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Tonga

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The time to enter the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is running short -- entries will be accepted for another few days, until June 30, 2013. The 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 later entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. Also, be sure to see Part 1, earlier on In Focus. [46 photos]

From the 'Sense of Place' category, a couple paddle out for a sunset surf in the coastal surfing town of Byron Bay, Australia. (© Ming Nomchong/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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Computer engineer Jonas Pfeil was on the island of Tonga when he created several panoramas by taking multiple photos and painstakingly stitching them together on a PC. While hiking, Pfeil thought there must be a better way to capture panoramas. The idea of a ball thrown into the air came to mind, and he began making plans to realize it. Since then, Pfeil and his group have developed a working model of a spherical camera you can toss, juggle or hurl. Pfeil writes:

“The camera is thrown into the air and captures an image at the highest point of flight – when it is hardly moving. The camera takes full spherical panoramas, requires no preparation and images are taken instantaneously.
The ball camera uses 36 fixed-focus 2 megapixel mobile phone camera modules. The camera modules are mounted in a robust, 3D-printed, ball-shaped enclosure that is padded with foam and handles just like a ball. Our camera contains an accelerometer which we use to measure launch acceleration. Integration lets us predict rise time to the highest point, where we trigger the exposure. After catching the ball camera, pictures are downloaded in seconds using USB and automatically shown in our spherical panoramic viewer.

We used the camera to capture full spherical panoramas at scenic spots, in a crowded city square and in the middle of a group of people taking turns in throwing the camera. For me the most interesting and unexpected result was that group pictures came out so cool. I think it’s because people are facing each other and are therefore more engaged. Normally people all stare into a camera and don’t see each other.”

The panorama shown here was taken in Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Germany. Pfeil and friends wanted to illustrate the fact that the image is taken simultaneously in all directions. This makes it possible to photograph moving objects. For example, you can see the banana and water bottle aloft in the panorama. The Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera is not yet available for sale, and the patent is pending. Other members of the project are Kristian Hildebrand, Carsten Gremzow, Bernd Bickel, Marc Alexa, and you can follow them on Twitter.

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BOY WITH THE MASK
BOY WITH THE MASK: Wang Gengxiang, known as ‘Masked Boy,’ played with a balloon in Shanxi Province, China, Thursday. The 6-year-old was severely burned last winter in an accident involving a pile of burning straw. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

TAKING A HIT
TAKING A HIT: Spc. Marcus Clay rode in a mine-resistant vehicle as an improvised explosive device detonated in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Friday. No one was injured. (Johannes Eisele/Aence France-Presse/Getty Images)

HUDDLED TOGETHER
HUDDLED TOGETHER: Players were locked in a scrum during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Friday. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

ALL ABOARD
ALL ABOARD: Officials rode a train during the inauguration Friday of the second metro rail network in Dubai, which opened after a two-year delay. (Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

SHIELDED
SHIELDED: Police took up positions as protesters pulled down a concrete wall in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday. Since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, calls have grown in Egypt for ending a 1979 peace treaty with Israel. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

FLOATING ALONG
FLOATING ALONG: Rob Hewitt floated past flooded buildings in Port Deposit, Md., Friday. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation as the Susquehanna River, swollen with rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, continued to rise. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

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