Inspiration is vital, and few things inspire me like seeing the work of the world’s best photographers—many of whom shoot for National Geographic and have images included in the third annual edition of National Geographic‘s “Pictures of the Year,” on newsstands now. This retrospective is the culmination of an astonishing level of dedication to visual journalism that only National Geographic and its photographers can provide.
In 2022, National Geographic has thus far sent 132 photographers on assignment in 60 different countries, in the process shipping two tons of camera equipment to the farthest corners of the earth. These globetrotting photographers dealt with every challenge mother nature could throw at them—from boiling hot temperatures in the deserts of Pakistan to nearly -50 degrees Fahrenheit in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Covering the world in 2022, National Geographic photographers filed more than 2 million images, and the editors chose 118 of the most compelling for inclusion in the issue.
In its first two years, National Geographic’s pictures of the year issue largely focused on the ways in which the world has dealt with global challenges such as the COVID pandemic. This year, though, the organization says it has shifted its focus toward documenting “our shared human journey.” There’s joy and wonder in these breathtaking images, such as the disorienting photograph of people “forest bathing” on a spiraling 150-foot-high boardwalk in Denmark (photographed by Orsolya Haarberg), as well as ferocity and strength as in Kiliii Yüyan’s portrait of Quannah Rose Chasinghorse, a model and activist who advocates for Indigenous peoples, raising her fist to honor “the resistance and fight of my ancestors who survived genocide and have persevered.”
Other images in the group depict the natural world and the contrasts of its vast power and awe-inspiring beauty. Photographer Enric Sala’s vibrant image of a gray reef shark swimming on a coral reef near the remote central Pacific island of Vostok is a riot of energy and color, while Carsten Peter’s photograph of one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in the history of the Canary Islands is riotous in an entirely different way. What these and all the other photographers represented in the 2022 Pictures of the Year issue went through to capture these photographs cannot be overstated.
For those of us who don’t travel to the farthest reaches of the planet, National Geographic still offers an opportunity to be included in the Pictures of the Year. On Friday, National Geographic kicked off its first “Pictures of the Year Photo Contest,” the winner of which will have their work featured in the pages of National Geographic magazine. From now through midnight on December 31, photographers can enter photos in one of four categories—Nature, People, Places, and Animals—for a shot at winning the grand prize (which, along with being featured in print, includes a free 6-month digital subscription to the magazine). Honorable mention for up to 10 photographers will mean a feature on Nat Geo’s “Your Shot” Instagram feed (where it will be seen by 6.5 million followers) as well as a 6-month digital subscription to the magazine.
Check out four of the images featured in the Pictures of the Year issue in the gallery below. To see more of National Geographic’s 2022 Pictures of the Year, pick up a copy on newsstands nationwide or visit natgeo.com/photos. For more information on participating in the Pictures of the Year Photo Contest, visit natgeopicturesoftheyearcontest.com.