The Winners of National Geographic’s ‘Pictures of the Year’ Photo Contest

NatGeo Photo of the Year
A bald eagle arrives to steal a perch on a tree log that offers a strategic view of the shoreline at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska. When other eagles drag freshly caught salmon in from the water, these bystanders swoop in to take a share. “Hours of observing their patterns and behavior helped me capture moments like these,” says photographer Karthik Subramaniam, a software engineer with a passion for wildlife photography. | Photograph by Karthik Subramaniam

Last December, National Geographic shared its 2022 Pictures of the Year and as part of that, announced its first photo contest in years. All the photos are in, and the esteemed publication has selected the winners.

After what the publication calls a “rigorous vetting process” that was conducted by a team of National Geographic editors, Karthik Subramaniam’s “Dance of the Eagles” was named the grand prize-winning photo. The software engineer-turned-hobbyist photographer captured a bald eagle battling for a prime spot on a tree in the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska.

“Every year in November, hundreds of bald eagles gather at Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, Alaska, to feast on salmon. I visited there last two Novembers to photograph them,” Subramaniam says.

“Studying their behavior patterns helped me anticipate some of their actions. For example, when an eagle drags salmon to a dry spot, other eagles in the area would inevitably fly there to claim their share, and that leads to chaotic action. They also seemed to have some favorite spots to hang out, and usually, commotion ensues when an eagle wants an already occupied spot. This photo was taken during one such commotion.”

Subramaniam’s photo will be featured in the May issue of National Geographic magazine alongside the publication’s leading photographers and will also get a six-month digital subscription to the magazine.

Nine other photos (captured by Alex Berger, An Li, Bruce Taubert, Eric Esterle, Rhez Solano, Riten Dharia, Tayfun Coskun, Tihomir Trichkov, and W. Kent Williamson) were selected as honorable mentions, seven of which can be seen below. All will be featured on National Geographic’s Your Shot Instagram page and will also receive a six-month digital subscription to the magazine.

NatGeo Photo of the Year
Sometimes a sleepless night is key to great photography. At approximately 3:40 a.m. on a frigid summer morning, photographer W. Kent Williamson snapped this image from Tipsoo Lake in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. From across the still water, he could see a line of headlights as weary climbers approached the peak’s 14,411-foot summit—the culmination of a multi-day climb. “The night sky was unusually clear, and the Milky Way could be seen just above the mountain,” Williamson says. “I was surprised to see how bright the climbers’ lanterns were.” | Photograph by W. Kent Williamson
NatGeo Photo of the Year
Heading home from an airport run one early October morning, photographer Tihomir Trichkov cut through North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway and spotted the sun rising gently over the valley. It was blanketed in a thick fog, with the fall colors popping out underneath. He zoomed a long lens into the scene and captured this. “I was staring at a whispering mystery, creating impressionism with a camera,” Trichkov says. “It had rained the day before; there was a ton of moisture in the air. I named it ‘Legends of the Fog’ as I hear whispers when I stare at it.” | Photograph by Tihomir Trichkov
NatGeo Photo of the Year
Asiilbek, a nomadic Kazakh eagle hunter, preps his golden eagle, Burged, for a horseback hunt in the grasslands outside of Bayan-Ölgii, the westernmost province of Mongolia. The eagle’s training begins when fledglings are captured from their cliff edge nests and taught how to hunt for hare, fox, and even deer. The tradition stretches back 3,000 years.
“For this image, I was lying on my stomach in the prone position looking through the electronic viewfinder at the edge of the stream,” says photographer Eric Esterle. “The ground shook as Asiilbek’s horse passed less than a few feet away, splashing me with ice cold water. I remember covering my camera with my body and putting my head down.” | Photograph by Eric Esterle
NatGeo Photo of the Year
Wildlife biologist Bruce Taubert was studying the eating habits of Arizona’s small desert owls when he got lucky: he found a rare screech owl next. For several nights, he photographed the owls carrying food back to their chicks using an infrared trip beam that triggers a high-speed flash. This owl collected a Mediterranean gecko on its nightly run. “Mediterranean geckos are nonnative in Arizona and their distribution is expanding,” Taubert says. His theory on how they got there? “It may be that the geckos were delivered to [nearby] houses by landscape companies bringing in exotic plants.” | Photograph by Bruce Taubert
NatGeo Photo of the Year
Maras in Peru. The archaeological record shows that salt extraction likely began here before the Inca Empire, perhaps as far back as 500 AD. Today that tradition continues with the families who own wells, each of which produces some 400 pounds of salt per month. “The salt wells receive water through channels sourced by a salty underground spring nearby and once the water evaporates, the crystallized salt remains,” says An Li, who captured this picture. “Here, a salt miner is using a wooden rake to extract the salt.” | Photograph by An Li
NatGeo Photo of the Year
On a road trip through the Austrian Alps, Alex Berger spotted a one-lane road that wound into the mountains and looped back on the map. He followed it alongside a small stream lined with walls of forest when he spotted this golden tree blooming from between the trunks. There’s “a fantasy-ish inspired dimension for me,” says Berger, “which gives me goosebumps.” | Photograph by Alex Berger
NatGeo Photo of the Year
An aerial view taken by photojournalist Tayfun Coskun shows the salt marsh ponds at Alviso Marina County Park in San Jose, California. These unique urban marshlands are being threatened by rising sea levels, and conservation projects are racing to turn back time and restore the region for wildlife and fish—and also for absorbing floodwaters and capturing carbon dioxide. | Photograph by Tayfun Coskun

To see the full gallery of winners, visit

Image credits: All photos are individually credit and provided courtesy of National Geographic.