From the ‘brains’ of NASA’s Europa Clipper to a lion’s mane jellyfish, the 29 images selected for the 2023 annual National Geographic Pictures of the Year issue commemorate extraordinary photographs taken all over the world.
For the issue’s cover image, patience is the theme. National Geographic photographer Kiliii Yuyan took the photo of a banded sea krait when he was working on a story about Indigenous stewardship of the waters off of Palau. “I had to spend the entire time with that sea snake, just being there with it on its own terms to finally be there to make that image,” Yuyan tells PopSci.
Yuyan was diving about 100 feet down when he saw the four foot long banded sea krait checking out nooks and crannies in the coral. The snake swam around Yuyan’s legs a bit to investigate and eventually went back to the coral to look for prey. Yuyan took several images of the sea krait during the first 45 minutes of the dive and had to constantly adjust his lights and buoyancy. It was not until the snake swam up to the surface to breathe that Yuyan was able to get the photo. “I followed it up partway into the sparkling rays of the sun,” says Yuyan. “It wasn’t until the very end that the background changed from the complex scene of coral to a minimal blue sea and the image became more powerful.”
Check out five more images included in this year’s issue below.
For more on this story, visit Natgeo.com.