National Geographic: “Inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888.”

For me, it has been an inspiration since 1992, the year I came to exist on the planet. My parents have had a subscription to National Geographic ever since I can remember, and my attic now acts as an archive for past Nat Geo mags, aging as far back as 1976.

Although I’ve been blessed to travel to remote parts of the world, no one can ever see all the world has to offer, and National Geographic has taken me (and countless others) to parts of Earth that remain virtually unseen; it has also shown me images I see every day in a new light.

Here are 10 of the best photos over the past year I’ve come across on National Geographic’s website:


National Geographic
This photo speaks volumes of the world; nothing is out of bounds. The world is limitless. The surfer is about to embark on an epic moment, one that the viewer can only imagine, yet there is something so serene about the picture — one man, his surfboard and the endless blocks of ice.In regards to this picture, photographer Catherine Karnow said, “Sometimes it’s powerful not to seize the moment, but to show utter stillness instead […] because he’s standing still, we notice the graceful, curved shape of his wetsuit, which contrasts with the sharpness of the surfboard and icicles.” Yet another juxtaposition on the eye and the world.


 National Geographic
This picture was taken five days after Nyamulagira erupted in Virunga National Park in the Congo. To not only see the lava and fumes flowing out of the top but to also watch the ranger as he overlooks this natural occurrence is captivating. Lava flows are heading north into an uninhabited area of the park and aren’t expected to displace or harm any humans, although a family of chimps may have to shift ground, officials say.


 National Geographic
Sometimes humans forget that they share the world with what seems like an infinite amount of species. This picture so perfectly captures a moment between a mama grizzly bear and her young. However, it also illustrates the issue on the animals of North America’s largest oil field, Prudhoe Bay, and their habituation to feeding on human trash due to the contamination people and unnatural oil fields have had on the planet.Prudhoe Bay, operated by BP and owned in part by ExxonMobil and Conoco Phillips, is trying to alleviate the situation by putting lids on their dumpsters and educating workers on the long-term effects of feeding bears and foxes.


 National Geographic
At 2,723 feet, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is easily the tallest building in the world, more than 1,000 feet taller than it’s predecessor, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan. Every October, Dubai receives a lot of fog because of the mixture of still-high humidity and falling temperatures.Similar to the contrasting weather patterns, the stark constrast between natural flowing beauty and the placement of equally beautiful, man-made structures makes for a truly breathtaking picture that says, “Look how high we can go.” Always reach for the clouds because we can get there (in more ways than one)!


 National Geographic
Between the vast ocean, the mountains on the horizon and the diagonal symmetry of the BASE jumper and the tallest building on the beach, you feel a sense of adrenaline running through you simply by looking at the photograph. The photo is also a perfect example that rules are meant to be broken; the composition is determined by the subject of a photo.I would have to agree with photographer Catherine Karnow in that the best part of the shot is the cropped foot at the top: “It’s as if the jumper is safely held in place by the top of the frame. But we know that this is false, that he’s in fact held by nothing,” Karnow says.


 National Geographic
Aurora Borealis is arguably one of nature’s strangest and most beautiful phenomenons (but then again, what about nature isn’t strange and beautiful?). Taken in Iceland, the photo illustrates the simplest form of photography: capturing such a pure, still moment in nature and showing it to the world. It’s hard to imagine such an illuminated green sky. It’s almost as if aliens are saying, “Greetings, Earthlings. We are here. And we are watching you.” In a peaceful way, of course.


 National Geographic
This innovative underwater sculpture park located in Grenada is a true testament to what the human mind can accomplish. The park can be viewed at all angles; from a glass water boat or up close and personal by snorkeling and/or diving.”The physical nature of the underwater world is vastly different from that of dry land,” says sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor of his work. “Objects appear 25 percent larger underwater, and as a consequence they also appear closer. Colours alter as light is absorbed and reflected at different rates, with the depth of the water affecting this further.”


 National Geographic
This is by far the most amazing picture of a ferris wheel I’ve ever seen. Taken at a Kansas State Fair, the photo “mimics a giant Lite-Brite toy.” The lights, while manic, make you forget about the long lines that come with park rides and instead bring the beauty back.


National Geographic
Nujood Ali of Yemen was married and divorced … by the age of 10. Her courageous and almost unheard of act of running away from her abusive, much older husband has made her an international heroine for women’s rights. To see a genuine smile on the girl as she looks to the sky in hopes of a promising future is truly inspiring. The little girl is looking to the photographer as if he is being invasive, and she doesn’t approve — a great capture.


National Geographic
This photo, taken in New Zealand, is absolutely breathtaking. People think they are larger than life, but when standing next to a 45-foot-long, 70-ton whale, we are shown how small we really are.The diver in the photo recalls the moment: “At some point I stopped and kneeled on the sand to catch my breath, and I was certain the whale would just keep swimming. Instead, the whale also stopped, turned, and hovered over me as it stared with that soulful eye.”