The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the 50 finalists in their 9th annual photo contest. They've kindly allowed me to share several of the final contenders below, including some amazing images from each of the competition's five categories: Americana, The Natural World, People, Altered Images, and Travel. Be sure to visit the contest page at to see all the finalists and to vote for this year's Reader's Choice winner. [25 photos total]

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Three fishermen on Inle Lake by David Lazar from Brisbane, Australia, entered in the Travel category. Photographed January 2011, Inle Lake, Myanmar. (© #
50 toes by Nimai Ghosh from Kolkata, India, entered in the People category. Photographed in November of 2009 in West Bengal, India. (© #
Blue Ice Cave by Jamie Scarrow, from Bruce, Canberra, Australia, entered in the Natural World category. Photographed in Antarctica in December of 2011. (© #
An entry in the Altered Images category, this is "Where the soul meets the body" by Laura Diliberto from Wantagh, New York. Photographed in November of 2011 in New York City. (© #
Jabulani the elephant greeting his caretaker, from the Travel category, by Paula Durham from Cave Creek, Arizona. Photographed in the Kapama private game reserve, South Africa, in September of 2011. (© #
From the Altered Images category, a White Collared Kingfisher (halcyon chloris) dives out of the water, after a quick afternoon dip in the Kinabatangan River, Borneo, by C.S. Ling of Singapore. Photographer Ling: "This sequence was shot with a Nikon D3 with 500mm lens on a continuous high burst mode, capturing all 10 action shots of the kingfisher within a split second. The images were later pieced together in Photoshop into one sequence shot". Photographed in Sabah, Borneo, in July of 2011. (© #
The shadow strikes back by Tihomir Trichkov, of Highlands, North Carolina, entered in the People category. Photographed in Highlands, North Carolina, in August of 2011. (© #
Shrimp within vase sponge by William Goodwin of Birmingham, Alabama, in the Natural World category. Photographed in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, in September of 2011. (© #
From the Americana category, Brooklyn Bridge by Wayne Bennett, from the Bronx, in New York. Photographed in New York City in February of 2011. (© #
Teala above and below water, in the People category, by Bridget Bailey of Redding, California. Photographed in Redding, California in July of 2010. (© #
Segways on tour in Valencia near a modern building, by Marcel van Balken from Amstelveen, Netherlands. Photographed in Valencia, Spain, in October of 2010. (© #
From the Travel category, The golden rock by David Lazar of Brisbane, Australia. Photographed in Kyaiktiyo, Myanmar, in February of 2010. (© #
Photographed in the Omo River Valley, Ethiopia, in September of 2011, this is titled "The Kara women are the backbone of the tribe", by photographer Nicholas Wiesnet of Garden Grove, California. (© #
From the Americana category, Forgotten office by Robyn Meyer of Sacramento, California. Photographed in Lincoln, California, in May of 2011. (© #
Moonrise over Northern Lights by Ben Hattenbach of Los Angeles, California. Photographed in northern Alaska, in March of 2011. (© #
Everything will be all right, by Brian Day of Oak Park, Michigan, entered in the Altered Images category. Photographed in Detroit, Michigan in April of 2011. (© #
Behind the blue by Paolo Patruno of Bologna, Italy. Photographed in Lilongwe, Malawi, in May of 2011. (© #
Wanting to see her big brother during his baseball game, by Stephanie Fox of Mobile, Alabama. Photographed in Mobile, Alabama, in March of 2011. (© #
Neighborly dispute by Donald Montemorra of Swampscott, Massachusetts. Photographed in Katmai National Park, Alaska, in July of 2009. (© #
From the Altered Images category, The diversity of ordinary life, by Branko Stojanovic of Novi Sad, Serbia. Photographer Stojanovic: "During a two-year period (from 2008-2010), I was shooting every day activities of my neighbors. The idea was to show diversity of ordinary life and this old socialist building which I saw as some kind of prison. In that kind of huge structure with many people, even your neighbors are almost total strangers". Photographed in Novi Sad, in November of 2011. (© #
Ranch dog taking a break from work, by Jamie Illian of Dallas, Texas. Photographed in April of 2011, in Ellsworth, Nebraska. (© #
Steam from Mammoth Hot Springs, by Steven Ross of Nixa, Missouri. Photographed in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in October of 2009. (© #
From the Altered Images category, Color palettes, by Janwalai Kusuwan of Hillsborough, New Jersey. Photographed in October of 2011, in New York City. (© #
King Penguins by Jamie Scarrow from Bruce, Canberra, Australia. Photographed in South Georgia in November of 2010. (© #
A homeless boy sleeping inside the train, by Budi Prakasa, from Jakarta, Indonesia. Photographed in Jakarta, Indonesia, in August of 2009. (© #

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