The eroding ancient magma dome may cause dizziness to those unaccustomed to such natural grandeur.
I used to live here.
Yosemite National Park holds a very very special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to live and work there as an outdoor educator and National Park Service volunteer a couple of years ago and can personally attest that it is an absolute playground for photographers of every stripe. From the leaves to the lichens, the granite and the gorges, Half Dome to Hetch Hetchy, waterfalls and wildlife - every day was an adventure. My thoughts turned to the Sierra Nevada recently as the legendary Rim Fire
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rim_Fire ) raged through my beloved former haunt. Friends and coworkers flooded Facebook with tales of flame and ash, yet I was in a whole different mountain range. It felt strangely similar to the summer of 2005 when my hometown of New Orleans was drowning in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while I squirmed in my seat watching the events unfold via the news media from my desk at National Geographic's Explorers Hall. The Crescent City has made wonderful headway in recovering from the disaster and the Gulf Coast has learned much about how to handle the storms that are sure to come. I hope that the stewards of the Sierra learn similar lessons in how to cope with a rapidly changing climate ... the Rim Fire had many causes, but one contributor to its intensity was the California drought which dried the already abundant undergrowth.
The musical group Semisonic circa 1998 may have put it best: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." There will be new growth in the forest, but will these events spark new growth in our culture - growth that leads us to a place of being a more responsible participant in the web of life?
One goal I strive towards with my work is to inspire wonder and a personal connection to the natural world. A sense of kinship with the non-human can kindle a sense of responsibility for the non-human. I believe that the Earth does not belong to us, rather that we belong to the Earth. I encourage viewers not to be content with enjoying natural beauty solely via the lens and vision of another, but to nourish your own relationship with the non-human. The lessons to be learned via observation and contemplation are staggering!
Half Dome is exceptional for sure, but it is still one tiny speck of a vast and beautifully complex planet, itself a mere speck in the Milky Way Galaxy, in turn a speck in the vastness of something much larger yet ...
Where do you go when you want to regain perspective? I'd love to hear your thoughts on place and relationship. - Ben