The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest has ended and the judges will soon pick the winners. Over 12,000 entries were submitted in these four categories: Travel Portraits; Outdoor Scenes; Sense of Place; and Spontaneous Moments. National Geographic is going to announce the winners in August and meanwhile we want to share 22 of our favorite entries.

When I look at these breathtaking photographs I start to think that maybe my photography teacher was wrong. He used to say that if you want to relax you should leave your DSLR at home. “Take point-and-shoot camera instead – it’s either a holiday or you are working,” he said. Well, I’m definitely taking my D7000 on the next trip!

What about you? How do you take pictures when traveling? Smartphone or DSLR?

Website: nationalgeographic.com | Via: Modern Met and The Atlantic

Lava Kiss

“My husband and I, along with a tour guide and a group of friends, hiked up to what was formerly the Royal Gardens subdivision above Kalapana, Hawaii, where the last standing house was just recently taken over by the active lava flow. While waiting for the rain to pass, we started taking back-lit portraits of each other in front of the lava flow after I set up my camera on the tripod. For the last photo, my husband spontaneously dipped me in a kiss. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment!”Dallas Nagata White)

Good Bye Old Friend

“Elephants are legendary for their memory and intelligence including attributes associated with grief, making music, altruism and compassion. We came across this elephant whose corpse was overcome by vultures and jackals. From a distance we heard and then saw another elephant approaching at a fast pace. She was successful at chasing away the predators and then very slowly and with much empathy wrapped her trunk around the deceased elephants tusk. She stayed in this position for several hours guarding her friend.”John Chaney)

Dust Dance

“A tornado tightens up and kicks up a lot of dust as it heads straight for me, roping out and dissipating approximately 1/2 mile from my location less than a minute later. The tornado was on the ground for a total of 4 minutes. To the right of the main tornado another funnel with a debris cloud on the ground can be seen. The tornado was a rare cold core tornado that had papers written up about it a few days later, referencing my photos. This is one of seven tornadoes I saw that day, making it my most successful storm chase to date. June 20th, 2011 near Norton, Kansas at 2:32pm.”David Mayhew)

What’s Up?

“Hundreds of adolescent elephant seals live on the beach eating and learning adult behavior before leaving the island. It is a cacophony of sound and activity until noon, when everyone seems to take a siesta. As I walked by these sleeping seals, one of them popped up his head as if to ask, “What’s up?”.Barbara Engel)

Lupins

“Each December, lupins put on a stunning display around Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.”Mike Hollman)

Yosemite Valley

“It was an early morning in April of 2011. I went to the Tunnel View of the Yosemite National Park. Fog was floating in the Yosemite Valley, making it such a wonderful spectacle.”Hong Zeng)

Spiral Down

“The beautiful spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum.” (©  Syaza Mohammed Shakharulain)

Milking a Yak

“Nomad woman milking a yak on the grasslands of Sichuan, China after a snowfall the night before.” (©  John Quintero)

Fairy Tale Circles From Above

“What a magic moment on our honeymoon trip – sunrise in the namibian desert and all these fairy tale circles from a ballon’s perspective. Wow!” (©  Bruno Kaeslin-Kuemmelberg)

The Rainbow Man

During my daily assignments as a local press photographer, I need to find an interesting images to improve my own photography skills. “As I saw this beautiful colorful building, which is a hotel in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, a man suddenly appeared and looked out. Without wasting time, I grabbed my camera and waited for the right moment.”  (© Ahmad Izzrafiq Alias)

Lost in Time – An Ancient Forest

“Near the city of Morondava, on the West coast of Madagascar lies an ancient forest of Baobab trees. Unique to Madagascar, the endemic species is sacred to the Malagasy people, and rightly so. Walking amongst these giants is like nothing else on this planet. Some of the trees here are over a thousand years old. It is a spiritual place, almost magical.”Ken Thorne)

Alone

“I felt the beautiful landscape of the Earth.”Takaki Watanabe)

Rio de Janeiro

“Rio de Janeiro, Cidade Maravilhosa. After spending two months in this beautiful city, with carioca people, samba, and lots of caipirinha, finally there was a perfect day to go up to Sugarloaf mountain and take this picture.”Ignazio Sciacca)

A Snapshot From Mountaineer’s Life

“Have you ever wondered how does a mountaineer’s day start? I will give you a hint: you wake up at 3 am, set the stove, wake up your partner, pretend it is warm, quickly consume a high-calorie breakfast, watch your friends slowly ascending the icy slopes of your dream summit with their tiny head torches glimmering against perfectly blue ice, and hope for the good weather. One would ask: why all this trouble? The answer is easy: for the love of the adventure and the unknown.”Kamil Tamiola)

God’s Window

“This is a self portrait I shot whilst on a photographic assignment for WILD magazine in the Tankwa Karoo, Western Cape. I was humbled by the sense of space I felt looking down into the valley – the magnitude of nature and miracle of creation reminded me of how small we really are.”Karin Schermbrucker)

Stacked Supercell with Lightning

“This huge mesocyclone supercell was near the Nebraska / Kansas border on the night of June 22nd, 2012. What a stunning structure!”Jennifer Brindley)

Fly By

“This photo was taken on the ice near Arctic Bay last month. As far as we know, it is the highest latitude passenger flight on a hot air balloon ever. It was quite the sight to see a hot air balloon fly between the iceberg columns — it is one iceberg but looks like two.”Michelle Valberg)

A Louisiana Crane Forest

“Living in southeast Louisiana; building post-Hurricane Katrina floodwalls in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana”Tom Walsdorf)

The Ice Cave Experience

“Deep, blue and cold. The frightening experience of climbing inside an ice cave on the north face of alpine summit at 3800 m above sea level is very difficult to describe in words. Especially in summer, when all the glacial ice melts making the place for completely new formations. You need to stay focused, pay attention to every single move and commit yourself entirely to this climb. The reward?! An amazing experience of climbing something pure and truly unique.”Kamil Tamiola)

Sun-Kissed Faces

A newly emerging paradise sits in the northwestern coast of Cebu, the Philippines’ tourist capital. First celebrated in 2008, the municipality of San Remigio commemorates its beautiful coastline with an annual event called the Lapyahan festival. Children dress in colorful sea-themed costumes that highlight the town’s pearly-white coastline, which is also the longest one in the island. The group portrait captures the well-coordinated and pompous nature of this event, as well as the sun-kissed faces of children immensely enjoying their presentation to tourists and travelers. (© Erwin Choachuy)

Blizka

“The Buzludzha Monument on a 1441 metres high peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement. It was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse. Approaching and visiting the building in the middle of winter was a real adventure. The photography was taken with a large format camera and film.”Thomas Jorion)

Underwater Surf


“Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean.”Lucia Griggi)