Any "best of" list must surely be subjective. This one is no different. Choosing the best photographs of the year is an enormously difficult task, with many terrific photographs slipping through the cracks. But with major news events as a guide, and with single images I fell in love with throughout the year forcing their way into the edit, I look at my favorite pictures from the first four months of the year. Two main stories dominated headlines in the first part of the year: the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the rising of the Arab Spring. The protests in the Middle East would spread to Greece, Spain, and eventually inspire the Occupy movement in Western nations. Other stories included a historic wave of tornados in the U.S., a Royal wedding in London, and the creation of the world's newest nation in South Sudan. Images from the rest of the year will follow in posts later this week. [36 photos total]
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Sixty-six-year-old Yoshikatsu Hiratsuka cries in front of his collapsed house with a family member still missing, possibly buried in the rubble, at Onagawa town in Miyagi prefecture on March 17, 2011.
(Yomiuri Shimbun/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester holds a soldier's leg for safety as shots are fired in front of the headquarters of the Constitutional Democratic Rally party of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali during a demonstration in downtown Tunis on January 20, 2011.
(Zohra Bensemra /Reuters)
Family members grieve during the funeral procession of anti-government protester Abdul Ridha Mohammed on February 22, 2011 in Malkiya, Bahrain. He had been shot in the head when security forces attacked anti-government demonstrators.
(John Moore/Getty Images)
A motorcycle policeman burns as his colleague tries to help him after protesters threw a petrol bomb in Athens on February 23, 2011. Scores of youths hurled rocks and petrol bombs at riot police after clashes broke out during a general strike.
Two men celebrate after being pulled out from a destroyed building in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 22, 2011, 24 hours after a massive earthquake struck.
(John Kirk-Anderson/Christchurch Press/Reuters)
Tsiuri Kakabadze, 80, performs during the "Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather" contest in Tbilisi on January 5, 2011. Twenty-four participants aged over 70 from all over Georgia competed.
(David Mdzinarishvili /Reuters)
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, kiss as Bridesmaids Grace Van Cutsem and Margarita Armstrong-Jones look on from the balcony at Buckingham Palace in London after the Royal wedding April 29, 2011.
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A southern Sudanese woman shows her inked finger after voting at a polling center in Khartoum on January 10, 2011. The historic vote created the world's newest nation as South Sudan gained independence.
(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)
Supporters of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo raise their hands in a show of support at a rally in the Yopougon district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast on January 9, 2011. Gbagbo refused to recognize the results of a long-delayed election that he lost, and a long period of conflict ensued before he was removed from office.
Cambodian displaced people receive government aid at their shelter in a Buddhist pagoda after fleeing their villages near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on the border between Thailand and Cambodia on February 9, 2011. Thailand and Cambodia waged an armed standoff surrounding the 900-year-old temple, causing villagers to flee.
Hundreds of cars were abandoned on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago after a winter blizzard of historic proportions wobbled an otherwise snow-tough Chicago, stranding drivers for up to 12 hours overnight on February 2, 2011.
Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder was given unprecedented access to North Korea, and gave many people their first look at the reclusive country, including a Pyongyang skyline view on April 12, 2011.
A vendor jumps from the top of one overcrowded train to another on January 23, 2011 as thousands of Muslims return home after attending the three-day Islamic Congregation on the banks of the River Turag in Tongi, Bangladesh. The congregation, held each year since 1966, is among the world's largest religious gatherings.
A man rides his horse through flames during the "Luminarias" religious celebration on the eve of Saint Anthony's Day in the village of San Bartolome de los Pinares, Spain on January 16, 2011. According to tradition people from the area ride their horses through the fire to purify the animals.
(Andrea Comas /Reuters)
Homeless people warm themselves by a fire in the old quarters of Delhi on January 13, 2011. According to local media reports there are over 67,000 homeless in Delhi, of whom 15 percent are women and 10 percent children.
Twenty five years ago on April 26 the number four reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power facility exploded. The town of Pripyat, less than two miles from the plant, now sits abandoned, slowly consumed by returning forest.