This has been a wild and exciting journey—editing some 18,000 images of fantastic photographs of this diverse planet, from the tiniest insects to great mammals to our oceans, weather, and majestic landscapes all across the globe.
Some images were beautiful portraits of backyard critters and others were arresting portraits of wildlife that are rarely seen in the wild and often endangered. No matter what the subject matter, the most important criteria for me was choosing images that best captured the spirit of the competition in various areas. I wanted to include animals, insects, birds, and landscapes—and you gave me plenty to choose from. The diversity of images was magnificent.
The most successful animal images captured the personality or behaviors of an animal, rather than being just straightforward portraits of the animal's face or body. The best landscapes were often sweeping, with dramatic light, weather, or terrain. I looked for landscapes that felt untamed, portraying Mother Nature as the wild, awesome force that dwarfs and awes us with her power and beauty.
So many of you did this successfully, commenting on how you waited for hours for the perfect lighting or waited for just the right moment. It paid off. Every one of the images selected for the story has a very unique quality that made it stand apart, whether through lighting, movement, or action.