National Geographic Contest Images Remind Us How Powerful Photography Can Be

It's that time of year again, folks, when National Geographic collects over 20,000 photos from professional and amateur photographers in an effort to pick the year's best framed image.

The photos have been pouring in as photographers battle across three categories (people, places and nature) for the National Geographic Photo Contest Grand Prize -- $10,000 and a trip to headquarters to participate in the organization's annual photography seminar. Intrigued? Well, the competition doesn't end until November 30, at 11:59 PM EST, if you fancy yourself a chance at winning the coveted distinction.

In anticipation of the final results, to be published in National Geographic magazine, NatGeo staff have been compiling some of the best entries thus far. Behold, 10 of the most breathtaking "people" photos:

natgeo 1
"Westley Wade was born pre-maturely at 28 weeks due to complications with pre-eclampsia. In this image, his adoring parents were just told that depending on test results their baby who weighed less than 2 pounds could potentially need heart surgery. As his parents emotionally looked down at him through cords and wires, this warrior new born (4 day old) baby boy Westley shot his hand up straight for them as if to let them know, that everything would in fact, be alright. Gratefully, it was and is. Westley is now 10 pounds 9 oz at 4.5 months and continues to amaze everyone who crosses his path."

natgeo 2
"The name of the nun is Suor Rosalba, which literally could mean Pink Sunrise. The hot sulphur waters of this lake made for an ideal early morning natural spa. I met Suor Rosalba as she was standing in the spa waters in the dark well before sunrise, we talked for a while and then the picture shows her leaving to go the first Mass of the day. Taken in Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy."

natgeo 3
"It would have been my parents 50th wedding anniversary but my dad didn't make it by two months only. I was spending some precious time with the two of them last summer when my dad, now bed-bound, got hold of my mum's hand and with great affection said: 'my girl'. I promptly got my camera to capture this bitter-sweet moment. It was to be the last time I ever took photos of dad. He was, amongst many things, a keen photographer. I think I got the bug from him."

natgeo 4
"Our two year old son playing in the dirt with our dog Raine."

natgeo 5
"In Lenin Park, set against the backdrop of C t c Hà N i (Hanoi Flag Tower) which forms part of the Hanoi Citadel, Vietnamese children sparring in a game of badminton. On the weekends, Lenin Park become makeshift sporting grounds for badminton and futsal for both the young and old. This is symbolic of the freedom enjoyed by the locals of modern Vietnam post Soviet style communism of the 80s."

natgeo 6
"This picture was taken during my trip to Hamburg, Germany. When I went to the city center, suddenly I saw 1600 styrofoam panda bear sculptures stand on display in front of Hamburg City Hall by a nature conservation organisation. This is part of the campaign to draw the attention to the fact that only 1600 panda bears remain in the wild. The display have traveled to 25 other cities in Germany."

natgeo 7
While doing a photo shoot with my daughter and her friend in a skate park, one of the skateboarders, surprisingly,traveled to our side of the ramp with nothing other than a "Don't move", yelling across the way as a head's up! I heard him, the girls did not. Keeping their back-to-back cool ballerina pose,they didn't realize he was flying their way until he actually hit the ramp behind them. This picture is as real as they come. They were truly shocked and scared at that exact moment. Such a cool moment.Two pretty,pretty ballerina's, shocked and appalled at the actions of an urban skateboarder. Priceless!

natgeo 8
"A player on Pacific Lutheran University's soccer team clinches his face in agony after a hard hit with a player from the opposing team. Taken September 25, 2012."

natgeo 9
"The Saidai-ji Eyo festival, considered one of the three strangest festivals of Japan, is a Buddhist ritual in which 9000 men compete to grab just a pair of sacred wooden batons to decide who will be the 'Blessed man' for the year. The over 500 year-old tradition of Eyo is based on an underlying understanding of the state of human life, greater than the ideals and trends of a single generation, and this idea has been cherished and passed down through the centuries."

natgeo 10
"Road Bowling is played with a 28 oz. (793.8 grams) solid iron bowl with a circumference of approximately 18 centimetres. Contestants match their individual skills in throwing the bowl with optimum speed, controlled delivery, and international accuracy along a carefully considered and tactically selected path over a predetermined course distance of normal roadway. The winner is the player to reach the finishing line in the least number of throws or shots."



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