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10 stunning photos that show you parts of nature like you've never seen them

Amazing work from talented photographers.

Image: Nicolas Reusens via Smithsonian Magazine

THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY can show you parts of the world, and elements of life, that you have never witnessed or even imagined to have existed.

The finalists in the Smithsonian Magazine’s 2014 Photo Contest do exactly that. Selected from over 26,500 entries, the 10 finalists in six categories bring us to another place with creatures and people we might never have got to know without the photographers’ lens and skills.

Voting on the magazine’s website is now open for the Readers’ Choice prize who will receive $500 when the Grand Prize is announced at the end of this month.

We’ll bring you more of the entries later today, but first, here are the 10 finalists in the Natural World category for your enjoyment.

Natural World Finalists

PastedImage-76547 Source: Nicolas Reusens

“During my latest trip to Costa Rica, I managed to photograph this beautiful snake in the worst of all situations (for the frog, of course),” says Reusens, the photographer.

PastedImage-43610 Source: Anthony Smith

A wave strikes an elephant seal pup in South Georgia Island during January 2014. “Young elephant seals were sprawled all over the upper beaches in a remote sub-Antarctic region of the Atlantic, but for some reason this youngster had chosen to lie down to rest right within the surf,” explains Smith.

PastedImage-91364 Source: Kevin Morgans

A brown bear walks across an estuary in Lake Clark National Park in Alaska.

PastedImage-58129 Source: Eng Siong Yeo

Young cheetahs learn to hunt by chasing down a fawn in Ngorongoro National Park in Tanzania in February 2013.

PastedImage-45335 Source: Ray Collins

Light refracts through the curves of a breaking wave in New South Wales, Australia.

PastedImage-42169 Source: Lorenzo Mittiga

A green iguana surfaces for air. “I had decided to take some over/under water photographs of the sunset from inside one of my favourite Bonaire caves,” says Mittiga. “There I was, fully equipped with my wetsuit, fins, mask and snorkel and my camera… when a curious friend interrupted my solitude.”

PastedImage-25636 Source: Alvaro Cubero Vega

The caracolera is a common, but restless snake in Costa Rica. “Getting a photograph of his whole body was the challenge,” says Cubero Vega.

PastedImage-33017 Source: Kristhian Castro

A vicuna, one of four South American camelids, wanders from its group in the Ecuadorian Andes.

PastedImage-36725 Source: Michel Labrecque

Mobula rays gather to feed on plankton attracted by dive lights. “The light coming from above the mobules gives this frame a divine aspect, as if the light was coming down from the heavens, ironic since these animals are sometimes mistakenly called ‘devil rays’,” says Labrecque.

PastedImage-69165 Source: Ramesh Chandar

A female golden silk orb-weaver rests on her neck. “I was out in the countryside of Hong Kong photographing birds mainly, but had the macro lens with me in case something came up. It started raining lightly. On the way out, I noticed this huge web shimmering in the evening light, so rain or no rain, this was an opportunity not to be missed,” Chandar told Smithsonian.com.

To vote for your favourite in the Readers’ Competition, click here.

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