallen. Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado.




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31. Sunset over Bruges: The Belgian city of Bruges is famous for its stunning medieval architecture. Taken at sunset on top of the Belfort, the city's gothic cathedral spires, the Church of Our Lady on the left, and St. Salvator's Cathedral on the right, and angular roofs are bathed by the warm glow of an ethereal, golden light.




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32. Flying over the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas in a twin engine canoe with wings, a mounted camera with a remote trigger allowed this photographer to capture the moment forever.




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33. Dragon Wave: This photo was taken from the rocks at Ke'e beach, as a wave formed into the shape of a dragon.




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34. Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before.




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35. Sunrise on Palouse Hills: The sun's first rays warm the rolling hills of the Palouse Country in Eastern Washington.




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36. While working as a fishing guide in Tofino, British Columbia I had this humpback calf jump no more than 10 feet away from the boat. On our way in from fishing for halibut we noticed a few humpback whales playing in the distance and we stopped part way in to watch. It was quite an experience to see something completely airborne so close to the boat. The lucky thing was I got the photo I submitted. A fellow boat also got a picture of the whale close to mid air and it was also all caught on video. Was an amazing day.




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37. African Queen - Madagascar: Madagascar is a country that feels like no other. Despite its rich mineral wealth it remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. It has suffered mass deforestation and the landscape scarred by mining operations but they beauty in lies within the people who make Madagascar. As the wife of the village Mayor, this woman was displaying some of the most exquisite sun protection I have ever encountered.




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38. Broken Home: While storm chasing in the spring of 2011, I came across this unique spot as a hail storm was approaching. I only had 7 minutes to set up my gear before the storm slammed into me. Quarter-sized hail, tremendous lighting and strong winds accompanied this storm.




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39. Underwater Surf: Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean.




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40. God's Window: This is a self portrait I shot while on a photographic assignment for WILD magazine in the Tankwa Karoo, Western Cape. I was humbled by the sense of space I felt looking down into the valley -- the magnitude of nature and miracle of creation reminded me of how small we really are.