To truly appreciate these photos, you must go visit The Big Picture and see the higher resolution photos with captions. Here are just some of the entries for National Geographic's 2010 Photo Contest or you can check out the winners from previous years.
Barbara Cole's Painted Ladies series blurs the line between paintings and photographs. Influenced by a painting by Lucien Freud, she began experimenting with an SX-70 Polaroid camera to perfect her technique. She created these photos by playing with studio lighting and manipulating the surface image to add dimension and the painterly quality.
Remi Rebillard mixes sexuality and the sea with this provocative series. Each shot incorporates a shot of the sea blended with a provocative, often mysterious, shot of a woman. I can't help but feel there's a deeper meaning behind these shots.
If you've ever seen a photo of the Hindenburg Disaster, it was most likely this one by AP photographer Murray Becker. He shot a series of 15 pictures of the May 6, 1937 disaster, from the initial flare-up to to rescue of the survivors.
Epic. That is the one word I would use to describe this series by Damien Vassart. The combination of the crisp edges of the towering glass buildings with the fluid and organic movement of the clouds is an epic photo combination. The use of black and white creates a stark contrast between the buildings and sky, and also amplifies the amazing reflections in the glass.
There's a magical quality to this series by Maia Flore. The women in these shots peacefully sleep while a different object keeps them floating in the sky. If these women were awake, they would probably be freaking out. Instead, they are in a peaceful state where dreams come to life.
Zorik Istomin has such incredibly stylized photos, you would think they were illustrations. Once you learn that these are photos, you are almost forced to stare at each one, trying to figure out how he creates such unique stylized photos. His unique style, interesting compositions, and great use of colors make for some awesome photos.