First place: Two Julia butterflies (Dryas iulia) drinking the tears of turtles in Ecuador.
This photograph, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II in 2012, was posted on Flickr by the Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador. Butterflies often seek liquid in odd places. The practice of tear drinking in particular is called lachryphagy.
Second place: An emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) in Antarctica jumping out of the water.
This photograph was taken by Christopher Michel, a member of the famous Explorers Club, in December 2013. It was taken with a Nikon D4 and posted on his Flickr page. He told the Signpost that he took this picture on his fourth trip to Antarctica. He said "I spent hours waiting to capture that penguin shooting out of the water!"
Third place: High above Tocopilla, Chile, a boxcab belonging to the Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile moves downhill to the Reverso switchback.
David Gubler, a prolific photographer of trains, took this photograph with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III in 2013. He told the Signpost it was one of his favorite pictures. It may look like he's standing in a precarious position, but Gubler assured us it wasn't that steep. The difficulty was in finding a vantage point to capture the train and " a nice view of the sea and Tocopilla", while "the scary bit was actually the access road" on the way to the tracks.
Fourth place: Nakhi people carrying the typical baskets of the region in Lijiang, Yunnan, China:
Uwe Aranas took this photograph with a Canon PowerShot G11 in 2012. The Nakhi are an ethnic group who live in the foothills of the Himalayas in Yunnan. The scene is from a performance an amphitheater which uses the natural scenery of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain as a backdrop.
Fifth place: Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) jumping, in Spitsbergen Island, Svalbard, Norway.
This photograph was taken by wildlife photographer Arturo de Frias Marques with a Nikon D700 in 2011. Polar bears are the iconic symbol and a chief tourist attraction of Spitsbergen.
Sixth place: The Horsehead Nebula (also known as Barnard 33), a dark nebula in the constellation Orion.
This picture was taken by Californian astrophotographer Ken Crawford in 2011. Crawford took this photo using his backyard observatory, including a 20 inch RC Optical Systems Carbon Fiber Truss telescope, in northern California. Crawford told the Signpost that this particular image took twenty hours of exposure time and seven different filters. He believes this image is popular because of the recognizable shape of the nebula and the striking astronomical features. "The glowing pink/red hydrogen provides a beautiful back drop to this amazing region of the deep sky," he said.
Seventh place: The Serra dos Órgãos National Park, with the Dedo de Deus (God's Finger) in the background, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This photograph was taken by Carlos Perez Couto with a Nikon D90 in 2014. Serra dos Órgãos is a national park founded in 1939. Its most iconic feature is the Dedo de Dues, which resembles a hand with a finger pointing towards the sky. The formation appears on the state flag and coat of arms of Rio de Janeiro .
Eighth place: Head of a Calliphora vicina, face view.
Sam Droege of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab took this photograph in 2014. Droege told the Signpost that the mission of the Lab is "providing statistically robust information about the status of plants and animals for little to no cost to the public". While most of the photographs they take are bees as part of their educational and informational mission, they also take pictures of other things to engage the public or "just because they are too beautiful to pass up". This fly was found during a nature event on the National Mall for school children. This photograph is actually a combination of about fifty individual photos combined with a computer program called Zerene Stacker in a process called focus stacking.
Ninth place: A pair of Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata) at Martin Mere, Lancashire, UK
WWT Martin Mere is a nature reserve near the residence of Francis C. Franklin, who took this photo with an Olympus PEN E-PL5 in 2012. He told the Signpost "I’d noticed the pair on the rocks amongst some other non-mandarin ducks, and given the neutral background I thought I might get a decent shot of them if I waited around for a few minutes. Luckily, the other ducks soon cleared off and then the mandarin pair decided to gaze into each others eyes!"
Tenth place: A cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) silhouetted against a sunset, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Arturo de Frias Marques took this photograph with a Nikon D2X in 2014. The Okavango Delta is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The cheetah, one of the many species which make the delta their home, is the fastest known land animal and can reach speeds of up to 120 kph.
Eleventh place: Sunrise in morning mist near Dülmen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Dietmar Rabich told the Signpost he took this photograph on an early Sunday morning, a time he prefers for photography. Rabich said he has to be patient to capture the image that he wants - "Sometimes I'm waiting weeks and months for the right moment". That waiting paid off in 2012 for this photograph, taken with a Canon EOS 600D. The time of day provided just the right light, as well as a lack of traffic that allowed him to capture this moment while standing in a local roadway.
Twelfth place: A C-130T Hercules aircraft with the Blue Angels flying over a platoon of Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, United States
The photograph was taken by Staff Sgt. Oscar L. Olive IV, USMC in 2014 and posted on the official Flickr page of the United States Department of Defense. The Blue Angels are a popular flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy.