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Category: earth

April 22, 2014 Permalink

Earth Day 2014

First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events are held across the globe to inspire us to appreciate the world we live in and protect our environment. Conservation of natural resources, ending pollution, protecting wildlife, and creating sustainable environments are some of the themes spread among many countries. --Leanne Burden Seidel (18 photos total)

The planet Earth is seen in a photo taken by NOAA's GOES-East satellite at 07:45EST (11:45GMT) on Earth Day, April 22. (NOAA via Reuters)
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April 3, 2014 Permalink

Earthquake off the coast of Chile

A powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Chile coast late April 1 that caused a small tsunami. Six people died and over 900,00 residents were evacuated along the coast. Strong aftershocks shook the region for the following days, including a 7.2 magnitude quake a day later. --Leanne Burden Seidel (28 photos total)

Fishermen look to salvage any remains destroyed overnight in the port of Iquique, in northern Chile, on April 2, after a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit off Chile's Pacific coast. An 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit Chile late Tuesday, killing at least six people and generating tsunami waves that might ripple as far as Indonesia. (Luis Hidalgo/AFP/Getty Images
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March 11, 2014 Permalink

2014 Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race

Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Dog Race in a dramatic finish today, rallying from third place. A storm knocked out the front-runner and Seavey finished in a record-breaking pace. The race was riddled with harsh conditions due to lack of snow leading to many injuries. Dogs and mushers brave about 1000 miles of challenging Alaskan terrain and we are lucky that a few photographers have given us a glimpse of this amazing long trek. --Leanne Burden Seidel (42 photos total)

Dogs on Mike Santos' team leave the chute during the ceremonial start to the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, March 1. (Nathaniel Wilder/Reuters)
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March 3, 2014 Permalink

Washington D.C. area has yet another snow day

Snow began falling in the nation's capital early Monday, and officials warned people to stay off treacherous, icy roads a scene that has become familiar to residents in the Midwest, East and even Deep South this year. Schools were canceled, bus service was halted in places and federal government workers in the DC area were told to stay home Monday. --Thea Breite (13 photos total)

National Park Service employee Eric Tolliver shovels snow and ice at the Lincoln Memorial as snow falls in Washington, Monday, March 3, 2014. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
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January 3, 2014 Permalink

Erupting volcanoes

Photographers in different parts of the world have been busy covering active volcanoes in recent weeks. In Indonesia, Italy, El Salvador and Japan, the craters in the earth erupted with lava, gases, or ash. --Leanne Burden Seidel (26 photos total)

People observe an eruption at the South East Crater of Mt. Etna from the monitoring station of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology at the Schiena dell'Asino, near Catania, in Sicily, southern Italy, early Dec. 30. Mt. Etna is Europe's most active volcano at 3,350 meters. (Salvatore Allegra/Associated Press)
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December 30, 2013 Permalink

Happy New Year, world

It’s time to have a little New Year’s fun. No depressing (yet important) photos of serious events from the year. Just a collection of fun, silly, unusual, picturesque and unique photos of people from different parts of the world either getting ready to celebrate 2014 or already doing so. --Thea Breite (15 photos total)

A reveler writes "2014" with sparklers in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, December 30, 2013. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)
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December 23, 2013 Permalink

December around the world

A snowstorm in the Middle East, 95 degree temperatures in Buenos Aires, flooding in Gaza, ice storms in Canada. It’s a typical December around the world. Or is it? --Thea Breite (17 photos total)

Eve Grayson, a Reindeer herder of the Cairgorm Reindeer Herd, feeds the deer on December 23, 2013 in Aviemore, Scotland. Reindeer were introduced to Scotland in 1952 by Swedish Sami Reindeer herder, Mikel Utsi. Starting with just a few reindeer, the herd has now grown in numbers over the years and is currently at about 130 by controlling the breeding. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)
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December 9, 2013 Permalink

The Farne Islands counts its Puffins and other seabirds

The Farne Islands are off the coast of northeast England and are home to a huge seabird colony. The islands are owned and protected by the British conservation charity, the National Trust, which says the islands host some 23 species of seabird, as well as a substantial colony of grey seals, who come to have their pups there in the autumn. Every five years the National Trust carries out a census of the islands' population of puffins, and this year's survey showed there were almost 40,000 nesting pairs on the islands - an 8 percent rise from 2008. -Thea Breite ( 18 photos )

Rangers remove a puffin from its burrow on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast, northern England on May 15. (Nigel Roddis/Reuters)
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December 2, 2013 Permalink

Two communities fight for food on the Kenyan and Ethiopian border

The Turkana are traditionally nomadic pastoralists, but the pastures needed to feed their herds suffer from recurring droughts and many have turned to fishing. The trend began back in the 1960s, following a devastating drought, which wiped out entire herds. The government introduced communities to fishing in the mostly untouched Lake Turkana. But now the lake is overfished, and scarcity of food and pastureland is fueling a long-standing conflict with Ethiopian indigenous Dhaasanac, who have seen grazing grounds squeezed by large-scale government agricultural schemes in southern Ethiopia. The Dhaasanac now venture deeper into Kenyan territory in search of fish and grass, clashing with neighbors. “The Turkana and the Dhaasanac have been enemies for a long time. However, before they used to fight with spears and other rudimental weapons,” said Turkana leader Pius Chuchu.--Thea Breite

( 19 photos )


A Turkana man stands in the entrance of a cattle kraal (corral) at dawn in the disputed area of the Ilemi Triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan on Oct. 15. (Siegfried Modola/Reuters)

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November 27, 2013 Permalink

Photographing an African safari

Boston Globe Staff photographer Essdras M Suarez experienced a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania this year. Here is a selection of what he captured and thoughts upon his return:
As a photojournalist, you’re always looking to capture moments that define life. In the wild, you’re witnessing life or death situations, and it’s a truly humbling experience. We’re used to living in a world where we humans are top predators and life is extremely safe. When you find yourself in an environment where you’re no longer the top predator, it puts things in perspective to see how and where we fall within the food chain. I never thought I’d be excited photographing nature, but I found myself completely entranced by the whole experience and I can’t wait to do it again. ( 27 photos total)

As the day comes to an end at a Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, a herd of giraffes line up as they make their way away from the Savannah to the safety of the bush they will need during the night. (Essdras M Suarez/ EMS Photography)
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November 13, 2013 Permalink

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan


Residents gather amongst the devastation in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 13 in Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 mph (315 kph), slammed into the southern Philippines and left a trail of destruction in multiple provinces, forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate and making travel by air and land to hard-hit provinces difficult. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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October 30, 2013 Permalink

Autumn around the world 2013

Photographers around the planet captured the changing colors and dramatic light that signify the movement of animals and the start of colder temperatures for many parts of the world. -Leanne Burden Seidel ( 30 photos total)

A girl shakes a young tree to make the yellow leaves fall in a park among seasonal colored trees on an autumn day in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Oct. 14. (Sergei Grits/Associated Press)
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October 21, 2013 Permalink

Potential effects of agrochemicals in Argentina

Agrochemical spraying in Argentina has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Yet the South American nation has a hodgepodge of widely ignored regulations that leave people dangerously exposed, and chemicals contaminate homes, classrooms, and drinking water. Doctors and scientists are warning that uncontrolled spraying could be causing health problems across the nation. ( 17 photos )

Soybeans ready for harvest are bathed in afternoon light near Rawson, in Buenos Aires province, Argentina on April 16. American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy, cotton, and corn fields. They routinely contaminate homes and classrooms and drinking water. A growing chorus of doctors and scientists is warning that their uncontrolled use could be responsible for the increasing number of health problems turning up in hospitals across the South American nation. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)
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October 18, 2013 Permalink

Powerful earthquake strikes the Philippines

A powerful 7.2 earthquake hit the Philippines this week, killing at least 160 and injuring hundreds. The quake was centered below the island of Bohol, toppling many buildings in the area including several historic churches.( 30 photos total)

A woman carries her baby past a destroyed church belfry in Tubigon, Bohol on Oct. 16, a day after an earthquake hit central Philippines. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)
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October 4, 2013 Permalink

Dirt

It's right beneath our feet, rarely thought about, but it can be quite useful, destructive, or even used in sport. Add water and it takes on a sticky form. -- Lloyd Young ( 42 photos )

Revelers participate in the traditional Bloco da Lama (Mud block) carnival in Parati, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil, on Feb. 9. The event, which was begun by two men in a playful manner in 1986, has now become a traditional carnival in which participants disguised as primitives with rags, lianas or skulls and bones, dive in the mud. (Victor Moriyama/AFP/Getty Images)
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August 2, 2013 Permalink

Winners: National Geographic Traveler 2013 Photo Contest

On May 10, 2013 The Big Picture featured some of the thousands of images that were entered in the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Magazine Photo Contest. The winners have been chosen. Their images follow. (The winners gallery is also available here as well as the complete contest and all its entrants here. You can see the editor's picks and can download wallpaper images for your desktop or your smartphone.) The winning images will appear in the Dec. 2013/Jan. 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. (NOTE: The captions are written by the photographer.) --EDITOR'S NOTE: The Big Picture will post again on Wednesday, August 7. (11 photos total)

First Place: Dig me river
I was in Manaus, Amazonas, during the Brazilian Aquathlon (swimming and running) championship. I photographed it from the water and my lens got completely wet, but there was so much energy in these boys that I just didn't worry about that.(Photo and caption by Wagner Araujo/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
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July 12, 2013 Permalink

Solar Impulse flight: Across the US, powered by the sun

The experimental airplane Solar Impulse completed its first flight across the United States this week. The Swiss-made plane, powered only by the sun, is the first to make the trip both day and night without using conventional fuel. It started the journey on May 3 in California and ended on July 6 in New York. Pilots and creators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg took turns manning the single-seat flyer, which is powered by about 12,000 silicon solar cells and has a wingspan of a jumbo jet. The next step is a trip around the world in 2015.- Leanne Burden Seidel (24 photos total)

Workers load a wing of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse into a Cargolux Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on February 20 at Payerne airport in Geneva. The Boeing will carry the Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype aircraft to San Francisco for a series of flights across the US from the West to East Coast. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)
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June 24, 2013 Permalink

Supermoon 2013

Photographers around the world looked up to the sky this past weekend to capture the "supermoon." This is the phenomenon when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth, appearing 30 percent brighter and about 14 percent larger than a typical full moon. It occurs about once every 14 months and is technically called a perigee full moon. At 221,823 miles from Earth, the supermoon was a feast for the eyes.-Leanne Burden Seidel (24 photos total)

A cotton candy vendor walks in from of the moon during the Los Angeles Angels' baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, June 22 in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
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May 10, 2013 Permalink

National Geographic Traveler Magazine: 2013 Photo Contest

The National Geographic Traveler Magazine photo contest, now in its 25th year, has begun. There is still plenty of time to enter. The entry deadline is Sunday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. Entrants may submit their photographs in any or all of the four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. The magazine's photo editors showcase their favorite entries each week in galleries. You can also vote for your favorites. "The pictures increasingly reflect a more sophisticated way of seeing and interpreting the world, making the judging process more difficult," says Keith Bellows, magazine editor in chief. (The captions are written by the entrants, some slightly edited for readability.) As always, you can take a look at some of last year's entries and winners.. -- Paula Nelson ( 40 photos total)

OUTDOOR SCENES - Portrait of an Eastern Screech Owl - Masters of disguise. The Eastern Screech Owl is seen here doing what they do best. You better have a sharp eye to spot these little birds of prey. Okeefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USA. (Photo and caption by Graham McGeorge/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
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May 3, 2013 Permalink

Daily Life: April 2013

I look forward each month to browsing the compilation of "slice of life" images from around the world. They offer us a visual break, if you will, from the tragedies, disasters, wars and violence seemingly so pervasive in our world. Through these images, we can immerse ourselves in the simplicity of everyday life. Daily Life: April 2013 takes us to North and South Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Spain, Indonesia, China, Russia; and around the United States to California, Texas, Maine, Florida, Kansas, Washington state, and more. Enjoy.--- Paula Nelson ( 49 photos total)

A village boy holds a traditional handmade umbrella as he keeps watch over cattle grazing in the field on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, India, April 20, 2013. (Biswaranjan Rout/Associated Press)
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March 1, 2013 Permalink

National Archives: Searching for the Seventies

“Searching for the Seventies” takes a new look at the 1970s using remarkable color photographs taken for a Federal photography project called Project DOCUMERICA (1971-1977). Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DOCUMERICA was born out of the decade’s environmental awakening, producing striking photographs of many of that era’s environmental problems and achievements. Drawing its inspiration from the depression era Farm Security Administration photography project, project photographers created a portrait of America in the early-and-mid-1970s. They documented small Midwestern towns, barrios in the Southwest, and coal mining communities in Appalachia. Their assignments were as varied as African American life in Chicago, urban renewal in Kansas City, commuters in Washington, DC, and migrant farm workers in Colorado. The exhibit, featuring 90 images from the project opens March 8, 2013 at the National Archives in Washington D.C. It runs through September 8, 2013. What follows is a small sampling of the collection digitized by the National Archives. -- Paula Nelson (NOTE: Captions were provided.)( 30 photos total)

Children play in the yard of Ruston home, while a Tacoma smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue. Ruston, Washington, August 1972. (Gene Daniels/National Archives/Records of the Environmental Protection Agency)
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February 15, 2013 Permalink

2013 World Press Photo Contest Winners

For over 55 years, the World Press Photo contest has encouraged the highest standards in photojournalism. The contest is judged by leading experts in visual journalism who represent various aspects of the profession and the composition of the jury is changed from year to year. The prize-winning images are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 45 countries over the course of a year and over two million people go to a hundred different venues to see the images. The winners themselves uphold the foundation's simple mission statement: We exist to inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism. A sampling of the winning images follows. You can browse more amazing content on World Press Photo. -- Paula Nelson (NOTE: There will be no post on Monday in observance of the holiday.) ( 18 photos total)

World Press Photo of the Year 2012 - Paul Hansen/Sweeden/Dagens Nyheter - Nov. 20, 2012, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories. Two-year-old Suhaib Hijazi and her three-year-old brother Muhammad were killed when their house was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike. Their father, Fouad, was also killed and their mother was put in intensive care. Fouad’s brothers carry his children to the mosque for the burial ceremony as his body is carried behind on a stretcher.
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February 4, 2013 Permalink

The sky

In "Love and a Question" by Robert Frost, the poet writes "Let us look at the sky, And question what of the night to be, Stranger, you and I." There may or may not be answers there for us or for Frost's bridegroom, but the simple pleasure of gazing skyward is a profitable pursuit. Photographers have chosen the sky as a subject for as long as the camera has existed. Atmospheric and celestial phenomenon create an endless canvas for hungry eyes. -- Lane Turner (23 photos total)

The sunset animates the sky on February 1, 2013 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)
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January 25, 2013 Permalink

China's Skies: Toxic levels of pollution

No country in history has become a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage. China is clearly not an exception. The speed and scale of China's rise has brought an unprecedented pollution problem. Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death according to the Ministry of Health. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. The factories and spewing automobile engines recently caused hundreds of flights to be cancelled in and around Beijing. Stores are selling out of face masks and the government struggles to figure out this political challenge and provide relief of the long-term burden on its people. -- Paula Nelson ( 47 photos total)

A woman wears a mask as she does her morning exercise outdoors in Fuyang, Anhui province, Jan. 14, 2013. China's environmental watchdog has ordered greater efforts to issue early warnings for air quality. (China Daily/Reuters)
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January 7, 2013 Permalink

2012 National Geographic Photography Contest Winners

The winners have been named in the 2012 National Geographic Photography contest. As a leader in capturing the world through brilliant imagery, National Geographic sets the standard for photographic excellence. This year's competition brought 22,000 entries from over 150 countries, professionals and amateurs participating. Photographs were submitted in three categories: people, places and nature; and entries judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts. There was a Grand Prize winner, a winner in each category and a collection of Viewer's Choice Winners as well. Enjoy. -- Paula Nelson ( 14 photos total)

Grand Prize Winner and 1st Place/Nature: THE EXPLOSION! - The subject's name is Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand. I had taken many portraits of Busaba previously and it was becoming more and more difficult to come up with an image that appeared any different to the others. Which is why I took to observing her more carefully during my visits in the hope of capturing something of a behavioral shot. The opportunity finally presented itself while watching Busaba enjoying her private pool then shaking herself dry. In all humility I have to say that Mother Nature smiled favorably on me that day! (Photo and caption by Ashley Vincent/National Geographic Photo Contest)
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December 20, 2012 Permalink

Best nature pictures of 2012

This is a compilation of images in which photographers have captured the beauty of our world, along with great moments among the living things we share this planet with. Most are from the reoccurring photo gallery The Natural World, in which photos of animals and our environment are selected from the many wire service photos moved throughout the year from all over the world. Many great photos of animals are taken in zoos, but this entry mostly shows creatures in their own habitat. -Leanne Burden Seidel(53 photos total)

A lenticular cloud formed as high winds blew over the rugged Crazy Mountains in Montana. Lenticular clouds are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes. (James Woodcock, Billings Gazette via Associated Press)
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December 17, 2012 Permalink

2012 Year in Pictures: Part I

Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)

Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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December 7, 2012 Permalink

The wake of Typhoon Bopha: Philippines

Typhoon Bopha, an incredibly powerful typhoon, has killed hundreds, triggered landslides and floods and left immeasurable destruction in its path in the Philippines. The death toll stands at over 500 – entire families washed away – many still missing. At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone. A muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and trees felled by ferocious winds; 300,000 left homeless in great need of water, food and shelter. – Paula Nelson ( 38 photos total)

Typhoon Bopha is shown moving toward the Philippines from the International Space Station, Dec. 2, 2012. The typhoon slammed into the Davao region of the Philippines early Dec. 4, killing hundreds and forcing more than 50,000 to flee from inundated villages. (NASA/Associated Press)
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November 2, 2012 Permalink

Hurricane Sandy: Recovery

Hurricane Sandy battered the mid-Atlantic region with powerful gusts and storm surges that cause epic flooding in the coastal communities of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, knocking down trees and power lines and leaving more than eight million people – including large parts of Manhattan – in the rain-soaked dark. The mammoth storm packed maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Those powerful winds, driving rain and storm surge are blamed for 98 deaths in the United States (although numbers still vary), including two small boys who were swept out of their mother’s arms. The toll of the storm is staggering, including a rampaging fire that reduced more than 100 houses to ash in Breezy Point, Queens. New Jersey took the brunt, officials estimating that the state suffered many billions of dollars in property damage. Residents began the long, slow process of recovery. – Paula Nelson ( 46 photos total)

An American flag is raised among the wreckage homes devastated by fire and the effects of Hurricane Sandy in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York, Oct. 31, 2012. The U.S. Northeast began an arduous journey back to normal after historic storm Sandy crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed at least 64 people with a massive storm surge that caused epic flooding. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
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October 19, 2012 Permalink

National Geographic Photo Contest 2012

It’s that time again…the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest is in full swing. The contest has reached his midpoint but there is plenty of time to enter before the November 30, 2012 deadline. Photographers of all skill levels - from professional to amateur - across the globe, submitted more than 20,000 entries from 130 countries in last year’s competition. The photographs are judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts in the field. There is a first place winner in each of three categories: People, Places and Nature, and a grand prizewinner as well. The following images are a sampling of the competition thus far – twelve images in each category. The caption information is provided and written by the individual photographer. – Paula Nelson ( 36 photos total)

NATURE’S ART (Nature) - Dried up delta of the Kimberly region, N.W. Australia. Creates the most sophisticated patterns only appreciated from above. (Photo and caption by Ted Grambeau/National Geographic Photo Contest)
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October 12, 2012 Permalink

Autumn 2012: Celebration of the season

The arrival of autumn brings falling leaves; vibrant and rich jewel-toned colors across the landscape; a distinct change in temperature; festivals and some celebrations. The world often marks the September event as special. Throughout history, the first day of autumn has been considered a good time to take stock of the year’s successes and failures. A myth in many cultures holds that some mystical forces let us stand eggs on their ends for a short time immediately before or after the exact time of the equinox. In Greek mythology, autumn begins when the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to live with her kidnapper, Hades – in repayment of the six pomegranate seeds she illicitly ate. Here, a look at a diverse collection of autumn photographs. – Paula Nelson ( 65 photos total)

Two Adirondack chairs sit vacant on a dock along the misty shore of the Androscoggin River in Turner, Maine, Oct. 3, 2012, as the fall foliage nears peak color. (Amber Waterman/Sun Journal)
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August 20, 2012 Permalink

Winners: National Geographic Traveler 2012 Photo Contest

On June 22, 2012 The Big Picture featured some (just 54) of the thousands of images that were entered in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Magazine Photo Contest. It was a popular post with over 731 comments by viewers. The winners have been chosen. Their images follow. (The winners gallery is also available here as well as the complete contest and all its entrants here. You can see the editor's picks and can download wallpaper images for your desktop or your smartphone.) It's a wonderful visual treat from around the world. -- Paula Nelson (NOTE: The captions are written by the photographer.) (11 photos total)

This image was shot in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. The intimacy of this everyday life moment, shot inside of a family yurt, is in total contrast with the harsh environment these nomadic tribes live in. On the right we notice a television and a sound console. These tribes live weeks away from any village by foot. In spite of being located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan they are equipped with solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones. Ancestral ways of living - with touches of modernity. (Photo and caption by Cedric Houin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
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July 20, 2012 Permalink

Downpour and drought

An unexpected downpour briefly drenched parts of the US this week, while most of the central and southern United States continued to experience drought conditions - expected to be the most expansive drought in a half century. In the South, 14 states are now baking in blast-furnace conditions - from Arizona, which is battling the largest wildfire in its history, to Florida, where fires have burned some 200,000 acres so far. More than 70 percent of the nine-state Midwest was in some stage of drought this week. More extreme heat and scant rains were expected in the area, suggesting the poorest crop conditions since the historic 1988 drought. The visual documentation of the breadth and depth of the current drought conditions has just begun. This is a small sampling of images, expect much more storytelling to come in the weeks ahead. -- Paula Nelson (24 photos total)

People walk through heavy rain at Times Square in New York, July 18, 2012. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
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July 6, 2012 Permalink

Daily life: June 2012

In the post that follows for the month of June, I've collected images from many places. Single images from Guatemala, Lisbon, California, Israel, Australia, Nepal and Pakistan. Small "picture groupings" from Greece (a country in the news for the challenges it faces economically), from Pakistan (attending classes at a madrasah and outside a brick factory), from China (fun in the sand and eclectic street scenes), from Spain (the Corpus Christi procession and an intimate moment on the street), from Thailand (life in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border and lessons in an Islamic school). Visual slices of life around the world. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)

A Chinese couple bury their children in the sand on a manmade beach in a Beijing park, June 16, 2012. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)
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June 22, 2012 Permalink

National Geographic Traveler Magazine: 2012 Photo Contest

The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is in full swing. The entry deadline has been extended until July 11. The four categories include: Travel Portraits; Outdoor Scenes; Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. Last year's contest drew nearly 13,000 images from all over the world. The pictures are as diverse as their authors, capturing an assortment of people, places and wildlife - everything that makes traveling so memorable, evoking a sense of delight and discovery. The following post includes a small sampling of the entrant's work, taken from the editor's picks in each of the categories. (The captions are written by the entrants, some slightly corrected for readability.) And for fun, take a look back at the winners from 2011 at National Geographic Traveler. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)

SPONTANEOUS MOMENTS - Marrakech Traveler: It was mid-morning and he must have wanted to ride into the light. I was shooting for the ABC TV show Born to Explore when I snapped this photo. (John Barnhardt/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
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June 15, 2012 Permalink

Brazil: 2012

Mario Tama, a Getty Images staff photographer since 2001 and based in New York, has covered conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as numerous humanitarian crises and natural disasters in the US and around the world, including most recently the earthquake in Haiti and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri. He's also spent extensive time documenting Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath. Mario will be working on several feature stories in Brazil, ahead of the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Energy, his first work featured in this post. The summit aims to overcome years of deadlock over environmental concerns and marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Brazil is now the world's sixth largest economy and is set to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Mario’s' editor on the project describes him as passionate and enthusiastic about showing us pieces of a country in which he has traveled before, drawn by the people, the culture and the economics/development of the region. -- Paula Nelson (48 photos total)

Federal highway BR-222, June 9, 2012 in Para state, Brazil. Highway construction through Amazonian rainforest has led to accelerated rates of deforestation. Although deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down 80 percent since 2004, environmentalists fear recent changes to the Forest Code will lead to further destruction. Around 20 percent of the rainforest has already been destroyed. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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May 25, 2012 Permalink

Finding community in America's Appalachian region

Getty Images photographer, Mario Tama, spent time in and around Owsley County, Kentucky documenting the life and times of some of it's 5,000 residents. The 2010 U.S. Census listed Owsley County as having the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, with 41.5% of residents living below the poverty line. Familial and community bonds run deep, with a populace that shares a collective historical and cultural legacy uncommon in most parts of the country. The community struggles with a lack of jobs due to the decline in coal, tobacco and lumber industries. It's just a glimpse into their lives, but one we wanted to share. -- Paula Nelson (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012.) (46 photos total)

Craig and Cora Adams, married nine years, outside their trailer in Owsley County, April 20, 2012, in Booneville, Kentucky. Daniel Boone once camped in the Appalachian mountain hamlet of Owsley County which remains mostly populated by descendants of settlers to this day. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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May 21, 2012 Permalink

Ring of Fire Eclipse: 2012

A rare annular eclipse - a ring of sunlight as the new moon, passing between Earth and sun, blocks most, but not all, of the sun's disc. It is striking to see. Differing from a total solar eclipse, the moon in an annular eclipse appears too small to cover the sun completely, leaving a ring of fire effect around the moon. The eclipse cast its shallow path crossing the West from west Texas to Oregon then arcing across the northern Pacific Ocean to Tokyo, Japan. (Thanks to all Big Picture viewers for sending us your images of the eclipse.) -- Paula Nelson (49 photos total)

A partial solar eclipse as seen during sunrise in the coastal town of Gumaca, Quezon province, southeast of Manila, May 21, 2012. Thousands turned their eyes to the sky on both sides of the Pacific to gaze excitedly as an eclipse occluded the sun at dawn in Asia and at dusk in the western United States. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, but is too far from the Earth to block it out completely, leaving a "ring of fire" visible. (Ted Aljibeted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages)
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May 18, 2012 Permalink

Daily Life: May 2012

Thousands of images are supplied by multiple wire services to newspapers across the country each day. Many of those images depict ordinary scenes of life in different countries around the world. There are three picture editors that contribute to the Big Picture blog, each of them seeing the world in a little bit of a different way. Their backgrounds, their experiences, their interests - all very disparate. Each of them given the same resources (the visual wire) to edit from, each choosing very different ways to tell a story. The following photographs are my choices of those images for the month of May (and a few from late April) illustrating daily life around the world. -- Paula Nelson (53 photos total)

Adam Ortiz, a fourth-grader at Fairview Elementary, stops traffic while classmates and parents cross Washington at North 11th Street in Klamath Falls, Ore. as part of Walk to School Days, something the school has participated in every Friday in May for three years, May 11. 2012. (Andrew Mariman/The Herald and News)
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May 16, 2012 Permalink

Ways of the wind

It's something often ignored unless it's annoying, harnessed for sport or energy, the cause of great damage, or sometimes used for fun. Wind is simply defined as "a natural movement of air of any velocity." Here is a collection of images showing its effects on us and nature. -- Lloyd Young(40 photos total)

A woman grips her umbrella against the wind in front of the Jubelpark - Cinquantenaire in Brussels as a storm moved over Belgium on Jan. 5. The Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute gave a code orange warning for the heavy storm weather that moved over Belgium this morning. (Benoit Doppagne/AFP/Getty Images)
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May 11, 2012 Permalink

Food and nutrition crisis in Sahel region of Africa

A potentially catastrophic food crisis in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa could affect as many as one million children. The food and nutrition crisis resulting from a severe drought, threatens the survival of an entire generation of children. Those children in eight countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal - are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Sparse rainfall, poor harvests and rising food prices have left many vulnerable and weak, seeking medical attention. Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world where children already face daunting odds of survival. The current crisis makes their survival even more tenuous. Associated Press photographer, Ben Curtis, documented the conditions in the region. -- Paula Nelson (EDITORS NOTE: We will not be posting Monday, May 14) (32 photos total)

A woman carries her child amidst dusty winds in the desert near Mondo, a village in the Sahel belt of Chad, April 19, 2012. UNICEF estimates that 127,000 children under the age of 5 in Chad's Sahel belt will require lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition this year, with an estimated 1 million expected throughout the wider Sahel region of West and Central Africa in the countries of Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Mauritania. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)
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April 20, 2012 Permalink

Daily life: April 2012

The universality of our lives is never so evident as when we feature a collection of "slice of life" photographs from around the world on The Big Picture. If you don't immediately read the caption under the image, you might imagine the sunlit walk in the park or the child joyfully swinging in a number of places. Common experience is what brings us together as people. So, from St. Petersburg, Russia to Salem, Oregon, tour the world in images of everyday existence.-- Paula Nelson (38 photos total)

Pakistani boys, who make a living by collecting materials and selling them to a recycling factory, shower in a pool of water created by a broken water pipe on a roadside, after their daily work on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, April 17, 2012. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)
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April 13, 2012 Permalink

Afghanistan: March 2012

In early April, in an attempt to accelerate the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the US agreed to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role. This deal cleared the way for the two countries to move ahead with an agreement that would establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. Domestic support for the war (in the US) has dropped sharply. We look back at March in the troubled country. -- Paula Nelson (37 photos total)

Young Afghan women use an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun in Kabul, April 5, 2012. The position of women in Afghanistan has improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, with the number of girls in education soaring. But as the Americans and the Afghan government have pursued peace efforts with the Taliban, women are increasingly concerned that gains in their rights may be compromised in a bid to end the costly and deadly war. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 21, 2012 Permalink

Signs of Spring: 2012

Seemingly strange weather patterns continue to break high and low temperature records. The same patterns spawned an early tornado season in the midwestern United States and brought late season snowstorms to the west. Record snow falls and frigid temperatures characterized a particularly difficult winter across Europe with many deaths attributed to the conditions. Signs of Spring for the Northern Hemisphere (which began officially with the Vernal Equinox - March 20 - when the hours of day are approximately equal to the hours of night) like trees blossoming and flowers blooming, the shedding of winter coats and the desire of anyone -who has spent an all too long winter season indoors - to venture outside to soak up the sun. -- Paula Nelson (45 photos total)

Cherry blossoms of the Japanese Yoshino variety bloom along the Tidal Basin, March 19, 2012, in Washington, DC, with the Jefferson Memorial to the rear. This season celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the gift of the cherry trees from Japan to Washington, DC. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 19, 2012 Permalink

World Water Day 2012

World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The day to recognize the importance of earth's most precious natural resource was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. While we often take water for granted, many cannot. And water plays a role in almost everything we do. We drink it, wash in it, play in it, generate power with it, irrigate crops with it, travel and transport goods on it, fight fires with it, and worship with it. Gathered here are images of water from the last year in all its uses, in scarcity and in abundance. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)

A child bathes from a public tap in his neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 6, 2012. A UNICEF report says unhygienic conditions cause an estimated 1. 2 million child deaths before the age of five from diarrhea worldwide every year. The report says in urban areas access to improved water and sanitation is not keeping pace with population growth. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)
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March 5, 2012 Permalink

Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest: 50 Finalists

The Smithsonian magazine's 9th annual photo contest finalists have been chosen. The contest attracted over 14 thousand photographers from all 50 states and over 100 countries. Fifty finalists from 67,059 images were selected by Smithsonian editors. Those editors will also choose the Grand Prize Winner and the winners in each of the five categories which include The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images. Photos were selected based on technical quality, clarity and composition, a flair for the unexpected and the ability to capture a picture-perfect moment. (Smithsonian invites everyone to select an additional "Readers' Choice" winner by voting through March for their favorite image on line.) -- Paula Nelson (25 photos total)

BEHIND THE BLUE Lilongwe, Malawi, May 2011 (Paolo Patruno/Bologna, Italy)
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March 1, 2012 Permalink

Tornadoes Rip Through the Midwest and South

Weather predictions for possible tornadoes from a new storm system today threaten the Midwest and South, and have recent victims nervous about what the day might hold. The first powerful storm system tore through parts of the Midwest and South earlier this week, killing 13 people from Kansas to Kentucky, leaving pockets of devastation across several states and marking the acceleration of another deadly (and early) tornado season. Tornadoes and powerful winds tore off roofs, leveled homes and businesses, tossed mobile homes, downed power lines and injured more than 150 people. The damage was most significant in Harrisburg, a small town in southern Illinois where blocks of houses and businesses were reduced to rubble. -- Paula Nelson(25 photos total)

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in ruins, March 1, 2012, in Ridgway, Ill. A pre-dawn twister flattened entire blocks of homes as violent storms ravaged the Midwest and South. (Seth Perlman/Associated Press)
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February 24, 2012 Permalink

One billion slum dwellers

One billion people worldwide live in slums, a number that will likely double by 2030. The characteristics of slum life vary greatly between geographic regions, but they are generally inhabited by the very poor or socially disadvantaged. Slum buildings can be simple shacks or permanent and well-maintained structures but lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services. In this post, I've included images from several slums including Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa (and the third largest in the world); New Building slum in central Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Pinheirinho slum - where residents recently resisted police efforts to forcibly evict them; and slum dwellers from Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi, India. India has about 93 million slum dwellers and as much as 50% of New Delhi's population is thought to live in slums, 60% of Mumbai. -- Paula Nelson (55 photos total)

Cambodian lawmaker Mu Sochuo, from the opposition Sam Rainsy party, pleads with riot policemen to stop a forced eviction of villagers at a slum village in the centre of Phnom Penh, Jan. 4, 2012. Cambodian lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy party visited the village after authorities forcefully evicted villagers from the Borei Keila community in the capital. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images)
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February 10, 2012 Permalink

2012 World Press Photo Contest Winners

By the numbers: 5, 247 Photographers, 124 Nationalities, 101, 254 pictures. Three hundred and fifty images by 57 photographers of 24 nationalities were awarded prizes in nine categories. To view the entire collection of winning images from the 55th World Press Photo Contest: 2012 World Press Photo. -- Paula Nelson (16 photos total)

2012 World Press Photo of the Year: A woman holds a wounded relative during protests against President Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen, Oct. 15, 2011. (Samuel Aranda/The New York Times)
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January 20, 2012 Permalink

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2012

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival has been held since 1963, interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution until it was resumed in 1985. Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province, in northeastern China. It is nicknamed "Ice City" and aptly so for winter January temperatures that average minus 18 degrees Celsius, under the influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The festival officially starts January 5th and lasts one month, although exhibits often stay open longer, weather permitting. Harbin is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival and Norway's Ski Festival. -- Paula Nelson (28 photos total)

Tourists visit ice sculptures during the testing period of the 13th Harbin Ice and Snow World in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival officially launched January 5, 2012. (Sheng Li/Reuters)
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January 16, 2012 Permalink

Kalachakra: A festival of teachings and meditations

Kalachakra is an ancient ritual that involves a series of prayers, meditations, dances, chants, vows and the construction of a large sand mandala - all with the aim to bring world peace. Kalachakra 2012 began January 1 and lasted for ten days in the northern Indian state of Bihar. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Spiritual Leader, gave teachings and participated over the course of the festival. -- Paula Nelson (41 photos total)

A Buddhist devotee holds a lotus flower as she waits to welcome spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in the town of Bodhgaya, believed to be the place where Buddha attained enlightenment, for the upcoming Kalachakra Buddhist festival in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, India. The Kalachakra, the most important ritual of the Mahayana sect of traditional Buddhists, begins Dec. 31. (Altaf Qadri/Associated Press)
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December 23, 2011 Permalink

The Year in Pictures: Part III

In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)

A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)
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December 21, 2011 Permalink

The year in Pictures: Part II

The second collection of images from 2011 once again brought us nature at its full force with floods, drought, wild fires, tornadoes and spectacular images of volcanic eruptions. The death of Osama bin Laden, the attack on an island in Norway by a lone gunman, continued fighting in Libya, and protests around the globe were a few of the news events dominating the headlines. -- Lloyd Young Please see part 1 from Monday and watch for part 3 Friday. (45 photos total)

A cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno in southern Chile, 870 km south of Santiago, on June 5. Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in half a century on June 4, 2011, prompting evacuations for 3,500 people as it sent a cloud of ash that reached Argentina. The National Service of Geology and Mining said the explosion that sparked the eruption also produced a column of gas 10 kilometers (six miles) high, hours after warning of strong seismic activity in the area. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images) )
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December 16, 2011 Permalink

50 best photos from The Natural World

We share our world with many other species and live in an ever-changing environment. Fortunately, photographers around the world have captured the moments and beauty that allow us to see amazing views of this awe-inspiring planet. This is a collection of favorite photos from The Natural World gallery in 2011, a showcase of images of animals and environment that runs on Boston.com throughout the year. Next week's posts will take a look at the year in photos, so stay tuned. -Leanne Burden Seidel (50 photos total)

Seahorses are displayed at an endangered species exhibition at London Zoo. ( Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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December 9, 2011 Permalink

Afghanistan, November 2011

As the War in Afghanistan passes the 10-year mark, the effect of the American withdrawal is already being felt among civilian aid workers, raising anxieties that Afghanistan will be abandoned and that gains will be quickly reversed. Even President Hamid Karzai asked nations at a conference in Germany recently to continue aid to his country for another decade. The United States, which provides two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, slashed its $4 billion aid budget to $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. The budget for 2012 may be cut further. In this post we continue our monthly visit to the country of Afghanistan, its residents and our troops. -- Paula Nelson (47 photos total)

An Afghan woman, holding her baby, walks through a busy street in Kabul, Dec. 5, 2011. A major international conference on December 5 sought ways forward for Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO combat troops in 2014. The boycott of two crucial players,Pakistan and the Taliban, dampened hopes of success. The one-day gathering brought around 100 national delegations and aid organizations to the former German capital Bonn. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)
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November 18, 2011 Permalink

National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

There's still time! The deadline for entries for this year's National Geographic Photo Contest is November 30. Photographers of all skill levels (last year more than 16,000 images submitted by photographers from 130 countries) enter photographs in three categories: Nature, People and Places. The photographs are judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of experts. There is one first place winner in each category and a grand prize winner as well. The following is a selection of 54 entries from each of the 3 categories. The caption information is provided and written by the individual photographer. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)

LONE TREE YELLOWSTONE: A solitary tree surviving another harsh winter in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (Photo and caption by Anita Erdmann/Nature/National Geographic Photo Contest)
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November 11, 2011 Permalink

Feeding 7 billion and our fragile environment

According to projections by the United Nations, the world population has reached 7 billion and continues to grow rapidly.  While more people are living longer and healthier lives, gaps are widening between the rich and the poor in some nations and tens of millions of people are vulnerable to food and water shortages.  There is, of course, the issue of the impact of that sheer number on the environment, including pollution, waste disposal, use of natural resources and food production.  This post focuses on wheat and the effect of our numbers on the environment.  Wheat is the most important cereal in the world and along with rice and corn accounts for about 73 percent of all cereal production.  It isn't surprising that 7 billion people have a lasting impact on our world's natural resources and the environment in which we live. -- Paula Nelson (36 photos total)

One of the world's breadbaskets lies in the prairies of Canada. This stalk, near Lethbridge, Alberta, helps form the foundation for the most important food product in the world: cereal grains. (Todd Korol/Reuters)
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November 4, 2011 Permalink

World Population: Where it's thick and where it's thin

The growing population of the world, now estimated to be over 7 billion, marks a global milestone and presents obvious challenges for the planet.  There are extremely densely populated cities and sparsely populated countries.  China is the most populous country with India following closely behind. This post brings together some disparate illustrations of our world as it grows, including scenes from Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, which has the highest population density in the world, with 130,000 per one square kilometer. In Mongolia, the world's least densely populated country,  2.7 million people are spread across an area three times the size of France.  Then there's Out Skerries, a tiny outcropping of rocks off the east coast of Scotland where the population is just 65.  And doing what he can to contribute to that 7 billion global milestone is Ziona, the head of a religious sect called "Chana."  He has 39 wives, 94 children, and 33 grandchildren. The world is an interesting place. -- Paula Nelson  (41 photos total)

Motorists pack a junction during rush hour in Taipei in 2009. Taiwan's capital is notorious for its traffic jams, even though many motorists choose motorcycles and scooters over cars. United Nations analysts warn that population growth increases pollution, deforestation, and climate change. (Nicky Loh/Reuters)
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October 28, 2011 Permalink

World Population: 7 Billion

On October 31, 2011, the United Nations is expected to announce a projected world population figure of 7 billion. This global milestone presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the planet. While more people are living longer and healthier lives, says the U.N., gaps between rich and poor are widening and more people than ever are vulnerable to food insecurity and water shortages. Because censuses are infrequent and incomplete, no one knows the precise date that we will hit the 7 billion mark - the Census Bureau puts it somewhere next March. In the last 50 years, humanity has more than doubled. What could the next decade mean for our numbers and the planet? In this post, we focus on births, but we'll be back with population-related content including it's affect on the environment and our food supply. -- Paula Nelson (47 photos total)

A baby, minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Oct. 21, 2011. According to Honduras' health authorities, about 220,000 babies are born in Honduras each year. The cost of having a baby delivered at the public hospital is $10. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)
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October 21, 2011 Permalink

Sukkot: A celebration

Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is a Biblical holiday celebrated in late September to late October. The holiday lasts seven days. The Sukkah is a walled structure covered with plant material - built for the celebration - and is intended to be a reminiscence of the type of dwelling in which the Israelites stayed during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the Sukkah and many sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav and etrog (four species). The four species include the lulav (a ripe green, closed frond from a date palm tree), the hadass (boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree), the aravah (branches with leaves from the willow tree) and the etrog (the fruit of a citron tree.) -- Paula Nelson (29 photos total)

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish child walks over palm fronds to be used to build a Sukkah hut, in Jerusalem's religious Mea Shearim neighborhood, Oct. 6, 2011. The palm branches are used as the roof of a temporary house called a "Sukkah" which is built and lived in during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)
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October 14, 2011 Permalink

A simple day in the life...

Often in the Big Picture we feature "slice of life" photography originating from around the world, brought to us by photographers based in those countries who work for the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images. The photographs are often simple and show daily life in many places that we might not be able to experience in any other way except through those photographers' documentation. The images themselves are somewhat universal - they show us where people live and how people live, sometimes not so differently than we do ourselves. -- Paula Nelson (35 photos total)

Three-year-old Nadia Nassrallah eats her breakfast in from of her home in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 4, 2011. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)
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September 30, 2011 Permalink

Global protests

There are many forms of protest, many ways to express an objection to particular events, situations, policies, and even people.  Protests can also take many forms - from individual statements to mass demonstrations - both peaceful and violent. In the last 30 days, there have been numerous protests across the globe in many countries.  The following post is a collection of only some of those protests, but the images convey a gamut of emotions as citizens stand up for their political, economic, religious and lifestyle rights.  -- Paula Nelson (51 photos total)

As protesters sleep in Zuccotti Park, N.Y. police officers receive instructions. A group of activists calling themselves Occupy Wall Street targeted the Financial District for more than a week of demonstrations in late September. The group said they sought to bring attention to corporate malfeasance, social inequality, and the yawning gap in income between America's rich and poor. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
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September 28, 2011 Permalink

Too much of a basic human need

Water is essential to life but in such places as India, Pakistan, China, and Thailand deluges have once again caused misery. Typhoon Nesat hit the Philippines earlier this week on its way to south China. In Pakistan, more than 5 million people have been affected by recent flooding, according to the aid agency Oxfam. Pakistan is still struggling to recover from the devastating monsoon rains in 2010. -- Lloyd Young(36 photos total)

A village boy sits on the banks of the swelling Daya River, near Pipli village, about 25 kilometers from the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar Sept. 9. The flood situation in Orissa state worsened with the release of more water downstream from Hirakud dam, according to a news agency. A high alert has been sounded in 11 districts of the state. (Biswaranjan Rout/Associated Press)
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September 26, 2011 Permalink

China: Daily Life Sept. 2011

This Big Picture post gives us a glimpse of daily life in parts of China, documented by wire photographers from the Associated Press, Reuters and Getty. The post begins with a short essay by Reuters photographer Jason Lee. Lee photographed six-year-old Wang Gengxiang, known as the "Masked Boy." Gengxiang was severely burned in an accident involving a burning pile of straw last winter. Most of the skin on the little boy's head was burned off, requiring him to wear a full surgical mask. The mask is said to prevent his scars from becoming infected. According to the local media in the village where Gengxiang was photographed, the doctors cannot continue his skin-graft surgery until his damaged trachea (or windpipe) is strong enough. The Lee essay is following by a black slide, and then more "slice of life" photography from a still somewhat mysterious China. -- Paula Nelson (50 photos total)

Wang Gengxiang on Children's Day, June 1, 2010, and after he was severely burned in an accident, at Mijiazhuang village on the outskirts of Fenyang, North China's Shanxi province, September 9, 2011. Gengxiang, age 6, known as "Masked Boy", was severely burned in an accident involving a burning pile of straw last winter. (Jason Lee/Reuters)
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September 23, 2011 Permalink

Afghanistan, September 2011

Tribal elders say the Taliban are far from defeated.  The Taliban continue to wage a brutal war, taking a toll on Afghan citizens and American forces.  The Department of Defense has identified 1,761 American service members who have died in the Afghan war and related operations as of Sept. 21, about 10 years since the start of the war. In visiting Afghanistan monthly in The Big Picture, we try to reflect our troops presence in the country as well as their interaction with the Afghan people.  -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)

US soldiers from the 27th Infantry Regiment fire 120-mm mortar rounds toward insurgent positions at Outpost Monti in Kunar province on Sept. 17. After a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, 130,000 troops from dozens of countries continue to battle resilient Taliban, who use homemade bombs and guerrilla tactics in a bid to undermine the Afghan government and the NATO mission. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images)
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September 16, 2011 Permalink

A glimpse of North Korea

North Korea has long been enigmatic - especially to the West.  An elaborate cult of personality created around the ruling Kim family permeates both the cultural and political lives of the nation. The world's most militarized nation, it has been developing nuclear weapons and a space program.  In 2002, President George Bush labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil," primarily due to its aggressive military posture but also because of its abysmal human rights record.   North Korea has long maintained close relations with the People's Republic of China and Russia.  In an attempt to ameliorate the loss of investments due to international sanctions over its weapons program, North Korean officials have initiated a tourism push, focused on Chinese visitors.  Still, every travel group or individual visitor is constantly accompanied by one or two "guides" who normally speak the mother language of the tourist.  While some tourism has increased over the last few years, Western visitors remain scarce.  The last several photos in this post are by Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder, who offers rare glimpses of life in the shuttered country. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)

Rolling out the red carpet for tourists is not commonly associated with the reclusive North Korean government, but that is what workers did for the departure ceremony of Mangyongbyong cruise ship in Rason City on Aug. 30. About 130 passengers departed the rundown port of Rajin, near the China-Russia border, for the scenic Mount Kumgang resort near South Korea. North Korea's state tourism bureau has teamed up with a Chinese travel company to run the country's first ever cruise. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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September 12, 2011 Permalink

Ground Zero: September 11, 2001 - September 11, 2011

One of the most indelible memories in the collective psyche of Americans - and the world - comes from the images of the World Trade Center following the terrorist attacks on the United States, September 11, 2001. Yesterday, Americans and the world collectively remembered those who lost their lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania ten years after that unforgettable day. This post (edited by Leanne Burden) shows the transformation, of what became known as Ground Zero, over the last ten years. A memorial rises from the ashes of that day on September 11, 2011. -- Paula Nelson (41 photos total)

Photos by Space Imaging’s IKONOS satellite showing the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, New York, collected on June 30, 2001 showing the 110-stories twin towers; on September 15, 2001 showing the remains of the 1,350-foot (411.48-meter) twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the debris and dust that have settled in Ground Zero, four days after the terrorist attacks; and June 8, 2002, showing the progress in the reclamation of Ground Zero where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. AFP/Space Imaging
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August 24, 2011 Permalink

Krishna Janmashtami

Indian Hindu devotees throughout the world celebrate Janmashtami, which marks the birth of Hindu God Lord Krishna with enormous zeal and enthusiasm. Children and adults dress as the Hindu God Krishna and his consort Radha in bright, elaborate costumes and jewelry. Human pyramids form to break the 'dahi-handi' or curd pot. The large earthenware pot is filled with milk, curds, butter, honey and fruits and is suspended from a height of 20 - 40 feet. Participants come forward to claim this prize by constructing a human pyramid, enabling the uppermost person to reach the pot and claim its contents. -- Paula Nelson (27 photos total)

An Indian schoolboy is dressed as the Hindu God Krishna. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press)
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August 19, 2011 Permalink

Afghanistan, August 2011

Each month in the Big Picture, we post a collection of photographs from Afghanistan.  They feature American forces and those of other countries, and they show us daily life among the Afghan people.  In June, President Obama declared that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, which set in motion an aggressive timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. However, the fighting has spiked in some regions of the country. On Aug. 6, the United States suffered its deadliest day in the nearly decade-long war when insurgents shot down a Chinook transport helicopter, killing 30 Americans and eight Afghans.  According to the United Nations, 360 Afghan civilians were killed in June alone.  The surges of violence reflect how deeply entrenched the insurgency remains even far from its strongholds. The war continues.  -- Paula Nelson (42 photos total)

Villager Juma Khan meets with the provincial district governor and fellow villagers at a shura, or consultation, on July 23 at the US Marine Patrol Base Salaam Bazaar in Helmand province, Afghanistan. As mentors with the international coalition attempt to phase out their involvement and put Afghan institutions in the lead, the Taliban continue to gain strength in many of Helmand's northern communities, where legitimate Afghan governance is more of a plan than a reality. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
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August 12, 2011 Permalink

Dadaab refugee camp

Brendan Bannon is a photojournalist on assignment for Polaris Images: "I first went to the Dadaab refugee camp, close to the border between Kenya and Somalia, at the end of 2006. Strangely enough, the camp was flooded then. The same parched ground recorded in my photographs was covered by 3 feet of water. Then, people were fleeing from the camp, not fleeing to the camp as they are today. Dadaab has become the largest refugee camp in the world, and Kenya’s fourth largest city: 440,000 people have gathered in makeshift shelters, made of branches and tarps. Experiencing Dadaab again last week was profoundly humbling. I was confronted with deep suffering and need. Slowing down and talking to people, I heard stories of indomitable courage and determination and of making horrible choices. Most of these people have survived 20 years of war in Somalia, two years of drought, and it’s only now that they are fleeing their homeland. They are accomplished survivors. One morning, I was talking to a family of ten. I poured a full glass of water from a pitcher and passed it to a child. He took a sip, and passed it on to his brother and so on. The last one returned it to me with enough left for the last gulp. Even in the camp, they take only what they need to survive and share the rest. What you see on the surface looks like extreme fragility, but it’s actually tremendous resilience and the extraordinary affirmation of their will to live." This post features a collection of Brendan's recent images from Dadaab refugee camp. They tell their own story. -- Paula Nelson (34 photos total)

A young Somali refugee boy and his terminally ill mother, Haretha Abdi at Dadaab refugee camp, near the border of Kenya and Somalia in the horn of Africa. (Brendan Bannon/Polaris Images)
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August 5, 2011 Permalink

Pakistan: Devastating flood, one year later.

Devastating floods, driven by unprecedented monsoon rains, began late in July 2010, leaving one-fifth of Pakistan submerged. The rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan directly affected 20 million people mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure. It left 2,000 people dead and 11 million homeless. In this post, we revisit some of those affected as the monsoon season approaches the region again. The last five images by Reuters photographer Adrees Latif (click on the image to fade the photograph) show us his subjects almost one year later, as he brought them back to the place where he photographed them during the 2010 flooding. -- Paula Nelson (34 photos total)

A female refugee passes a kettle of tea to her husband in preparation to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan at a camp for flood victims in Nowshera, northwest Pakistan on Aug. 2. The couple were forced from their home by floods last year that killed about 2,000 people and left 11 million homeless. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)
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July 29, 2011 Permalink

Horn of Africa: on the brink of a humanitarian crisis

One of the worst droughts in a century, compounded by high food prices and unremitting political strife, is spawning an immense humanitarian crisis on the Horn of Africa. Thousands of Somalis are fleeing their homeland each week; most of those who survive the brutal journey end up in refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. Aid agencies are calling it the worst drought in 60 years. Although centered on Somalia, which lacks a functioning government and suffers from constant battles with Islamic rebels, the crisis has also affected people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Reports suggest parts of Somalia may already be on the verge of famine, a repeat of the emergency situation two decades ago. Resources are woefully inadequate. "Desperate hunger is looming across the Horn of Africa and threatening the lives of millions who are struggling to survive in the face of rising food prices and conflict," World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran said in a release. – Paula Nelson (47 photos total)

With a population of 370,000, Dadaab is the world's largest refugee camp. With drought conditions in the Horn of Africa combined with poor food distribution. The Kenyan camp is expected to house 450,000 refugees by the end of the year, according to Doctors Without Borders. The camp was built to accommodate 90,000. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)
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July 22, 2011 Permalink

Space shuttle era ends with Atlantis

When Atlantis touched down yesterday at Cape Canaveral, Fla., the high-flying era of the space shuttles came down to earth as well. After 30 years, the shuttle program, which began on April 12, 1981 with Colombia, has ended with the 135th mission. Atlantis delivered the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module packed with supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station, and retrieved a failed pump unit and other items for the return trip. Atlantis went aloft 33 times, logging over 125 million miles. The last shuttle will become a museum exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)

The space shuttle Atlantis flies over the Bahamas prior to a perfect docking with the International Space Station on July 10, 2011. Part of a Russian Progress spacecraft docked to the station is in the foreground. (AP Photo/NASA)
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July 6, 2011 Permalink

Ash covered landscape

Puyehue volcano in southern Chile has spread volcanic ash far and wide since it erupted in early June. On Monday, Argentina's president announced that economic relief would be provided to residents affected by the ash in the southwestern region of Patagonia. And as recent as July 1 ash in the atmosphere was disrupting flights at the Buenos Aires airport. These images show how the earth's landscape has been affected. Here's a link to view our original post on June 8. -- Lloyd Young (32 photos total)

A horse walks on a field covered by volcanic ash from Chilean volcano Puyehue, near Villa Llanquin, a hamlet along route 40 on the banks of Limay river, 50 km from Bariloche, in the Argentine province of Rio Negro, on June 17, 2011. The ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue volcano caused widespread travel chaos in the southern hemisphere since it erupted for the first time on June 4 after lying dormant half a century. (rancisco Ramos Mejia/AFP/Getty Images)
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July 1, 2011 Permalink

Wildfire threatens nuclear facility

The Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico spread dangerously close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory this week, causing the evacuation of the town and the shutdown of the lab, which is the headquarters for US military research. The laboratory was created during World War II to develop the first atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project and houses highly sensitive materials. As a precaution, scientists are monitoring radioactivity in the air. The fire is the largest wildfire in the state's history, covering more than 100,000 acres.(Editor's Note: We will not post on Monday, July 4th, we'll see you again on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.) -Leanne Burden Seidel (34 photos total)

A vicious wildfire burns near the Los Alamos Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., on June 28, 2011. The Las Conchas fire spread through the mountains above the northern New Mexico town, driving thousands of people from their homes as officials at the government nuclear laboratory tried to dispel concerns about the safety of sensitive materials. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)
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June 22, 2011 Permalink

Here Comes the Sun

June 21 marked both the summer and winter solstice, the longest or shortest day of the year for sunlight depending on which hemisphere you reside. Here are some glimpses of the power, beauty, and transforming presence of the sun, taken since the beginning of June. -- Lloyd Young(27 photos total)

In this handout photo released by Nasa Earth Observatory on June 7, 2011 and taken from Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory, sunspot complex 1226-1227, shows the Sun unleashing an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm and a coronal mass ejection resulting in a large cloud of particles mushrooming up and falling back down giving the impression of covering an area of almost half the solar surface. An unusual solar flare observed by a NASA space observatory on June 7 could cause some disruptions to satellite communications and power on Earth over the next day or so, officials said. The potent blast from the Sun unleashed a firestorm of radiation on a level not witnessed since 2006, and will likely lead to moderate geomagnetic storm activity by Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. (NASA)
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June 20, 2011 Permalink

Is weather becoming more extreme?

Extreme weather events have always been with us, and always will be. One can't point to a single severe storm, or even an entire harsh winter, as evidence of climate change. But a trend of weather intensity, and oddity, grows. Droughts linger longer. Hurricanes hit harder. Snowstorms strike long after winter should have ended. World record hailstones fall. China endures a crippling drought, and then punishing floods. Millions are displaced in a flood of historic proportion in Pakistan. The U.S. sees the Mississippi River reach historic flood crests, and then sees the largest wildfire in Arizona history. None of these events on their own mean anything. Collectively, do they mean we're seeing the earth's climate change before our eyes? -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)

A huge swath of the United States is affected by a winter storm that brought layers of dangerous ice and blowing snow, closing roads and airports from Texas to Rhode Island in this February 1 satellite image. The storm's more than 2,000-mile reach threatened to leave about a third of the nation covered in harsh weather. Ice fell first and was expected to be followed by up to two feet of snow in some places. (NOAA/AP)
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June 9, 2011 Permalink

Arizona wildfire rages on

A vast wildfire, measuring half the size of the state of Rhode Island and described as the second worst fire in Arizona history, continues to surge across eastern Arizona. The fire has jumped past firefighter's containment lines to reach the edges of residential areas, prompting more evacuation orders. Winds carrying burning embers continue to ignite smaller fires, causing new concerns about the prospect of extinguishing the 13-day-old fire. The Wallow Fire has destroyed approximately 337,000 acres and threatens main electrical lines that supply power as far away as west Texas. Thousands have evacuated. Paula Nelson (35 photos total)

Smoke from the Wallow Fire covers highway 60 in Springerville, Arizona. Several mountain communities have emptied in advance of the fire, and a utility that supplies power to customers in southern New Mexico and west Texas issued warnings of possible power interruptions due to the fire's spread, June 9, 2011. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)
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June 8, 2011 Permalink

Volcano erupts in Chile

The eruption of the Puyehue volcano in the Andes mountains of southern Chile last weekend provided some spectacular images of the force of nature. Ash covers the landscape and thousands of people were evacuated from the surrounding rural communities. The volcano, which hasn't been active since 1960 when it erupted after an earthquake, sent its plume of ash 6 miles high across Argentina and toward the Atlantic Ocean. -- Lloyd Young (33 photos total)

A plume of ash, estimated six miles (10km) high and three mile wide is seen after a volcano erupted in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain, about 575 miles (920 km) south of the capital, Santiago June 4. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
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May 24, 2011 Permalink

Another Icelandic eruption: Grimsvotn volcano

Barely a year after a similar eruption in Iceland forced the biggest closure of European airspace since World War II, the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland on May 21, 2011 has caused hundreds of travel delays. The ash cloud forced U.S. President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland and has raised some fears of a repeat of last year's huge travel disruptions across Europe when emissions from Eyjafjalljokull stranded millions of passengers. Although this disruption is said to be stronger than that of Eyiafjalljokull, it is not expected to have the same impact. Take a look back at two Big Picture posts from the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption: Iceland's disruptive volcano and More from Eyiafjallajokull. -- Paula Nelson (24 photos total)

A plane flies past a smoke plume resulting from the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano, under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, May 21, 2011. Airlines began canceling flights to Britain because of the ash cloud from the volcano reaching its airspace, although experts expected no repeat of travel chaos from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull a year ago. (Olafur Sigurjonsson/Reuters)
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April 21, 2011 Permalink

Photojournalist Chris Hondros: At Work in Misurata, Libya

Getty Images Photographer Chris Hondros, 41, was mortally wounded Wednesday in Misurata, Libya, not long after filing intimate, striking images of the fighting between rebel and government forces. Tim Hetherington, the director and producer of the documentary "Restrepo," was killed in the same attack. While Hetherington's photos were not available to us, we honor both his and Hondros' intense commitment to creating inspiring, touching, storytelling images with this post. The images that follow were made by Hondros in Misurata, Libya, the last three days of his life. Hondros and Hetherington will be missed by colleagues and millions worldwide who have been impacted through simply seeing their work. -- Paula Nelson (39 photos total)

Oscar-nominated British film director and photographer Tim Hetherington (L) climbs from a building in Misurata on April 20, 2011. Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros walks in Misurata on April 18, 2011. Both men, 41, were killed and two other Western journalists were wounded in a mortar attack on April 20, 2011, in the western port city of Misurata. Hetherington and Hondros were the second and third journalists killed in Libya during the two-month-old war between rebels seeking to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi and forces loyal to the strongman, who has ruled for 41 years. (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)
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April 13, 2011 Permalink

Japan's crisis: one month later

Japan is just in the beginning of the long term recovery effort from the earthquake that struck off northeastern Japan on March 11. The crisis alert level from the damage to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant has now been raised to the highest level of impact, the same as the Chernobyl Russia incident 25 years ago. Searchers continue to look for the dead, displaced Japanese live in shelters, protests continue over use of nuclear power, Japan's economic engine may be disrupted, the massive cleanup of debris is just underway, aftershocks are feared and many continue to mourn those who were lost. The photos collected here are from one month to the day of the quake and beyond. -- Lloyd Young (36 photos total)

Buddhist monks, Japan Self-Defense Force personnel, firefighters, and other relief workers observed a moment of silence on "Hiyori Yama," or Weather Hill, in Natori, Miyagi prefecture, on April 11, 2011, exactly one month after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. Local fishermen used to climb the manmade hump and decide whether it was safe to fish. (Koichi Nakamura,Yomiuri Shimbun/Associated Press)
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April 6, 2011 Permalink

Flower power

The spring equinox was March 20 this year, determined by the changing sunlight and how the earth is tilted and orbits the sun. But we don't need to look to the skies to know the seasons are turning. All we have to do is glance more earthbound to find flashes of color and bursts of life. Flowers are appearing in all kinds of places since the equinox. -- Lloyd Young (27 photos total)

A daisy floats in a rain barrel on April 4 in Kaufbeuren, southern Germany. (Karl Josef Hildenbrand/AFP/Getty Images)
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March 25, 2011 Permalink

Dog Sledding season - coming to a close

The well-known Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, held in Alaska, welcomed its first native Alaskan champion since 1976. Begun in 1973, the grueling race - through blizzards, whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures, gale-force winds - covers 1,150 miles in nine to fifteen days from Willow to Nome, Alaska. There are many other sled dog races in locations around the world, including races in Norway, British Columbia, Slovakia, Spain, Czech Republic, Minsk, and through the Alps of France and Switzerland. The following images are a collection from those races. -- Paula Nelson (42 photos total)

A dog rests during the 1000 km (621 miles) long Finnmarkslopet, the world's northernmost sled dog race, in Finnmark county, northern Norway, March 14, 2011. (Tore Meek/Scanpix/Reuters)
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March 16, 2011 Permalink

For Discovery, a farewell spin

Space shuttle Discovery's next mission will be to awe and inspire those who visit it at the Smithsonian Institution. NASA's workhorse shuttle was retired after completing its trip last week to the International Space Station -- that’s 39 missions covering 5,750 orbits, 150 million miles, and almost a year in space since it first lifted off in 1984. It's name was inspired by the exploring ships of the past, including one that plied the Hudson Bay in the early 1600s seeking a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Discovery carried some of NASA's most-distinguished astronauts, including Eileen Collins, the first female commander, Sergei Krikalev, the first Russian to fly on a shuttle, and Senator John Glenn, who returned to space at 76. In its last mission, Discovery dropped Robonaut 2, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space, at the space station. -- Lloyd Young (45 photos total)

Space shuttle Discovery rolls to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its final mission, Jan. 31. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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March 15, 2011 Permalink

Japan: New fears as the tragedy deepens

Continued aftershocks and new earthquakes bring new fears to the survivors of the tragedy. Residents prepare for radiation leaks as the Prime Minister asks everyone to remain indoors - in their homes, their offices and shelters. Ninety one countries have offered help to Japan. Search and rescue and recovery continue in the devastated landscape. The death toll rises, but some hope is realized in the reunions of family and friends. -- Paula Nelson (52 photos total)

Evacuees are screened for radiation contamination at a testing center, March 15, 2011, in Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)
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March 14, 2011 Permalink

Japan: Vast devastation

The vast devastation wrought by the earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, may only be matched by the destroyed lives left in their wake. Few survivors have been found, but families continue to search for their sons, daughters, wives, husbands and friends. Threats of a nuclear reactor meltdown and resulting disaster loom. -- Paula Nelson (51 photos total)

The rubble caused by an earthquake and tsunami fill the landscape in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 14, 2011, three days after northeastern coastal towns were devastated by an earthquake and tsunami. (Associated Press/Kyodo News)
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March 11, 2011 Permalink

Massive earthquake hits Japan

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit off the east coast of Japan early today. The quake -- one of the largest in recorded history -- triggered a 23-foot tsunami that battered Japan's coast, killing hundreds and sweeping away cars, homes, buildings, and boats. Editors note: we'll post more as the story develops -- Lloyd Young (47 photos total)

Houses swallowed by tsunami waves burn in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast Friday, March 11. (Kyodo News/Associated Press)
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February 28, 2011 Permalink

Nyiragongo Crater: Journey to the Center of the World

In June 2010, a team of scientists and intrepid explorers stepped onto the shore of the lava lake boiling in the depths of Nyiragongo Crater, in the heart of the Great Lakes region of Africa. The team had dreamed of this: walking on the shores of the world's largest lava lake. Members of the team had been dazzled since childhood by the images of the 1960 documentary "The Devil's Blast" by Haroun Tazieff, who was the first to reveal to the public the glowing red breakers crashing at the bottom of Nyiragongo crater. Photographer Olivier Grunewald was within a meter of the lake itself, giving us a unique glimpse of its molten matter. (The Big Picture featured Olivier Grunewald's arresting images of sulfur mining in Kawah Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia, in a December 2010 post.) -- Paula Nelson (28 photos total)

The view from the volcano’s rim, 11,380 feet above the ground. At 1,300 feet deep, the lava lake has created one of the wonders of the African continent.
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February 11, 2011 Permalink

World Press Photo: winners

On the morning of February 11, 2011, the international jury of the 54th World Press Photo Contest named a photo by South African photographer Jodi Bieber, World Press Photo of the Year 2010. The image is a portrait of Bibi Aisha, disfigured as punishment for fleeing her husband's house, taken in Kabul, Afghanistan. Over 5,691 photographers entered 108,059 images in the 2011 World Press Photo Contest and after the two-week judging period, 56 were named winners in nine categories. It is a prestigious contest and an honor to be named a winner. The following post shares 23 of those winning images. For more on the contest, including a time-lapse video of the jury room being set up, to hear the jury chairs discuss the images that were named winners, and to learn more about the competition, World Press Photo -- Paula Nelson (23 photos total)

Bibi Aisha, an 18-year-old woman from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, fled back to her family home from her husband's house, complaining of violent treatment. The Taliban arrived one night, demanding Bibi be handed over to face justice. After a Taliban commander pronounced his verdict, Bibi's brother-in-law held her down and her husband sliced off her ears and then cut off her nose. Bibi was abandoned, but later rescued by aid workers and the U.S. military. After time in a women's refuge in Kabul, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery. Bibi Aisha now lives in the United States. World Press Photo of the Year 2010, Jodi Bieber, South Africa, Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery for Time magazine.
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January 28, 2011 Permalink

Challenger disaster: remembered

On January 28, 1986, at 11:38 a.m., EST, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The entire crew of seven was lost in the explosion 73 seconds into the launch. Today, on the 25th anniversary of this national tragedy, we honor in memory the brave crew who gave their lives for the exploration of space. Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire social studies teacher, was NASA's choice for the first teacher in space. Because McAuliffe was our local astronaut, she is featured heavily in this post, but we honor all seven on the anniversary of a nation's great loss. -- Paula Nelson (34 photos total)

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger. From left: Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judith Resnik. (NASA/1986)
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December 31, 2010 Permalink

A New Year rolls in

The world has already begun to welcome 2011, as the New Year has been entered by people living on some Pacific islands, Australia and Asia. As the Earth revolves today, bringing the rest of us into the year 2011, I'll be updating this entry, to show people all over as they ready themselves, celebrate and welcome the New Year. 2011 will be observed as the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac, a year with attributes of gentleness, persistence and luck. Happy New Year everyone! (56 photos total)

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the New Year January 1, 2011. Local authorities planned for over 1.5 million people to crowd the Sydney Harbour foreshore and welcome in the new year under the massive fireworks display. (REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)
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December 16, 2010 Permalink

2010 in photos (part 3 of 3)

As the year 2010 approaches its last few days, it's time to look back on the previous 12 months. In the last third of 2010, Wikileaks released hundreds of classified diplomatic cables, 33 men were rescued from a mine after being trapped for 10 weeks, protesters took to the streets all over the world, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. [Editor's note: The next regular entry will be posted on 12/22] (40 photos total)

Julian Assange, founder and public face of WikiLeaks, which has made public thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables and files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, holds a news conference at the Geneva Press Club in Geneva, Switzerland on November 4th, 2010. (REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud)
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December 15, 2010 Permalink

2010 in photos (part 2 of 3)

As the year 2010 approaches its last few days, it's time to look back on the previous 12 months. In the second third of 2010, a nearly unpronounceable Icelandic volcano wreaked havoc on European travel, South Africa hosted the World Cup, and while Russia endured disastrous fires, Pakistan struggled with its own terrible flooding, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please see part 1 from yesterday and watch for part 3 tomorrow. (40 photos total)

Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from an Icelandic volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010. The volcano spewed ash into the air for weeks, wreaking havoc on flights across Europe. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
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December 14, 2010 Permalink

2010 in photos (part 1 of 3)

As the year 2010 approaches its last few days, it's time to look back on the previous 12 months. In the first third of 2010, Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, several massive earthquakes wreaked havoc worldwide, Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please watch for part 2 and part 3 tomorrow and the next day. (40 photos total)

A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on Thursday, June 3, 2010. Crude oil flowed from a hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for three months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank on April 20th, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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November 19, 2010 Permalink

National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010

National Geographic is once again holding their annual Photo Contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 30th. For the past eight weeks, they have been gathering and presenting galleries of submissions, encouraging readers to rate them as well. National Geographic was again kind enough to let me choose some of their entries from 2010 for display here on The Big Picture. Collected below are 47 images from the three categories of People, Places and Nature. Captions were written by the individual photographers. (47 photos total)

Kanana Camp, Botswana. Pulling over by the side of the road to watch a grazing giraffe, we spotted an amber head lurking behind a small mound. A hungry lioness. Watching, waiting, camera to my eye, she eventually chose her moment and pounced just as the giraffe sensed danger. The lioness gave chase, but failed. Hungry, she lay down, invisible, in the grass not ten feet from us and waited again. (Photo and caption by Alex Tan)
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November 17, 2010 Permalink

In Protest

Taking their desires to be heard to the streets, thousands of protesters and demonstrators around the world have recently been marching, shouting, praying, and engaging in both theater and violence to make their points. From quiet, prayerful requests for peace in Mexico to the violent takeover of an office building in London to student demonstrators in Chile and gay rights activists making a statement to the Pope in Spain, the past two weeks has been full of protest. Their reasons are many - anger with austerity measures, frustration with incumbent governments and globalization, frustration with policies in other countries - even protests against other protesters. Collected here is a view of protests and demonstrations around the world over the past two weeks. (50 photos total)

An activist from the women rights organization "Femen" shouts at an Interior Ministry officer as she takes part in a rally to support Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, by the Iranian embassy in Kiev, November 3, 2010. Ashtiani, whose sentence of execution by stoning for adultery provoked a worldwide outcry, will instead be hanged for the murder of her husband, a human rights group said. (REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin)
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May 28, 2010 Permalink

Lighter than air

Fill a lightweight material with hot air, helium or hydrogen, and you have a vessel that floats in the air. People around the world use balloons, blimps and airships for transportation, to conduct research, to deliver messages, to protest, and - mostly - for having fun. Collected here are recent photographs of balloons of all shapes, sizes and purposes - ranging from a child's toy to a football-field-sized research instrument, and much in between. (31 photos total)

The MetLife blimp soars above the course during the third round of The Players Championship held at at TPC Sawgrass on May 8, 2010 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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April 23, 2010 Permalink

Earth Day 2010

Yesterday was Earth Day, since 1970 it's been a day set aside to remember and appreciate the Earth's environment, and all of our roles within it. As a way to help appreciate and observe our environment, I've collected 39 recent images here, each a glimpse into some aspect of the world around us, how it affects and sustains us, and how we affect it. Here's hoping everyone had a great Earth Day yesterday. (39 photos total)

The most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth created to date. Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer of our planet. Much of the information contained in this image came from a single remote-sensing device-NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. Flying over 700 km above the Earth onboard the Terra satellite. (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)
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March 29, 2010 Permalink

Earth Hour 2010

Beginning in Sydney, Australia three years ago, Earth Hour has grown into a global observance. States, large organizations and individual people observed Earth Hour 2010 on Saturday March 27th, as homes, office towers and landmarks turned off their lights for an hour starting at 8.30 pm local time to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Collected here are a series of before-and-after photographs from this year - which (starting with the second one below) will fade between "on" and "off" when clicked. [See also: last year] This effect requires javascript to be enabled. (26 photos total)

These two photos show Malaysia's landmark Petronas Twin Towers before, left, and after being turned off its lights to mark Earth Hour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, March 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
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March 19, 2010 Permalink

Record setters

Earlier this week, the world's shortest man, He Pingping, age 21, died after developing chest pains while filming a television show in Italy. Pingping suffered from primordial dwarfism, a condition which kept him from ever growing taller than 73 cm (2 feet 5 inches) tall. Pingping was recognized by the Guinness World Records organization, who also held a "World Records Day" last November, encouraging people all over the world to set their own records. Collected here are a group of superlatives, recent photos of world records and record attempts around the world. (31 photos total)

He Pingping of China smiles as Sultan Kosen of Turkey rests his hands on He's shoulders during a promotional event in Istanbul, Turkey on January 14, 2010. He, with a height of 73 cm (2 feet 5 inch), and Kosen, with a height of 246.5 cm (8 feet 1 inch), have been listed in the Guinness World Records as the world's shortest man and tallest man respectively. (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)
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January 25, 2010 Permalink

At work, part II

Although the global economic downturn no longer appears to be heading off a cliff, signs of stability or recovery are still sporadic and tenuous. As news stories look for signs of of the direction of economic indicators, photographs fill the wires of people working from all over. Once more, I've collected some of these disparate photos over the past couple of months, composing another global portrait we humans at work around the world. [see also At Work - 02/09] (45 photos total)

A worker rotates a gas turbine during assembly at the Siemens gas turbine factory on January 8, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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January 15, 2010 Permalink

Fire and Ice

For today's entry, an exercise in contrasts: Fire and Ice. Fire can be a life-sustaining, constructive element, or, at worst, a powerfully destructive force - something we humans continue to use, play with, and struggle to control. Ice is closer to the natural state of the universe, cold, still and lifeless. Earth's orbit lies in a "Goldilocks zone" where we may seasonally experience icy environments, but never freeze completely. Collected here are several recent alternating photographs from around the world of both Fire and Ice. (40 photos total)

Members of the public enjoy a late afternoon walk on the frozen Lake of Menteith, on January 4, 2010 in Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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January 1, 2010 Permalink

Welcoming 2010

People all around the world gathered in groups large and small last night to usher out the previous year, and welcome the arrival of 2010. Under a rare New Year's Eve Blue Moon, crowds watched fireworks, cheered, made resolutions, and counted down to midnight. 2010 is the year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, signifying a year of bravery and courage. Collected here are some photographs of people across the earth as they welcomed the new year in many different ways. (38 photos total)

Fireworks explode beside the London Eye and The Houses of Parliament on the River Thames during New Year celebrations in London January 1, 2010. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
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December 18, 2009 Permalink

The decade in news photographs

Call it what you will, "the noughties", "the two-thousands" or something else, the first decade of the 21st century (2000-2009) is now over. Looking back on the past ten years through news photographs, it becomes clear that it was a dramatic, often brutal decade. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks and wars were by far the most dominant theme. Ten years ago, Bill Clinton was ending his final term in office, very few had ever heard of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq - all that and much more has changed in the intervening time. It's really an impossible task to sum up ten years in a handful of photographs, but below is my best attempt at a look back at the last decade - feel free to let me know what I missed in the comments below. (50 photos total)

Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in downtown Baghdad, in this April 9, 2003 file photo. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)
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December 16, 2009 Permalink

2009 in photos (part 3 of 3)

The year 2009 is now coming to a close, and it's time to take a look back over the past 12 months through photographs. Historic elections were held in Iran, India and the United States, some wars wound down while others escalated, China turned 60, and the Berlin Wall was remembered 20 years after it came down. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2009. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please see also part 1 and part 2. (40 photos total)

Fireworks illuminate the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin November 9, 2009, during celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)
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December 15, 2009 Permalink

2009 in photos (part 2 of 3)

The year 2009 is now coming to a close, and it's time to take a look back over the past 12 months through photographs. Historic elections were held in Iran, India and the United States, some wars wound down while others escalated, China turned 60, and the Berlin Wall was remembered 20 years after it came down. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2009. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please watch for part 3 tomorrow and have a look back at part 1 from yesterday. (40 photos total)

Before the Iranian election, a supporter of main challenger and reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi forms a heart shape with her hands to indicate her support, while wearing green ribbons - the color of the party, amidst a festive atmosphere at an election rally rally in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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December 14, 2009 Permalink

2009 in photos (part 1 of 3)

The year 2009 is now coming to a close, and it's time to take a look back over the past 12 months through photographs. Historic elections were held in Iran, India and the United States, some wars wound down while others escalated, China turned 60, and the Berlin Wall was remembered 20 years after it came down. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2009. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Please watch for part 2 and part 3 tomorrow and the next day. (40 photos total)

Barack H. Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States as his wife Michelle Obama holds the Bible and their daughters Malia Obama and Sasha Obama look on, on the West Front of the Capitol January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Chuck Kennedy-Pool/Getty Images)
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November 23, 2009 Permalink

National Geographic's International Photography Contest 2009

National Geographic's International Photography Contest attracts thousands of entries from photographers of all skill levels around the world every year. While this year's entry deadline has passed, there is still time to view and vote for your favorites in the Viewer's Choice competition. National Geographic was kind enough to let me choose a few of their entries from 2009 for display here on The Big Picture. Collected below are 25 images from the three categories of People, Places and Nature. Captions were written by the individual photographers. (25 photos total)

Nazroo, a mahout (elephant driver), poses for a portrait while taking his elephant, Rajan, out for a swim in front of Radha Nagar Beach in Havelock, Andaman Islands. Rajan is one of the few elephants in Havelock that can swim, so when he is not dragging timber in the forest he is used as a tourist attraction. The relationship between the mahout and his elephant usually lasts for their entire lives, creating an extremely strong tie between the animal and the human being. (Photo and caption by Cesare Naldi)
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September 16, 2009 Permalink

A collection of kisses

A kiss - a simple act that can convey a diverse array of meanings. A kiss can be intimate and private, or meant for public display, it can convey love and affection, or simply provide comfort. Its use as a greeting is under fire in our current climate of H1N1 fear, as the French government has begun encouraging citizens to forgo "la bise", their traditional cheek-to-cheek kiss, for health reasons. Gathered here are 33 recent photos of kisses expressing greetings and farewells, congratulations and joy, respect and, above all, love. (33 photos total)

Team Columbia rider Mark Cavendish of Britain receives kisses on the podium after winning the second stage of the Tour of Ireland cycling race in Killarney August 22, 2009. (REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth)
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July 27, 2009 Permalink

Stories from Israel, Tanzania and Malaysia

Today, we have three shorter stories, from The Israel-Syria border, Tanzania and Malaysia. Each of these stories caught my eye over the past year, yet I never had enough photographs of each to run them as their own Big Picture entry. Today, I'm happy to share them with you in a single entry in three parts. Below, you will find the story of an Israeli Druze bride who traveled (by foot) north to Syria to wed - and to never return, because Syria and Israel do not have diplomatic ties. You'll also see the faces of a hunted minority in Tanzania, albinos who live in fear of being murdered for their body parts, which will be used for talismans and luck potions. And we end with a visit to a clan of Bajau people, or "sea gypsies", an indigenous group living a seaborne life in boats and huts on stilts, rarely coming ashore, off the coast of Malaysia. (31 photos total)

From left to right: Arin Safadi, a Druze woman from the Golan Heights, sets out on a one-way trip to her wedding in Syria; A teenage albino girl in a government-run school in Tanzania, being sheltered from criminals who have already killed dozens of albinos to sell their body parts for luck potions and talismans; Bajau boys, also known as "sea gypsies", paddle their boat near their homes on stilts in the Sulawesi Sea off of Malaysia.
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July 20, 2009 Permalink

Our muddy world

Combine two of the most common materials found on the surface of our planet - dirt and water - and you get mud, which, in turn, can be played in, struggled through, rubbed on for medicinal value, or just worn for fun. Collected over the past few months from festivals sporting events and more, you'll find here photographs of people around the world playing with, wallowing in, wearing and just dealing with mud - one of the filthiest entries on the Big Picture to date. (31 photos total)

A man covered in mineral-rich black mud looks on while resting on the banks of the salt water Tus lake in Russia's Khakassia region, about 370 km (230 miles) southwest of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, July 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin)
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June 19, 2009 Permalink

Dance around the world

We humans are natural dancers. Dances can be celebrations, or for praise, or for an audience - or just a simple act of letting the rhythm move your body. Dancers can communicate ideas, preserve cultural identities, strengthen social bonds, or just have a lot of fun. Collected here are recent photographs of us, human beings around the world, professional and amateur, in motion for all of the reasons above and more. [See also: Dance around the world, part II] (39 photos total)

A dancer from the English National Ballet performing 'Ballets Russes' at Sadler's Wells poses in her 'Dying Swan' costume designed by Karl Largerfeld on June 16, 2009 in London, England. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
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April 29, 2009 Permalink

Human landscapes from above

Photographer Jason Hawkes returns to The Big Picture once more, this time venturing away from London (seen previously here and here). Recently, Hawkes has been carrying his Nikon D3 aboard helicopters around the world, hanging out the doorway and capturing landscapes - most somehow affected by humans - below. Today, he has shared with us 26 more of his favorite photos from above France, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, the UK and more - with links to Google maps where available. (26 photos total)

Red vans awaiting shipment, parked on disused aerodrome at Upper Heyford Oxfordshire, UK. [google map] (© Jason Hawkes)
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April 22, 2009 Permalink

Earth Day 2009

Today is Earth Day, a day set aside for awarenesss and appreciation of the Earth's environment, and our roles within it - this year marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. As a way to help appreciate and observe our environment, I've collected 40 images below, each a glimpse into some aspect of the world around us, how it affects and sustains us, and how we affect it. Happy Earth Day everyone. (40 photos total)

This view of Earth, featuring North, Central and South America was taken by the NASA probe called Messenger, while conducting a fly-by of our planet in order to pick up a gravity-assist boost on its way toward Mercury. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)
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March 30, 2009 Permalink

Earth Hour 2009

Started in Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour quickly grew into a global observance. More than 1,000 cities in over 80 countries observed Earth Hour 2009 on Saturday March 28th, as homes, office towers and landmarks turned off their lights for an hour starting at 8.30 pm local time to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Collected here are a series of before-and-after photographs - which (starting with the second one below) will fade between "on" and "off" when clicked. Let me state that again, since I know not everyone reads the whole intro here - starting with image #2 below, click on the image to see an animated fade between "on" and "off". This effect requires javascript to be enabled. (17 photos total)

A combination of handout pictures shows a view of the Taipei 101 building before and after (L-R) Earth Hour in Taipei March 28, 2009. More than 80 countries have signed up for Earth Hour on Saturday in which homes, office towers and landmarks will turn off their lights from 8.30 pm local time to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. (REUTERS/Taipei 101/Handout)
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February 20, 2009 Permalink

At work

When the economy makes big news, many photographs of people at work come across the wires, usually to help illustrate a particular story or event. By collecting these disparate photos over the past few months, I found that a global portrait emerged of we humans producing things. People assembling, generating, and building items small and large, mundane and expensive, trivial and important. I hope you enjoy this look into some people's work lives around the world. (45 photos total)

Electric Time Co. employee Walter Rodriguez cleans the face of an 84-inch Wegman clock at the plant in Medfield, Mass. Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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January 14, 2009 Permalink

Earth, observed

The Earth Observatory is a website run by NASA's Earth Observing System Project Science Office (EOSPSO). Bringing together imagery from many different satellites and astronaut missions, the website publishes fantastic images with highly detailed descriptions, feature articles and more. Gathered here are some standout photographs from the collections in the Earth Observatory over the past several years. For more images and information, please visit the Earth Observatory site itself. (23 photos total)

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured this image of a dust storm as it swirled over China in April of 2001. A strong temperate cyclone spun counter-clockwise over China, pushing a wall of dust as it moved. The deep tan dust is not only thick enough to completely hide much of the land surface below, but it almost forms its own topography, with ridges of dust rising up below the clouds. The spiral arms of white cloud are approximately 200km wide. (NASA/Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon/MODIS science team)
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December 19, 2008 Permalink

2008, the year in photographs (part 3 of 3)

2008 has been an eventful year to say the least - it is difficult to sum up the thousands of stories in just a handful of photographs. That said, I will try to do what I've done with other photo narratives here, and tell a story of 2008 in photographs. It's not the story of 2008, it's certainly not all stories, but as a collection it does show a good portion of what life has been like over the past 12 months. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Look for part 1 and part 2 earlier. (40 photos total)

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama waves to the crowd at a rally in the rain at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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December 18, 2008 Permalink

2008 in photographs (part 2 of 3)

2008 has been an eventful year to say the least - it is difficult to sum up the thousands of stories in just a handful of photographs. That said, I will try to do what I've done with other photo narratives here, and tell a story of 2008 in photographs. It's not the story of 2008, it's certainly not all stories, but as a collection it does show a good portion of what life has been like over the past 12 months. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Look for part 1 from yesterday and part 3 tomorrow. (40 photos total)

Imam Hashim Raza leads mourners in prayer during a funeral for Mohsin Naqvi at al-Fatima Islamic Center in Colonie, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 22, 2008. Naqvi was a Muslim, a native of Pakistan (he emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 8 years old and became a citizen at 16) and a U.S. Army officer. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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December 17, 2008 Permalink

The year 2008 in photographs (part 1 of 3)

2008 has been an eventful year to say the least - it is difficult to sum up the thousands of stories in just a handful of photographs. That said, I will try to do what I've done with other photo narratives here, and tell a story of 2008 in photographs. It's not the story of 2008, it's certainly not all stories, but as a collection it does show a good portion of what life has been like over the past 12 months. This is a multi-entry story, 120 photographs over three days. Watch for part 2 and part 3 tomorrow and the next day. (40 photos total)

Lightning bolts appear above and around the Chaiten volcano as seen from Chana, some 30 kms (19 miles) north of the volcano, as it began its first eruption in thousands of years, in southern Chile May 2, 2008. Cases of electrical storms breaking out directly above erupting volcanoes are well documented, although scientists differ on what causes them. Picture taken May 2, 2008. (Carlos Gutierrez)
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September 8, 2008 Permalink

Hurricanes, as seen from orbit

Hurricane Ike just rolled across Cuba, and soaked parts of Haiti - both regions still reeling from recent Hurricane Gustav. Ike appears to be weakening now, but is headed tward the Gulf Coast of the U.S., and may yet strengthen. The crew aboard the International Space Station was able to take a photo of Ike from 220 miles overhead last Thursday - one in a long series of great NASA photographs of hurricanes from space. Here are some of the best, from the past several years. (25 photos total)

Hurricane Ike was still a Category 4 storm on the morning of Sept. 4 when this photo was taken from the International Space Station's vantage point of 220 miles above the Earth. The season's seventh named storm was churning west-northwestward through the mid-Atlantic Ocean sporting winds of 120 nautical miles per hour with gusts to 145. (photo courtesy NASA and the crew of the International Space Station)
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June 9, 2008 Permalink

The Sky, From Above

The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched last week, becoming the 154th manned US space mission. It flew to the International Space Station, delivering (among other things) a Japanese module called Kibo, repair parts for a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear action figure, one of Lance Armstrong's yellow jerseys, and 18 sesame seed bagels - the first bagels ever to reach Earth orbit. Completion of this mission will leave only eight flights remaining in the Space Shuttle program until its end in 2010.

One of the best features of the space program has always been astronaut photography, and I will take this opportunity to share some of the best photographs of Earth's skies, taken from above - way above (over 200 miles to be more exact). (15 photos total)


The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from launch pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center on May 31, 2008 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, en route to the International Space Station on a construction mission. (Eliot J. Schechter /Getty Images)

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