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Creatures of the wild

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They say never work with children or animals, but these photographers have managed to get up close and personal with some of nature's most imposing creatures. What's more, the vivid, spontaneous nature of their shots often cast their subjects in an entirely different light to the way they're normally perceived. A great white shark looks almost genteel as it glides atop the ocean. A bathing tigress is clearly in her element as she shakes off post-pool session. A Sargassum Frog Fish - pictured in rare promixity - is both beautiful and grotesque.

All these photos, shown below, are editor's favourites from the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest. The annual competition has already received over 1,600 entries from a variety of professional and amateur photographers. It closes at the end of November so there's still time to enter if you're keen - find out more here. Be inspired by some of the highlights of the contest so far, below.

Relax

Photo and caption by Ondrej Zaruba/National Geographic Photo Contest

This cow is looking very happy.

Sargassum Frog Fish In Net

Photo and caption by Deron Verbeck/National Geographic Photo Contest

This Sargassum Frog Fish was in a net floating of the Kona coast. These are rare fish for us to see here so a unique opportunity to get a shot of such a large one.

Great White, Sun Light

Photo and caption by Kirk Nielsen/National Geographic Photo Contest

As I am sitting on top of a suspended submersible cage, 30 feet below the surface, a 15 foot Great White Shark swims overhead just starting to block out the sun. I took the shot right after I had released a breath though my respirator.

The Stand Off

Photo and caption by Richard Davies/National Geographic Photo Contest

Taken on a Canon EOS 40D

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins having an underwater chat

Photo and caption by John Gaskell/National Geographic Photo Contest

These three Atlantic Spotted Dolphins were acting playful for a few minutes so I swam over to join in. When I got close the dolphins came together as if they were going to discuss my presence. One of them seemed to say something then they did a little dance and were on their way. Amazing animals, I felt very lucky to capture the moment.

The Explosion!

Photo and caption by Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest

The subject's name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioural shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favourably on me that day!

King

Photo and caption by Michaela May/National Geographic Photo Contest

Spotted this male lion while on safari in Kruger National Park. His disdain for the light clearly shows his imperiousness for those around him.

Clash of the Titans

Photo and caption by James Cumming/National Geographic Photo Contest

I followed these two big bucks around the NCC Greenbelt in Kanata, Canada for an hour or so during the rutting season. They finally came out to an open field and started to play fight or so it seemed. No buck was injured and I was the only one really happy about the fight.

Great Horned Owl

Photo and caption by Ken Blye/National Geographic Photo Contest

Great Horned Owl in black and white. Well camouflaged almost missed him...

Adrift

Photo and caption by Joshua Holko/National Geographic Photo Contest

Penguins adrift on iceberg during a heavy snow storm in Antarctica

Protective Mother Cheetah

Photo and caption by Scott Belt/National Geographic Photo Contest

This mother cheetah, with 5 cubs nearby, made it clear that her limits had been met (or exceeded).

Baby seal

Photo and caption by Ondrej Zaruba/National Geographic Photo Contest

Baby of elephant seal relax on the beach.

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