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.

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
Brian Yen/National Geographic 2014 Photo Contest
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, USA Michael '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, Chile Francisco 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, Italy Bruno 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 Acaster Lee 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."

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.

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.

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