Sometimes we want art for arts sake— pretty pictures to simply enhance our everyday. Other times, beautiful images serve a bigger purpose for the greater good, calling attention to issues otherwise unknown. Such is the case for Beth Moon’s photographic series of the planet’s most stunning, unique, and, in some cases, endangered trees. Moon began her arborist journey in 1999 with the intention to photograph trees that are “unique in their exceptional size, heredity, or folklore.” She found all three, though not without some serious searching, as she explains that “sometimes the journey is half the fun.” She began her journey in Great Britain and traveled through America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. During one particular quest in Madagascar, Moon remembers she had to get help from a local chief to locate the tree. “It was so big, you would think it would be easy to spot,” she says, but since “so many of our old trees have been cut down that without a concerted effort you are not likely to run across one.” She found the tree in the end and even had an audience of villagers while she photographed it. Speaking of her photographs, Moon takes hers on a Pentax medium-format film camera. Once she develops the negatives, she imprints them on heavy cotton paper coated with platinum and palladium metals. This way, the image is embedded into the fibers of the paper, giving a full circle aspect to the medium and subject. Something that Moon realized during her time spent among the tress is how resilient so many of them are. She says, “I am always amazed at the way trees have the ability to endure and adapt to severe conditions. Some ancient trees hollow out as they age as a survival technique. The tree will send an aerial root down the center of the trunk, which will continue to grow from the inside out.” In her book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time, she explains that many ancient trees “contain superior genes that have enabled them to survive through the ages, resistant to disease and other uncertainties.” Unfortunately, not all trees have the same strong survivalist instincts and are headed for extinction. She says “Quiver trees are dying from lack of water in Namibia. Dragon’s blood trees are in decline and on the endangered list, and three species of baobab trees are currently listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The disappearance of old-growth forests may be one of the most serious environmental issues today.”Thankfully, projects like hers brings much needed awareness to an otherwise under-publicized plight. For example, in 2007, a Madagascar grove of baobabs trees was granted temporary protected status as there is currently only 20 surviving trees from what was, at one time, a thriving tropical forest. Baobabs trees can grow to be 100 feet tall and are indigenous to the area. Otherwise, Moon’s subjects range from teapot shaped trunks to massive species like this Kapok tree from Palm Beach, Florida. Moon actually stumbled upon this one in a book from the 1940s and hunted it down in Florida; she says “I could see that the trunk had filled out tremendously in 60 years; the roots now rise more than 12 feet above the ground.”Whether you’re an environmentalist, art lover or tree hugger, you’ll find beauty in Beth Moon’s photographs that transcends her subject into something timeless and graceful. [source: National Geographi]
Category - Nature
It’s not often (or ever?!) that we’ve seen a single restaurant spawn an entire amusement park but such is the case with Ai Pioppi, the eponymous restaurant and amusement park combo located in an Italian forest. In 1969, the founder, Bruno, set up a makeshift food stand featuring some sausage and wine underneath a tree on a whim, just to see if any locals would be interested in his offerings.By the end of the day, Bruno was almost completely out of food and wine and thus, Ai Pioppi the restaurant was born. Bruno soon built a proper restaurant with walls and saw immediate success with his venture. The Italian man came by the amusement park part of his business similarly; that is, completely spontaneously and without much forethought.Bruno visited a local blacksmith to get some basic metalworking done for his restaurant. In the spirit of “teach a man to fish,” the blacksmith taught Bruno how to solder metal on his own. It was this single moment that changed the course of Bruno’s life forever. Taking his newfound knowledge back to his restaurant (and surrounding forest) and constructed a giant metal slide for his restaurant guests as a kind of gimmick to draw in new diners. The slide was a hit, just like his restaurant, and Bruno started on the next piece of his growing empire. In the preceding four decades, Bruno has added a number of increasingly complex rides to his cadre. There’s a swinging bridge, a giant merry-go-round, see saws, tilt-a-whirls, swing set and other wacky realities of Bruno’s imagination. All of Bruno’s rides are handmade by himself and are run completely on kinetic energy, meaning that not a one is plugged into an energy source. Instead, its the guests’ own energy that propels these fun machines forward, which totally vibes with the spirit of the place to begin with— that do-it-yourself-edness that Bruno imbued into every part of his compound.A group of Italian filmmakers even produced a short documentary on Ai Pioppi. In it, you get a glimpse into not only the restaurant and the rides, but Bruno’s philosophy on life and death (it’s not as heavy as it sounds). Ai Pioppi doesn’t mimic Disneyland and never comes close to King’s Dominion. It’s a wholly personal experience; a relic of simpler times and is especially indicative of the Northern Italian way of living, namely taking pleasure in small delights and delighting in the unexpected. [Sources: Atlas Obscura, This Is Colossal, Amusing Planet]
When you think Bordeaux, you probably think wine. And you’d be right to do so, of course, but the coastal French area is more than just a delicious face. It’s also home to the Great Dune of Pyla, the tallest sand dune in Europe (yes, that’s a thing). It’s technically located about 40 miles from Bordeaux, near the Arcachon Bay, but still pulls about one million tourists from the wine region a year. The dune, also known as the Great Dune of Pilat, is 550 yards wide, almost two miles long and rises to around 350 feet above sea level. This hasn’t always been the case, however; the dune is in a constant state of flux, slowing moving itself further inland. In fact, the dune has swallowed up over 20 houses, buried roads and portions of the Atlantic Wall. For example, in 1928, a wealthy Bordeaux family built a villa near the southeast part of the dune. Less than 10 years later, the house was completely buried by the encroaching sand. The dune is also slowly encroaching on the neighboring Les Landes pine forest, which was planted in the 18th and 19th centuries to prevent erosion (oops).Its movement can’t be predicted. Sometimes, it will move as fast as 32 feet in a single year and other times less than four feet. Regardless, over the course of the past 57 years, the dune has moved a total of almost 1,000 feet (yikes!). The reason for the quickly shifting sands is the westerly maritime winds that come in off the ocean.
Scientists believe it has doubled in size in the last 100 years. They also believe that its a cyclical process that dates back for centuries due to a coal-like substance found on the shore which hints to the remains of a forest floor.If you’re visiting and feeling particularly spry, you can climb the dune itself, though it requires a heady mix of stamina and ability to ignore sand in your shoes. For the less adventurous souls, there’s a steep staircase that climbs to the top of the dune. Additionally, it’s a popular place for kite flying, paragliders and other adventurers looking to have some fun in the sand.And once you arrive to the top – no matter which way you get there – the stunning views are more than enough of a reward. From there, you can see the Les Landes pine forest, the Pyrenees mountain range and the ocean coast. [sources: Amusing Planet, Daily Mail, Atlas Obscura]