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The 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is under way, and entries will be accepted for another six weeks, until June 30, 2013. First prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the early entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. [42 photos]

A fennec fox walks against the wind in Morocco. The fennec, or desert fox, is a small nocturnal fox found in the Sahara Desert in North Africa. (© Francisco Mingorance/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)    

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Any "best of" list must surely be subjective. This one is no different. Choosing the best photographs of the year is an enormously difficult task, with many terrific photographs slipping through the cracks. But with major news events as a guide, and with single images I fell in love with throughout the year forcing their way into the edit, I look at my favorite pictures from the first four months of the year. Two main stories dominated headlines in the first part of the year: the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the rising of the Arab Spring. The protests in the Middle East would spread to Greece, Spain, and eventually inspire the Occupy movement in Western nations. Other stories included a historic wave of tornados in the U.S., a Royal wedding in London, and the creation of the world's newest nation in South Sudan. Images from the rest of the year will follow in posts later this week. -- Lane Turner (36 photos total)
A wave caused by a tsunami flows into the city of Miyako from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck Japan March 11, 2011. (Mainichi Shimbun /Reuters)

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HURT LOCKER REDUX HURT LOCKER REDUX: A car bomb exploded Friday as a member of a Thai bomb squad was inspecting it in Narathiwat Province, Thailand. A bomb by suspected insurgents wounded a member of a Thai bomb squad, police said. (Stringer/Reuters)

A TUMBLE A TUMBLE: Jockey Giovanni Atzeni fell from his horse during a trial race Friday at Del Campo Square in Siena, Italy. (Augusto Mattioli/Reuters)

ROUGH LANDING ROUGH LANDING: Drama unfolded in the air as two parachutists got in a tangle during an event Friday at the 2011 Airpower air show in Zeltweg, Austria. Both soldiers were injured; they were taken to nearby hospitals. (Mario Kuhnke/European Pressphoto Agency)

TROUBLED HOSPITAL TROUBLED HOSPITAL: A mother carried her child from the Dr. B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital Friday in Kolkata, India. Some 17 infants died within 48 hours this week at the government-run hospital. In 2006, 22 infants died in three days at the hospital; at the time, the hospital blamed prematurity or acute infections. (Piyal Adhikary/European Pressphoto Agency)

LANDSLIDE TRAGEDY LANDSLIDE TRAGEDY: Firefighters retrieved the body of a landslide victim in Chittagong, Bangladesh, Friday. Officials said rescuers have recovered 12 bodies and two survivors from the rubble. Landslides are common in the region during the monsoon season. (Stringer/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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