Monday, May 24, 2010

Accretionary Wedge: Geo-Images

Followup, June 2: This wedge has been accreted.

The theme for this month's Accretionary Wedge is geo-images. I haven't seen anyone post any of Ansel Adams' photos yet, and the one below has always mesmerized me. (from here, and there is an enormous version here- highly recommended!)

Ansel Adams, Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine, California, 1944Adams had a special fondness for the Sierra Nevada and its surroundings. Mount Whitney, the tallest point in the 48 contiguous states, is the prominent peak on the right. (The peak on the left is closer to the valley and thus looks higher in comparison.) The Alabama Hills are largely shadowed in the mid-ground, and grazing horse is lit in a sunbeam a little closer, giving the viewer a better sense of scale.

To me, this photograph has always captured the grandeur of geology and nature, and the preciousness of life in a harsh world. As geologists, we are forced to confront the fact that a great deal of our world is beyond our comprehension... we can calculate and compare, use analogies and metaphors, but comprehension is elusive. This is where images can help: by hitting us in the gut with a sense of the beauty and scales involved, we may, for a brief time, at least feel as if we comprehend. That sense may be fleeting, but the memory of it is a powerful thing. A truly outstanding image is one we can return to again, over the passage of a lifetime, as I have with this one, and once again capture a sense of the sublime.

Not saying it's wrong, but I think it's a measure of mankind's attitude toward this world that the field in which the horse is grazing is now a golf course.


Geology Happens said...

awesome image, I am glad you thought of it. I also like the text that went with the image in the AW.


Lockwood said...

Thanks, Ed. I probably first saw this photo about 35 years ago. I know I was into Adams' work by the time I got to high school. But this one in particular has always resonated with me, and it was a real thrill the first time I stood near the spot it was taken.