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Each month, National Geographic magazine features breathtaking photographs in Visions of Earth. Japan—A young woman rides an escalator through the kaleidoscopic entrance to the Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku mall in Tokyo.
Indonesia—At a slaughterhouse in Kertasura dead snakes are rolled up before being sold for food or traditional medicine. United States—Lightning strikes in Grand Canyon National Park about 26,000 times each year. England—Dozens of muddy men clamber across ropes during the annual Tough Guy competition in Perton.
Australia—Felled by a power line and dead of a broken neck, an Australian pelican becomes an unlikely still life in Brisbane. Canada—On a gravel beach along the Bay of Fundy, two semipalmated sandpipers take off as hundreds more flock together.
Canada—Two miles off the western coast of the Hudson Bay and just south of the Arctic Circle, a polar bear comes in for a close-up. Bahrain—In the village of Sanabis, a suburb of the capital, Manama, two Shiite girls take part in an Ashura ceremony.
Emirate of Abu Dhabi—As the sun sets on the Liwa region, local tribesmen lead their camels to a grazing area in neighboring Saudi Arabia. England—In the village of Box, George Purser, 77, waters geraniums on a century-old portable steam boiler.
Cyprus—When Mediterranean mantises are startled, they wave their forelimbs and raise their wings to reveal vivid eyespot markings.
Russia—Snared by a brown bear, a sockeye salmon spills a string of orange roe into Kuril Lake. Papua New Guinea—In Milne Bay schools of fish swirl around the coral-encrusted piles of a crumbling wharf.
Germany—The head of a trapped red squirrel pokes through a manhole cover in Isernhagen. Poland—On their way to harvest grain in Policzna, a woman and her grandson share a horse-drawn cart with a horse-headed volunteer promoting a traveling festival.
United States—A hundred miles off the southern California coast, near the Cortes Bank, a curious harbor seal peers through a kelp forest. Brazil—Dozens of bioluminescent mushrooms sprout on a dead log, green stems glowing in the light of a full moon. Bosnia and Herzegovina—In Mostar a competitive diver holds torches as he jumps from the Old Bridge into the Neretva River. Russia—Lit by a torch, an ice cave in a Kamchatka glacier glows like an entrance to the underworld. United States—Joining hands in a heads-first free fall to form a human snowflake, 138 skydivers set a world record at Skydive Chicago in August 2012. United Kingdom—Heather fires smoke during a controlled burn in West Burrafirth in Shetland.
South Africa—Through the dust of a dry riverbed in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, an African white-backed vulture advances on an antelope carcass. Go behind-the-scenes with our storytellers and join conversations about photography, art, and journalism. 56 million years ago a mysterious surge of carbon into the atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. When the Ocean Went DarkPaleoceanographer James Zachos holds a replica of a sediment core that shows an abrupt change in the Atlantic Ocean 56 million years ago, at the onset of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Interlude with DwarfsHoles in fossil leaves like this one indicate that insects in the Bighorn Basin got more abundant and voracious as CO2 and temperatures rose during the PETM. Today in the arid Bighorn, rust red bands of oxidized soil mark the sudden warming that occurred there 56 million years ago—which dried up the swamps that had been home to reptiles similar to the Okefenokee alligator pictured here. Using a technology that might forestall a warmer epoch, test tanks at an American Electric Power plant in West Virginia captured a fraction of the plant’s CO2.
Afghanistan—Overnight snowfall slows the pace of a Monday-morning commute in residential Kabul. United Kingdom—A merlin turns momentarily from the snipe in its grip after an attack on moorland near Whitby, in northern England. Germany—High above Bavaria's Zugspitze mountain, Swiss tightrope artist Freddy Nock nears the end of his 2011 quest to walk a two-inch-thick, 3,264-foot-long cable without a balancing pole. India—Suspended in a hammock, a boy slumbers peacefully in the noontime heat of a summer day. India—At twilight on floodwaters from the Brahmaputra River, a fisherman maneuvers a net on bamboo poles to catch fish for local consumption.


Indonesia—Empty-handed after a trip to a feeding area, Doyok the orangutan hangs out in Borneo's Tanjung Puting National Park.
China—A Mongol boy's ebullience bubbles over on a traditional swing made of rope and a pillow seat. United States—A chocolate chip cookie tempts a wild raccoon from the forest to the steps of a bed-and-breakfast near the Oregon coast. United States—It's splashdown for Lulu, a Parson Russell terrier playing underwater fetch in a Phoenix, Arizona, pool.
India—Trees infused with sunlight dwarf an early morning visitor to the rain forest on Havelock Island. China—On his way to second place in a bee-wearing contest in Hunan Province, a contestant disappears beneath a carpet of insects lured by a queen bee in a cage. United States—July means frolicking with goggles in a spray of firefighting foam in Lehi, Utah. United States—Though more than a century old, these bird eggs retain a fresh palette at the University of Nebraska State Museum. United Kingdom—On a snow-carpeted field in Essex County's Weald Country Park, a young fallow deer pauses to groom while foraging. Djibouti—Stamped into parched desert territory near the Somali border, patches of artificial grass provide tiny oases for teeing off at Golf Club de la Douda.
United Kingdom—A "sea pool" constructed along a stretch of rocky coast invites refreshing dips in the Cornish village of Mousehole. United States—A dead athel tree, bathed in moonlight in a long night exposure, attests to former fertility on what is now a salt pan at the edge of the Salton Sea.
Spain—A poppy's ardent color provides the perfect complement to a brilliantly hued Psilothrix beetle.
United States—On Fourth Lake in New York's Adirondacks, a crush of 1,902 canoes and kayaks attempts to break a "largest raft" world record. Greenland—Snow-covered ice saturated with winter twilight sets the stage for recreational soccer in the village of Aappilattoq.
United States—With aquatic tails plus full sets of legs, western spadefoot tadpoles display the magic of metamorphosis.
South Korea—Rings of smoke pierce the air during a military exercise near the Demilitarized Zone. Uganda—On a lodge terrace in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a photographer's butter and roll prove irresistible to the local lunchtime crowd. Afghanistan—On drought-pocked earth near Marjah, in the restive Helmand Province, a lone shepherd leads his sheep through a mud wall's gap.
Tajikistan—Long hair flowing in the Pamir mountain air, two sisters prepare to bathe in a pond near Rushan.
France—On a bright summer morning a captive-bred male harvest mouse perches acrobatically in an Alsace wheat field.
Spain—At the Feria del Caballo festival in Jerez de la Frontera, an assistant to a rejoneador, or horseback bullfighter, stands in the arena wings with mules used to remove felled bulls. Thailand—Stretching across a temple plaza, seemingly into the infinite, thousands of robed monks are ordained at a ceremony on the Buddhist holy day of Magha Puja. Indonesia—A flurry of filaments helps camouflage the striated frogfish, a bottom dwelling predator often found in warm, weedy waters. Behind her, mirrors reflect the images of shoppers in one of the city’s most fashionable districts. Villagers hunt the reptiles to supplement their income—and feed the billion-dollar global snake trade.
Thirty-five couples in Mumbai participated in the ceremony, which was arranged by a Muslim social organization to cut costs for poor families. To turn tragedy into tableau, the photographer made this image using a flashlight and a long exposure—then buried the bird in her garden. These six-inch-long shorebirds migrate thousands of miles a year from Arctic breeding grounds to South American coasts.
The annual holiday commemorates the seventh-century martyrdom of Husayn, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. These shifting sands create huge crescent-shaped dunes, which move slowly and can reach 500 feet high.
These two adult females, each less than three inches long, were spotted in an alfalfa field near Nicosia.
The professional highliner was traversing two cliffs above Rio de Janerio when a coastal front blew in, hiding the half-mile-high summit in mist.
Around a million of these fish swim from the Pacific Ocean to the Kamchatka Peninsula each summer to spawn—a book to bears fattening up for winter hibernation.
Police freed the rodent by gently pushing back its ears and drizzling olive oil on its neck.


Nearly three years old at the time of her mother’s ceremony, Anne was deemed too young to attend. The 78-foot-tall limestone span—completed in 1566, destroyed by war in 1993, reopened in 2004—is a World Heritage site. Strategically placed air hoses allow the mermaids to take in lungfuls of air, then perform unencumbered by scuba tanks.
This form of management, known as muirburn, clears old brush to improve both grazing conditions and wildlife habitat. That’s what his home, near the Arctic Circle on Baffin Island, would have looked like 56 million years ago, when summer water temperatures at the North Pole hit 74°F. White plankton shells vanished from the seafloor mud, shifting its color from white to red. But until the government sets limits on emissions, the company has shelved the costly project. As with the sacred hajj, they circle around the cube-shaped Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site.
The ritual, held the night before a festival for blessing animals, is thought to purify horses. Wintertime brings demand in the area for woodcutters’ help in preparing fuel for heating and cooking. The rehabilitated primate was released into the wild some 20 years ago but occasionally returns for a bit of banana and milk.
The afternoon flight takes place under his brother's steady hand in Hemu, a rural village in the northwest region of Xinjiang. In the Pacific Northwest the mostly nocturnal mammals typically range between 10 and 25 pounds.
The clinching moment required familiarity with the photographer, about ten dive attempts, aquatic acuity, and perfect timing. Rajan, an Asian elephant retired from logging, takes the stroll as part of his daily routine and occasionally swims in the Andaman Sea. The tradition, now in its fourth year, takes place this month to celebrate Pioneer Day, a state holiday honoring the 1847 arrival of Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley. The specimens, whose contents were emptied via shell holes, include a large one from a white-necked raven (far right) and five blue wood thrush eggs (far left). Known as a pricket at this stage, he sports his first set of antlers—simple spikes of hard bone. The towering pinnacles of Grosse Fermeda (front) and Sass Rigais (rear) rise more than 9,000 feet. With a single bound, this one clears the gap in a beach wall in the coastal town of Essaouira.
Salinity at the California lake, 231 feet below sea level, is some 50 percent greater than the Pacific Ocean's.
Though able to feed on their own within a few hours, the fledglings need help maintaining their body temperature. Springtime foraging is common for the insect in the semidesert Bardenas Reales, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Rules dictate that the mega­structure float freely for at least 30 seconds, held together only by hands. Athletic moves in bundles of warm clothing can prove more challenging than maneuvering on the frozen surface. Just days away from terrestrial life, these pollywogs will not eat until their tails are completely reabsorbed into their bodies. The South Korean tank, loosely camouflaged with tree branches, fires smoke shells amid man-made mounds of dirt.
East Africa is home to many species of weaverbirds, known for their skill in building nests.
Scenes of pastoral grace persist in this agriculturally intensive country, despite strife, insecurity, and dire food shortages. Like its anglerfish relatives, it also employs a dangling lure to seduce fish and other prey into its lair—and gaping mouth. As planet-warming CO2 surged into the atmosphere, Zachos says, it also seeped into the seas, acidifying the water and dissolving the shells. Oceans and forests absorb atmospheric CO2 but can’t keep up with emissions from stacks like this one (at center) at a coal-fired power plant in England—the country where the industrial revolution began.



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