Let’s start with what I think is the photo of the year in 2021. It’s not a shot that was captured by a professional photographer. It was snapped by someone with an iPhone and uploaded to Reddit where that social network and the rest of the internet let Shawn Triplett know the power of his photo. It was taken from the back of a theater in Mayfield, Kentucky after the tornados wreaked their destruction. The viewing area where a screen had been was now just an empty frame providing a clear view of the sad reality that had ripped through this small town. The image serves as a reminder that in 2021, no matter how hard many people tried, on topics from climate change to Covid, you can’t hide from the truth.

+ It was a year when nature was determined to prove it could still surprise us. And no one captured that shock better than AP photographer Emilio Morenatti who took a series of haunting pictures from the Spanish island of La Palma, where the Cumbre Vieja volcano pumped out enough ash to cover entire homes. A photo from that scene leads this Vice look at 13 of the Most Surreal Pictures From 2021.

+ And from ESPN: Sports Photos of the Year. One of the photos shows cardboard cutouts filling the stands at a college basketball game, a scenario I really hope doesn’t return. (But it sure feels like it could.)