IBTimesUK presents the best of the best – the winners of some of the year's biggest photography competitions.

We kick off with the National Geographic Traveler photo contest, which received more than 18,000 entries from around the globe.

National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Grand Prize – The Independence Day, by Marko Korošec, Julesburg, Colorado, US: "While on storm chasing expeditions in Tornado Alley, USA, I have encountered many photogenic supercell storms. This photograph was taken while we were approaching the storm near Julesburg, Colorado on 28 May 2013. The storm was tornado-warned for more than one hour, but stayed a low precipitation (LP) storm through all its cycles, and never produced a tornado: just occasional brief funnels, large hail and some rain."Marko Korošec/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Second Place – First Time, by Agnieszka Traczewska, Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, Israel: "In Mea She'arim, an ultra-Orthodox district of Jerusalem, newly married Aaron and Rivkeh are to be together, for the very first time, alone. Their marriage was arranged by families. The 18-year-old couple confirmed the choice after only meeting once. Since then, until their wedding day, they were prohibited to meet or even talk."Agnieszka Traczewska/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Third Place – Diver in Magic Kingdom, by Marc Henauer, Grüner See at Tragöss, Austria: "Green Lake (Grüner See) is located in Tragöss, Austria. In spring snowmelt raises the lake's level about 10 meters. This phenomenon, which lasts only a few weeks, covers the hiking trails, meadows and trees. The result is a magical-to-see diving landscapes."Marc Henauer/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Merit – End of the World, by Sean Hacker Teper, Banos, Ecuador: "This photo, taken at the 'end of the world' swing in Banos, Ecuador, captures a man on the swing overlooking an erupting Mt Tungurahua. The eruption took place on 1 February. Minutes after the photo was taken, we had to evacuate the area because of an incoming ash cloud."Sean Hacker Teper / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Merit - LightSource, by Marcelo Castro, Old Bagan, Myanmar: "Young Monk finds a perfect light source to read his book inside a pagoda."Marcelo Castro/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
National Geographic traveller photo contest 2014 winners
Merit – Divine Makeover, by Mahesh Balasubramanian, by Kaveripattinam, Tamilnadu, India: "Taken during "The Mayana Soora Thiruvizha" festival takes place every March in the small village of Kaveripattinam, the day after Maha Shivaratri (The Great Night of Shiva). The festival is devoted to Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity worshipped widely in Southern India."Mahesh Balasubramanian / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

Next up: the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest, which was won by a photo of a woman spotlit by the glow of her phone on a crowded train. Selected from more than 9,000 entries, the photo, titled "A Node Glows In The Dark", was shot at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. The photographer, Brian Yen of Hong Kong, said: "I feel a certain contradiction when I look at the picture. On the one hand, I feel the liberating gift of technology. On the other hand, I feel people don't even try to be neighbourly anymore, because they don't have to."

National Geographic Photo Contest 2014
Winner of the Grand Prize and the People category: A Node Glows in the Dark, by Brian Yen. Location: Hong Kong.(Brian Yen/National Geographic 2014 Photo Contest)

Nicole Cambre of Brussels, Belgium, won in the nature category for a photo of migrating wildebeests in Tanzania.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2014
Winner of the Nature category: The Great Migration, by Nicole Cambré. Location: North Serengeti, Tanzania.Nicole Cambré /National Geographic 2014 Photo Contest

Triston Yeo of Singapore won in the places category for a photo of the Budapest thermal spas.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2014
Winner of the Places category: Bathing in Budapest, by Triston Yeo. Location: Budapest, Hungary.Triston Yeo /National Geographic 2014 Photo Contest

The winners of the 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition were announced at a gala event at the Natural History Museum attended by Kate Middleton.

Michael "Nick" Nichols of the US has been named Overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 for his photo, The Last Great Picture, depicting the five females of the Vumbi pride lying at rest with their cubs on a kopje (a rocky outcrop), in Tanzania's Serengeti.

He photographed them in infrared, which he says "cuts through the dust and haze, transforms the light and turns the moment into something primal, biblical almost". A few months later, he heard that the pride had ventured into land beyond the park and the three females had been killed.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner of the Black-and-White category and Overall Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014: The last great picture by Michael 'Nick' Nichols, USAMichael 'Nick' Nichols/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

Francisco Negroni of Chile won the Earth's Environments category with his image of volcanic lightning, entitled Apocalypse.

After the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex began erupting, Negroni travelled to Puyehue National Park in southern Chile. He watched as flashes of lightning lacerated the sky and the glow from the molten lava lit up the smoke billowing upwards and illuminated the landscape. "It was the most incredible thing I have seen in my life," he said.

Volcanic lightning (also known as a "dirty thunderstorm") is a rare, short‑lived phenomenon probably caused by the static electrical charges resulting from the crashing together of fragments of red‑hot rock, ash and vapour high in the volcanic plume.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner, Earth's Environments category: Apocalypse by Francisco Negroni, ChileFrancisco Negroni/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

Bruno D'Amicis of Italy won the World in our Hands category with his photo, called The Price They Pay.

A teenager from a village in southern Tunisia offers to sell a three-month-old fennec fox, one of a litter of pups he dug out of their den in the Sahara Desert.

Catching or killing wild fennec foxes is illegal in Tunisia but widespread, which D'Amicis discovered as part of a long-term project to investigate the issues facing endangered species in the Sahara.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner, World in our Hands category: The price they pay by Bruno D'Amicis, ItalyBruno D'Amicis/Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

Top prize in the British Wildlife Photography Awards went to Lee Acaster from Suffolk for his photo of a greylag goose by the Thames. Acaster said: "I was set up for shooting a stormy cityscape with a manual focus wide angle lens on when I came across the goose sat on the river wall. Expecting it to fly away as I got nearer, I was surprised to find that it was very happy to stay where it was, even when I got very close.

"It was technically incredibly difficult to get the shot, holding a flash out in one hand and my camera in the other, trying to focus on the goose by moving closer to him without scaring him away. I ended up being just a few inches away from him for the final image. He was still happily stood on the wall as I left, probably wondering what on earth the strange man with the flashing light had been doing."

British Wildlife Photography Awards
Overall Winner: The Tourist by Lee AcasterLee Acaster

John Stanmeyer won the World Press Photo of the Year 2013 competition with this photo of African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighbouring Somalia — a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Jillian Edelstein, one of the judges, said: "It's a photo that is connected to so many other stories—it opens up discussions about technology, globalisation, migration, poverty, desperation, alienation, humanity. It's a very sophisticated, powerfully nuanced image. It is so subtly done, so poetic, yet instilled with meaning, conveying issues of great gravity and concern in the world today."

world press
John Stanmeyer has won the World Press Photo of the Year 2013 competition with this photo of African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighbouring Somalia — a tenuous link to relatives abroad John Stanmeyer, USA, VII for National Geographic
world press
First Prize Spot News Single: Phillipe Lopez. 18 November 2013, Tolosa, the Philippines. Survivors of typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa, on the eastern island of Leyte. One of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, Haiyan left 8,000 people dead and missing and more than four million homeless after it hit the central Philippines Phillipe Lopez, France, Agence France-Presse
world press
First Prize Spot News Stories: Goran Tomasevic. 30 January 2013, Damascus, Syria. Syrian rebel fighters take cover amid flying debris and shrapnel after being hit by a tank shell fired towards them by the Syrian Army in the Ain Tarma neighbourhood of Damascus Goran Tomasevic, Serbia, Reuters
world press
Second Prize Spot News Stories: Tyler Hicks. 21 September 2013, Nairobi, Kenya. A woman and children hiding in the Westgate mall. They escaped unharmed after gunmen had opened fire at the mall on 21 September 2013. At least 39 people were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya's history Tyler Hicks, USA, The New York Times

The iPhone Photography Awards, established in 1997, is open only to images taken and enhanced on an iPhone (or iPad or iPod) with no manipulation using computer software like Photoshop. To see more, visit www.ippawards.com.

1st Place - 2014 Photographer of the Year
First Place – 2014 Photographer of the Year: Julio Lucas, Bradenton, USJulio Lucas
iphone photography awards
Second Place – 2014 Photographer of the Year: Jose Luis Barcia Fernandez, SpainJose Luis Barcia Fernandez
iphone photography awards
Third Place – 2014 Photographer of the Year: Jill Missner, USJill Missner

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 competition was won by James Woodend from the UK, for his photo of the aurora borealis reflected in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 winner: Aurora over a Glacier Lagoon by James Woodend, UKJames Woodend, Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner of the Deep Space category: Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) by Bill Snyder, USABill Snyder/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014
Winner of the Our Solar System category: Ripples in a Pond by Alexandra Hart, UKAlexandra Hart/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014

Finally, the Velux Lovers of Light competition was won by Graham Colling from Bloxwich, UK, for his photo Early Light:

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Velux Lovers of Light winner: Early Light by Graham CollingGraham Colling/Velux Lovers of Light
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Velux Lovers of Light  Second place: Carousel in the Myst by Marko StamatovicMarko Stamatovic/Velux Lovers of Light 2014
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Velux Lovers of Light 3rd place: Winter Sunrise Over by Stephen BanksStephen Banks/Velux Lovers of Light 2014