25 Most Breathtaking National Geographic Photographs

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First published in 1888, the National Geographic Magazine has been dazzling the world with its amazing images for over a hundred years. Although photography and technology has changed a lot since then the depth, power, and intensity of National Geographic photography has remained the same. From the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the Chicago skyline these are the 25 most breathtaking National Geographic Photographs.

25. Saudi Arabia Dunes

Photo – RezaThe Shaybah oil fields burn in the background turning the sky a deep purple as a man dances on a nearby dune. Saudi Arabia controls roughly 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

24. Horse Scratching

Photo – Michael Christopher BrownThis horse rolls over and starts scratching its back on the ground as soon as it is freed of its saddle. The photograph was taken in the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area of the Canadian Rockies where hunters are willing to pay tour guides good money for a shot at the big game.

23. King Penguins in Moonlight

Photo – Stefano UnterthinerEvery year during moonrise king penguins will gather on Possession Island to puff their chests and belt out cries as they look for partners. Not long afterwards they will pair up and join the crowd as breeding season kicks off.

22. Dragon Dance

Photo – Jodi CobbThese dragon dancers put on a show for Double Ten Day, the annual Taiwanese festival celebrating the fall of China’s last dynasty. The performance consists of men fighting against a dragon while surrounded by clouds of purple smoke.

21. North Dakota Wind Farm

Photo – Sarah LeenThis wind turbines generates energy in a wheat field near Edgeley, North Dakota. Turbines work by converting kinetic energy from the wind into other forms of energy (mechanical, thermal) with almost no negative impact on the environment.

20. Chicago City Lights

Photo – Jim RichardsonBeneath layers of clouds Chicago lights up the night. A vast majority of the glow comes from street lamps, primarily Victoria style lamps that are excellent when it comes to creating an atmosphere but not very good at harnessing the brightness of modern bulbs.

19. Group of Siberian Reindeer

Photo – Dean CongerA group of reindeer move through the Siberian snow near Oymyakon in the USSR as they are herded by young girl back towards her family tent.

18. Camels Crossing the Sahara

Photo – Chris JohnsTaken from above, here you can see a group of camels crossing the salt flats of Lake Assal in Djibouti. At 512 feet below sea level this is one of the lowest places on Earth.

17. Gray Whale

Photo – Christopher SwannCaught surfacing in the warm water of the coast of Baja California you can see the whale’s baleen plates that it uses to filter food.

16. Lightning Striking the Statue of Liberty

Photo – Jay FineWith the New Jersey shoreline in the background the Statue of Liberty is lit up by a lightning strike. Although this bolt didn’t directly strike Lady Liberty it is estimated that she does get hit a couple times a year.

15. The Stone Walls of Isla Guañape Norte

Photo РTomas MonitaThe stone walls of Gua̱ape Norte keep bird droppings, also known as guano, from falling into the ocean. This allows farmers to harvest them by hand and use the guano for fertilizer. In this picture you see a worker returning bones and feathers that were sifted out.

14. Where East Meets West

Photo – Bruno MorandiWearing traditional dress this teenager shoots a basketball at a makeshift rim near Batsumber village on the Mongolian steppe. Little courts like the one you see here are springing up in rural villages around the country as the games starts to catch on with the younger generation.

13. Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival

Photo – Zhang DaweiEvery year in the capital of China’s northernmost province one of the largest ice and snow festivals in the world is held. The colorful monuments showcasing palaces, pagodas, and sculptures will stand for nearly a month in the cold Siberian air.

12. Military Exercises

Jung Yeon-JeDuring a military exercise near the Korean demilitarized zone a South Korean tank, slightly camouflaged with tree branches, fires smoke shells while passing man made dirt mounds.

11. Harvest Mouse in a Wheat Field

Photo – J. L. Klein and M. L. HubertOn a bright sunny morning in eastern France, this harvest mouse is caught balancing precariously in an Alsace wheat field. As the smallest rodent in Europe they use their tail as a third appendage and build nests that slightly resemble those of a bird.

10. Dog Leaping Across Beach Wall

Photo РAlvaro Sanchez-Monta̱esIn the coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco this dog clears a gap in the beach wall with the African coastline looming in the distance.

9. The Sawtooth Alps

Photo – Kevin KunstadtOn these sawtooth peaks in the eastern Alps of Italy hikers rest on a well kept field sloping down one side of the mountain.

8. Refugees Gathering Wood

Photo – J CarrierThese women walk well beyond the confines of their refugee camp in West Darfur risking their lives to gather fire wood that will sell for about 50 cents per sack back at their camp of roughly 15,000 people.

7. The Pink Bull

Photo – Palani MohanDuring the harvest celebrations in Tamil Nadu, India locals partake in a sport known as jallikattu where the young men of the village will try to hang onto a decorated bull as long as possible while it charges through the crowd.

6. Macaques

Photo – Yukihiro FukudaThe loose social hierarchy of these Japanese Macaque monkeys allow them to huddle together for warmth while disregarding the fact that high ranking and low ranking members are in such close proximity.

5. Wall of Death

Photo – Tomas MunitaMohammed Jawed, a stunt driver, relies on the magic of centripetal force to keep his car going in circles around the Wall of Death during this show in Kabul, Afghanistan.

4. Great Gray Owl Catching A Vole

Photo – Magnus ElanderThe disk of feathers you see circling this gray owl’s face are used to channel sound back from the ground towards its ear thus helping it to catch small animals.

3. Wind Turbines

Photo – Jeff KroezeThe hills of the Tehachapi-Mojave Wind Resource Area are covered with over 3,000 wind turbines that produce enough electricity to power over 250,000 homes every year.

2. Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Eruption

Photo – Sigurdur Hrafn StefnissonLightning surrounds the ash plume resulting from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano. These so called “dirty thunderstorms” often occur when rock and ice kicked up from the blast crash together in the atmosphere.

1. The Afghan Girl

Photo – Steve McCurryQuite possibly one of the most recognized photos in recent history, this picture of a young orphaned Afghan girl was taken at a refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet Invasion. It came to fame after being featured on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic and the girls haunting green eyes became a symbol of the plight of refugees the world over. In spite of several attempts to locate her afterwards, the girl’s identity remained a mystery until 2002 when she was found living in the mountains of her homeland. Starting with the bombing of her home and the death of her parents her story was revealed to be one of brokenness, hardship, and devastation with her brother explaining that the only happy day in her life was probably her wedding.