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.


Judy Bonderman, Washington

The public interest attorney and retired professor, 68, was at a rooftop party in Havana in February when the host surprised his guests by releasing some homing pigeons from their cage. Bonderman grabbed her camera to capture the birds “flying in front of the sinking sun” and snapped a shot just as one white dove came in for a landing. It was “a magical vision framed by the crumbling city scape of the Cuban capital,” she said, “amost unexpected shot from a trip filled with spontaneous poetic moments.” Our favorite kind of travel.

2nd place

Barbara French Pace, Washington

The colorful flash of a kayak against the dark water of Antarctica’s Paradise Bay caught Pace’s attention as she stood on the deck of her cruise ship in February, trying for that one shot “that would sum up the many days of beauty that I felt privileged to have experienced.” The retired foreign affairs professional, 69, who’s now a landscape painter, was struck by “the sense that two people had stopped paddling to sit back and marvel at the incredible beauty around them in this remote place on a perfect day.”

3rd place

Rebecca Olson,
Point Reyes Station, Calif.

It was a rainy April day in Rome when Olson, a 30-year-old student and innkeeper, shot this scene of vivid umbrellas moving through the Colosseum with her iPhone, using the Hipstamatic application. “I wanted to remember their bright colors in contrast to the somber Colosseum,” she said.

4th place


“I liked the contrasting colors and clean line of the sand dune as it framed the subject reaching toward the sky,” McCormack, a 27-year-old U.S. government contractor, said of her striking shot, taken in April at the Erg Chebbi sand dunes near Merzouga, Morocco. We liked the same things.