These photos won a National Geographic contest, and they're breathtaking.

For over 120 years, National Geographic has brought the world to your doorstep.

The iconic magazine, TV channel, and brand has built their name showcasing the planet's most beautiful and exotic places in writing and photography.

Every single month, the glossy, high-resolution pages of National Geographic are filled with some of the best photography in the world.


They also hold an annual photography contest, open to amateurs and people outside of Nat Geo's employ. It's a chance for photographers all over the world to showcase their work.

The 2016 winners of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest were announced in July.

As you can imagine, they are breathtaking:

"Winter Horseman" by Anthony Lau (Mongolia)

Grand prize winner. All images courtesy of National Geographic.

"The winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving," writes photographer Anthony Lau. "At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower, with a constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos."

"Wherever You Go, I Will Follow" by Hiroki Inoue (Japan)

"Nature" first place winner.

"It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. 'Wherever you go, I will follow you' the voice says." — Photographer Hiroki Inoue.

"Ben Youssef" by Takashi Nakagawa (Morocco)

"Cities" first place winner.

"Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh," wrote Takashi Nakagawa. "I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time."

"Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi" by Yasmin Mund (India)

"People" second place winner.

"I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am," wrote Yasmin Mund. "I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief."

"Double Trapping" by Massimiliano Bencivenni (Brazil)

"Nature" second place winner.

"I was in the Brazilian Pantanal along the Rio Negrinho," wrote Massimiliano Bencivenni. "I realized that the river, at certain points of the loops, created places where there were many yacare caimans. I saw a yacare sink suddenly, and I immediately looked for the best location to photograph when it resurfaced. The whole thing lasted only a fraction of a moment."

"Silenced" by Wing Ka H. (China)

"Cities" second place winner.

"This photo was taken on my last trip to Guangzhou, China," wrote Wing Ka H. "This place is the school dormitories of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of them were taking a break. After lunchtime, they needed to go back to study."

"Remote Life" by Mattia Passarini (India)


"People" third place winner.

This woman is carrying a log to warm up her home in the remote village of Himachal Pradesh.

"Lagunas Baltinache" by Victor Lima (Chile)

"Nature" third place winner.

"I embarked alone on this adventure to find images not yet published of the most arid desert in the world and its contrasts," wrote photographer Victor Lima. "Despite the Atacama Desert being one of the best places on the planet to do night photography, in my prior research I discovered that there were not many night photos in the main tourist destinations there."

"Celestial Reverie" by Jeremy Tan (Malaysia)

"Cities" third place winner.

"Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia, during a thunderstorm. It is symbolic of the rejuvenation that the city, famous for a unique blend of centuries-old buildings and modern structures, has enjoyed in recent years." — Photographer Jeremy Tan.

"Muscle Beach Gym" by Dotan Saguy (USA)

"People" honorable mention.

The iconic Muscle Beach Gym in Venice Beach, California.

"Bears on a Berg" by John Rollins (Canadian Arctic)

"Nature" honorable mention.

"To me, the relative smallness of these large creatures when compared to the immensity of the iceberg in the photo represents the precariousness of the polar bear's reliance on the sea and sea ice for its existence," wrote John Rollins.

"Divide" by Kathleen Dolmatch (USA)

"Cities" honorable mention.

"From a doorless helicopter looking south on Central Park West, dividing the architecture and Central Park," wrote Kathleen Dolmatch. "The flight was my birthday gift."

It probably seems like there's a lot of ugliness in the world lately.

Terrorist attacks, shootings, political drama — it's exhausting.

But it's nice to be reminded that there's always beauty in the world, and sometimes it takes a keen, highly trained eye to find it.

Photographers often have to wait around for hours or days to capture images like these. They have to climb on roofs or get in helicopters or put themselves in dangerous spots just to grab a single moment of the world's intense and fleeting beauty.

When they do, it's so worth it. Because we all get to enjoy it.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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