<p>Seventy-five feet (23 meters) under Bonaire's Caribbean waters, a peppermint shrimp lurks inside a branching vase sponge. The photograph, one of 208,000 entries, was chosen as the best nature photograph overall in <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/photo-contest/past-winners"><em>National Geographic </em>magazine's 2009 International Photography Contest</a> (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)<br><br> A panel of National Geographic photographers and a design editor selected the winning pictures in the three categories: People, Places, and Nature. Photos were submitted by both professional and amateur photographers.<br><br> The three grand-prize-winning photographers will receive expenses-paid trips to the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Geographic Society, and their images will be reproduced in a future edition of the magazine.<br><br> Judge and <a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photographers/photographer-mark-thiessen.html">National Geographic Society staff photographer Mark Thiessen</a> "was drawn into [this photograph's] world by the circular shape of the sponge." <br><br> For freelance <a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photographers/photographer-maria-stenzel.html">photojournalist Maria Stenzel</a>, also a judge, "the technically difficult shot was beautifully seen and executed in its own natural landscape."<br><br> <em>National Geographic</em> design editor Darren Smith agreed: "This image transports the viewer to another world. The technical execution is flawless, the spiraling composition frames the shrimp and draws us in, and the lighting and varied colors add dimension."<br><br> <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/photo-contest/photo-contest">See more of the winning pictures &gt;&gt;</a> <br><br><em>--National Geographic News staff, with additional reporting by Monica Corcoran</em></p>

International Winner, Nature

Seventy-five feet (23 meters) under Bonaire's Caribbean waters, a peppermint shrimp lurks inside a branching vase sponge. The photograph, one of 208,000 entries, was chosen as the best nature photograph overall in National Geographic magazine's 2009 International Photography Contest (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)

A panel of National Geographic photographers and a design editor selected the winning pictures in the three categories: People, Places, and Nature. Photos were submitted by both professional and amateur photographers.

The three grand-prize-winning photographers will receive expenses-paid trips to the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Geographic Society, and their images will be reproduced in a future edition of the magazine.

Judge and National Geographic Society staff photographer Mark Thiessen "was drawn into [this photograph's] world by the circular shape of the sponge."

For freelance photojournalist Maria Stenzel, also a judge, "the technically difficult shot was beautifully seen and executed in its own natural landscape."

National Geographic design editor Darren Smith agreed: "This image transports the viewer to another world. The technical execution is flawless, the spiraling composition frames the shrimp and draws us in, and the lighting and varied colors add dimension."

See more of the winning pictures >>

--National Geographic News staff, with additional reporting by Monica Corcoran

Photograph by William Goodwin, United States

BEST PHOTOS: Nat Geo Global Contest Winners, 2009

Peppermint shrimp, volcano-loving clouds, and bus shelters now have one thing in common: They've all been featured in winning pictures from National Geographic magazine's 2009 International Photography Contest.

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