Photography is magical for a lot of reasons, but one thing it does particularly well is open doors to worlds, people, and places that you otherwise may not see. Through photos, we got to travel to space, take in sumo wrestling in Japan, check out the coast of the Chesapeake Bay, and visit strip clubs in Houston, all in one year. Also: There's some great time-traveling back to the early aughts on this list.
It is hard to pick favorites — this roundup is not a popularity contest, per se, but we did love working on these photo stories over the course of 2021. See you next year!