There were majestic peaks mirrored in mountain lakes. Storm clouds brewing over wind-whipped oceans. The cobblestoned streets
of European cities and the dusty lanes of Asian and African villages. There were — of course! — sunsets galore, animals both cute and predatory, mysterious abandoned buildings, haunting tree-lined roadways and family beach vacations. Oddly, it was a banner year for birds (see above). The images poured in to our annual reader photo contest, nearly 1,400 of them, as all you avid travelers and fearless photographers answered the challenge to prove your shutterbugging skills. We focused hard on every shot, oohing and aahing — and awww-ing a lot as personal favorites fell to the cutting room floor. Finally, we narrowed them down to a gallery of four winners and 11 honorable mentions. It was a tough job, but we’re confident that our finalists reflect the essence of what we’re looking for: creativity, imagination, skill, a sharp eye and even just the plain old luck of the lens. But always, and above all, the wonder of travel.