Peep these pics: National Geographic's 20 most spectacular photographs from 2017.

When a National Geographic photo editor calls your work "spectacular," you know you've done well.

On Dec. 12, National Geographic announced the winners of its 2017 Nature Photographer of the Year Contest.

Divided into four categories (landscapes, underwater, aerials, and wildlife) and selected from more than 11,000 entries, these winning images represent some of the most stunning, unforgettable, and, yes, spectacular visions of the natural world.


And, by the way, National Geographic has made all of these images available as wallpapers.

Check out this year's amazing winners below.

Landscapes, people's choice winner — Wojciech Kruczyński's "Kalsoy"

Sunset illuminates a lighthouse and rainbow in the Faroe Islands. Photo by Wojciech Kruczyński/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Landscapes, honorable mention — Gheorghe Popa's "Cold and Misty"

Morning fog blurs the dead trees of Romania’s Lake Cuejdel, a natural reservoir created by landslides. Photo by Gheorghe Popa/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Landscapes, third place — Mike Olbinski's "Illuminate"

A summer thunderstorm unleashes lightning on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Mike Olbinski/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Landscapes, second place — Yuhan Liao's "Dushanzi Grand Canyon"

Sunlight glances off mineral strata of different colors in Dushanzi Grand Canyon, China. Caption and photo by Yuhan Liao/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Landscapes, first place — Karim Iliya's "Firefall"

Shortly before twilight in Kalapana, Hawai’i, a fragment of the cooled lava tube broke away, leaving the molten rock to fan in a fiery spray for less than half an hour before returning to a steady flow. Photo by Karim Iliya/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Underwater, people's choice winner — Matthew Smith's "Drift"

A Portuguese man-of-war navigates close to the beach on a summer morning; thousands of these jellyfish wash up on Australia's eastern coast each year. Photo by Matthew Smith/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Underwater, honorable mention — Jennifer O'Neil's "Predators on a Bait Ball"

Preparing to strike, tarpon cut through a ribbon-like school of scad off the coast of Bonaire in the Caribbean Sea. Photo by Jennifer O'Neil/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Underwater, third place — Michael Patrick O'Neill's "Flying Fish in Motion"

Buoyed by the Gulf Stream, a flying fish arcs through the night-dark water five miles off Palm Beach, Florida. Photo by Michael O'Neill/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Underwater, second place — Shane Gross' "In Your Face"

Typically a shy species, a Caribbean reef shark investigates a remote-triggered camera in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen marine protected area. Photo by Shane Gross/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Underwater, first place — Jim Obester's "Fluorescent Anemone"

Blue-filtered strobe lights stimulate fluorescent pigments in the clear tentacles of a tube-dwelling anemone in Hood Canal, Washington. Photo by Jim Obester/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Aerials, people's choice winner — David Swindler's "Meandering Canyon"

Green vegetation blooms at the river’s edge, or riparian, zone of a meandering canyon in Utah. Caption and photo by David Swindler/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Aerials, honorable mention — Agathe Bernard's "Life After Life"

Migratory gulls take flight from a cedar tree being washed downstream by a glacial river in British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Agathe Bernard/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Aerials, third place — Greg C.'s "Drip"

On the flanks of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai’i, the world’s only lava ocean entry spills molten rock into the Pacific Ocean. After erupting in early 2016,the lava flow took about two months to reach the sea, six miles away. Photo by Greg C./2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Aerials, second place — Takahiro Bessho's "From Above"

Snow-covered metasequoia trees, also called dawn redwoods, interlace over a road in Takashima, Japan. Photo by Takahiro Bessho/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Aerials, first place — Todd Kennedy's "Rock Pool"

In Sydney, Australia, the Pacific Ocean at high tide breaks over a natural rock pool enlarged in the 1930s. Avoiding the crowds at the city’s many beaches, a local swims laps. Photo by Todd Kennedy/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife, people's choice winner — Harry Collins' "Great Gray Owl"

A great gray owl swoops to kill in a New Hampshire field. Photo by Harry Collins/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife, honorable mention — Lance McMillan's "Macaque Maintenance"

A Japanese macaque indulges in some grooming time on the shores of the famous hot springs. Photo by Lance McMillan/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife, third place — Bence Mate's "White Fighters"

Two grey herons spar as a white-tailed eagle looks on in Hungary. Photo by Bence Mate/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife, second place — Alejandro Prieto's "Mother's Love"

An adult Caribbean pink flamingo feeds a chick in Yucatán, Mexico. Both parents alternate feeding chicks, at first with a liquid baby food called crop milk, and then with regurgitated food. Photo by Alejandro Prieto/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Wildlife, first place and the grand winner overall — Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan's "Face to Face in a River in Borneo"

Bojan's photograph was chosen for both the winner of the wildlife category and the best photograph overall. For his work, he received a tidy prize of $10,000 and a spread in the print magazine.

A male orangutan peers from behind a tree while crossing a river in Borneo, Indonesia. Photo by Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan/2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year.

Orangutans don't normally like wading through rivers (especially rivers inhabited by crocodiles), but sometimes the choice is unavoidable. Bojan had heard of this male orangutan's rare behavior and spent a day and night sitting near a river in Indonesian Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park in order to see it for himself. When the ape finally appeared, Bojan actually waded into the river to get this shot.

"Honestly, sometimes you just go blind when things like this happen," said Bojan in a press release. "You’re so caught up. You really don’t know what’s happening. You don’t feel the pain, you don’t feel the mosquito bites, you don’t feel the cold, because your mind is completely lost in what’s happening in front of you."

Thanks to Bojan, National Geographic, and all the other very talented photographers who entered this contest, we all have a chance to get lost in it too.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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