The Top WIRED Photo Stories of 2018

The Hellish E-Waste Graveyards Where Computers Are Mined for Metal. Ever wonder where your old batteries, phones, and light-up toys wind up? The answer is dumps like this one in Ghana, China, and India. Kai Löffelbein took us there in his eye-opening book CTRL-X: A Topography of E-Waste.

A Rare Look Inside the Korean DMZ, the ‘Scariest Place on Earth’. The 155-mile Korean Demilitarized Zone contains one of the largest concentrations of soldiers and artillery in the world. Park Jongwoo received rare permission to photograph inside the zone—accompanied, of course, by a squadron of soldiers.

Hilarious Images of Bored Tourists From Around the World. Each summer, travelers descend on Europe to see the same churches, museums, and landmarks as everyone else. Laurence Stephens is often right there with them, photographing them as they photograph everything else. His images appeared in a fun new book this year.

Ominous Views of Japan’s New Concrete Seawalls. Gray walls now line the coast of northeast Japan, where entire villages were destroyed by the 2011 tsunami. Tadashi Ono documented these imposing structures, which shut out any view of the sea.

Aerial Views of Mexico’s Dystopian Housing Developments. The US’s southern neighbor has spent more than $100 billion on sprawling housing developments. Photographer Jorge Taboada calls them “sinister paradises,” and his mesmerizing aerial photographs reveal why.

You’ve Never Seen Waves Like This Before. Rachel Talibart’s incredible photographs freeze waves in action, letting you appreciate every ripple and splash.

Want to Take Stunning Photographs? Turn Your Camera Upside Down. You can’t tell where one building starts or ends in Arnau Rovira Vidal’s mesmerizing series Reform. Taken with a Lomo camera, they combine two exposures to form one trippy shot.

Bolivia Is Landlocked. Don’t Tell That to Its Navy. Bolivia lost its coastline to Chile more than 100 years ago, but its sailors continue to navigate water wherever they can. Nick Ballon’s wonderful series captures their resolve.

The Secret Tools Magicians Use to Fool You. Fake thumbs. Silicone eggs. Funkenrings. Louis de Belle exposed these gimmicks for what they are in his clever new book Disappearing Objects.

Inside the US Military’s Secret Doomsday Defense. Jim Lo Scalzo documented the secret bunkers, missile silos, and other Cold War-era infrastructure scattered around the US. It’ll make you look twice at that old “water tower.”

Intimate Glimpses of Ordinary Life in Iran. Teenagers skateboarding, couples taking selfies, kids riding in shopping carts—these vignettes of the day-to-day in Iran by Simone Tramonte are beautiful and refreshing.

Can You Spot the Hidden Images in These Psychedelic Landscapes?. Terri Loewenthal photographed rugged landscapes with colored filters and reflective optics to produce these trippy scenes.

Why We All Take the Same Travel Photos. Geotagging has made it clear just how redundant all our snaps of the Golden Gate Bridge, Buckingham Palace, and the Taj Mahal are. But we still take them. This essay explored why.

Side-By-Side Photos of Paris and Its Chinese Knockoff. Residents of the Chinese city of Tianducheng don’t have to board a plane to visit the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, or the gardens of Versailles. But Francois Prost, a photographer who actually lives in Paris, did for his fascinating series Paris Syndrome.

The Techies Turning Kenya Into a Silicon Savannah. Janek Stroisch’s bright photographs presented a promising vision of Kenya, home to a $1 billion tech hub.

Meet the World’s Most Hardcore LARPers. Boris Leist had to dress up as a mendicant monk named Boris the Reader to gain credibility with the Live Action Role Playing community he photographed in Germany. It paid off with these spectacular portraits of zombies, mutants, and orcs.

The Trailblazing Women Who Fight California’s Fires. Christie Hemm Klok’s portraits were a stirring tribute to the hundreds of women who serve in the San Francisco Fire Department.

Aerial Images Capture Swathes of Amazon Rainforest Destroyed by Gold Mining. Ernesto Benavides hung from the open doors of police helicopters to shoot these mind-blowing images showing the impact of illegal gold mining in Peru.

The Camp in Alabama Bringing Outer Space to the Blind. Kids at SCIVIS undergo astronaut training with help from braille, large print texts, and handheld magnifiers. No one will blame you for tearing up.

A Rare Bird’s-Eye View of Hong Kong’s Vanishing Rooftop Culture. Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze spied on unsuspecting city dwellers to capture these gorgeous images of rooftop culture.

These Celebrity Portraits Are Fake. Sort of. Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Mike Tyson look weirdly creepy in these bizarre portraits of wax models by Peter Andrew Lusztyk. Yet you can’t look away. “Once people realize what they’re looking at, there is this sort of revulsion, or disgust,” Lusztyk says.

The Mighty Honeybee Is Fighting Poverty and Deforestation in Zanzibar. Jurre Rompa captured the bee-autiful partnership between bees and beekeepers.

Capturing Humor in a Sea of Red Tape. Ole Witt’s photographs of bureaucracy in India made the DMV seem half-alright.

Want to Hunt Aliens? Go to West Virginia’s Low-Tech ‘Quiet Zone’. There’s a 13,000-square-mile swathe of land straddling West Virginia’s border with Virginia and Maryland where most technology is prohibited or simply doesn’t work. Photographers Andrew Phelps and Paul Kranzler ventured in to produce this incredible series.