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The year's best pictures get the spotlight in annual National Geographic photo contest

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Mantis Nat Geo
Mantis Nat Geo

Today's the last chance for photography buffs to enter National Geographic's photo contest. The annual showcase has always been a stunning reminder of what's possible when you place a camera in the hands of a skilled photographer, and submissions collected thus far reveal 2012 will be no exception. Two of the prominent photography blogs on the web, In Focus and The Big Picture, have run several galleries of some standout entrants; landscapes, wildlife shots, and a number of unforgettable portraits are on full display.

To most of us, these stills serve as motivation to work at and improve upon our own camera proficiency. But if you managed to capture a stellar shot of your own this year, you've got until 11:59 PM EST tonight to send it in. And even if you're not convinced it's worthy of Nat Geo, feel free to share some of your best photography work in the comments below.

For those who are just now getting serious about taking great photos, don't forget about our guide to choosing the right camera!