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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rediscovering Classic Icons

Many of the famous landscapes that we love most aren’t necessarily permanent. Now is the time to visit and photograph these treasures.

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Glacier National Park, Montana
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Some of the most beautiful locations on the planet reside underwater. The complex and colorful ecosystems that thrive within the world’s coral reefs are as fragile as they are impressive. Runoff consisting of pollutants, sediments and nutrients from growing coastal populations are threatening and degrading coral reefs. Other threats include overfishing, removal of coastal mangrove forests and coral bleaching—the loss of symbiotic algae due to the warming of seawater associated with global warming. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network estimates 25 percent of coral reefs have been lost, with another 35 percent threatened.

Arches National Park, Utah
Global Warming. Much has been made of global temperature change in the past several years. The magical blue ice of receding glaciers in many locations has given way to rocky rubble and newly exposed valleys. Glacier National Park, Montana, once boasting 150 glaciers, now has 35. Sadly, it’s conceivable Glacier National Park will be absent of glaciers one day, providing all that visit a stark reminder of recent environmental changes.

Energy Exploration.
One of the most controversial landscape locations is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. This scenic location is as rich with wildlife as it is with oil, regularly placing it in the crosshairs of political debate on U.S. energy policy. Certainly not the only location threatened by such politics, it’s the most recognized talking point by many. Less widely discussed is the expansion of ecotourism, revealing this national treasure to the eyes of many.

Havasu Falls, Arizona
Vandalism. Selfishly some individuals opt to leave their mark on iconic landscapes by marking or outright destroying formations. Ancient petroglyphs and hoodoos have proven to be particularly vulnerable to vandalism. In 2006, it’s suspected that vandals toppled a capstone at Wahweap Hoodoos in Utah, and over the last several years, numerous incidents of vandalism have been reported on petroglyph sites across the American Southwest.

Our Future

Both photographers and photography viewers benefit from rediscovering classic icons. It enables photographers both to artistically interpret and document unique scenery and moments of natural history. Many might consider art and documentary photography two distinct genres, but outdoor photographers have the ability to harness both in such a way that inspires viewers of their work to respect, learn about, protect and lobby for the environments they see transformed naturally or at the hand of man.

As we note the change or loss of iconic landscapes, it’s important to keep in mind that the dynamic forces of nature have the power to both destroy and create. The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once shared the wisdom that “Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” Such wisdom is a reminder that as we explore, cameras in hand, there are still new icons to be discovered and shared.


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