Every summer, as the entries pour in for our annual travel photo contest, we paw through our mailbox, curious to see what you think is worth a shot. We can always count on a lot of critters. And this being a travel photo contest, we're not talking cute kittens (although we get those, too). One year safari pictures were hot. Another time it was carcasses -- pigs' heads, splayed cow corpses. (What were you thinking?) Your latest obsession? Giraffes. For some reason, the long-lashed ruminants really made your shutter fingers twitch this year. See the best of the beasts on Page 5.

But you'll notice there are no critters in the winners' circle. This year, the judges -- Post Assistant Managing Editor for Photography Joe Elbert and the Travel section staff -- were drawn to people, be they harried, silhouetted, wide-eyed or burqua'd (two shots from Kabul!). Okay, there's one exception, as novel as it is beautiful: a shot of Seattle's Pioneer Square taken with a handmade pinhole camera and using a five-minute exposure. That one won the Photo Geek category as well as Fourth Place.

But you don't have to be an expert to capture our attention. You just have to see the world around you in an original way, and send us the evidence. Here and on Pages 4, 7 and 8, we present the winners of our fifth annual photo contest.

1st place

"There should be a category called 'Found Pictures,' " the judges said when they saw Stephens's shot of two museum-goers backlit by a faux sun at London's Tate Modern. Shooting into the ball of light created a monochromatic image, and the layering of the young girls in the foreground and others in the background adds depth.2nd place

The colors and textures make this photo of a Kabul, Afghanistan, boy a standout. Lindsey says the sight brought "life and promise to our otherwise dreary drive along the cobblestone streets." 3rd place

Hours of waiting at Chicago's O'Hare airport have clearly taken a toll on Ruth Carolan, photographed with 2-year-old Hattie. "This is a special little picture that's loaded with emotion," said the judges.4th place

The judges loved this intriguing perspective of Seattle's Pioneer Square and were impressed by the method with which it was accomplished: Foss built his own pinhole camera and used a five-minute exposure. The impressionistic scene has a period feeling; the camera contributed by softening the edges. 5th place

"Interesting pictures often generate questions," the judges said of this picture of an Afghan woman begging on the streets of Kabul. Fleming was part of a delegation in the country for a conference on women's issues; she got this compelling shot when the van she was in stopped on the street.