Here are 21 of the most amazing images captured by National Geographic this year

best national geographic photos 2015

National Geographic is known for its amazing photos taken from around the world. Photographers for the magazine capture stunning landscapes, people, and animals in nature.

While many people spring for a subscription every month, others simply follow the magazine’s Instagram account, where they can find some of the most amazing photographs.

While it’s hard to pick from the thousands and thousands of photos on their Instagram, here are our choices for the top 21 images captured by National Geographic for 2015.

Taken by Keith Ladzinski, this photo depicts the sun casting evening rays over the coast of Gorda, California.

Taken by Nick Cobbing, a research vessel in the Arctic ocean casts out light into the dark winter night. Cobbing lived on the ship for a few months while researchers studied the sea ice and its influence on the climate.

Robbie Stone captures the beauty of El Cenote in the Italian Dolomites. The vertical shaft opens up into a chamber at the bottom.

Two weeks ago, National Geographic uploaded this photo by Pedro McBride. This snapshot showcases the beauty of Antarctica.

In Papua New Guinea, this father and son were photographed by David Doubilet as they rowed over a coral garden.

This sea turtle was seen near the Abrolhos Reef in Brazil as it dove toward the bottom of the sea to search for sea grass.

Mattias Klum perfectly captured the relationship between an orphaned orangutan and its “babysitter.” The pair were taking a walk near the orangutan rehabilitation center Nyaru Menteng in Borneo.

Photo by @mattiasklumofficial for @natgeo An orphaned orangutan studies the water and its reflection on a daily walk with its "babysitter" through a logged over peat forest area near the orangutan rehabilitation center, Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, Borneo. Please go to @mattiasklumofficial to see a bunch of unruly baby orangs transported in a wheelbarrow. Borneo is still on fire and the already threatened orangutan is under high pressure! The 2015 forest fires are the worst in many years, perhaps rivaled only by the fires of 1997, during which as many as 13 million hectares of rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra were burned. This rehab/rescue center is filled to the brim with orphaned orangutans like this one! Please help save the orangutan! Support organizations like WWF and BOS! #BOS #helpsave #iucn #redapes #borneo #orangutan #conservation #wwf #savetherainforest @thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeo

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In Sanjay Ghandi National Forest, Steve Winter captured two leopard cubs as they came to a watering hole to drink. The leopards live close to the city of Mumbai and are seen entering the city at night.

@natgeo @stevewinterphoto Here is more proof that we humans live with majestic animals in urban areas without even knowing they are there – AND without major problems – if we let them be. Leopards are the most adaptable and the most persecuted cat on our planet. Shot for my @natgeo Leopard story – 2 leopard cubs are walking up stairs to go drink at a waterhole where the caretaker of a local shrine lives. The man has goats and chickens that drink the water during the day – at night he puts the livestock in his house for safety and the leopards come to drink – in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai India. //ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/leopards-moving-to-cities-text The residents of Mumbai use the park during the day – kids playing cricket, couples walking after work or school – others just walking in nature hearing the symphony of the park – the bird calls – leaving the bustling city of over 21 million people. But at night the leopards come out – in the core of the park they have a substantial food source of deer and other species – but they walk silently on the trails at night close to apartment buildings. In one instance I met a man who had lived in this building for 10 years and did not know there were leopards here! I saw him every night walking with friends getting some exercise – two weeks later he tells me he was up at 3:30AM and looks out his window and sees a leopard for the first time! Our natural world is simply perfect and incredibly amazing. And without it we as humans cannot survive – we need to wake up and save the nature that we depend on for our oxygen, water and food – life itself. If we save big cats we can save ourselves. National Geographic launched the Big Cats Initiative to raise awareness and implement change to the dire situation facing big cats. Please visit CauseAnUproar.org to find out more about Build a Boma and other ways to become involved to save big cats! Give a High 5 for big cats! #5forbigcats @ #follow me @stevewinterphoto to see other images, thanks! @natgeo @thephotosociety @natgeocreative #bigcatsforever #ivoryfree #wildaid #bigcatsforever #beauty #me #follow #love #leopards @wildaid

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These mostly gentle giants are being poached toward extinction. The bull elephants captured in this photo by Pedro McBride were both poached by hunters after the snapshot was taken.

This amazing pool of water in Denali National Park is almost too beautiful to be real. Photographer Aaron Huey explained that, since the Ruth Glacier’s ice is so thick, this blue pool of water could go down over 2,000 feet to the ground.

Keith Ladzinski captured this coyote on the hunt in the meadows of Boulder, Colorado. Coyotes easily adapt to new areas, which is why they are the most widely distributed large predator in North America.

The Aurora Borealis is a sight to behold, especially in Canada, where the colors are seen most often. Jimmy Chin captured this photo over Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.

Mattias Klum, like most of us, is fascinated with lions. When he had the chance to interact with them up close, he took this amazing shot.

Photo by @mattiasklumofficial It's truly an awesome experience to spend time really close to lions, powerful beautiful top predators. Listening to their roars in the dark from a blind or tent camp… Always sensational! Go to @mattiasklumofficial to take a good look at (and learn about) the teeth of a lion! Unfortunately lions like most other apex predators are under extreme pressure! They are facing many human threats such as population growth and agricultural expansion resulting in loss of natural habitat, as well as hunting, poisoning and poaching by livestock ranchers. As a result Africa's Lion Population Has Declined 90% in the Last 75 Years! On the positive side lions are increasingly becoming more economically viable as a eco-tourist attraction, bringing in revenue to the countries where they can be found. Conservation groups are using the rising tourism to see if they are able to allocate ranchers a percentage of this tourist money as an incentive to let lions continue to roam and flourish once again. #lion #instagood #beauty #endangered #selous #wwf #iucn #bigcats #mattiasklum #tanzania @natgeo @thephotosociety

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Paul Nicklen spent hours at a set of falls in Alaska to capture the perfect moment. In this shot, a coastal brown bear is about to sink its teeth into a sockeye salmon. Nicklen took thousands of photos before this happened.

Photograph by @paulnicklen. There is something wonderful about being able to capture the world at 1/4000th of a second. Here, a sockeye salmon rockets through the air trying to leap a set of falls in Alaska where a coastal brown bear is perfectly positioned to intercept that leap. A soon as a fish would leave the water, I would press the shutter, recording the moment at 10 frames a second. I did this over and over and over until I had shot thousands of images of the same situation. Finally, that moment appeared where the fish is in the mouth of the bear but it has not yet clamped its teeth around the beautiful silver salmon. #followme on @paulnicklen see a lot more of my favorites. #arctic #grizzlybear #gratitude #explore #nature #smile #love #beauty #adventure #travel @natgeocreative @thephotosociety #instagood #tbt #follow #followme #photooftheday #happy #tagforlikes #beautiful #like #picoftheday #summer #fun #friends

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Sunrises and sunsets are always majestic, especially up in the mountains. In this photo, Michael Melford perfectly shows the sunrise over Lake Pukaki, New Zealand. Mt. Cook can be seen in the background.

This European bee-eater from the Budapest Zoo showcases its many colors in a photo taken by Joel Sartore. This species of bird can eat up to 250 bees per day.

Southern California is known for its beaches, which are home to thousands of surfers trying to catch that perfect wave. In this photo, Tyrone Turner captures a lone surfer walking along LaJolla Beach at sunset.

Icebergs really are the best metaphor for the sea, according to photographer David Doubilet. Only a small fraction of and iceberg is ever present above the surface of the water.

These climbers are braving insane conditions for a shot at climbing to the summit of Ama Dablam in eastern Nepal. Andy Bardon captured these climbers melting snow for drinking water at their camp 19,000 feet above sea level.

This sweet koala at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital attempts to grab onto Joel Sartore’s camera. While he doesn’t quite get a hold of it, the result is an adorable koala selfie.

Brian Skerry writes that this harp seal pup is only 17 days old. At this stage, the pups start to acclimate to the water by splashing around and beating the water with their fins.

Each of these photos perfectly captures the beauty of our world. We expect to see even more from National Geographic in the coming years.