"Curious Encounter:" The photographer encountered this crabeater seal off of Cuverville Island, Antarctic Peninsula. 
Photo: Cristobal Serrano, Spain

Anyone can snap a photo, but not everybody gets to see a gathering of king penguins or two adult male lions cuddling each other. These are just a few of the majestic moments that are up for the Natural History Museum of London’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for 2018.

This competition, now in its 54th year, accepts submissions from anyone, but the people decide who wins. It’s a people choice award with voting open until February 5. Until June 30, the museum is displaying the 25 contenders in an exhibit—a tiny number compared to the 45,000 submissions from 95 countries. After that ends, one photographer will get to show off with an exhibition dedicated to the winning photo.

“Inspiring audiences to connect with the natural world is at the heart of what we do as a museum, and that’s why we’re so proud to run this competition,” said Ian Owens, the museum’s director of science, in a press release.

The photos vary widely in subject matter, from an orca whale carcass to a greater mouse-eared bat to landscapes like a melting glacier. They each tell their own story, but it’s up to the public to choose which one tells it best. In the meantime, enjoy some of our favorites from the museum’s shortlist.

“Red, Silver, and Black:” A fox den in Washington state was home to a family of red, black, and silver foxes.
Photo: Tin Man Lee, USA
“Sound Asleep:” This adult humpback whale balanced in mid-water was sound asleep when the photographer captured the image in Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga.
Photo: Tony Wu, USA
“Three Kings:” Caught on a beach in the Falkland Islands, these king penguins were busy engaging in some mating behavior as two males kept pushing another off to win over the female.
Photo: Wim Van Den Heever, South Africa
“The Bat’s Wake:” This bat is part of a colony of greater mouse-eared bats in Spain’s city of Lleida.
Photo: Antonio Leiva Sanchez, Spain
“One Toy, Three Dogs:” These African wild dog pup brothers were playing with the leg of an impala in Mkuze, South Africa.
Photo: Bence Mate, Hungary
“Gliding:” This nurse shark was gliding through the ocean off the coast of Bimini in the Bahamas.
Photo: Christian Vizl, Mexico
“Fox Meets Fox:” An urban fox walks past this street art in north London.
Photo: Matthew Maran, UK
“Otherworldly:” A school of Munk’s devil ray was feeding on plankton at night off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.
Photo: Franco Banfi, Switzerland
“Isolated:” This photo was taken from a helicopter, where you can see an isolated tree among a cultivated field on the edge of a tropical forest on Kauai, Hawaii.
Photo: Anna Henly, UK
“Clam Close-up:” This macro-shot of an iridescent clam was taken in the Southern Red Sea along Egypt.
Photo: David Barrio, Spain
“Painted Waterfall:” This isn’t water, but light falling through a hole in the rock at the foot of the La Foradada waterfall, Catalonia, Spain.
Photo: Eduardo Blanco Mendizabal, Spain
“Bond of Brothers:” These two adult males, likely brothers, greeted and rubbed faces for 30 seconds before settling down.
Photo: David Lloyd, New Zealand / UK

Senior staff writer, Earther. All things environmental justice, please. I'm addicted to Stardew and love few things more than I love my cat.

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