11 Stunning Photos That’ll Make You Appreciate the Beauty of Life
From the majesty of a mountaintop to the intimacy of a baby’s cradle, these photos open our eyes to the gifts all around us.
A cold beauty
The otherworldly ice caves of Iceland’s Jökulsárlón lagoon are accessible only from November to March—in the warmer months, they start to fracture. Even in February, when this photo was taken, visitors must book a guide who knows how to assess a cave’s stability. “It’s important to embrace some element of uncertainty,” says photographer Chris Burkard, “in order to truly experience wonder.”
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After documenting humanitarian issues in more than 60 countries, photojournalist Maggie Steber wanted to focus on something more abstract—and life-affirming. She created this image in a garden. “I am trying to show beauty that is unexpected,” she says. She titled the photo Man Born from Blossoms.
David Allan Harvey/Magnum
In Galicia, Spain, ranchers let the community’s horses roam free in the hills for most of the year, until the annual Shearing of the Beasts festival. That’s when residents round them up and bring them to town to be groomed. The festival has been going on for 400 years. If the defiance caught by photographer David Alan Harvey is any indication, the horses still haven’t gotten used to it.
Colors of the wind
In the summer, photographer Simon Matzinger often hikes up Austria’s Brunnkogel mountain, pitches a tent, and waits for the sun to work its magic. “For me,” he says, “it represents the wonder of a beautiful moment in time.” That said, even Mother Nature can use a little help sometimes. Matzinger added some extra light to the image, and he used Photoshop to place himself on the mountain because—well, wouldn’t you want to be there?
Check out this view!
For a photo-essay on the realities of aging, Paul Cowhig spent a day with 77-year-old Bob of Cape Town, South Africa. He snapped Bob taking his pills, doing physiotherapy, and relaxing with his family. And then this: Bob tried on a virtual reality headset, and he couldn’t get enough. “This photo gives us hope that when we can’t be as active as we once were, technology can help us access the experiences we have always enjoyed,” says Cowhig.
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How nuns have fun
For the sisters of the Tyburn Convent in London, the entire day is spent in silence and prayer—except for one hour, right after lunch. Then the sisters become almost like kids at recess: swinging on swings, playing snooker, and jumping rope. “Inside their somber stone compound,” says photographer Shannon Taggart, “they go to this lush courtyard and are utterly transformed.”
The call of the mild
Is that a roar or a yawn? Could be a bit of both. Kuchani the African lion is certainly fierce, but she wouldn’t have been bothered much by Samuel Scrimshaw’s camera. After all, Kuchani greets hundreds of visitors a day from her habitat in Australia’s Taronga Zoo Sydney.
Inspiration for a lifetime
Meet photographer Gemma Ferrando’s favorite model: her nine-day-old daughter, April. “There’s so much wonder in observing your newborn for hours, memorizing their expressions and trying to discover things about them, to know them,” says Ferrando. “I wanted to remember these moments forever.”
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Cast in stone
Douglas Moore/Nikon Small World
As Dr. Seuss showed in Horton Hears a Who!, nature can hide entire worlds. Unearthing them is the goal of Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition, now in its 43rd year. This photo, by Douglas Moore, shows a slab of Teepee Canyon agate stone from the Black Hills of South Dakota, magnified 90 times. Other Nikon finalists included close-ups of human skin cells, a beetle’s foot, and—are you ready?—a piece of cow dung.
Parked at the (green) gate
After Bruce Campbell bought this aging Boeing 727, he had the wings and tail removed, trucked it all to an Oregon forest, then reassembled it—and moved in. “Shredding a beautiful jetliner is a tragedy and a profound failure of human imagination,” Campbell writes on his website. To get this photo, David Kovalenko used a much smaller craft: a camera mounted on a drone.
The eagle has landed
David Allan Harvey/Magnum
A Kazakh man in Western Mongolia carries on an ancient hunting tradition. The eagle does most of the work: chasing the prey (usually foxes or marmots), killing it, and then carrying it back to its master. The bond between man and bird, captured in this photo by David Edwards, is obviously powerful. Still, after years of faithful service, the master releases his eagle back into the mountains to live out its days in freedom.