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The Most Astonishing Photos That Won Awards In 2014

The year did not disappoint for incredible photos of the awesome power of nature and glimpses into the human spirit. Take a look at some of the very best.

National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2014

Over 18,000 pictures were submitted to the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest, including images of ice caves, magical desert views, and intriguing scenes from cultures around the globe.

First place went to Marko Korošec's apocalyptic photo of a storm cloud near Julesburg, Colorado, US (below). National Geographic Traveler director of photography Dan Westergren said: "This winning photo of a supercell over the plains of eastern Colorado stopped the judges in our tracks.

"What makes the picture particularly strong is that except for the cloud, the rest of the scene is quite ordinary. The crazy UFO-looking shape gives the impression that it's going to suck up the landscape like a tablecloth into a vacuum cleaner. The unresolved tension in the image makes me want to look at it over and over."

Grand Prize - "The Independence Day" by Marko Korošec

Second place – "First Time" by Agnieszka Traczewska

Third place – "Diver in Magic Kingdom" by Marc Henauer

Merit – "Foggy Small Town" by Duowen Chen

Merit – "End of the World" by Sean Hacker Teper

Merit – "Ladies in Waiting" by Susie Stern

Merit – "A Well Earned Rest in the Sahara" by Evan Cole

Merit – "Divine Makeover" by Mahesh Balasubramanian

Merit – "Light Source" by Marcelo Castro

Merit – "Khotso Peace at Devil's Knuckles" by Byron Inggs

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014

Two and a half thousand photos from amateurs and professional photographers were entered into this year's astronomy photography contest, run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

A luminescent aurora photographed in Iceland's Vatnajokull National Park was the overall winner, showing a vivid reflection of the green lights in the waters of the Jokulsrlon Glacier lagoon.

Overall winner – "Aurora Over a Glacier Lagoon" by James Woodend

Winner, Deep Space – "Horsehead Nebula (IC 434)" by Bill Snyder

Winner, Our Solar System – "Ripples in a Pond" by Alexandra Hart

Royal Horticultural Society Photographic Competition 2014

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) sought out the best garden photographer of the year with its annual contest, awarding first place to Alain Jouno for his atmospheric photo of a foggy winter’s morning in the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne, Brittany, France.

RHS Photographer of the Year winner – "The Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne, Brittany" by Alain Jouno

"The View" by Christine Fitzgerald

Highly commended – "Roe Deer in a Bluebell Wood" by Don Hooper

Third place, Seasons – "Bluebell Wood" by David Shandley

Second place, Under 11 – "My Wildlife Picture" by Sara Hussain

Highly commended, Seasons – "Island Mist" by Robert Fulton

CBRE Urban Photographer of the Year 2014

The CBRE photo contest set out to find the most arresting urban images of the year, to "enhance its understanding of the built environment on a global scale by seeing urban areas through different eyes".

German photographer Marius Veith beat off 11,500 entries from 79 countries to claim first prize with his photo of a jeweller arranging her stock.

Overall winner – "Mask of Society" by Marius Veith

Winner, Asia-Pacific – "Net Mending" by Ly Hoang Long

Winner, Age 13–15 – "A Distant Silhouette" by Sarah Scarborough

Winner, Age 16–25 – "Christmas Tram" by Szabolcs Simo

"Morning Massage" by Arunava Bhowmik

"An Exhibition" by Manuel Paz-Castanal

"Sewage Worker" by Sujan Sarkar

Velux Lovers of Light Photography Competition 2014

Roof windows manufacturer Velux set out to celebrate the beauty of daylight in all seasons with this year's instalment of its annual contest. Graham Colling from Bloxwich, West Midlands, UK, won first place with his photo "Early Light" (below), taken while on a morning woodland walk.

Overall winner – "Early Light" by Graham Colling

Second place – "Carousel in the Myst" by Marko Stamatovic

Third place – "Winter Sunrise Over" by Stephen Banks

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

Now in its 50th year, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is run by two UK institutions: the Natural History Museum and BBC Worldwide.

Michael Nichols claimed first prize this year with his photo of the Vumbi lion pride in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Nichols’ image shows five females resting with their cubs, after he’d been following them for nearly six months.

The 51st Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is now open for entries.

Overall winner – "The Last Great Picture" by Michael Nichols

Winner, Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year – "Stinger in the Sun" by Carlos Perez Naval

Winner, Earth's Environments – "Apocalypse" by Francisco Negroni

Winner, World in Our Hands – "The Price They Pay" by Bruno D'Amicis

Finalist, Birds – "Feral Spirits" by Sam Hobson

Finalist, Underwater Species – "Jelly Fireworks" by Geo Cloete

Finalist, Earth's Environments – "Magic Mountain" by David Clapp

Finalist, Birds – "Touché" by Jan van der Greef

2014 National Geographic Photographic Contest

Photographers from over 150 countries entered this year's National Geographic contest, which has three categories: people, places, and nature.

A photo of a packed room lit with ghostly fluorescent light at the marine animal theme park Ocean Park in Hong Kong was this year's overall winner. Photographer Brian Yen said: "I feel a certain contradiction when I look at the picture. On the one hand, I feel the liberating gift of technology. On the other hand, I feel people don’t even try to be neighborly anymore, because they don’t have to."

Winner, Grand Prize and People – "A Node Glows in the Dark" by Brian Yen

Winner, Nature – "The Great Migration" by Nicole Cambré

Winner, Places – "Bathing in Budapest" by Triston Yeo

Honourable mention, People – "Children in the Darkness" by Abdullah Alghajar

Honourable mention, People – "Biltigiri" by Mattia Passarini

Honourable mention, People – "Tea Time in the Hut" by Karie Puret

Honourable mention, People – "My Brothers and I" by Tyler Greenfield

Honourable mention, Places – "Destroyed Homs" by Sergey Ponomarev

Honourable mention, Places – "The Storm" by Aytül Akbaş