30 incredible photos that show the true power of nature
It's often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and precious few would refute the premise that the world around us—from majestic mountain ranges to turquoise seas—is a treasure trove of awe-inspiring imagery.
The desire to preserve these images for posterity is hardly a new phenomenon. Shortly after the advent of photography in the mid-19th century, nature joined portraiture as a preferred subject matter among aspiring practitioners. Notable pioneers include Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson, whose photographs of Yosemite and Yellowstone, respectively, helped spark creation of the National Park System.
At the turn of the 20th century, however, nature photography transformed from primarily a documentary tool into a burgeoning new art form. Edward Steichen's moody, hand-colored, black-and-white photograph “Moonlight: The Pond” introduced an innovative, painterly quality that would influence countless photographers in the years to come. Landscape photography was elevated to even greater heights by the legendary Ansel Adams, known not just for his stunning black-and-white photos of the American West, but also his important conservationist work with the Sierra Club. Today, talents such as Ted Gore, Michael Shainblum, and Daniel Kordan frequently go to dangerous and unprecedented lengths to capture their astonishing images.
Modern research empirically demonstrates the positive effects of nature on the human psyche, measurable by the Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS). Experts argue that engagement with natural beauty leads to greater life satisfaction. Adams observed that “the world is incomprehensibly beautiful and an endless prospect of magic and wonder.” With that in mind, Stacker surveyed hundreds of images in the public domain, as well as commercial archives, to create this curated slideshow of 30 stunning photographs celebrating the jaw-dropping beauty of the natural world. Scroll through the images and discover wonders off the beaten path and maybe even a few in your own backyard.
You may also like: 100 iconic photos that capture 100 years of history
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
One of the crown jewels of Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Prismatic Spring gets its distinctive rainbow hues from the different bacteria that inhabit it. The largest hot spring in the United States, it measures 370 feet in diameter and runs over 120 feet deep.
The Northern Lights over Mt. Kirkjufell
The aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, provides a spectacular background for this photo of Mt. Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland. The free-standing mountain is thought to resemble a church, hence the name Kirkjufell, or “church mountain.”
Vadu Crişului Waterfall, Romania
The sparkling Vadu Crişului Waterfall emerges from a kilometer-long cave in the mountains of Bihor, Romania. Discovered in 1903 during construction of a new rail line, the destination is popular with tourists and rock climbers alike.
Aurelia jellyfish, commonly known as moon jellies, are distinguished by their pastel, iridescent coloring and are a popular draw at many aquariums. This photo beautifully details the creature's delicate cilia—fringe-like appendages designed to sweep plankton and small fish toward the salt-water invertebrate.
Sandstone Ridges of Mount Roraima, South America
Surrounded by Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana, Mount Roraima rises 400 meters above the Earth, ringed by a halo of clouds. Over 2 billion years old, the sandstone cliff is accessible to climbers via a sloping path.
Pamukkale Travertine Pools, Turkey
Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle” in Turkish, has been a popular spot with spa seekers for thousands of years. The ethereal, white travertine rock formations overflowing with thermal, turquoise waters were named a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Glow Worms, Waipu Caves, New Zealand
Intrepid adventurers routinely trek through the pitch-black, mud-slick Waipu Caves on New Zealand's North Island to gaze at the thousands of twinkling glowworms that light up the darkest recesses like tiny, blue fairy lights. Unlike many other tourists destinations, admittance to Waipu Caves and its glowworm galaxy is free.
Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
Although the raised geometric forms give it a distinctly modern vibe, the Salar de Uyuni Salt Flats—the largest in the world—are actually the product of evaporated lakes dating to the prehistoric era. This Bolivian natural wonder transforms into a more-than-4,000-square-mile reflective surface when neighboring lakes overflow. A valuable source for salt and lithium, the Flats are also a tourist attraction serviced by a hotel—made of salt.
Lake Moraine, Banff National Park, Canada
Picturesque Lake Moraine is nestled in a valley in Alberta's Banff National Park. The glacier-fed lake gets its brilliant blue color via refracted light.
The raw beauty of these rough emeralds rivals that of their exquisitely cut cousins—one of the priciest gemstones on the market. The birthstone for May, emeralds were also reportedly a favorite of Cleopatra.2018 All rights reserved.