Photographers at The Seattle Times look for images that scream out for banner headlines, but also for scenes that don't need a headline to compel a lingering view from readers.

IT’S EASY in trying times to succumb to self-doubt. It can happen to a person and it can happen to a community.

This year we all were tested.

A rash of fatal and disconcertingly random shootings challenged our sense of security.

Contentious politics challenged our love of civility.

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The sluggish economy challenged our hopes for the future.

For heaven’s sake, we even lost Ichiro!

But while we were tested, the things that make the Pacific Northwest special were not changed.

The personality of a region shines through when life is at its most boisterous but also when at its quietest — when we’re being serious and when we’re acting silly.

Photographers at The Seattle Times understand this. They look for images that scream out for banner headlines but also for scenes that don’t need a headline to compel a lingering view from readers.

Some of the images we’ve selected to represent the year in pictures may not perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the times or the significance of any major event.

These pictures instead capture instants that vanish almost before anyone has a chance to fully take them in. They illustrate the fleeting sweetness that pops up in everyday life, sometimes when we least expect it, making those individual moments, in and of themselves, perfect.

We live through the tests, and then move on, our shared values and our proud sense of place intact.

Even in a year marked by images of grief and outrage, passionate politics and economic anxiety, photographers and readers alike could still be awed by a rainbow arcing over Puget Sound, beguiled by chance encounters between city and wilderness, and dazzled by a blessed cameo from our elusive Mount Rainier.

Perhaps that rainbow picture, taken at the start of a new day, and so symbolic of the optimism and resilience any community needs to move forward, is the most telling one of all.

Tyrone Beason is a Pacific NW magazine staff writer.