Here are our picks for the best photos from National Geographic’s 52 best images of the year—curated from 91 photographers, 107 stories, and 2,290,225 photographs.
National Geographic is widely known as one of the most impressive and far-reaching world media outlets to date. A whopping 128 years since the very first issue, the magazine is still going strong today, consistently offering up global commentary with educational yet captivating style. One of the key defining qualities that keeps readers coming back for more is the spectacular photography lining the pages of each edition. To give appropriate accolades to its network of indefatigable shutterbugs – they announce a yearly best of which never fails to disappoint. Covering the awe-inspiring landscapes, striking portraits, animal savagery or cheeky moments of monkey business, here are our highlights from the 2016 top picks. Enjoy!
Kirill Vselensky perches on a cornice in Moscow as Dima Balashov gets the shot. The 24-year-olds, risktakers known as rooftoppers, celebrate their feats on Instagram.
This photo was originally published in “Why Many Young Russians See a Hero in Putin,” in December 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GERD LUDWIG
As an evening storm lights up the sky near Wood River, Nebraska, about 413,000 sandhill cranes arrive to roost in the shallows of the Platte River.
This photo was originally published in “What Happens to the U.S. Midwest When the Water’s Gone?,” in August 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH BY RANDY OLSON
The colors of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone come from thermophiles: microbes that thrive in scalding water
This photo was originally published in “Learning to Let the Wild Be Wild in Yellowstone,” in May 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL NICHOLS
Steven Donovan, flipping into a pool, took a seasonal job at Glacier National Park to sharpen his photography skills.
This photo was originally published in “Can the Selfie Generation Unplug and Get Into Parks?” in October 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH BY COREY ARNOLD
In Alaska, a mother grizzly and her cubs cause a “bear jam” on Denali’s 92-mile-long Park Road, open to private vehicles only five days each summer.
This photo was originally published in “How Can 6 Million Acres at Denali Still Not Be Enough?” in February 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON HUEY
Dressed for Mars, space engineer Pablo de León tests a prototype space suit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where fine soil and fans simulate conditions on the red planet
This photo was originally published in “Mars: Inside the High-Risk, High-Stakes Race to the Red Planet,” in November 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY PHILLIP TOLEDANO
Poachers killed this black rhinoceros for its horn with high-caliber bullets in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Black rhinos number only about 5,000 today.
This photo was originally published in “Special Investigation: Inside the Deadly Rhino Horn Trade,” in October 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY BRENT STIRTON
A panda keeper in China uses a stuffed leopard to train young pandas to fear their biggest wild foe. A cub’s reactions help determine if the bear is ready to survive on its own.
This photo was originally published in “Pandas Get to Know Their Wild Side,” in August 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY AMI VITALE
Blood drips from a Rüppell’s vulture’s beak. The neck and head are sparsely feathered, which helps keep gore, guts, and fecal matter from clinging in a deep carcass dive.
This photo was originally published in “Vultures Are Revolting. Here’s Why We Need to Save Them.” in January 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES
Lounging in inches of warm water, blacktip reef sharks wait for the tide to refill the lagoon at Seychelles’ Aldabra Atoll.
This photo was originally published in “In the Seychelles, Taking Aim at Nature’s Bullies,” in March 2016
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS P. PESCHAK
These photos were our favorites from the 52 chosen by National Geographic – head over to their website to see the rest!