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Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

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The winners of the 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest have just been announced, with a group of ten photos coming out on top, plus one Viewer's Choice winner. These eleven images were chosen from more than 12,000 entries submitted by 6,615 photographers from 152 countries. National Geographic was kind enough to allow me to share the winning photographs with you here, from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Also, be sure to see the earlier entry featuring 40 images from the submissions to this year's contest.. [11 photos]

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A Japanese maple, by Fred An, one of seven Merit winners. "This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. I tried to bring a different perspective of this frequently photographed tree." (© Fred An/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
A Japanese maple, by Fred An, one of seven Merit winners. "This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. I tried to bring a different perspective of this frequently photographed tree." (© Fred An/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)
First place winner, by Cedric Houin. "This image was shot in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. The intimacy of this everyday life moment, shot inside of a family yurt, is in total contrast with the harsh environment these nomadic tribes live in. On the right we notice a television and a sound console. These tribes live weeks away from any village by foot. In spite of being located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan they are equipped with solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones. Ancestral ways of living, with touches of modernity." (© Cedric Houin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by Lucia Griggi. "Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean." (© Lucia Griggi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
Second place winner, by Vo Anh Kiet. "H'Mong minority children were playing with their balloons on a foggy day in Moc Chau - Ha Giang province, Vietnam. Shooting time Jan 2012." (© Vo Anh Kiet/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by Ken Bower. "The village of Gásadalur and the island of Mykines in the background. Until a tunnel was built in 2004, the 16 residents living in Gásadalur had to take a strenuous hike or horseback over the steep 400 meter mountain in order to make it to the other villages. It was a rare sunny day in the Faroe Islands and I had to wait until the clouds rolled in to provide some softer light. I decided to go with a long exposure (1 minute 10 seconds) to illustrate the force of the wind and a serene sea among the isolated islands." (© Ken Bower/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by Peter DeMarco. "More than 2,000 Buddhist temples and pagodas fill the plains of Bagan. Once the capital of the Pagan Empire, farmers now raise their livestock within the centuries old complex. The best way to see Bagan, apart from a ride on a hot air balloon, is by bicycle. It's easy to get off the beaten path and live out your wildest Indiana Jones fantasy." (© Peter DeMarco/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by SauKhiang Chau. "The Last Supper Of Da Vinci? No, They are just some old men of Chefchaouen with djellaba, sitting and talking each other." (© SauKhiang Chau/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by Camila Massu. "My sister in the south of Chile. We are sitting at home next to the fireplace in our southern lake house when it suddenly began to pour uncontrollably. Had to rush into the lake to take this snapshot!" (© Camila Massu/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
One of seven Merit winners, by Ken Thorne. "Near the city of Morondava, on the West coast of Madagascar lies an ancient forest of Baobab trees. Unique to Madagascar, the endemic species is sacred to the Malagasy people, and rightly so. Walking amongst these giants is like nothing else on this planet. Some of the trees here are over a thousand years old. It is a spiritual place, almost magical." (© Ken Thorne/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
Third place winner, by Andrea Guarneri. "During the Easter holy celebration called 'Misteri' (mystery) in Trapani, the devotees carry the scenes of Christ's passion on their shoulders all night long. When the day comes they take a break." (© Andrea Guarneri/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #
Viewer's choice winner, by Michelle Schantz. "A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finmmark, Norway." (© Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest) #

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