10 photos that blew the competition away at the Siena International Photo Awards.

These images are basically like downloading a National Geographic magazine straight to your brain.

Every year, the Siena International Photo Awards brings together some of the world's most amazing photographers. Their mission? Use the power of the photograph to encourage a greater understanding of the world's places, populations, and people.

2017 saw thousands upon thousands of entries from photographers all around the world, and in October, the judges announced their winners. From sleepy bears to quiet treks across the snow, each of these images captures something astounding, magical, true, or important about the world.


Check out 10 of the winning shots below.

1. Overall Photo of the Year: "Sand Hill Cranes" by Randy Olson

National Geographic photographer Randy Olson captured this shot during a storm. 30-second exposures let him capture both moment of a lightning strike and the ghostly image of birds in flight. The United States used to have plenty of braided streams and habitats for these birds. Today, they're running out of places to go. Photo by Randy Olson/Siena International Photo Awards.

2. First place, Journeys and Adventures: "At World's End" by Alessandra Meniconzi

Photographer Alessandra Meniconzi photographed this young girl in Siberia out collecting firewood. While Russia is one of the world's most powerful nations, many of its inhabitants still follow a fairly traditional way of life. Photo by Alessandra Meniconzi/Siena International Photo Awards.

3. First place, Animals in Their Environment: "Attack" by Sergey Gorshkov

An arctic fox and a male goose spar on Wrangel Island, a Russian nature reserve just across from Alaska. With little food to go around, arctic foxes like this one must take risks if they are to stay alive. Photo by Sergey Gorshkov/Siena International Photo Awards.

4. First place, General Color: "Protestor's Eyes" by Jonathan Bachman

In July 2016, photographer Jonathan Bachman captured this striking image of a man being detained while protesting the death of Alton Sterling. That month, Sterling had been killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — just one in a long string of black men who died unfairly at the hands of law enforcement. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Siena International Photo Awards.

5. First place, The Beauty of the Nature: "Beast" by James Smart

The American Plains are often home to some intense weather, but it sometimes takes a picture like this to make you realize just how powerful, beautiful, and awe-inspiring the weather can be. Photographer James Smart captured this picture of a storm in Black Hawk, South Dakota. Photo by James Smart/Siena International Photo Awards.

6. First place, Fragile Ice: "Dreaming on Sea Ice" by Roie Galitz

This year's special category was all about ice. Roie Galitz snapped this picture of a sleeping polar bear on the island of Svalbard. Polars bears are right at home, living and hunting (and napping) on the floating ice that surrounds the North Pole. But the ice has been steadily disappearing thanks to climate change, leaving the fate of bears like this one in limbo. Photo by Roie Galitz/Siena International Photo Awards.

7. First place, Sports in Action: "Great Britain Team" by Tim Clayton

Olympic cyclists are jarringly fast, so capturing a clear picture of them takes some skill. Tim Clayton snapped this photo of the Great Britain team back at the 2016 Rio Olympics. They went on to win the gold. Photo by Tim Clayton/Siena International Photo Awards.

8. First place, Fascinating Faces and Characters: "I'm Here" by Joao Taborda

Draped in the flag of Portugal and sporting some incredible reflective glasses, this young girl's exuberance shines like a beacon during this Portuguese youth festival. Photo by Joao Taborda/Siena International Photo Awards.

9. First place, General Monochrome: "Crow of Lviv" by Jack Savage

The beautiful city of Lviv, Ukraine, inspired photographer Jack Savage to create this piece. A quick run through Adobe Photoshop helped turn this portrait of a crow into a shot straight out of a noir film. Photo by Jack Savage/Siena International Photo Awards.

10. First place, Architecture and Urban Spaces: "Book Temple III" by Hans-Martin Doelz

Though often shown up by fire, the wheel, and instant shrimp-flavor ramen, the written word is inarguably one of mankind's greatest inventions. Hans-Martin Doelz's photograph of the inside of the Stuttgart City Library captures the grace and reverence owed to such an important invention. Photo by Hans-Martin Doelz/Siena Internationl Photo Awards.

In his novel "Hat Full of Sky," the late Sir Terry Pratchett wrote:

"Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors."

Through showing the vast array of people, events, art, and creatures that populate our world, maybe this contest can help us understand what Pratchett was talking about. It may even inspire you to go see the world through new eyes yourself.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

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