Smithsonian’s 10th Annual Photo Contest Finalists: Natural World

Check out the 10 finalists in the Natural World category

The photographer captured this image of the Milky Way rising up from behind Mount Rainier with a Nikon D800. “The stars almost looked as though they were erupting from the mountain and I knew this was a moment in time that I had to capture,” Morrow says. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by David Morrow.
This gorilla bounded up to the photographer as she was capturing photos of his enclosure with a Canon Rebel T3. The giant mammal remained in front of her for half an hour. “After returning home, I couldn't stop staring at this photo,” says Bartlett, for whom photography is a new hobby. “I caught exactly what I wanted: the subject's magnificence beyond the obvious.” Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Vanessa Bartlett (New York, New York); October 2012, Bronx Zoo, New York City
The photographer captures a person framed by the annular solar eclipse, watching as the sun sets. “I feel it can inspire so many people around the world, no matter what race, religion or gender,” Pinski says. “Anyone can look at it and feel touched by a ‘beyond this world’ experience.” Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Colleen Pinski.
The morning this photo was taken was unusually quiet, Olesen says. "I was about to pack my bags I heard this juvenile Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) calling 'chi-chit, chi-chit,' trying to attract the attention of its parents above while flapping its wings." Olesen snapped as many shots possible before the bird flew away seconds later. "[It was] the highlight of my Borneo Trip." Taken with a Nikon D3. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad Photo by Bjorn Olesen.
The photographer waited about an hour to snap this image of Gento penguins and their newborn chicks on Antarctica. “I have always dreamed of visiting all seven continents, and on this day that dream came true,” says Piper, who took this shot with an EOS 40D. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Neal Piper (Washington, DC). Photographed at Damoy Point, Antarctica, January 2012.
"A water pipe in Duluth is 'bled' every year to ensure it doesn't freeze," Carlsen explains. "As the water freezes, it builds this amazing ice geyser." Carlsen purchased several dozen LED lights, secured them to a rope with duct tape and hung them down the center of the geyser to achieve the lighting in this image. He then captured the shot with a tripod-mounted Nikon D70. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Nathan Carlsen (Duluth, Minnesota). Photographed in Duluth, Minnesota, January 2012.
The photographer, armed with his Nikon D70, was compelled to take this photo because he had never seen ants exhibiting their strength in this way. “It’s [a] unique and rare moment,” Adiyanto says. Editor's Note, March 13, 2013: After reading the thoughts of entomologist and Scientific American blogger Alex Wild, who wrote that this scene above was "a wholly unnatural arrangement of ants," we have asked Adiyanto to explain more about how he was able to capture this photograph. This submission did not violate our photo contest rules, but we wanted to be sure to clarify the photographer's process. Adiyato explains that he fed seeds from different plants to the ants and lifted, placed, and stacked the ants on the branch himself. Once the ants were in these positions, he took the photograph. He writes, in an email, that he has been observing and studying ants because of their outsized power. We also asked Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History entomologist Ted Schultz about the scene. "Like Alex Wild says, they wouldn’t really be carrying these things for any reason. On top of that, they wouldn’t really be hanging upside down holding them like that. It is not like they are going to eat those things, those [seeds] are not food for them." Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Eko Adiyanto (Bekasi, Indonesia). Photographed in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, April 2012.
The photographer’s wife spotted these eagles perched in a dead tree feeding on animal remains in the state park’s Upper Blue Basin. “Bird photography is very challenging and often frustrating, but the reward is the satisfaction in recognizing when the elements come together and capturing a special moment,” says Holland, who captured this image with a Canon 7D with a 600mm f/4 IS lens. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Don Holland (Dyer, Tennessee). Photographed in Reelfoot Lake State Park, Tennessee, January 2012.
The photographer, who is always looking out for interesting insects, discovered this caterpillar while shooting footage of a jumping spider with a Canon 7D. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Colin Hutton (Durham, North Carolina). Photographed in Duke Forest, North Carolina, September 2011.
This image was captured with a Nikon D90 during a photo shoot at a local bird enthusiast’s home. “I was aiming to do a traditional studio portrait of an unusual studio subject,” the photographer says. Wallpaper Download: Desktop | iPad. Photo by Phillip Pilkington (Southport, UK). Photographed in Southport, UK, November 2012.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.