"I could make a sweeping statement about how this photo is a commentary on the way our relationships with technology supplant meaningful human interaction, but I'm drawn to this image for a far more visceral reason: I'd much rather be one of the people on the left than the guy on the right. And so would you."—Dawn Deeks, associate photo editor
"Bright and brash, the flash is what makes this image, highlighting youthful, sexy partygoers in contemporary life—simultaneously engaged and disengaged in a crowded room."—Sarah Polger, senior photo editor
Photograph by Brandon Smith, Your Shot
February 2012: Heavenly View
A young visitor gazes upward during a visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, as hanging lights seem to mimic stars in the firmament.
The mosque was built during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I in the early 1600s, reportedly to rival the majesty of the Hagia Sophia, an ancient Byzantine cathedral later converted into a mosque. The sultan's creation earned its colorful moniker due to the thousands of blue ceramic tiles that decorate the interior.
"I love the vague praying figures in the far end, in comparison to the boy's complete obsession over the lights. It's as if his heart shrinks and lights up at the same time. This photo reminds me we can never see the world the way others see it in their eyes."—Echo Xie, photo intern
"The boy's unusual pose makes this picture of an oft-photographed scene more compelling than most—and the photographer's careful composition kept us from being distracted by the many other details of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque."—Chris Combs, news photo editor
"This image shows the absolute power and utter randomness of Mother Nature. A roof is ripped cleanly off a home while a football helmet on a dresser hasn't budged."—Monica Corcoran, senior photo editor
"The angle of this photo makes it look like a studio setup: house with roof blown off, man browsing through books on the dresser among all the ruins, the fallen trees outside. ... It's painful to think they're real people suffering from real loss."—Echo Xie, photo intern
Photograph by Billy Weeks, AP
April 2012: Saturation Point
Powder-splattered, and powder-splattering, runners cross the finish line of The Color Run 5K in Irvine, California, on April 22. Each kilometer (0.6 mile) of the event features a color-pelting station dedicated to a single hue, culminating in the Pollock-esque riot at kilometer 5.
The "magical color dust" is completely safe, organizers say, though they admit it's "surprisingly high in calories and leaves a chalky aftertaste."
"Vibrant color floating through the air automatically brings to mind festive Holi celebrations in India. We expect to see revelers in Mumbai but instead find a surprise in the lower third of the frame—runners in California!"—Sarah Polger, senior photo editor
"There are a lot of eye-catching photographs of the festival of Holi in India that show colored powder in midair, but this particular situation has the people all lined up in a row—making it easy to see each of their very cinematic facial expressions."—Chris Combs, news photo editor
Photograph by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/AP
May 2012: Union of the "Snakes"
Captured in a microscope photograph submitted to National Geographic's My Shot photo community by U.K.-based Greg Parker, two strands of the snaking Spirogyra algae sexually reproduce. So-called conjugation tubes link the strands' cells, allowing them to exchange genetic information.
Often seen floating in thin strands on freshwater streams and ponds, Spirogyra cells are filled with chloroplasts—packets of chlorophyll that allow the plants to generate energy via photosynthesis—whose spiraling shapes give the genus its name.
Rescuers cut off the ends of thin steel bars that impaled a Chinese migrant worker on June 12.
The worker, surnamed Zheng, was at a construction site in Ningde city the same day when a malfunctioning machine shot the reinforcing rods roughly sideways through his body, leaving the ends protruding from his upper chest and middle back. After some five hours of surgery in the provincial capital of Hangzhou, Zheng was recuperating in an intensive care unit.
"Despite what looks to have been a tense and chaotic scene—the flying sparks, noise of blades on steel, gritted teeth—the photographer manages to present a clear and compelling picture, allowing us to fully appreciate all of the details, right down to the person in the back capturing the moment on a cell phone camera."—Alexa Keefe, photo producer
Photograph by Chen Zhongqiu, Imaginechina/AP
July 2012: Stonehenge in Miniature
Workers install "Sacrilege," an inflatable replica of Stonehenge, on July 21 in Greenwich Peninsula, London, as part of the 2012 Olympic Games.
"Whether intended or not, this scene of men moving an inflatable Stonehenge seems to almost mysteriously suggest how the real thing might have been erected so long ago."—Katel LeDu, director of photography
"The contrast between the tense, poised sniper and the legs crossed fighter eating candy on the couch makes me want to know more about this moment. The lush drapes, the chandelier, and the slipcovers give a sense of what this room was and not what it is—a bunker and flophouse for fighters."—Monica Corcoran, senior photo editor
Photograph by Goran Tomasevic, Reuters
September 2012: In the Wings
A dancer waits to go on stage at the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria, on September 16. Performer Femi Kuti, son of the late Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, plays at the venue weekly.
"It seems clear that the photographer was paying close attention to background details that would escape most people's notice—such as the placement of the metal roof at the top-left corner of the frame—while also waiting for the right moment in the dancer's body language."—Chris Combs, news photo editor
"This image is a wonderful illustration of how a camera can turn into an escape route. I’m looking at a cryptic world, discovering a new and unusual perspective: eye to eye with tadpoles, part of a scene I don't want to leave."—Amina El Banayosy, photo intern
"This isn't your typical underwater scene. The color, light, and content are unique. The tadpoles remind me of an army in formation ... "—Monica Corcoran, senior photo editor
Photograph by Eiko Jones, Your Shot
November 2012: Women in Red
Hostesses embrace against the cold in Beijing's Tiananmen Square as delegates arrive at the Great Hall of the People for the closing session of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China on November 14.
The party installed new leadership during the weeklong congress, with Vice President Xi Jinping taking over the party's reins from outgoing President Hu Jintao, according to Reuters.
"This portrait of a charming moment caught my eye because it almost seems as though the hostesses took the opportunity, while embracing to warm up, to also share a secret or two. To me, their red hats and uniforms indicate that they are part of not only a team, but also a kind of sisterhood. It struck me as a reminder of my own cherished relationships with female friends."—Katel LeDu, director of photography