The world is a beautiful place, but I’m sure you have worked that out already. There is nothing like sitting back and admiring what mother nature has to offer. She does a pretty good job. And there is nothing better than capturing the moment so you can admire it over and over again. We love that we are able to share that moment with you, the reader. Now we haven’t seen it all (though we are trying!), so we thought we would have our blogging friends help us to show you Nature’s Best Photo Essay.
Yellowstone National Park
Geyser Yellowstone Park is one of those places where every way you turn you see something amazing. Whether it be beautiful white snow, a bear, or this stunning geyser (one of many scattered throughout the park).
Orchids are stunning plants that come in thousands of different varieties. The flowers are so incredible it would be easy to have a ‘Natures Best’ post just on them. These beautiful purple ones we found in Costa Rica while on our road trip.
Photo provided by Where in the World is Megan Claire – Uluru
Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is the symbol of the Australian Outback, and one of Australia’s most famous natural landmarks. The large sandstone rock stands 348 m high (1,142 ft), and is noted to change color at different times of the year. It most noticeably glows red at dawn and sunset.
Photo provided by Globetrottergirls – Mum and Baby Monkey in Hampi
One of the most memorable wildlife encounters happened last year when I visited the Indian village of Hampi. Hundreds of monkeys lived in and around the village. Monkey moms and their babies sat in trees right on the streets, watching the world go by, completely unimpressed with us curious visitors staring back at them.
Photo provided by Wander the Map – The Muir Woods National Monument
The Muir Woods National Monument is a National Park located just 12 miles north of San Francisco, CA, which makes it a great escape from the city. Throughout the park you can see the beautiful redwood trees, many of which are over 800 years old and over 250 feet tall.
Waterfall in Central Costa Rica
After walking down what felt like a million steps we reached a handful of stunning waterfalls. The water cascading with a beautiful jungle backdrop was made it all worth while.
Photo provided by World Travel Agency – Peru at Sunset
There’s something magical about Lima, Peru, but only when you hit the beach and realize that this metropolis is sitting there starkly contrasted by this cliff that drops dead into the sea. Miraflores is a tiny neighbor of Lima that has the ever-lovely Malacon Park. This sunset, like all of them there, was marvelous. The spray in your face, the birds, the salty air, that breeze, the colors, the sound of the waves brushing in and out over those pebbles- very magical indeed.
Photo provided by A Passion a Passport – Red Sand Beach (Kokkini) in Santorini, Greece
The sand, completely red in color, is from the red lava rock from the cliff nearby. The actual beach is very rocky, and therefore, most visitors come to admire the color of the sand than to relax on the beach. Once you arrive, you’ll think you’re on Mars.
Photo provided by Meganootravels – Zebra in South Africa
When I was in South Africa a couple of years ago, I stayed at Elephant Plains for a 3-day safari. One night when we were heading back in from our afternoon safari, I spotted this beautiful zebra standing perfectly still all by itself.
Birds in Love, Costa Rica
Sometimes it’s the simple things that amaze us. These two brightly colored birds seem madly in love.
Photo provided by The Further Adventures of Bennett – Lindisfarne, Northumberland, UK
There’s no place like home and certainly pretty clouds, sun and blue sky always make a good picture to me. I liked the tide being out as well, with all the boats helpless.
Photo provided by Wanderlusters – Giant Marble Rays Hovering Over The Wreck of the S.S Yonala
I hate to see human wastage littering a natural reserve however when Mother Nature has seen fit to engulf a manmade object I am fascinated to see the outcome. Just off the coast of cape Bowling Green in Queensland lies the wreck of the S.S Yongala. Now home to an incredible mix of marine life, diving here offers a unique insight into nature’s capacity to adapt to the invasive human race.
Photo provided by True Nomads – Victoria Falls
This is Victoria Falls, one of the wonders of the world. It’s situated on the Zimbabwe and Zambia border, and while it is out of the way it is definitely worth the trouble to get to.
Sunset in Phuket
Before we started on our nomadic life we traveled to Phuket. After seeing a sunset like this on Christmas night, no wonder we ended up wanting to be on the road for life.
Photo provided by Our Favorite Adventure – Whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand
It was such a magical experience! We were fortunate to see one of the resident Sperm Whales on our tour! We almost didn’t see anything, but the tour guides extended the tour to make sure we saw a whale. Out of nowhere this guy appeared right next to our boat!
Photo provided by Wanderlusters – White Island
The plumes of steam that rise from this submarine giant hint at the turbulent environment of its rugged shores. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hop aboard a boat and visit the island to witness the hive of volcanic and geothermal activity within the crater. While a trip to this alluring lunar landscape will likely blow your mind, be warned the volcano is at a permanent state of unrest and eruptions both large and small are common.
Photo provided by Life Outside of Texas – Butterfly on Cherry Blossoms
I feel lucky to have captured this photo of a butterfly on a Weeping Cherry Blossom Tree in Kyoto, Japan. Cherry Blossoms are extremely special because the blooms only last for 1-2 weeks each year. This year we were among the hundreds of thousands of tourists that flooded Japan to see the gorgeous flowers.
Costa Rica – Sloth
What more can you say about sloths. They are just ridiculously cute. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a bad photo of one. They just know how to pose for a camera.
Photo provided by Travel with Bender – Crater Lake
As part of a road trip through the Pacific North West we stopped one day at Crater Lake. Boy, were we breathless. It was absolutely stunning. The sun was out creating a warm glow, while the melting snow formed puddles around our feet, but also provided great entertainment for throwing snowballs, etc.
Crater Lake is a volcano lake located in Oregon, USA. At 1,943 feet (592 meters), it is the deepest lake in the United States, and the seventh deepest in the world.
Photo provided by Turnipseed Travel – Zabriskie Point, Death Valley
One of the least visited, yet largest, of the national parks, you can explore incredible landscapes, unique geology, and one of a kind plant and animal life in utter silence – or over warm conversation with the park staff.
Photo provided by The Nomadic Family – Flower , Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s fauna and flora is simply breathtaking. This one photograph, one of my all-time favorites, was taken in year one of our world travels. We will living on a ranch in La Lucha De La Tigra, volunteering for several amazing causes, including Proyecto Asis, where this was shot. The sun, the ants, the light watercolors of the flower herself- flawless, that’s the word, flawless.
Cave views at Exotic Garden of Monaco
With so much beauty above ground, sometimes we forget about what we can find underground. Caves around the world show millions of years of mother natures work. Here in Monaco, we were in a room with thousands of small stalactites
Photo provided by AfterGlobe – Turtle in Maui
While snorkeling in the waters of Maui, we swam with this Honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle). He swam up next to us and pulled ahead a bit, allowing us to swim along with him. It was one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had while snorkeling.
If you enjoyed our Nature’s Best Photo Essay, you will probably love our Wildlife Photo Essay.
“I declare this world is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists.” The beauty of nature can have a profound effect upon our senses, those gateways from the outer world to the inner, whether it results in disbelief in its very existence as Emerson notes, or feelings such as awe, wonder, or amazement. But what is it about nature and the entities that make it up that cause us, oftentimes unwillingly, to feel or declare that they are beautiful?
One answer that Emerson offers is that “the simple perception of natural forms is a delight.” When we think of beauty in nature, we might most immediately think of things that dazzle the senses – the prominence of a mountain, the expanse of the sea, the unfolding of the life of a flower. Often it is merely the perception of these things itself which gives us pleasure, and this emotional or affective response on our part seems to be crucial to our experience of beauty. So in a way there is a correlate here to the intrinsic value of nature; Emerson says:
the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves
Most often, it seems to me, we find these things to be beautiful not because of something else they might bring us – a piece of furniture, say, or a ‘delicacy’ to be consumed – but because of the way that the forms of these things immediately strike us upon observation. In fact, one might even think that this experience of beauty is one of the bases for valuing nature – nature is valuable because it is beautiful.
Emerson seems to think that beauty in the natural world is not limited to certain parts of nature to the exclusion of others. He writes that every landscape lies under “the necessity of being beautiful”, and that “beauty breaks in everywhere.” As we slowly creep out of a long winter in the Northeast, I think Emerson would find the lamentations about what we have ‘endured’ to be misguided:
The inhabitants of the cities suppose that the country landscape is pleasant only half the year….To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.
The close observer of nature sees a river in constant flux, even when the river’s water is frozen and everything appears to be static and unchanging for a time. Nature can reveal its beauty in all places and at all times to the eye that knows how to look for it. We can hear Emerson wrangle with himself on this very point in the words of this journal entry:
At night I went out into the dark and saw a glimmering star and heard a frog, and Nature seemed to say, Well do not these suffice? Here is a new scene, a new experience. Ponder it, Emerson, and not like the foolish world, hanker after thunders and multitudes and vast landscapes, the sea or Niagara.
MS Am 1280.235 (706.3E) Houghton Library
So if we’re sympathetic to the idea that nature, or aspects of it, are beautiful, we might ask ourselves why we experience nature in this way. Emerson says that nature is beautiful because it is alive, moving, reproductive. In nature we observe growth and development in living things, contrasted with the static or deteriorating state of the vast majority of that which is man-made. More generally, he writes: “We ascribe beauty to that which…has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things”. He cites natural structures as lacking superfluities, an observation that in general has been confirmed by the advancement of biology. Furthermore, he says that whether talking about a human artifact or a natural organism, any increase of ability to achieve its end or goal is an increase in beauty. So in Emerson we might find the resources for seeing evolution and the drive to survive as a beautiful rather than an ugly process, governed by laws that tend to increase reproductive fitness and that we can understand through observation and inquiry. And lastly, Emerson points to the relation between what we take to be an individual and the rest of nature as a quality of the beautiful. This consists in the “power to suggest relation to the whole world, and so lift the object out of a pitiful individuality.” In nature one doesn’t come across individuals that are robustly independent from their environment; rather things are intimately interconnected with their surroundings in ways that we don’t fully understand.
Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole.
All of these qualities of beauty seem to go beyond the mere impression of sensible forms that we started with, and what they require is what also served as the basis of truth and goodness in nature.
MS Am 1280.235 (708) Houghton LibraryIn addition to the immediate experience of beauty based in perception, Emerson suggests that the beauty of the world may also be viewed as an object of the intellect. He writes that “the question of Beauty takes us out of surfaces, to thinking of the foundations of things.” In other words, we can also experience the world as beautiful because of its rational structure and our ability to grasp that structure through thought. Think for instance of the geometric structure of a crystal, or snowflake, or nautilus shell. Or consider the complexity of the fact that the reintroduction of the wolf in Yellowstone National Park changed the course of the rivers due to a chain reaction of cause and effect through the food web, a process called a trophic cascade. This reinforces Emerson’s emphasis on the interconnection between all members of the natural world; as observers of nature we are confronted with one giant, complex process that isn’t of our own making, but that we can also understand, and get a mental grasp on, even if only partially, and be awe-struck in that process of understanding.
There is thus an emotional or affective component in the beauty of the intellect just as there is in the immediate beauty of perception. If we destroy the natural world, we take away the things that we can marvel at and experience awe towards in these two ways. And this experience of the beautiful through the intellect may reinforce our attributing value to nature here as well, but a deeper kind of value, the intrinsic value I talked about in the last essay. Here it is not only that nature is valuable because it is beautiful, but nature is beautiful because it possesses intrinsic value, grounded in its intelligible structure. Thus we see a close parallel between goodness and beauty in nature. We can find an objective basis for goodness and beauty in nature, namely its intelligible structure, but also see that nature is valuable and beautiful for us, with the particular apparatus that nature has given us for navigating our way through the world.
So that which is the basis of truth in nature and provides it with intrinsic value is also that which makes it beautiful. Emerson himself ties these three aspects of nature into one package himself:
He should know that the landscape has beauty for his eye, because it expresses a thought which is to him good: and this, because of the same power which sees through his eyes, is seen in that spectacle
This is the unified philosophy of nature that I set out to explicate in the first essay – nature is the source of truth, goodness, and beauty, because of its intelligible structure, and because of its production of organisms that can recognize that structure, us. And this view of nature includes an inherent call to protect that which is true, good, and beautiful. These are the things that we as human beings are searching for, are striving after, and yet they’re right in front of us if only we would listen with our ear to the earth.
Although I’ve been advocating an approach to nature based on its intelligibility, we are far from tying down the giant that is nature with our minds. Emerson writes that “the perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth.” Although we shall continue to try to uncover nature’s secrets, let us also continue to take pleasure in our immediate encounter with her. Let us continue to be awe-struck, like the child on the seashore, or clambering up a tree. Let us hold onto that experience, and fight for the environment that makes it possible, both for the child in each of us, and for those that come after us.
Michael welcomes correspondence, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His series "Emerson and the Environment" is part of a larger project which was awarded a Student Sustainability Grant. Quotations taken from Emerson’s journals, his book Nature, and his essays ‘Nature’, ‘Art’, ‘Beauty’, and ‘Spiritual Laws.' He is happy to provide more specific source information for the quotations.