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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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Hindus around the world -- from South Asia to Britain and beyond -- observe many colorful holidays throughout the year. Recent festivals include the Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the birth of the elephant-headed deity, and Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of the god Krishna. The range of experiences at these celebrations runs from joyfully loud and spectacular to solemn and contemplative. Each devotee celebrates in a distinct, personal way even while joining the larger community. Hinduism is the world's third-largest religion; the majority of its one billion adherents are concentrated in India, but sizable communities exist all over the globe. I hope you enjoy these vivid, intriguing glimpses of Hindu festivals photographed over the past few months. [39 photos]

Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

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