With the cameras on smartphones and tablets reaching near-professional quality, it seems like everyone these days is a photographer. Sure, the 300 likes you got on that photo of a beach sunset may seem impressive, but the folks that make a living turning real moments into genuine art will surely beg to differ.
National Geographic makes a point of recognizing this kind of excellence in photography with their yearly photo contest, and this year’s entries are easily some of the best ever. After seeing the 20 most amazing photos taken in 2018, you’ll be ditching the Instagram filters for a state-of-the-art camera in no time.
1. “Redyk” (Mizerna, Poland): This yearly cattle drive follows nearly one million animals as they return to their farms after a summer of grazing in the pastures of the alpine region. Though even with all the commotion surrounding this event, it appears that one driver forgot what day it was…
2. Best Friends (Soldotna, Alaska): Bear cubs are known for their high energy and love for play, but it seems these little guys seen in Lake Clark National Park would rather kick back, relax, and munch on a little grass. Hopefully, the photographer didn’t mistake the cubs for two cuddly teddy bears and try to take them home!
3. Jute Worker (Dhaka, Bangladesh): At first glance, this man appears to be holding the Guinness World Record for the thickest and fluffiest hairdo. But sorry big hair fans: this man is simply lugging a bale of jute, a fibrous plant material used for making rope.
4. Baby Teeth (Tanzania, Africa): Raising kids sure can be a hassle, especially when they start getting bored of the same old games. Luckily, this mama lion of the Serengeti knew exactly what to do when her cubs needed a new chew toy.
5. Unreal (Mojave Desert, California): It’s amazing that this graveyard of Volkswagens and Audis in California actually exists. Following an international scandal concerning inaccurate emissions reports, thousands of vehicles were recalled and dumped in the middle of the desert.
6. Embearassed (Brooke Falls, Alaska): In the midst of fishing during a salmon run, this overeager bear lunged a little too soon and took a tumble down a tiny slope. Thankfully unharmed, he climbed back on the ledge and continued to fish after his fall!
7. The Shepherd from Transylvania (Bran Village, Romania): It turns out that vampires aren’t the only thing that comes from Transylvania. As you can see, Nea DAN, a Carpathian shepherd in the Bran village region, has plenty of sheep – and wool – to go around.
8. Hungry Hungry Hippos (Tanzania, Africa): While you probably won’t find any white marbles here, you can bet these hippos are still in the mood for a feeding frenzy. Luckily, no one has to risk a hand cramp from slamming down on a bunch of little levers.
9. An Overcrowded Train Journey (Dhaka, Bangladesh): There may not have been enough seats on this train heading for Dhaka, where passengers hoped to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr with their loved ones, but there was plenty of room on the roof!
10. Enduring Spirit (Garinder, Montana): The American Bison has long been considered a symbol of strength and perseverance, and this photo of a lone one in winter perfectly encapsulates these sentiments. Despite the -15-degree weather and heavy snowfall, this bison confidently treks on.