We'll just come right out and say this: We’re a little late to the game, Dear Blog Reader, in responding to the International League of Conservation Photographers' list of  “Top 40 Nature Photos of All Time” unveiled last week for Earth Day, but given the context of “all time,” a few days is trivial.

These nature photos, eons in the making, are truly captivating and visually accomplish what they set out to achieve: to serve, elevate and glorify the stunning colors and forms of the natural world. No doubt the ILCP members had their work cut out for them having to cull down from thousands of pics to this amazing top 40 selection. (The ILCP is a fellowship of the top professional conservation photographers working today.) Members of the ILCP were encouraged to keep in mind several compositional qualities when picking the top ones. Considering "factors such as aesthetics, uniqueness, historical and scientific significance, or contribution to conservation efforts," all played an important part of the decision making process.

One of our favorites was Frans Lanting's Galapagos Island "Tortoises at Dawn," yet, the Crimson Tide fans couldn’t help but be compelled by “Twilight of the Giants," also by Lanting. Of course, our selections were not made with the sort of criterion in mind that ILCP members had to go by — our responses were purely visceral.

Below are the photos, along with the photographers' commentary. To see all of the Top 40 Photographs, visit the ILCP Flickr page.

"During the year I spent living in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, I worked at night for periods of time, waking up at sunset to follow animals through the hours of darkness. I often started the evening at a favorite water hole where I hunkered down by the edge and made myself a fixture in the landscape. Elephants moved around me in the waning light like shadowy forms. One evening a herd of bulls gathered across the water from me, rising above their reflections under an October moon, in a primeval scene of ancient Africa" - Frans Lanting

The Galapagos Islands tortoises

"The Galapagos Islands provide a window on time. In a geological sense, the islands are young, yet they appear ancient. The largest animals native to this famed archipelago are giant tortoises, which can live for more than a century. These are the creatures that provided Charles Darwin with the flash of imagination that led to his theory of evolution. Today their populations are reduced on most islands. But inside the Alcedo volcano on Isabela Island I experienced a world where giant tortoises still roamed in ancient abundance. One misty morning When the tortoises were asleep in a pond, I was able to create an image that evokes the era when reptiles dominated life on land." - Frans Lanting