A mother and daughter sit inside a traditional yurt adorned with surprisingly modern touches in a remote corner of Afghanistan. H'mong children play with balloons in the fog in northern Vietnam. Devotees carry the scenes of Christ's passion on their shoulders during an Easter celebration in Sicily. This is merely a sampling of the exotic scenes captured by the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.
The magazine received more than 12,000 entries from 6,615 photographers residing in 152 countries around the globe for the 24th annual competition. Submissions were then judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of photography experts, including National Geographic contributing photographer Alexandra Avakian.
In the end, Cedric Houin came away with the winning shot, capturing the intimacy of an everyday moment inside a family yurt in the Kyrgyz lands of Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor.
"The light and texture captured in this portrait are painterly, and the predominance of red is rich," Avakian noted. "The content of the photo is striking because the photographer captured both the nomads' traditional way of life and some of their modern accoutrements -- the viewer gets the visual satisfaction of something that goes against cliché."
Kiet Vo's shot of H'mong children playing in the fog and Andrea Guarneri's image of Easter devotees rounded out the top three. Michelle Schantz's image of a lonely cabin illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finnmark, Norway, took home the viewer's choice award. Seven others, meanwhile, were honored with merit prizes.
Have a look at all the winners below:
Merit Photo and caption by Ken Thorne/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "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 among 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." National Geographic Traveler P
Merit Photo and caption by SauKhiang Chau/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "The Last Supper Of Da Vinci? No, They are just some the old men of Chefchaouen with djellaba, sitting and talking each other." National Geographic Traveler P
Merit "Photo and caption by Camila Massu/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 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!" National Geographic Traveler P
Merit Photo and caption by Ken Bower/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest The village of G•sadalur and the island of Mykines in the background. "Until a tunnel was built in 2004, the 16 residents living in G•sadalur had to take a strenuous hike or horseback over the steep 400 meter mountain in order to make it to the other villages," the photographer said. "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." National Geographic Traveler P
Merit Photo and caption by Fred An/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. I tried to bring a different perspective of this frequently photographed tree." National Geographic Traveler P
Merit Photo and caption by Peter DeMarco/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "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." National Geographic Traveler P
Viewers Choice Photo and caption by Michelle Schantz/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "A lonely cabin is illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finnmark, Norway." National Geographic Traveler P