These are the photos our 100 million Instagram followers liked most

We've posted nearly 20,000 photos. These are the stories you connected with.

As an evening storm lights up the sky near Wood River, Nebraska, about 413,000 sandhill cranes—tall, bugling, crimson-capped birds—arrive to roost in the shallows of the Platte River, which is fed by the aquifer.
Photograph by Randy Olson ( @randyolson), Nat Geo Image Collection

The @natgeo Instagram account is unfiltered and genuine. The 135 contributing photographers have shared nearly 20,000 photographs, each post detailing a stunning and intimate moment from their travels. Each image on this page received over 750,000 engagements (likes plus comments), offering a glimpse of what type of photographs and stories resonate around the world. From massive storms to curious animals, these are the stories that connect us.

Storytelling has evolved since the first National Geographic issue was published more than 130 years ago. Initially, a photograph’s journey from camera to subscriber was long, with photographers rarely receiving feedback from readers. Now, with Instagram, photographers can share their work directly with readers. Feedback is immediate and passionate.

In the last four years, photographs on the account have received more than four billion likes and 20 million comments. Posts like Vincent Musi’s photograph of dog and human footprints in the sand has nearly one million likes and more than 3,000 comments full of personal stories. “I love the connection you can make to your audience. That’s what’s special about it. You feel like you’re part of the conversation instead of the only one talking,” says Musi.

The Human-Animal Bond

Genuine connections between man and nature

<p>Wildlife ranger Joseph Wachira, 26, comforts Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino on the planet, moments before he <a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/northern-white-rhino-male-sudan-death-extinction-spd/">passed away</a> in March 2018.<a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/northern-white-rhino-male-sudan-death-extinction-spd/"></a></p>

Wildlife ranger Joseph Wachira, 26, comforts Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino on the planet, moments before he passed away in March 2018.

Photograph by Ami Vitale ( @amivitale), Nat Geo Image Collection

From llamas and dogs to panda bears, we depend on animals as much as they depend on us. We share this planet and its resources. Sometimes our greed and ignorance drives species to extinction, but in every instance, individuals step in to protect those unable to speak for themselves.

Curious Animals

Humans aren't the only ones with inquiring minds

<p>Mr. Blue has lived most of his life within the borders of Yellowstone National Park. One of the most amazing aspects of Mr. Blue’s character is that he seems to have an ability to mingle his way into existing wolf packs.</p>

Mr. Blue has lived most of his life within the borders of Yellowstone National Park. One of the most amazing aspects of Mr. Blue’s character is that he seems to have an ability to mingle his way into existing wolf packs.

Photograph by Ronan Donovan ( @ronan_donovan), National Geographic

Humans are odd creatures, especially National Geographic photographers. It’s no wonder that animals in remote corners of the world stop to investigate our photographers and their cameras. From clown fish to polar bears, it almost looks like they’ve come to say hello.

Looking Up

Moments when our world and the heavens collide

<p>Despite clouds, the lunar eclipse of a super blue blood moon still managed to peek out over Colorado’s Mount Meeker and Long’s Peak.</p>

Despite clouds, the lunar eclipse of a super blue blood moon still managed to peek out over Colorado’s Mount Meeker and Long’s Peak.

Photograph by Keith Ladzinski ( @ladzinski), Nat Geo Image Collection

The heavens have long mystified and moved us. The Milky Way, eclipses, and double rainbows remind us of forces much larger than ourselves.

Precarious People

The risk behind every discovery

<p>Alex Honnold and Felipe Camargo return to Earth after two weeks of cleaning off handholds, figuring out moves, and finally climbing one of the longest, most difficult overhang routes in China.</p>

Alex Honnold and Felipe Camargo return to Earth after two weeks of cleaning off handholds, figuring out moves, and finally climbing one of the longest, most difficult overhang routes in China.

Photograph by Jimmy Chin ( @jimmychin), National Geographic

Remarkable accomplishments and discoveries often necessitate risk. Facing and accepting these challenges propel us forward, while humbling us—reminding us how small, yet courageous humans can be.

At Sea Level

The unknown world under the waves

<p>The locals call him <i>Niño</i>, which in Spanish means “boy.” “At eight or nine feet long, this<i> croc</i> doesn't lack confidence,” photographer Paul Nicklen writes. “He gently reminded me to back off by opening his mouth when I got too close.”</p>

The locals call him Niño, which in Spanish means “boy.” “At eight or nine feet long, this croc doesn't lack confidence,” photographer Paul Nicklen writes. “He gently reminded me to back off by opening his mouth when I got too close.”

Photograph by Paul Nicklen ( @paulnicklen)

More than 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water and humans have only explored a fraction of it. With waterproof cameras, National Geographic photographers have figured out how to merge our world with the mysterious one below.

The Human Experience

The challenge and joy of embracing life

<p>Katie Stubblefield sits alone, taking a moment for herself in the Cleveland Clinic’s intensive care unit, her face still swollen and stitches remaining three weeks after her 31-hour face transplant surgery.</p>

Katie Stubblefield sits alone, taking a moment for herself in the Cleveland Clinic’s intensive care unit, her face still swollen and stitches remaining three weeks after her 31-hour face transplant surgery.

Photograph by Maggie Steber ( @maggiesteber), Nat Geo Image Collection

Some threads of the human experience are universal: the preciousness of a newborn; the difficult journey of healing; and the pangs of a heart in love. Photographs of individuals making their way through life resonate across cultures as we brave this world together.

Photographers at Work

Traversing the world to capture the photograph

<p>Paul Nicklen photographs a Kermode bear, also known as a spirit bear, under the direction of Gitga'a First Nation guides. He says they nicknamed him “Friendly Bear” because he was so unperturbed by their presence.</p>

Paul Nicklen photographs a Kermode bear, also known as a spirit bear, under the direction of Gitga'a First Nation guides. He says they nicknamed him “Friendly Bear” because he was so unperturbed by their presence.

Photograph by Jed Weingarten ( @jedweingarten)

National Geographic photographers seek out apex predators, scale cliffs, and endure the unforgiving arctic cold to capture the perfect photograph. Occasionally, followers get a glimpse of their high jinks and what it looks like to chase stories around the world.

Captions in this story were edited for length and clarity.
See more of our favorite Instagram photographs in the @NatGeo Instagram Photo Book.

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