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The 2012 Tour de France, Part 1 of 2

The 99th Tour de France cycling race began on July 1, as 22 teams of nine riders raced first through parts of Belgium, then on to France in stage three. Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara held the overall lead until stage six, when Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins overtook Cancellara, gaining the leader's yellow jersey, which he still wears as of today. The Tour continues until July 22, heading into the Alps for grueling mountain stages in the second half of the race. The entire tour will cover a distance of 3,497 km (2,173 mi). Gathered here are images from the first half of the 2012 Tour de France. Part 2 will be posted after the finish. [40 photos]


Lovely Sky Monsters

Award-winning photographer Camille Seaman, best known for her earlier work depicting massive polar icebergs, recently turned her lens on another incredible natural phenomenon - storm clouds above the American Midwest. She partnered with experienced storm chasers and began to stalk a particular type of storm cloud - the supercell. On June 22, 2012, in western Nebraska, she encountered an enormous supercell and captured its many faces. With her permission, I've gathered here several images of that storm and a few other amazing storm shots from an earlier expedition she took in 2008. Seaman will soon be leading a photo workshop called Kazakh Migrations in far northwest China. [22 photos]


In Silhouette

The silhouette is one of my favorite photographic techniques. Simply by placing a strong light source in the background, a photographer can make the subject into an outline, a shadow, something more abstract than specific -- nearly an illustration. These images always catch my eye when I'm searching through photos to use in essays, and I've collected some of my recent favorites below, from locations all over the world. [24 photos]


The Running of the Bulls 2012

Every year, the Festival of San Fermin attracts thousands of visitors to Pamplona, Spain. Lasting nine days, the festival kicks off with massive crowds at the Chupinazo in Pamplona town square, followed by a carnival, fireworks, many bullfights, and of course, the encierro, or "running of the bulls." Held since 1591, San Fermin remains a popular, if also dangerous and controversial, event: Several people have been injured already this year, and the festival continues until July 14. Collected here are some scenes from the first days of this year's Festival of San Fermin. [39 photos]


The Fantastic Machine That Found the Higgs Boson

On July 4, scientists working with data from ongoing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced the discovery of a new particle "consistent with" the Higgs boson -- a subatomic particle also colloquially referred to as the "God particle." After years of design and construction, the LHC first sent protons around its 27 kilometer (17 mile) underground tunnel in 2008. Four years later, the LHC's role in the discovery of the Higgs boson provides a final missing piece for the Standard Model of Particle Physics -- a piece that may explain how otherwise massless subatomic particles can acquire mass. Gathered here are images from the construction of the massive $4-billion-dollar machine that allowed us peer so closely into the subatomic world. [34 photos]


Tattoos: Addicted to the Needle

Humans have been marking their skin permanently for thousands of years. A tattoo can be a remembrance, a constant prayer, a warning, or simply an amazing work of art. The reasons behind it can be intensely personal, decorative, whimsical, or utilitarian. It can signify tribal allegiance, life history, or nothing at all. Collected below are recent images of skin art and a few glimpses into the owners of these tattoos and their reasons for modifying their own bodies. [36 photos]


Afghanistan: June 2012

The number of coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan last month stands at 39, bringing the number for the entire war to 3,071 -- roughly one death every 30 hours since the initial invasion in October 2001. The soldiers who died in June 2012, all men, ranged in age from 21 to 47, with 29 hailing from the United States, four from the UK, four from France, and one from Italy. Civilian casualties also remain high, as locals are often caught in NATO bombings and are increasingly targeted by Taliban attacks. Overall levels of violence are slowly declining. But the lengthy process of demobilization and withdrawal remains in its initial phase, and civilians, soldiers and insurgents continue to die in Afghanistan in alarming numbers. [41 photos]


Colorado Wildfires: The Aftermath

Still burning near Colorado Springs, the Waldo Canyon fire is now the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, claiming 346 homes and two lives. Residents of affected neighborhoods, who were briefly allowed to return and survey the damage, described "unreal" scenes where houses that burned down to their foundations stood side-by-side with homes that appeared completely untouched. While the Waldo Canyon fire is now 55 percent contained, it is only one of dozens of fires still blazing across the west. [36 photos]


Scenes From Underground, Part II

Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are more recent subterranean scenes from around the world. [38 photos]


Scenes From Underground

Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are some recent subterranean scenes from around the world. [36 photos]


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