If there's an authority on which are the best photographs of people, nature and places every year that is, without a doubt, the National Geographic Photo Contest, now in its 2013 edition. I don't even care about the winners because the selected entries are all equally incredible. I've picked my favorite nine.
"The fennec, or desert fox, is a canine mammal species of the genus Vulpes, which inhabits the Sahara Desert and Arabia. With its features ears, this is the smallest species of the family Canidae. It is endangered." Photo and caption by José Mingorance/National Geographic Photo Contest
"As if she was saying goodbye the last sperm whale we encountered on our expedition to Sri Lanka dives down to deep, dark depths." Photo and caption by Shane Gross/National Geographic Photo Contest
"Driving from the Ghaghra River toward Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh, I noticed a huge cloud of around 300 or 400 bats that began to scatter in all directions. It was only when I zoomed in that I realized that the flying mammals were being chased by honeybees. Eventually some of the bats settled on nearby trees with the bees hovering around." Photo and caption by Satpal Singh/National Geographic Photo Contest
"A break in the jungle canopy above allowed a large beam of sunlight to penetrate into the cave. This happen only very briefly each day. It is a magical moment to watch the curtain of light dance in the water. A free diver swims across the scene to show the scale of the place." Photo and caption by Aaron Wong/National Geographic Photo Contest
"A young village boy leaps from his dugout canoe and dives down to investigate me in my scuba gear, as I exhale bubbles and hold out my a huge underwater camera dome! The villagers are Alor, Indonesia continue to live off the sea, mostly fishing with hand-lines and handmade wooden fish traps. The joy and innocence of the children in these communities is inescapable." Photo and caption by Shawn Heinrichs/National Geographic Photo Contest
"Kanas, a beautiful place in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regions of China, is a paradise made by nature" reflected in a woman's eye. Photo and caption by Shihan Wang/National Geographic Photo Contest
"A 180 degrees rainbow paints the sky, creating a bridge between earth and sky. I was hiking under the rain up in the Dolomites waiting for a summer sunset, when the sky magically opened up and the sunlight made the rest." Photo and caption by Alessandro Gruzza/National Geographic Photo Contest
"Taken around Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia in the morning." Photo and caption by Pimpin Nagawan/National Geographic Photo Contest
"I was walking in late January across a bridge in Reine, a town in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, during one of the few hours of daylight at this time of year. Looking across the fjord, I saw these traditional fishing huts (rorbuer) and wooden racks to dry cod perched on top of the craggy rocks." Photo and caption by Mia Bennett/National Geographic Photo Contest
Bonus image: This crazy storm. It seems to be a special effects shot from a Steven Spielberg movie.