I love nature photography. I could probably waste a whole day vacationing from real life and escaping into the wonder of the natural world. Luckily, the advances in high resolution photograph over the last 15 years have given birth to a whole new generation of nature photography books that can turn any coffee table into an instant wilderness retreat. Here are 10 stunning coffee table book for nature lovers:
1. Planet Earth by Alastair Fothergill
Remember that 2006 BBC nature documentary that everyone was raving about a few years ago? Well, this is the companion book, a remarkable collection of photographs captured during the filmmaking process. The book includes more than 400 photos of the stunning vistas and rarely observed creatures that make up this little blue planet we call home.
2. The National Parks by Dayton Duncan & Ken Burns
This illustrated history of America’s national parks is the companion book to the PBS series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. It reveals the thinking that led to the idea of the park system, chronicles its development, and gives readers a newfound appreciation for the wonder of the parks.
3. Dawn to Dark Photographs by National Geographic
Dawn to Dark tracks the light of the day through its many phases–literally from dawn to dark–celebrating “the magic of light.” The book contains a mixture of natural and urban landscapes, but I am including it here because the central feature of all–light–is the inescapable natural element that graces every photo.
4. Seeing Seeds by Teri Dunn Chace & Robert Llewellyn
I’ve been thinking about seeds a lot ever since I read Lab Girl earlier this year. Something that I took for granted now seems nothing short of amazing. Zooming into a macro view of the natural world, this book showcases the wonder of seeds and recounts some remarkable stories and fascinating facts about their history and biology. This is definitely one to give to your gardening friends.
5. Rarely Seen by National Geographic
Rarely Seen is a compendium of the extraordinary–a mix of raw nature and nature sculpted by human hands to create world wonders that may not make the top seven list, but are all the more awe-inspiring for their relative unknownness.
6. Yellowstone by Christopher Cauble
There are many books on each of the national parks, but I particularly love this volume by Christopher Cauble because of its crisp contemporary style. I think it captures the feeling you experience when you’re standing in the middle of a forest or on top of a mountain and suddenly your senses sharpen and everything comes into hyperawareness. It places you in the landscape as a participant, not just an observer.
7. Simply Beautiful Photographs by Annie Griffiths
Another gorgeous National Geographic collection, the photographs in this book capture some of the most breathtaking sights in the natural world and provide a little escape from the hectic day to day.
8. Citizens of the Sea by Nancy Knowlton
Dive into the weird and wonderful world of sea creatures with this book by marine scientist Nancy Knowlton. The biodiversity of marine life is truly amazing and there are some comical characters living deep under the waves of the world’s oceans–many of whom are at risk because of pollution and other human activity. In this book you’ll learn a host of interesting facts about this exotic underwater world.
9. Beaches by Stefano Passaquindici
Maybe you can’t take any time off from work right now or maybe funds are low and a trip to the beach is out of the question–what you need is this book of 100 ultimate beach escapes. It’s not the same as digging your toes in the sand, but it’ll give your brain a mini-vacation from the hectic day to day, and hey, studies have shown that just looking at natural landscapes does a body good.
10. Overview by Benjamin Grant
This collection of satellite photography gives readers a birds-eye view of the world. It’s pretty remarkable that you can pick up a book like this when a view like this was impossible to attain until recently in human history.