Each month, National Geographic magazine features breathtaking photographs in Visions of Earth. Venezuela—Candles help summon the spirit of Maria Lionza, whose namesake cult claims thousands of followers in Latin America. Japan—Magma bombs explode, forked lightning flashes, and ash clouds billow as the 3,665-foot-tall Sakurajima volcano erupts in Kyushu.
Taiwan—Drawn to the sulfuric fire of a hand-lit acetylene torch, mackerel leap en masse into the nets of a boat near New Taipei City.
France—A Eurasian beaver heads for her lodge in the Loire River, hauling a poplar branch for supper.
Belgium—The chance of indoor clouds is 100 percent wherever artist Berndnaut Smilde goes. Germany—A color-enhanced electron microscope photo reveals a half-millimeter-long tardigrade in moss.
Scotland—Champion strong man Gregor Edmunds lets fly a 16-pound shafted hammer at the Cowal Highland Gathering. Poland—As shadows lengthen near sunset, spring fields near Nowe erupt in a color riot.
Russia—A rainbow of hula hoops swirls around Svetlana Pavlova, a dancer in a traveling circus troupe of short-statured performers who call themselves the Light of the Little Stars. United States—Fireworks flash across a full moon on the third of July, part of early Independence Day celebrations last year at Pierson Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Israel—At an ultra-Orthodox Jewish wedding near Tel Aviv, Viznitz Hasidim gather around the chief rabbi (center, in white) and the groom (center, left). China—Frigid festivities abound at the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in northeastern China. England—Sporting feathery gills, a Mexican axolotl, about six inches long, paddles around a West Sussex fish tank.
United States—Like a spaceship gearing up to lift off, a carnival ride throws off orbs of light in this panoramic time exposure. Go behind-the-scenes with our storytellers and join conversations about photography, art, and journalism. After all of our official business was concluded—teaching the indigenous people of Russia’s Sakha Republic about our water-testing methods—we were invited to a feast and traditional dance expose.
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Cast in a warm glow, the multidomed Saint Basil's Cathedral in Red Square is the site of a fireworks show every New Year's Eve. Travel to the stylish streets, historic quarters, and cultural delights of some of Europe's most beloved cities with these photos submitted to My Shot by users like you. Get facts, photos, and travel tips for Moscow's Kremlin and Red Square, a World Heritage site in Russia.

Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Moscow—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit. Novelist Martin Cruz Smith and photographer Gerd Ludwig discover the sinister magic of a city that reveals its true colors at night. Russian athletes watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics on an outdoor screen.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who often skis in the region, attends a figure skating competition at a new Olympic rink in Adler. A young woman parties at a bubbly nightclub in Sochi, long a favorite destination for bone-chilled visitors from other parts of Russia.
In February 2013 Russian forces patrol an area where an Olympic stadium is under construction.
A memorial for Russian border guards who died in a 2002 helicopter crash is a reminder of a more recent conflict: the fighting with Chechnya.
Circassians tour their ancestral homeland in the Caucasus, where the Russian Empire carried out a brutal military campaign in the 19th century.
Circassians celebrate their heritage at a festival northeast of Sochi; Russian soldiers expelled their ancestors 150 years ago, sending them to the Ottoman Empire. At the Yermolov Cadet School in Stavropol, Russia, young boys and girls undergo military training.
Muslims attend prayers at the central mosque in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkariya, a region east of Sochi where militants have attacked local security forces. At places like Sochi and Krasnodar, a historic base for defending imperial Russia, authorities have brought back the Cossacks to help maintain order. During February daily highs in the alpine areas can top 40°F, raising questions about the venue for the winter games.
Krasnaya Polyana has been transformed by 20,000 migrant workers, including these Uzbeks riding a bus, who helped build the alpine Olympic sites. A migrant worker walks through frigid puddles near the building site of a shuttle-train station on the road to Krasnaya Polyana, where the skiing and sledding events will take place.
The team, led by biologists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, caught the 100-pound (45-kilogram) male in a snare last week while studying Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East, 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Chinese border (See Russia map). The chance capture gave biologists a priceless opportunity to study the elusive feline, and Melody Roelke (below), a specialist in big-cat genetics with the U.S.
She and other team members conducted a thorough series of tests on the leopard, from studying its teeth to collecting sperm samples, before releasing the animal back into the wild. Among the scientists' main concerns is whether Far Eastern leopards, also known as Amur leopards, can continue to sustain their tiny, isolated population, or whether disease and inbreeding may eventually wipe out the cats. Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone.
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To remove the photo permanently from the desktop, locate the photo on the hard drive and drag it to the trash. Met with single-digit temperatures, spray from the firefighters’ hoses soon turned to eerie ice art. This monochrome image and the two that follow are from the photographer’s Genesis book project.

Though losing their land and being pressured to settle, many still move their reindeer 620 miles each year, from winter pastures to summer grazing land, then back. The fruit’s citric acid helps electrons flow from galvanized nails to copper wire in this 14-hour exposure. Dried lava flows from a massive blast in 1914 connect the former island to the Osumi Peninsula. Although the temperature in this pleasure dome is a perpetual 79°F, light levels vary due to a section of transparent roof panels.
In this highly magnified view of his iris’s surface architecture, the central black pool is the pupil, and his lashes are reflected by the cornea. Called water bears, these eight-legged, alien-looking invertebrates can survive extreme pressure, radiation, and temperatures—and years without food. The photographer paraglided over Pomerania to get this abstract expressionist shot: a brushstroke of red poppy weeds flowering amid green grain sprouts. The supine figure on the floor moved away after a short time, leaving only her electric outline.
Here a swimmer pumps up enthusiasm before plunging into a pool carved out of the frozen Songhua River.
The unusual salamander species, whose numbers are dwindling in the wild, retains its larval features as an adult. She received the head as a gift years ago, after hosting a town exhibition of people’s aquariums.
The fish broke apart and reformed off the Azores as dolphins, birds, and sharks pecked away at the pack. The opportunity to see friends again and to introduce them to Mary and the team, to share our knowledge of the water science they seek to understand, and to simply reconnect was priceless for me. Moscow is the seat of political power in Russia, but it is also the country’s cultural and commercial center.
Some will join a new generation of Cossacks, who in times past were the shock troops of the Russian Empire.
Recognized by Russia but seen by most of the world as part of Georgia, Abkhazia borders the area containing the Olympic sites. Russia has installed a massive snowmaking operation to ensure that the slopes are kept well covered. Technology imported from the West is helping Russia's oil industry modernize, but Soviet-era spills and pipeline breaks have contaminated much of the region. As hosts, these folks catered to our every need, sharing with us their delectable traditional foods, story-telling and dances as well as their beliefs about the unique world they inhabit. From the storied streets surrounding Red Square to the modern new Moscow-City, the Russian capital is crammed with artistic, historic, and otherwise sacred sites. We learned much from these wonderful people and deeply look forward to continuing this effort together with them. Sometimes intellectual and inspiring, sometimes debauched and depraved, it is always eye-opening.

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