This is the Grand Prize Winner of National Geographic's best photo of the year competition, taken by Seattle-based photographer Paul Souders. It's titled The Ice Bear, and it features a female polar bear staring at Paul from underwater. It's an outstanding image, but I think the rest of his series are equally good — or even better!
I asked Paul — who also won the 2013 BBC Wildlife photographer of the year award — if it was scary to be so near this huge wild beast. He told me in an email that "there's always a little jolt of adrenaline when I'm working close to bears. But to be honest, sitting in a small rubber zodiac boat 30 miles offshore, out of sight from land, is the scariest and most dangerous part of it."
He gave us permission to publish these awesome documents:
His account of the event is even more awesome: