A greyhound crosses the finish line in Belgium.

A turtle makes a cameo appearance in an already beautiful underwater shot.

A spring field on the Plain of Castelluccio di Norcia, in Umbria, Italy, blossoms into impressionistic splendor.

A tree blends into a scene of wonderful composition at a canted angle against a rolling hill.

Like some kind of beautiful plague, a tornado of birds encircles the lucky (unlucky) photographer.

A summertime rain shower is very much appreciated by the children of Havana, Cuba.

A whale shark seen up close challenges our perception of scale--and sharks.

Felix Baumgartner, who would go on to complete his record-breaking space-jump in October, contemplates his mission at a training center in Lancaster, California.

Ylva Schwenke, age 15, survived the massacre outside Oslo, Norway, on July 22, 2011, although she was shot in the shoulder, her stomach, and in both thighs. Here she is a year later.

The celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang is multihued on one side only.

Metal rockers Edith, Hellrider, and Dadmonster pose in Botswana, where groups who shred are now performing in nightclubs, concerts, and festivals.

A wonderfully composed shot of windowside dusk.

Australian Melissa Wu is photographed in London during a diving training session for the London Olympics.

At just the right time of day, and with just the right amount of exposure, this wall and its shadows become art.

The state of cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan, is depressingly depicted in this shot of an attendant selling refreshments at intermission.

Mirella, 71, deals with her husband who has slipped, irrevocably, into dementia.

Gun lovers in Oklahoma’s Ozarks fire automatic weapons at the annual Oklahoma Full Auto Shoot and Trade Show (OFASTS), one of the country’s major machine-gun expos.

An ape contemplates where it all went wrong--or perhaps he or she is just hungry? In any case, this is a look of deep solemnity.

An aerial view of the desert city of Dubai hints at the frequent sandstorms involved in living there.

A Romanian man wears the skin of a bear in a Romanian festival of some complexity.

14 giraffes.

A giant wasp in the U.S.

The Obamas.

Kamara Serbungo fled his home and a refugee camp in Democratic Republic of the Congo when rebel soldiers tried to enlist him. He’s now taking shelter at the Don Bosco parish.

Carnival in Barcelona, February 2012.

Co.Create

Take A Stunning Photographic Tour Of Life On Earth

The most breathtaking shots from the Sony World Photography Awards.

As the popularity of Instagram continues to ensure that our current era has more photographed meals than any other in history, we still have a hunger for photography that exposes truths about the human condition and natural world. Lucky for us, there are still institutions promoting such things. Just this week, for instance, the World Photography Organization announced the shortlist for the Sony World Photography Awards.

Photo entry from the Culture category in the Youth Competition. (© Alecsandra Dragoi, Romania, 2013 Sony World Photography Awards)

In order to arrive at the finalists for the annual competition, a panel of judges combed through more than 122,000 entries from 170 countries--the highest number of submissions yet. Topics in the Professional, Open, and Youth categories ranged from the everyday splendor of animals and nature to before-and-after pregnancy photos, and to a close examination of moviegoers in Kabul.

Have a look through some of the best images in the slide show above.

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