The best photographers have the power to transport you to another place and wonder at the world anew. The finalists in Smithsonian magazine's 13th Annual Photo Contest do just that.
Of 46,000 entries sent in from 168 countries, the institution selects its finalists and anyone can vote for the Readers’ Choice Award.
Take a look at some of the most striking images from the contest, and see a full gallery on Smithsonian's website.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEW
My garden has many flowers, and everyday red squirrels come to visit. I am almost always ready to take some shots of these wonderful animals. Photograph: ©Geert Weggen/Smithsonian.com
Man vs Hog
Hog wrestling has been fading from American culture, as concerns over animal cruelty caused many jurisdictions to ban it entirely. But the people of Crivitz, Wisconsin, have kept this messy and raucous tradition alive.
Calling itself the hog wrestling capital of the world, this village of fewer than 1,000 drew enormous crowds for its 30th annual hog wrestling competition on July 18, 2015. In true American spirit, the audience always roots for the underdog with chants of “Pig! Pig! Pig!” Photograph: ©Caroline Angelo/Smithsonian.com
Inner demon in the flesh
A person with an inner demon is decomposing in the darkness, till there is no skin to one with open flesh on the surface, and only a shivering flower of hope keeps the head floating. Photograph: ©Yana Vasilyeva/Smithsonian.com
Papa’s got a brand new bag
This is a yellow-headed jawfish male that incubates its eggs (or its brood) in its mouth. That’s right -- the male carries the babies. In the beginning, the jawfish is able to swallow the eggs, keeping them hidden, and occasionally spits them out to grab a bite, then sucks them back in, all in one gulp.
It is fascinating to watch, and quite a challenge. The challenge gets tougher as the brood develops and gets larger. What was so sweet though was that after about an hour of observation with this little fish, he accepted that I was not a predator and that my presence could actually protect him. Soon he became comfortable and almost even proud to show off his family to be. Photograph: © Suzan Meldonian/Smithsonian.com
Women’s compartment of a suburban train
Every day 7.5 million people make use of the suburban trains in Mumbai. Therefore, it is the biggest suburban network of the world. Almost every train has separate compartments for women to avoid sexual abuse. Photograph: © Tamina-Florentine Zuch/Smithsonian.com
This photograph was taken in Kenya at the Maasai Mara reserve during the annual wildebeest migration. The wildebeest population is strong and provides nourishment for all the ecosystem. I had the desire to photograph the wildebeest after reading about their great migration and how they face dangers in their journey.
To me, sustainable travel is about never leaving behind things that can harm or change a delicate environment. I am careful not to even leave a footprint in a delicate dune. There are simple steps one can take when travelling abroad that can greatly reduce one’s footprint: Using as little water and electricity as possible; reducing waste by only bringing the essentials and reusing bottles and equipment; buying and eating locally and organically; never buying products that come from or support the hunt of endangered species, and never disturbing the natural behaviour of the wildlife. Photograph: ©Ricardo Cisneros/Smithsonian.com
Streets is watchin’
On December 13, 2014 nationwide actions against police killings and racial profiling included a ‘Millions March’ that drew tens of thousands to the streets of New York City. It was the largest single protest of the post-Ferguson movement and the culmination of daily actions in New York City since a grand jury elected not to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner. Photograph: ©Saundi Wilson/Smithsonian.com
A side of tear gas
I was on assignment for AJ+ covering clashes that had broken out in Hebron between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Young men were tossing rocks toward a guard tower using slingshots and their hands. Soldiers were responding by firing tear gas canisters.
Several blocks away, in an intersection with a market, I came across this booth. I watched the three men calmly place gas masks across their faces and continue to await customers. The scene struck me as so absurd, and yet so much a part of life there, that I asked them to take their photo. I was in the middle of live streaming, so I was holding the cell phone that was broadcasting in my hand while taking a quick shot without adjusting my settings. I fixed the contrast and clarity in post production. Photograph: ©Shadi Rahimi/Smithsonian.com
This image was created underneath the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska. The beauty of these glaciers astounds me to this day, but as we all know, they are disappearing worldwide. The image has the ability to educate the world and give hope. Hope that with the right mindset, we can preserve the beauty that surrounds us by living sustainably. This will ensure that future generations can enjoy the same beautiful images we capture through such photographs.
The inspiration for this photo came from seeing this glacier everyday in my backyard. I attended university in Juneau, Alaska and from the campus you can catch glimpses of the glacier on a clear day. I felt personally connected to this body of ice, and as it began to recede before my very eyes, I knew I needed to preserved the beauty of it through images. I began to photograph it in late 2011 and am still photographing it today. This is because although I know we in Juneau can see the effects of climate change and know the importance in travelling and living sustainably, I feel it is important to document this change so that the world may understand the beauty we are losing everyday. Photograph: ©Adam Taylor/Smithsonian.com
The washing machine
‘The Washing Machine’ was taken from my quadcopter over the start of the La Jolla Rough Water Swim, otherwise known as the Gatorman. I was there taking photos of my fiancé swimming in the event. It is one of the top ocean races in the United States. Swimmers line up in the cove shoulder to shoulder. At the start of the horn they all jump into the water at the same time, swimming as fast as they can to distance themselves from the group. ‘The washing machine’ is a term used by open water swimmers, referring to all the whitewater being turned up. The race is three miles. Photograph: ©Kevin Dilliard/Smithsonian.com
The window cleaner of my office building, roping down from high up. Photograph: ©Arnab Roychowdhury/Smithsonian.com
Two girls prepare for the Gajan festival. They will perform a play based on Indian mythology.
Editor's Note: During the Gajan festival, Hindu devotees perform sacrifices and acts of devotion to win favour from the gods. Photograph: ©Krishnasis Ghosh/Smithsonian.com
A spider’s overnight creation glistens in the morning sun. Photograph: ©Chaitanya Deshpande/Smithsonian.com
Black and white world. Photograph: ©Denis Buchel/Smithsonian.com