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Somalis in Minnesota commemorated Somali Independence Day this weekend as the 52nd anniversary of their country's struggle for independence. The Somali Independence Day festival Sunday, June 30, 2013 in Minneapolis included food, music and a camel -- a popular attraction among children. Officially July 1, Somali Independence Day commemorates the founding of the Republic of Somalia when it gained freedom from British and Italian rule in 1960. Minnesota is home to one of the largest Somali populations outside of Somalia. Young girls share a secret in the midst of the Somali Independence Day festival on Sunday, June 30, 2013 in Minneapolis. A woman takes photos of the music performance at the Somali Independence Day celebration on Sunday, June 30, 2013 in Minneapolis.

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view Somali Independence Day celebration in Twin Cities as presented by: Minnesota Public Radio


The buildup of forces in Afghanistan is complete, with the number of US troops there the highest yet. The surge is part of President Obama’s campaign to take the battle to the Taliban strongholds in the south and east, while accelerating training of Afghan security forces. In February, suicide attacks by militants increased, and villagers and Afghan officials accused NATO of killing a large number of civilians in airstrikes. The images in this month's post show Afghans and NATO-led soldiers working and living through moments of sheer terror and numbing poverty. Through the strife, we see glimpses of the enduring human spirit. An Afghan army recruit marches during a graduation parade after an oath ceremony at Ghazi military training center in Kabul Feb. 3. Strengthening the abilities of Afghan forces to secure their country has been a top goal of US policy. Pakistani police officials and firefighters battle flames that erupted from the wreckage of NATO oil tankers on Feb. 26 in Peshawar. The blast from a timed device struck a day after two dozen militants attacked the compound. Afghan National Army soldiers rest between operations at Kunjak in Afghanistan's Helmand province on Feb. 19.

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view Afghanistan February 2011 as presented by: Boston Big Picture


So then we considered man-made haunted trails that people purposefully visit to be spooked for Halloween . . . but there are other times when a person is totally alone in some eerie forest that seems a bit enchanted. When the woods seem scary, it could be because you let your imagination run wild. It might be local folklore about a foggy forest, or a moody mist attached to legends and claims that the woods are haunted. How we interpret a setting may be our state of mind at the time, but artists of all kinds have taken to the forest for inspiration. J.R.R. Tolkien used Puzzlewood as his mystical, magical muse that inspired him to create the fabled forests of Middle-earth within The Lord of the Rings. In our Fall Fantasy post, we quoted Vincent Van Gogh as saying, ‘Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.’ Perhaps to truly enjoy these pictures, you may need to think of it like an art game….for each picture, imagine if you were all alone in these woods. We were curious what made the streak of fear strike the hearts of photographers who are out alone in the forest. All of these photos were tagged with words like spooky, dark, scary, foggy, or haunted; on any other day, and different state of mind, these might be interpreted as sweet alone time in nature. But tap into your inner artist and let your imagination run wild to “see” what the photographers saw when these “enchanted” woods seemed “haunted” or “spooky” or just flat-out Brothers Grimm scary.

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view When the Woods Are Scary: Enchanted Forests Like Brothers Grimm Broken Fairytales as presented by: Love These Pics



A half-million people attended West Hollywood’s annual Halloween Costume Carnaval. Billed as “one of the world’s largest celebrations of All Hallow’s Eve,” the event’s three large stages will feature entertainment, including live music, a “rock and roll drag show” and “campy burlesque and pyrotechnics,” the city said. People enjoy the Halloween street party during the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival, which draws about 500,000 people to the area in a wide variety of costumes. The free event features live entertainment on several stages, food vendors, a costume contest and more.

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view 2012 WeHo Costume Carnaval as presented by: Los Angeles Times


A young fighter of the Shabab shows his grenade on the road to the frontline near Ras Lanuf, Libya. The Shabab (meaning “youth’”) have taken part in the insurrection against the government of Muammar Qaddafi for more than a month. Philip Poupin, a photojournalist based in Afghanistan, has covered conflict and human rights issues for six years, most recently covering the conflict in Libya from the rebels’ side. “These pictures were taken before the coalition strikes on the frontline. It was during the retreat of the Rebels before the allies decided to help them to avoid a massacre.” Now out of Libya for the time being, he writes, ” I wanted to stress the Youth who first went to the streets to chase the regime of Qaddafi,” before seizing weapons and launching civil war. Photographing the “mobile frontline” has been one of the most intense experiences of his life. “Rockets and bombs were firing around my head. I could clearly hear the whistle of the round passing by a few meters away. Two times I saw big rounds landing some 20 meters next to me but they did not explode. One landed in the sand and rebounded like a rugby ball. I have been in firefights before, like in Afghanistan and the Congo. But nothing compared with this one where both sides fight with artillery and very few with … kalashnikovs.”

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view Blood and Tears in Libya as presented by: Photo District News


The winners of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards have just been announced. Norwegian photographer Andrea Gjestvang was announced as the Photographer of the Year, for her series of portraits of children and youths who survived the July 2011 massacre on the island of Utoeya, outside Oslo. This year's contest attracted more than 122,000 entries from 170 countries. The photographs were judged in six different competition categories, including Professional, Open, and Student Focus. The organizers have been kind enough to share some of their winning images with In Focus, gathered below. A portrait by Andrea Gjestvang, named Photographer of the Year in the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards. The photograph comes from a project called "One day in history" - Portraits of children and youths who survived the massacre on the island of Utoeya outside Oslo (NO) on 22nd of July 2011. "I bear my scars with dignity, because I got them standing for something I believe in," says Ylva Schwenke (15). Ylva from Tromso, hid by a path called "The love path". She was shot in the shoulder, her stomach and in both of her thighs. Winner, Professional, People category. One day in history - Portraits of children and youths who survived the massacre on the island of Utoeya outside Oslo (NO) on 22nd of July 2011. "In the period after Utoeya I had a really hard time sleeping. I was afraid of the dark and suffered from dreadful nightmares. My mom and I decided that getting a dog might help me, so I got Athene. Now she sleeps on my stomach every night." Iselin Rose Borch (15) from Grong was hiding behind a rock by the pump house on the island. She was rescued by tourists in a boat. Youth Photographer of the Year - Traditions. New Year's eve traditions in Romania.

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view Winners of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards as presented by: The Atlantic


From the International Lorraine Mondial Air Ballon Festival, to the Great Texas Balloon Race, to the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, it's the season of hot air balloon races. Hot air balloons approach the target area for the "key grab" Saturday, July 30, 2011 in the Great Texas Balloon at the East Texas Regional Airport south of Longview, Texas. The pilots try to skim the ground and put a ring around the pole in the center of the target area. Hot air balloons prepare to take off in Chambley-Bussieres, eastern France, on Wednesday July 27, 2011 in an attempt to set a world record for collective taking-off during the International Lorraine Mondial Air Ballon Festival. Pilot Michael Blum, right, of Union City, N.J., crew chief John Fairty, second right, of Greenwhich, Conn., and Don Wicks, of Hicksville, N.Y., untangle lines before inflating the Beemster Gourmet Dutch Cheese hot air balloon Friday, July 29, 2011, at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Readington, N.J. The hot air balloon festival runs through Sunday.

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view Hot Air Balloon Festivals in France and U.S. as presented by: Sacramento Bee


It was a scene that perhaps wouldn't have made the final cut of King Kong. This lowland gorilla shares a moment of quiet reflection with a tiny mallard duckling, who seems fairly nonplussed about being in the presence of one of nature's most powerful beasts. The heart-warming image is among Nature's Best Photography Magazine's wildlife photograph winners for 2010. A stunning image of a frolicking bear in the woods and a dramatic scene of a hummingbird facing down a deadly viper were also among the winners of the competition, which received more than 25,000 entries. The awards began with simple yet dynamic goals: to celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature through the art of photography, and to use it as a creative tool for encouraging greater public interest in outdoor enjoyment and conservation. The annual Windland Smith Rice International Awards programme is among the most highly-respected and visually compelling nature photography competitions in the world. The Grand Prize was won by Tom Cairns for his shot of an Osprey grabbing a fish from a lake in southern Finland.

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view Gorilla Making Friends With Duckling Among Wildlife Photography as presented by: Daily Mail Online



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