Check out the stunning photography from Nat Geo’s Nature Photographer of the Year contest

The 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contestants have really pulled out the big guns this year with some incredibly awe-inspiring photos.

Nat Geo judges have sifted through the 11,000 entrants to select the crème de la crème of the nature photography world. They are absolutely captivating images showcasing the beauty of animals and nature. Each photograph could be entered into two of four categories: wildlife, landscapes, aerials and underwater.

The Grand Prize winner takes home US$7,500 and scores a feature in National Geographic magazine. First-place winners in each category also receive US$2,500.

We’ve compiled a couple of the favourites from each category to give you a sneak peak of the incredible photography skills on offer.

IN YOUR FACE (photo and caption by Shane Gross):
Typically a shy species, a Caribbean reef shark investigates a remote-triggered camera in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen marine protected area.


MOTHER’S LOVE (photo and caption by Alejandro Prieto):
An adult Caribbean pink flamingo feeds a chick in Yucatán, Mexico. Both parents alternate feeding chicks, at first with a liquid baby food called crop milk, and then with regurgitated food.


FACE TO FACE IN A RIVER IN BORNEO (photo and caption by Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan):
A male orangutan peers from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, Indonesia. Rampant palm oil cultivation threatens this critically endangered ape, forcing the normally arboreal species to resort to unusual behavior—such as wading through crocodile-infested rivers—in order to survive.


ROCK POOL (photo and caption by Todd Kennedy):
In Sydney, Australia, the Pacific Ocean at high tide breaks over a natural rock pool enlarged in the 1930s. Avoiding the crowds at the city’s many beaches, a local swims laps.


FLUORESCENT ANEMONE (photo and caption by Jim Obester):
Blue-filtered strobe lights stimulate fluorescent pigments in the clear tentacles of a tube-dwelling anemone in Hood Canal, Washington.


DUSHANZI GRAND CANYON (photo and caption by Yuhan Liao):
Sunlight glances off mineral strata of different colors in Dushanzi Grand Canyon, China.


FIREFALL (photo and caption by Karim Iliya):
Shortly before twilight in Kalapana, Hawai’i, a fragment of the cooled lava tube broke away, leaving the molten rock to fan in a fiery spray for less than half an hour before returning to a steady flow.


FROM ABOVE (photo and caption by Takahiro Bessho):
Snow-covered metasequoia trees, also called dawn redwoods, interlace over a road in Takashima, Japan.