FEAST YOUR EYES ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S BEST PHOTOS OF 2018

The world is a glorious place, made even more glorious by the humans and species that inhabit it. Imagine being able to spend your days visually appreciating our world through images? That’s what National Geographic’s Director of Photography Sarah Leen does, as she sifts through some of the best photos taken by some of the world’s best photographers on a daily basis. Tough gig right? Here she reveals some of her favourite photos of the 2 million submitted to National Geographic this year.

NAT GEO 1At night gray reef sharks hunt as a pack in the south channel of Fakarava Atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. Photographer Laurent Ballesta’s team, diving without cages or weapons, counted 700 sharks.

From “Frenzy,” May 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY LAURENT BALLESTA

Nat geo 2Moon jellies, found all over the world, are named for their otherworldly, translucent bells. The fringe of hairlike cilia sweeps food—mostly plankton—toward their mouths. The jellies change color depending on what they eat.

From “Scary, Squishy, Brainless, Beautiful: Inside the World of Jellyfish,” October 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID LIITTSCHWAGER

Nat geo 3After sheets of clear plastic trash have been washed in the Buriganga River, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Noorjahan spreads them out to dry, turning them regularly— while also tending to her son, Momo. The plastic will eventually be sold to a recycler. Less than a fifth of all plastic gets recycled globally. In the U.S. it’s less than 10 percent.

From “We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We’re Drowning In It,” June 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY RANDY OLSON

Nat Geo 4Steeple Jason, one of the more remote islands in the Falkland Islands, hosts the world’s largest colony of black-browed albatrosses. Once used to graze hundreds of sheep and cattle, it’s now a nature reserve. About 70 percent of the black-browed albatross population nests in the Falklands.

From “The Falkland Islands Preserve Wildlife and Habitat After War,” February 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL NICKLEN

Nat Geo 5

Crabeater seals slither onto floating ice to nap, give birth, or hide from killer whales or leopard seals. (Note the prominent scars.) With less sea ice available off the Antarctic Peninsula, icebergs like this one, calved from glaciers on land, provide critical resting places for animals. Despite their name, crabeaters feed mostly on shrimplike krill— another Antarctic staple whose future is in doubt.

From “The Big Meltdown,” November 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY CRISTINA MITTERMEIER

Nat Geo 6At Posto Awá, an indigenous outpost in the Brazilian Amazon, villagers enjoy a morning bath. The red- and yellow-footed tortoises they’re holding will probably eventually be eaten.

From “Isolated Nomads Are Under Siege in the Amazon Jungle,” October 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES

Nat geo 7A young male lion was one of three members of Kenya’s famous Marsh Pride to die in 2015 after eating a cow carcass that Maasai herders had laced with carbosulfan, an insecticide. The lions had killed several cows.

From “Why Poison Is a Growing Threat to Africa’s Wildlife,” August 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES

Nat Geo 8The Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti holds the record for the second longest uninterrupted spaceflight by a woman, having spent 199 days on the International Space Station in 2015. (NASA’s Peggy Whitson topped that record by almost a hundred days in 2017.) The longer she was in orbit, Cristoforetti says, the more her perception of humanity’s time on Earth evolved. When the massive geologic forces that have sculpted the planet are visible at a glance, the eons in which we crafted pyramids and skyscrapers become nearly indistinguishable. It’s as if, from her vantage point, all our constructed monuments arose overnight.

From “They Saw Earth From Space. Here’s How It Changed Them,” March 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTIN SCHOELLER

Nat geo 8Taking advantage of a sunny spring day a year before Katie Stubblefield’s face transplant, Katie and her parents, Robb and Alesia Stubblefield, indulge in a nap in a park near the Cleveland Clinic. With Katie in a wheelchair, the three explored the park, wandering amid blossoming trees and singing birds. The outing came after Katie had spent a month in the hospital. To reposition her eyes, she had surgery to implant what’s known as a distraction device. In the three years before her transplant, Katie was hospitalized more than a dozen times.

From “The Story of a Face,” September 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY MAGGIE STEBER

Nat geo 9Sixteen hours into a transplant operation at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, surgeons finish the intricate task of removing the face from an organ donor. Awed by the sight and by the gravity of their work, the team falls suddenly silent as staff members document the face in between its two lives. The surgeons would spend 15 more hours attaching the face to Katie Stubblefield.

From “The Story of a Face,” September 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY LYNN JOHNSON

Nat Geo 10Determined to help their daughter live a life as normal and valuable as possible, Robb and Alesia put their own lives on hold for more than four years after Katie’s face transplant. Pushing through exhaustion, relying on their faith in God, they accompany their daughter to endless appointments and therapy sessions. They’re already looking into ways to improve Katie’s vision, including the possibility of eye transplants. They expect to remain in Cleveland near the clinic and Katie’s doctors for the near future.

From “The Story of a Face,” September 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY MAGGIE STEBER

Nat geo 12Woodrow Vereen, Jr.’s two young sons were riding with him when he was stopped and searched by police for running a yellow light in Connecticut. He won a cash settlement after suing police over the illegal search and now struggles with what to tell his children about how to regard the police.

From “For Black Motorists, a Never-Ending Fear of Being Stopped,” April 2018

PHOTOGRAPH BY WAYNE LAWRENCE 

*These images are owned by National Geographic and subject to Copyright.

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