With 2017 on the horizon, we’re starting to lists of the best of the year, and one we always look forward to is National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year. And this year’s doesn’t let us down with a showcase of images capturing the extraordinary beauty of the natural world.

National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2016 Contest

The National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest is split into various categories which includes the likes of ‘Animal Portraits’, ‘Landscape’, ‘Action’, and ‘Environmental Issues’, as well as an Overall winner.

New advances in photography technology have meant that pros can now catch even more incredible images than before, and this year’s ‘Overall’ winner was an image entitled ‘Sardine Run’. Captured by G. Lecoeur, the images captured cape gannet birds and common dolphins hunting sardines underwater in the South African ocean.

National Geographic Photographer 2016 Sardine Run
On ‘Sardine Run’, Lecoeur says, ‘Natural predation, sardines are preyed upon by cape gannet birds and common dolphins. The hunt begins with common dolphins that have developed special hunting techniques. With remarkable eyesight, the gannets follow the dolphins before diving in a free fall from 30 to 40 meters high, piercing the surface of the water head first at a speed of 80km/h to get their fill of sardines.’

National Geographic Photographer 2016 Struggle of Life
Other highlights in the contest include the First Place Winner for the ‘Landscape’ category – ‘Struggle of Life’ by Jacob Kaptein – which shows how a nature organisation has tried to increase diversify a river bottom by putting dead wood in the streamsystem. ‘Struggle for Life’ shows a small beech tree in the water, trying to survive under these harsh conditions.

National Geographic Photographer 2016 Life and Death
Another highlight is the First Place Winner for ‘Environmental Issue’ in Vadim Balakin’s ‘Life and Death’, which depicts the effects of global warming by showing remains of a polar bear discovered at one of the islands of Northern Svalbard, Norway.

Check out all the winners of the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest over at the Nat Geo Website.

National Geographic Photographer 2016 Green Meteor

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