Photo Sunday: America's Best Idea

I don’t post pictures on this blog often enough (and since I recently bought a new camera, I might as well get some use out of it!), so with this post I’m kicking off a new semi-regular feature. If you’ve got interesting, unusual or just beautiful pictures that you own and would like to see here, I’ll consider posting submissions as well, so send them to me!

I was in California this past Labor Day weekend and had a chance to do some hiking and sightseeing in Yosemite. If anyone watched Ken Burns’ documentary on America’s national park system last week, this view will probably be familiar to you, but it’s still my favorite of all the ones I took. It’s a panorama composite of several pictures taken from Inspiration Point, which looks out on Yosemite Valley and most of the major landmarks of the park. Click for a (much) larger version.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Alex Weaver

    Any guidelines for what you’re looking for as far as submissions?

  • OMGF

    I would have loved to be half-way up the face of El Cap waving back at you.

  • Steve Bowen

    Stunning view! And to think it’s just as God created it a mere 6000 years ago :)

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Heh, Steve. And to think: theists need God to feel a sense of awe.

  • Jerryd

    Beautiful photo and great idea to feature more from time to time. Nature is truly awesome.

  • Jennifer

    I am truly grateful that my parents took me camping all the time.

  • EvanT

    Very nice picture!

    And a suggestion; try out “Panorama Factory” or toy around with the brightness setting so the pieces blend better. The seams are quite pronounced. ;)

  • John Nernoff

    The appeals to “God” by Burns is tendentious and irritating. How about a photo of the smallpox virus?

  • Karen

    Gorgeous photo! so glad you got some time in Yosemite and will look forward to additional photo submissions in future.

    John, I completely agree with you about the Burns documentary. I excused all the god talk in the first episode, figuring he had to get that out of the way. But it actually got MORE pious and ridiculous as the episodes went on.

    I loved the footage and enjoyed some of the history of the parks, but I eventually quit watching the series in frustration at all the woo and the repetitive nature of the commenters.

  • Ebonmuse

    I’ll look into Panorama Factory, Evan. I acknowledge this isn’t the best photo merge – the light changed as I was taking the pictures, and I played around a bit with the brightness and the saturation, but wasn’t able to get it perfect. I have some others (including one more from Yosemite) that are better, which I’ll probably post in the coming weeks.

    Alex – no formal guidelines so far; I haven’t decided myself where I want to go with this feature. :) If you have something that you particularly like, though, feel free to send it in and I’ll see how I like it.

  • XPK

    It really does make me wonder what religious people think when they see something beautiful. My reactions is usually, “Wow, that is beautiful” or a lot of times I’m just so choked up that I can’t speak. Is the world ONLY beautiful BECAUSE God made it? And how come he only gets credited for all the beautiful stuff if he is responsible for making everything?

  • Caiphen

    I have to go hiking when I next go to America. I’m a bit worried about the bears though. It looks beautiful. Would you guys like me to send some photos from my trip last year to Aust’s Northern Territory? I have a few good one’s of some 8 metre long saltwater crocodiles.

    Take care guys.

  • Steve Bowen

    The seams are quite pronounced. ;)

    Yet more evidence of a creator. Mwah ha ha!!

  • Jim Baerg

    Caiphen: Given your next comment about salt water crocodiles I suspect you had your tongue in your cheeck when you typed “I’m a bit worried about the bears though”.

    However, I will note the observation that bear attacks don’t happen to groups of more than about 5, so find some hiking companions & keep together. The trail reports for the nearby mountain parks sometimes note that a bear is in the area & recommend or even require that people only go in groups of more than some minimum size.

    To find some hiking companions you might google for ‘hiking’ or ‘outdoor’ together with a city near the wilderness area you want to visit. That will likely turn up some outdoor clubs that organize trips. I’m involved with 2 such groups that will take you quite quickly if you sign a waiver.

    Since I get out hiking or XC skiing on most weekends I’ve got lots of photos I could post.

    Jim Baerg 51° N 114° W

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Caiphen –

    Additionally, the basic rule of thumb if you’re camping is always store your food away from your shelter, preferably hanging from a tree 12′ AGL. Clean your campsite after each meal. Bury food scraps. And take pepper spray.

    And yes, in line with Jim’s comment, if you’re comfy with 7m crocs, you’ll be fine with bears.

  • Caiphen


    You understood me correctly. A fair bit of tongue in cheek actually.

    Thanks for the information. I’m looking forward to it, I haven’t been to North America since ’93.

  • other scott

    I have a mate who has a list of animals that he made that he wants to fight if he gets a terminal disease. It starts with number 1 being a snail and the top of the list is a great white. I wonder if bears are higher than salties.

  • Caiphen

    Other Scott

    I’d say so. A salty has the intelligence of a potato so a bear must be a much greater challenge. Look at what Steve Irwin used to do with crocs. I don’t think he would’ve had the same fun with a bear. But if a croc were to get you, death by a bear or a Great White is painless by comparison. A croc rips you literally to pieces.

    Just a thought, how the hell could a creationist argue against the TOE when crocs are found much earlier in the fossil record, and today are seen to be pretty dumb? Creationists amaze me. I just don’t get them. You know, common sense seems to be remarkably uncommon with these people.

  • Rowen

    *slightly off topic* but if we’re talking about Yosemite, and beautiful places, I’d like to bring your attentions to Hetch Hetchy, which used to be a twin to Yosemite, before California (and the US government) decided a national park would be better as a damned lake. Here’s some info on it.

  • Jim Sabiston

    Hey! I’ve got a huge portfolio of work to share. There is a reason I lug that huge camera and tripod all over the backcountry with Ron! Once you give it some thought and set some guidelines, I’ll send some over. In the meantime, you can get a pretty good preview here:

    Nice photo, by the way. Ron mentioned you were out in that neck of the woods while we were hiking the Escarpment.

    Jim Sabiston